“In really bad times, the hungriest would gather… vying for the chance to earn a few coins to feed their families by selling their bodies. Had I been older when my father died, I might have been among them. Instead I learned to hunt.”
In the dystopian world of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games the society of Panem is broken into 12 Districts. Annually, to repent for an attempted revolution children from each district are reaped to compete in a fight to the death until the victor is the last one standing. When impoverished siblings, Katniss Everdeen and her younger sister Primrose submit their names to the Hunger Games things take an interesting turn when Primrose’s name gets called inciting Katniss to volunteer to go in her place.
Since the book’s publication and the release of the motion pictures starring Jennifer Lawrence as the heroine, Katniss has become one of the most recent additions to line of kick-ass women in Sci-Fi. Let’s run down some of the reasons why The Girl on Fire is a realistic and inspiring character.
Katniss starts off as quite anti-social and that doesn’t exactly change throughout the series. When we meet her she only has deep relationships with sister Prim and Gale, her childhood friend, but is otherwise very introverted. When she is put in the spotlight she feels like she comes off as awkward and abrasive. To an extent she does, but she’s the sort of girl who can’t help but to be herself, she doesn’t know how to put on a show and that makes her endearing to people who relate to that. A lot of heroines start off extroverted, jump into the hero’s calling. A lot of her competitors in both Games that she participates in kind of woo the audience who can ensure their survival–they play the role of the hero. To an extent Katniss has to do that, but it’s her reflections of how it doesn’t come naturally to her that make her more accessible.
After her father’s death, Katniss had to become very strong from a young age. Because she puts her family first, making sure they have food and can thrive is pretty much her sole focus. It makes her come off as guarded, serious and pragmatic but that’s natural when she does not allow herself to feel what others can afford to feel. Her disconnection is her way of coping and keeping focus so she lets very few people in. She is loyal to those she loves and didn’t develop relationships with others until the games. As her story progresses she becomes close to her fellow tribute Peeta, Haymitch and Effie (their trainers) who grow to care for her. Seeing everyone as a resource to survive and playing along with the fake romance with Peeta helped her realize she could be capable of emotional growth. However, it also scared her because the more people she cared about the more she had to lose. She comes to grips with her feelings when she realizes that people who do more than care about her are getting affected. Yes, both male leads vie for her love but she did not choose them to do so. They’re part of her circle of people she cares about and despite herself she does have feelings for them. As the story goes on, she realizes she has to come to terms with who she loves but its a subplot to the burden of responsibility she feels toward what her actions have incited.
She’s a survivor who wants to go home and protect her family. It’s her motivation in the first two books/films. In the Hunger Games she volunteers to participate in the games in the place of her sister and her aim to survive in order to go back home and continue to provide for her family. In Catching Fire, she forced back into the games and now feels like its her responsibility to make sure Peeta, who has given her unconditional love and protection, makes is back safe and survives. Even during the games she never conforms to becoming just a ruthless killer. She has heart and morals when others die or are in danger. When it comes down to it, she puts herself in harm’s way to help others because of her understanding that they face the same unfair lot in life. This is crucial to her character. When Rue, a little girl she was competing against died in the first games, Katniss mourned as she saw her like her sister and performed a burial rite in her honor for her family. That action stripped away the fun from the games to point out the loss humanity in their society and how cruel it was to pit kids against each other in order to stop the districts from uniting. She put herself in danger by demonstrating that dignity in a horrible world was possible.
Katniss is fiercely independent and is not dependent on others. She learned how to hunt from a young age, giving her her gift with a bow and arrow. Her friend Gale taught her how to fish and trap and she taught him a lot about foraging and how to hunt. She adapts to her environment to survive and even picks up social skills to get by when she is in the social circles of the Capitol.
What makes Katniss different and more realistic is that she doesn’t welcome glory. Even though she doesn’t want to necessarily fight for a cause, she can understand the necessity to be the symbol the people of Panem need. She empathizes with the struggles of others as she sees that they have faced the same challenges. When the capitol strikes at her by destroying her home district, she feels like she is the reason others have lost so much. After that happens, she feels it’s only right to fill the shoes of the Mockingjay symbol her people made her when they started to call for a revolution. She never really embraced leadership until then, all the times before she just saw herself as someone who continuously go thrust into situations that enabled her survival skills. Katniss remained completely unaware that her choices are what showed others they could step up to defend their families on a larger scale. She had no idea how unprecedented she was and that made her even more of a heroine to root for–to aspire to be like.
Readers, do you have any suggestions on who you’d like to see featured on Sci-Fi Women Friday?
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