With the DVD release date a few days away and the highly-sought roles of Finnick Odair and Johanna Mason being cast, I thought it was time for me to write part 2 of the Jennifer Lawrence/Katniss Everdeen lovefest. For those of you out there who haven’t read all the novels, I’m going to stick to the contents of the first book/movie of the series “The Hunger Games,” so as to avoid spoiling future plot lines.
When I first read “The Hunger Games,” I was very excited to see another strong, dynamic, female character enter the fold of entertainment. I have a great fondness for Hermione Granger, Elizabeth Bennet, Ellen Ripley, and Jo March. Though Katniss Everdeen may not be on par with some of the truly great heroines ever created, she has certainly become one of my personal favorites.
Someone like Katniss has great cause to be embittered against the world, which she is, but that anger fuels her emotions rather than leaving her uncaring and indifferent to the world. While that anger leaves her a bit volatile and, sometimes, reckless, it’s that anger that gives her focus. She is determined. Determined to survive, but more importantly, determined to protect the ones she loves. Foremost on that list of people is her younger sister, Primrose “Prim” Everdeen.
The depth of her mother’s grief was so great after Katniss’ father died that it left her in a state of incapacitation. Katniss was thus left to sink or swim along with Prim; to be both the maternal and paternal figures in Prim’s life. That’s a tall order for someone so young and in such dire circumstances, but through force of will (and a little charity from the neighborhood bakery) she overcomes. She fights, she learns, and she adapts. In fact, she does this SO well, thanks in part to her best friend and hunting partner, Gale, that her family more than just squeaks by, they eat better than most in her neighborhood, including the baker’s son, Peeta.
These two young men are both in love with Katniss and they bring out different parts of her personality. But for being such a smart girl, she’s really bad at picking up on social cues. But hey, she’s sixteen and has had little practice at it. To her credit, romance is the last thing she is looking for though, which is one of the biggest selling points for me. This heroine hasn’t been boiled down to “who will she choose in this love triangle.” Yeah, we’re curious about that, but she’s busy trying to avoid starvation and sociopaths who want to murder her for sport, so let’s backburner it for a while. The love story is the B-plot and most of her romantically motivated actions or for the sake of putting on a good show, which directly increases her chances of getting out alive.
Although her actions (hunting outside the fence) are technically illegal, she never resorts to immorality. Through all her struggles, she never steals from or harms another person, until she is forced to in the arena. Even then, she goes out of her way to avoid harming people until she’s cornered (or run up a tree). Survival is priority number one, not “winning.” That may seem like splitting hairs, but there is a difference. She doesn’t actively try to pick off the other tributes, most of her strategy is waiting while the others duke it out. By destroying the food source of the “career” tributes instead of taking them out one-by-one with an arrow through the eye socket, she remains a lot more likable in the eyes of the audience.
In the end she triumphs because of her loyalty, both to Peeta and to the person she wants to be, not her ruthlessness.
She is very much the “girl on fire.” There’s something inside of her that is smoldering, a rage that is at her core. As the book progresses and as more of the things she loves are threatened, that heat grows. And when it ignites, big things will happen for Katniss Everdeen.