Will The Real Katniss Everdeen Please Stand Up? Part 2

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!

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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?

By RatGirlStudios

By RatGirlStudios

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.

By Alex Merrill

By Alex Merrill

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.

By Terry Blas

By Terry Blas

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.

Satsuma
(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.

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5 comments

  1. Satsuma, I just thought of you yesterday when I was at an international grocery store and saw my first “satsuma”. So I find it quite humorous to find out your other cyber names 🙂

    I think you make some great points. For one, that Gale doesn’t change as a character that much throughout the stories but, rather, becomes in action the words he used about rebellion all along.

    I do think that Katniss changes over the story (as I’ve detailed in some of my own guest VV posts) in many ways, but especially in the “widening her circle” as you have mentioned. First, she just cares about Prim (because she’s pissed at her mom) and Gale. And as the books move on, that begins to include more and more people. I think an interesting case could be made that Katniss begins to care about more people as the amount of food increases in her life. Hungry – she is bent on mere survival. Belly full – she begins to focus on helping everyone else survive, including Greasy Sae and eventually all of Panem, not just Gale’s family, Peeta, and Haymitch.

    I’ve gotta go for the moment, so I’ll have to come back later and comment on Katniss’ vote, how she has enough fire, and your foreshadowing quotes.

  2. This was definitely long-awaited by me! 😀

    The incident with the prep team is one of the moments that most obviously show a crucial difference between Katniss and Gale – her ability to feel empathy and his inability to feel it for anyone who’s outside of his circle of people he considers good. He has a very black and white, Us vs Them mentality, and while Katniss expects him to relate to the prep team’s experience due to his own torture, he only thinks of them as a part of the collective enemy. Gale has a mentality that feels very familiar and that I’ve encountered a lot in people I know, except they were only talking and weren’t in the position to put it into practice. His behavior in District 2 shows that even more strongly – while Katniss empathizes with the people who would lose their loved ones and relates the mine explosion to the accident that took her father’s life, Gale doesn’t react even when she points out the parallel to him, even though his father also died in the same mine explosion. It’s why Gale is such a good foil to Katniss in Mockingjay – they came from a very similar background, but developed in such different ways. Gale’s angry retort to Lyme in which he almost tells her that the D2 deserve no better since they (i.e. the Peacekeepers, the majority of them recruited in D2) were involved in the bombing of the 12, is something that also reminded me of things I have heard people say (including some of my relatives); it’s pretty shocking to hear those things from people close to you, who aren’t what you’d call bad people, and wonder if they would really follow that logic in action.

    The criticism (which I haven’t seen, but I believe you that some people have made it) of Katniss on the grounds that she feels compassion for people because they remind her of her loved ones and of her own losses, is something I find bizarre – because how else does one feel compassion and empathy, except relating to other people’s pain and loss and feeling that what they feel is something that we have felt or might feel? Katniss has never been taught humanitarian ethics. She doesn’t know about the Geneva convention and the rules of war. Yet she feels that some things are simply wrong and that there are things one human being mustn’t do to another. It is far more meaningful that she came to these realizations by herself, rather than being told about it the way we are.

    I would argue that she has that sense from the beginning, even though she isn’t sure if she should listen to it and doesn’t always recognize what it is. Her obsession with “owing” people for their good deeds, for starters, says a lot about her; ruthless, selfish people who are only concerned about their own survival wouldn’t give a damn if someone’s done something good for them in the past. When she tries to be hard, she rebuffs friendly gestures and rejects Mr Mellark’s cookies, she decides not to have any allies in the Quarter Quell, because she’s unable to be a hypocrite who will be friendly with someone just to stab them in the back. It’s interesting that in Catching Fire, after Gale’s whipping, when she’s the closest to accepting his way of thinking, she muses about what her motives were with the berries trick, and concludes that she’s only a person of worth if her motive was defiance of Capitol, while doing it out of love for Peeta would make her just “selfish, but forgivable” (the idea of romantic love as something that makes you weak and selfish – could this be related to Katniss’ ambivalence about her mother, and subconscious fears she could become like her? But oddly enough, Katniss never thinks that Peeta is being selfish when he’s doing things out of love for her!)…and the third motive she can think of, that she just couldn’t live in D12 and look people in the eye if she had killed Peeta, is, in her mind, something that would make her “despicable”. She obviously believes that this was only about possible external reactions to her actions, but there’s nothing to suggest that the people in D12 would really despise her that much, especially since they have been watching the Games for years and know what the winners usually have to do to survive. It never occurs to her that her feeling that she couldn’t look anyone in the eye has more to do with her own internal feeling that killing Peeta would have been inhumane, shameful and wrong, rather than just a fear of what others would think.

    One moment that is particularly telling is when Katniss is negotiating the terms for her Mockingjay deal, and while her main motive is to keep Peeta alive, when she adds Johanna, she also remembers to add Enobaria – although she doesn’t like her, just because “it somehow would feel wrong to leave her out”. One can’t expect any human to feel the same desire to protect everyone, the people they dislike as much as the people they love, and of course Katniss is human so she’s primarily motivated to save the loved ones, but she still has that sense that some things are right and some are just “somehow wrong”.

    Even Johanna has to admit that Katniss really is a “protector of the helpless”. And, as you say, the circle of people she cares about and tries to protect grows, until she’s able to empathize with and risk her life to protect the people she doesn’t even know, as she does in District 2 in Mockingjay. (Regarding Katniss getting shot: it doesn’t prove that she was wrong; her message was never going to reach everyone – but it certainly did the majority of people in D2, which lead to D2 eventually siding with the rebels. It’s also worth noting that she did reach the injured man she was talking to – he wasn’t the one who shot her, it was someone in the crowd. Ironically, Katniss getting shot might have helped the rebels a great deal – it must have convinced everyone that her speech wasn’t staged, and her willingness to put her life on the line must have impressed the people as much as the things she said.) I’m also one of those who believe that Katniss assassinated Coin not just out of revenge, but to prevent another dictator from ruling Panem and killing more kids (and also, by doing this, to make the entire rebellion and all the sacrifices mean something).

    P.S. One thing I noticed while re-reading the last chapters of Mockingjay is that Katniss asked Coin to tell Snow about the Hunger Games being reinstated and that Katniss wanted him to know that, before he goes to his execution. This is very interesting in its double meaning; Coin (and readers who believed Katniss genuinely wanted the Games reinstated with Capitol’s children) would have seen that as a desire for vengeance on Snow, the kind that Johanna and Enobaria wanted. To me, this adds another layer – that Katniss wanted to give one last message to Snow, to let him know that she’s killing Coin because Coin would otherwise continue Snow’s legacy. Maybe that was why Snow was really laughing because he has just seen a triumphant Coin gloating about the Games and Katniss being on her side, and then realized how the master strategist Coin was played in the end.

  3. One thing re: Peeta and his gift to Rue’s and Thresh’s families – while there really is no evidence he would have offered the same to other families, to be fair, we don’t actually know for sure if he would; after what happened in D11 (after which Peeta thought that Rue’s and Thresh’s families not only certainly wouldn’t get the gift but might get killed), he wasn’t going to try anything like that again.

  4. Hi Ivana! Thanks for your response, and for giving me new things to think about! Especially your comment that “When she tries to be hard, she rebuffs friendly gestures and rejects Mr Mellark’s cookies, she decides not to have any allies in the Quarter Quell, because she’s unable to be a hypocrite who will be friendly with someone just to stab them in the back.”

    While I totally agree with you, I found your mention of the Mellark cookies to be interesting, because I usually see this incident used as evidence AGAINST Katniss; the charge is that by throwing out the cookies, Katniss was acting out of irrational anger, and spitefully rejecting a gift made in good faith. Some even use it as support for the theory that “Katniss repeatedly lashes out in anger against innocent people throughout the series, so of course she was capable of lashing out in anger against the innocent children of the Capitol.”

    I’ve also seen her decision to forego allies and her “how can we kill these people” comment to Peeta brushed aside, as not really counting as evidence of her being a caring, compassionate person, because she only said this after she got to know the fellow tributes. The implication is that if she hadn’t gotten to know them, she would have had no qualms about killing them. This is the kind of charge that I can’t really defend her against, though, since I’d have to prove a hypothetical.

    I guess the same applies to Peeta. It’s certainly plausible that before he realized that his gift had backfired, he DID plan on giving away a month’s worth of his winnings at every stop. Katniss states in Chapter 3 of CF “A month of tribute winnings can easily provide for a family for a year”, so even if he gave away a month of winnings in every district except D12, he’d still have been left with a month worth of income for himself. If that can provide for a whole family for a year, it could certainly provide for one teenage boy. However, we’ll never know either way. We also don’t know if he’d have been bold enough to pledge not only his, but Katniss’s share of winnings as well, to every family.

    It’s interesting, though, that Peeta didn’t seem to expect any conflict with Katniss about this pledge, and he is right about that, at least initially; she thinks “At this moment, it’s impossible to imagine how I could do any better.”, and gives him a kiss that “doesn’t seem forced at all”. More proof, I guess, that despite their different backgrounds, Peeta “gets” Katniss in a way Gale never does.

    As for Katniss asking Coin to pin the white rose to Snow’s lapel, I’d assumed that, since Coin tells Katniss that she’ll make sure to let Snow know about the Games, that she wanted to get SOME revenge on Snow by making him think that his granddaughter WOULD be entered into the Games. But since Katniss had no way to know that Snow would die right after she killed Coin, your interpretation, that she hoped that Snow would realize after she killed Coin, that she did so because of Coin wanting to continue the Games, makes much more sense. Unfortunately, many fans have interpreted Snow’s laughter at the end to be out of triumph, and shows that Katniss remained a helpless pawn to the end, only shooting Coin because Snow manipulated her into doing the job for him.

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