Here’s to another guest post Monday! This week, Satsuma is back with the conclusion to her “Will The Real Katniss Everdeen Please Stand Up?” article! Enjoy!
Hi everyone! Here is the (hopefully) long-awaited Part Two of my Katniss essay, focusing on a common misconception; that Katniss is, essentially, “Gale with tatas”. Katniss herself states, at the end of MJ, that “what I need to survive is not Gale‘s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction.”(MJ Ch.26) Seems pretty obvious that she thinks she’s more like Gale than her “dandelion” Peeta, right? But wait! Yes, both Gale and Katniss have “plenty of fire”. But is Katniss really filled with the same rage, hatred, and destructiveness that she attributes to Gale?
Now, way back in Chapter 1 of THG, Katniss reveals her anger and resentment towards her mother for her neglect after Mr. Everdeen’s death, and admits, “I’m not the forgiving type”. But after her mother lends her the blue dress from her merchant days for the reaping, she states that “I’m trying to get past rejecting offers of help from her. For a while, I was so angry, I wouldn’t allow her to do anything for me.” Also, after Gale reacts badly to Madge’s comments about going to the Capitol, she notes, “His rages seem pointless to me, though I never say so”. (Quotes from THG Ch.1)
Is Katniss being a hypocrite here? Maybe, but not completely, because while both Gale and Katniss get angry, the difference is how they deal with it. Though Katniss admits that she can be angry and unforgiving, she is also shown trying to overcome these tendencies. When she does give in, it’s usually in stressful situations, such as after the THG reaping, when she tries to get her mother to “promise me you’ll fight through it” (THG Ch.3) even if she dies. They also argue over Gale’s pain medication after he’s whipped in Catching Fire, but she apologizes later. She is reluctant to trust her mother, but she certainly doesn’t hate her, and gains more sympathy for her as she goes along.
When I went through the books for other examples of Katniss becoming visibly angry, I realized that most of the time, it’s under periods of stress, unlike Gale, who goes on his anti-Capitol rants during their time in the woods, which Katniss usually finds relatively relaxing. One example is when she gets angry at Peeta in THG when she loses sight of him when they are trying to gather food. (BTW, I think the movie version of that scene definitely captured the essence of both Katniss and Peeta’s reactions.)
Here, she actually states outright, “My fear comes out as anger.” (THG Ch.23). Now, after Peeta hugs her, she does “push away, trying to sort out my feelings”, so she hasn’t quite connected the dots as to why she cares so much. But that seems to be what’s really fuelling her anger. Come to think it, this whole scene (in which Peeta also gets angry and Katniss notes that “he’s trying not to lose his temper”) seems to have parallels with the disastrous first conversation Peeta and Katniss have in Mockingjay. I won’t go further into that here, though, since the topic of “Did Katniss do right by Peeta in MJ” is a whole discussion in itself.
But I will address the idea that Katniss lacks compassion, or doesn’t care about the welfare of those outside her small circle of “kin”. It does seem that Katniss usually feels compassion for people she’s had time to bond with, or who remind her of others she feels connected to. (But isn’t that the case for others, like Peeta, as well? His gift to Rue and Thresh’s families was likely unprecedented, and impresses Katniss, but there’s no sign he was planning on giving anything to the families of the other tributes. I can see the D8 girl’s family watching him in D11, and not really being THAT impressed.) And as the story goes on, her circle of “kin” seems to get larger. The story arc about her prep team shows this quite well.
When Gale visits Katniss post-reaping in THG, he compares the Games to hunting animals, and Katniss admits internally that “if I can forget they’re people, it will be no different at all” (THG Ch.3). At first, she finds the prep team to be “so unlike people that I’m no more self-conscious than if a trio of oddly colored birds were pecking around my feet”. On the other side, Flavius says post-Remake, “You almost look like a human being now!” (THG Ch.5) What a microcosm of the tendency to dehumanize the “other” on both sides of the Capitol-District divide. In CF, even Peeta is disgusted when the “preps” encourage them to essentially binge and purge.
Yet, when Katniss finds her prep team imprisoned in D13, she is appalled, and demands they be set free. She also, interestingly, assumes Gale shares her outrage, at one point wondering “if he‘s thinking about his own brutal flogging back in 12”. So when he asks her “why do you care so much about your prep team?”, her first response is to “open my eyes to see if he‘s joking”. (MJ CH.4) They then argue, and Katniss actually tells Gale that “hurting them, it’s like hurting children”. This is months before the “compassion bomb” and “cracking of the Nut” debates.
Speaking of children, what about Katniss’s “yes for Prim” vote, when Coin proposes that a version of the Hunger Games be conducted using Capitol children as tributes? It seems that the breakdown among the general leadership is roughly 50-50 as to whether this was a sincere “yes” or not. And while it seems the majority of serious fans do think the vote was a ruse, there still is a sizeable minority, maybe 30-40%, who take it as face value.
Now, I personally never thought Katniss was sincere. But I suspect that Suzanne Collins meant for the average reader to respond the way Mark from markreads.net does. The possibility that the vote was a ruse doesn’t even occur to Mark, who is horrified over it, states “This is the tragedy to end all tragedies”, and thinks that Snow won in the end; until, of course, Katniss shoots Coin instead. (See http://markreads.net/reviews/2011/03/mark-reads-mockingjay-chapter-26/)
In order to get that reaction, obviously, she needed to make it somewhat plausible that Katniss actually would be capable of sacrificing the Capitol kids to sate her need for vengeance. It is true that Katniss, much earlier in MJ, rejects Peeta’s call for a cease-fire, and doesn’t register any objection, internal or external, to Gale’s statement that “If I could hit a button and kill every living soul working for the Capitol, I would do it.” (MJ Chap. 2) Her “if we burn, you burn with us” outburst in D8, (MJ Chap. 7), after she shot down Capitol bombers with no qualms about killing the pilots, seemed rather vengeful to me as well.
However, when Gale later asks, after the battle in D2, “what difference is there, really, between crushing our enemy in a mine or blowing them out of the sky…the result is the same”, Katniss points out that “that kind of thinking… you could turn it into an argument for killing anyone at any time. You could justify sending kids into the Hunger Games.” (MJ Ch.16) Okay, maybe SC didn’t mean for the average reader to believe the vote after all, after that giant piece of foreshadowing….
Also, note that what got D2 to finally join the rebellion, was not the actual attack on the Nut, but Katniss’s plea to the injured man who emerges from the mountain, that “I‘m tired of being a piece in their Games”. (MJ Ch. 15) Yes, she gets shot for her trouble, and many Gale fans interpret this turn of events as proving him right. But then the mine workers turn on the Peacekeepers, and D2 falls into rebel hands fairly easily. Would Gale’s plan been as successful?
BTW, I don’t see this as a “What Would Peeta Do” moment (as do some who think Katniss needs Peeta as a moral compass because she doesn’t have her own). When Katniss is repulsed by Gale’s suggestion that the rebels kill everyone in the Nut, she’s not thinking about Peeta at all. She only starts thinking about Peeta once Haymitch brings him up. And even then, her thought is “he would be able to articulate why it is so wrong”. (MJ Ch. 15, emphasis mine.) While Katniss does wind up borrowing Peeta’s words, she’s not borrowing the ideals behind them.
Back to the vote! You could accuse SC of cheating here, by not letting the reader see Katniss’s exact thoughts at the time of the vote. But Katniss does NOT express any desire for anger or vengeance. She does express some despair when she thinks “nothing will ever change”, but if she’d just given up, why would she bother to ”weigh my options carefully, think everything through”. (MJ Ch.26) Her musing about whether Haymitch truly understands her, also seems to reflect calculation and planning. A Katniss who coldly calculates the deaths of innocent children, strikes me as extremely out of character. I also doubt that Peeta would have wanted such a woman to bear his own children.
So, what actually does fuel the “fire” that Katniss refers to at the end? A general lust for life that has been rekindled once her depression lifted? Love for her family and friends (a definition that is much more fluid at the end, than when she started)? Some level of righteous anger, or a passion to defend the innocent? I think all of these may apply, and still not equate to the “rage and hatred” she sees in Gale at the end.
(AKA Tangerine, Clementine, and Mandarin. Not to mention the actual name on my birth certificate. Yep, I go by many different names, just like Katniss.)
PS: Well, actually, it’s not just in the end that she realizes this about Gale. Unlike Katniss, who does grow and mature over the course of the series, Gale doesn’t (another difference between them). Instead, the events in MJ simply show Gale for who he was all along. In D2, Katniss recalls that “back in the old days, when we were nothing more than a couple of kids hunting outside of 12, Gale said things like this and worse. But then they were just words. Here, put into practice, they become deeds that can never be reversed.” (MJ Ch. 15)
Hmm, care for some fries with that foreshadowing? While Gale’s plans for D2 are actually shot down by D13 leaders, including Coin, her later adoption of his “compassion bomb” to target not just Capitol citizens, but Prim, winds up being the ultimate deed that can never reversed. It makes sense, then, that Gale’s friendship with Katniss does not survive Prim’s death. Many have argued that by refusing to forgive Gale, Katniss is being a hypocrite. But I think that even if Prim had lived, Gale and Katniss would have eventually drifted apart, because their values were just so different.