The “Real” Peeta

Aeris, who covered the fun of Cannes for us last week, is back for another guest post! We know you’ve missed her too.

This time, The Girl With The Flowers (it’s a Final Fantasy reference! Who knew?!) is doing a little study on Peeta’s hijacking and how “real or not real” it makes his character throughout Mockingjay!

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It has come to my attention that some fans (and I use the term loosely) truly believe that the jungle scene in Catching Fire is the last time we truly see the “real” Peeta. Real as in, not hijacked, not hating Katniss’ guts, not trying to kill her when they finally reunite, and of course still completely in love with her.

Even in Mockingjay!

Even in Mockingjay!

Yeah. I’m not getting it. See, first of all, Peeta is still very much his old self in the beginning of Mockingjay. He’s suffered at the Capitol’s hands, sure, but he’s still trying to protect by warning her about the bombing, undoubtedly risking his own life in the process. And he appears multiple times on the Capitol broadcasts during the first part of the book (let’s just assume Lionsgate makes the cut at when he tries to strangle Katniss), hurt, thin, but still the boy with the bread that we have all grown to love (or if we’re being honest, all fell in love with as soon as he was introduced in The Hunger Games). So there’s that.

But mostly, I want to talk about what happens in the second half of Mockingjay. Peeta has been tortured in such a way that everything about Katniss triggers his worst fears, and understandably, he wants to make that threat disappear. Moreover, he now sees her without the love-goggles (what, beer-goggles can exist but love ones can’t? The image isn’t very poetic I know, but it was the best way I could find to express it!), and sees her for what she is. The “real” Katniss. As Suzanne Collins puts so heart-breakingly puts it:

“All those months of taking it for granted that Peeta thought I was wonderful are over. Finally, he can see me for who I really am. Violent. Distrustful. Manipulative. Deadly. And I hate him for it.”

And yet, as Katniss realizes she’s being unfair, and they start playing the beautiful but tragic “Real or Not Real” game, Peeta is gradually brought back to us. He remembers. He bakes. He responds. He jokes a little. He puts everyone’s life before his own, because he’s conscious that he’s still dangerous. But what’s most important is that is he brought back by the one person who “made” this new version of him. Because deep down, he knows who she is and still loves her.

*dies*

*dies*

Before the epilogue, this new Peeta is still fragile, but he’s working on it. He isn’t the hijacked, scary version of himself. He isn’t the steady baker either. But he’s getting close.

And after the epilogue, Katniss and Peeta slowly heal, helped by one another. I don’t like to say they “grew back together” because that would imply they went their separate ways, and I don’t believe they did. They went through a lot, they got separated, yes, but physically, not mentally. The Capitol tried to turn Peeta into a customized Katniss-destruction weapon, but they failed. Katniss was devastated and almost destroyed by Peeta’s temporary loss, but they never ceased to be the Girl on Fire and the Boy with the Bread.

So I truly believe the “real” Peeta was shining through all along. Sure, sometimes it was only very short peeks, but he was there. Somewhere, deep inside.

Which is why people saying we don’t get to see him ever again bug me. Have we actually read the same books? I mean, if we take that logic, shouldn’t they also claim that Catching Fire is the last time we see the “real” Katniss? She may not get hijacked by Trackerjacker venom in the aftermath of the district 13 rescue mission, but she does a complete behavioral 180 nonetheless.

That being said, I have to admit I don’t look forward to seeing Peeta hurt. If I’m perfectly honest, I’m probably going to bawl all through Mockingjay Parts 1&2. But then again, who isn’t, right?

“You love me, real or not real?”
“Real.”

I Am Not A “Hunger Games Fan”, But A (Real) Tribute,
Aeris (or, if you’re a Final Fantasy fan, “The Girl with the Flowers”)

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12 comments

  1. Great analysis! It does seem that many fans interpret MJ!Peeta as somehow not “real”, but the product of some weird sci-fi mind control experiment. I have ranted myself about how some post-MJ fanfics assume that Peeta continues to fluctuate between homicidally insane and normal, for pretty much the rest of his life.

    The only minor quibble I have with this post, is that I do not think SC meant for us to take as gospel truth, Katniss’s self-deprecating monologue about how the “real Katniss” is “Violent. Distrustful. Manipulative. Deadly”. I think this is as accurate, as saying Katniss really was to blame for the deaths in D12, even though she states that too. And even if you argue that Katniss does show these negative aspects at times, that doesn’t mean this is all there is to the “real Katniss”. Katniss is also compassionate, caring, and fiercely protective of those she loves.

    Note that even in-universe, Gale tells Katniss that “trust me, he’s not seeing like you really are”. Also, even when Katniss has dark impulses, she does not always follow them. At one point in D2, after hearing Gale rant about how D2 was complicit in the D12 bombing, she DOES want everyone in the Nut dead, BUT she rises above this impulse.

    For HP fans, I think a great parallel can be made between the hijacked!Peeta and the Riddle-influenced Ron in Deathly Hallows. Ron is actually much closer to being possessed than Peeta is, and some of his actions seem out of character at first, but Ron is still the “real Ron”. The insecurities Riddle plays upon to drive Ron to a dark place, also seem to have existed way before his “possession”, and I think this is true for Peeta as well. I am hoping the CF movie does include some foreshadowing of this.

    1. Indeed. Granted, the concept of hijacking may be confusing to many people. But if we go back to the explanation from the book, it should be noted that it’s not like being literally programmed to do something. The Capitol torturers did not have a script and “program” Peeta to say the things he says and behave the way he does. It wasn’t a possession either, or a Dollhouse-like mindwipe with another personality “downloaded” into his brain. What they did was subject him to the tracker jacker venom that causes scary hallucinations, pick specific tapes that showed Katniss and him, or just Katniss, in the Games, in interviews, in public appearances, Katniss in props, etc. and probably also tapes of the ruined District 12, since Peeta knew about the firebombing and destruction of 12, and worked to change and twist his memories, so that he only sees the negative about her and none of the positive, and has the good memories also twisted and shown in another light, so that they fit with the idea of an evil Katniss who lied to him and used him and caused the destruction of District 12. As Prim summed it up, they changed his memories of Katniss so that they’re scary. The torture and hijacking has also made him really confused and angry about everything, and he’s fighting to understand who he is and whether to trust anyone. But what he does and says from then on his reaction to this situation and state of mind, not some kind of pre-programmed script.

      I remember a little discussion online where someone was wondering what it would it would be like if Peeta was “programmed” to rape Katniss instead of try to kill her, and whether/why wouldn’t Snow do that. That, to me, is an example of this idea of hijacking as akin to programming, literally, as something that included no free will on Peeta’s part – so, in this view, he could have been made to do *anything* that Snow wanted. I don’t think it works that way. Nobody could have made Peeta rape Katniss, or anyone, because I don’t think there are circumstances in which Peeta would have the urge to rape anyone or feel that this is something he should do. But he does have the instinctive urge to try to kill someone he perceives as a threat to his life, or the lives of others he cares about – and he’s killed before for the same reason.

      1. TTB, I think I might have brought up that topic before, although more as a Devil’s Advocate thing than anything I took seriously. However, I have noticed there is a lot of speculation, as well as creepy fanfics, out there, from people who think Peeta was indeed capable of raping Katniss under the right circumstances, and think that anger toward Katniss “leading him on”, and a perception of her as an evil woman who needs to be punished, would be one of them.

        I suspect many people who believe this, assume that ALL men are potential rapists under the right (or wrong) circumstances. I find that very disturbing, regardless of whether it comes from a radical chauvinist “all men are potential rapists because they just can’t control their biological urges in certain circustances, meaning rape is no big deal” angle, or a radical feminist “all men are potential rapists because all men are evil, and women are naturally superior to them” angle. (Not to mention that this frames rape as a crime that men commit against women, instead of a crime that women CAN commit against men, as well as occur between people of the same sex.)

    2. Katniss is also compassionate, caring, and fiercely protective of those she loves.

      Unfotunatly, she seems to love a few people: Prim, Gale, and Rue.

  2. Great post! I wholeheartedly agree that we see glimpses of Peeta post-kidnapping and hijacking. The Peeta that is digging bushes for Prim at the end if MJ is the steady and sweet Peeta we’ve known all along, who occassionally suffers from flashbacks, not someone crippled emotionally forever.

    I also agree with Satsuma that Katniss is being too hard on herself when she says Peeta sees her as Violent, etc. I think is is a distortion of the truth. Distortions witha grain of truth can be much more powerful than outright lies, in my experience.

  3. To timetravellingbunny (May 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm)

    Sorry, English isn´t my first language, maybe I´m not clear enough.
    I think Katniss is to selfish and proud to “really” love. Many people think she “settle” with Peeta. Katniss never said she love him, actualy, he had to ask.
    Please, if you can give me a few examples where she do something out of love (and no out of gilt or convinience) for someone who isn´t Prim, Gale o Rue, I will be very happy.

    1. “I think Katniss is to selfish and proud to “really” love.”

      She’s selfish? How so? By risking her life, and even being willing to sacrifice her love for those she loves, so many times? By risking her life even for people she didn’t know (as in District 2 in Mockingjay)?

      What does pride have to do with being able to love? It may only prevent people from expressing love, but certainly not from loving.

      And what do you mean by ‘really’ love? If the above is the realest of love… what is?

      “Many people think she “settle” with Peeta.”

      Frankly, those “many” people either weren’t able to understand what they read, or don’t know a lot about feelings and love, even less so than Katniss did. I can’t believe we’re even discussing it. For one thing, it couldn’t be more obvious that she was in love with Peeta in the latter half of Catching Fire and in Mockingjay. It was obvious to everyone who watched her in the Quarter Quell, from Finnick to Snow – and they weren’t even reading her thoughts. For the reader, who knows all her thoughts, it should be even more obvious.

      Second, the idea of Katniss “settling” for someone makes no sense at all, since she never wanted to have a romantic relationship in the first place and was determined not to get married or have children.

      “Katniss never said she love him, actualy, he had to ask.”

      So? She certainly never told Gale she loved him, she never told Rue she loved her, and I don’t remember her even telling Prim she loved her (though it may have happened before) – I’m sure that she knew Katniss loved her, though. So why would you think she loved those people, if it’s all about the words, rather than the actions?

      Do you really believe that love is proven by words rather than by action? What is a greater proof of love, someone giving you flowers and telling you “Baby, I love you!” or someone fighting for you, protecting you, helping you, risking their life for you,.being literally ready to die for you? Some people aren’t great with words and find it hard to express their love that way, but they do it through action. Would you really think that someone who’s doing everything for you and showing you love in every way but doesn’t tell you “I love you”, does not love you, but that someone who talks to you about love all the time must be in love with you, even though their actions show otherwise? Words in itself mean nothing, many people can say “I love you” and not mean it just to get what they want, or be convinced that they feel love while it’s just a temporary infatuation. It’s what someone does that shows love.

      If there are really “many” people who believe that what someone says is more important than what they do, it’s not surprising that the world we live in is the way it is, and that people trust politicians just because they say “I love my people and I’m doing everything for them” even though their actions show the complete opposite. 😉

      “Please, if you can give me a few examples where she do something out of love (and no out of gilt or convinience) for someone who isn´t Prim, Gale o Rue, I will be very happy.”

      Great, then you’ll feel like you’re in paradise. Where do I begin? The most obvious, Peeta: trying to protect him, even though it would mean her own death. Let’s repeat this: being determined to give her life for him. Protecting him in every way, first in the Games, then by making the deal with Coin for immunity to save his life, helping him when he was hijacked and still could kill her.. and yes, living her life with him in which they were supporting and helping each other, and deciding to give him two children, even though she didn’t want children at the start. I’m sure you’d claim how that was “convenience”, but I can’t possibly understand how a life with a damaged men who’s still having occasional flashbacks as a result of brainwashing him to want to kill her, is “convenient”.

      If Katniss was a person who’s after “convenience”, she wouldn’t have assassinated Coin, would have tried to forget about what she knew about Prim’s death, and would be enjoying a rich life in the Capitol or some other place and hook up with an admirer (I’m sure the Girl on Fire/Mockingjay had many admirers) or would move to District 2 with Gale, who still loved her, wasn’t scarred physically or mentally and had a great job. And she wouldn’t have bothered with Peeta – she could have just killed him during the mission, or left him in the Capitol tunnels when he asked her to.

      Then there’s mother, another person she loved that you forgot to mention: the “family” Katniss was protecting and providing for all that time consisted of her mother and Prim.

      And Katniss also does things for people she just comes to care about but doesn’t exactly love. She protected her prep team and had a conflict with Gale over it. She did a nice thing for Johanna by making her a gift to remind her of home, realizing how lonely Johanna was. She helped Bonnie and Twill. And she even risked her life to save the lives of the people who worked at the Nut in District 2, who she didn’t even know.

  4. Hi there !

    Thank you all for the great feedback, I’m glad if you enjoyed the post 🙂 I just wanted to clarify, I don’t believe that Katniss is only “Violent. Distrustful. Manipulative. Deadly. ” I just wanted to recall how she thought Peeta saw her at that moment. Of course she isn’t limited to that, she does love, in fact she loves and cares so much about people it nearly destroys her.

    Anyway, wow, I didn’t expect the article to spur such a discussion ! I was just really happy to be able to write about something I love so much 🙂

  5. i really liked this article on who’s the Real!Peeta. I feel like Peeta was actually the most Peeta in Mockingjay because it showed how much of a survivor he is, despite his losses and torture and hijacking that he went through. It definitely showed his strength when he was recovering from his hijacking as quickly as he did, even though I personally thought that the way they tried to cure him in District 13 helped everyone else but him and the reactions he got from people was appalling. He was as remorseful for accidentally killing Mitchell as he was about killing Brutus and other tributes in the arena, and he still had a way with words that it was him that was able to get through to Katniss and sometimes be the one who says the right things while they were in the Capitol.

    Yeah, he had moments where he was rude and unreasonable, but he was hijacked. As pointed out in the comments, it’s more complicated that just having amnesia or being brainwashed.

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