Character Feature: Katniss Everdeen

Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence

hungergames wikia

It’s a while since I’ve done one of these despite promising that you would get one every month… I think the last one was October 2012 when I did various portrayals of Satan in film. No matter, well overdue but I’ve now felt the need to do another one. In the last few weeks I have read the entire Hunger Games trilogy so it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that I’ve chosen this particular young lady for my next character feature.

Appeared in: The Hunger Games Trilogy (books and film)
Film version played by: Jennifer Lawrence

Life in District 12 isn’t really so different from life in the arena. At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.

General character: 16 year old girl. Likes to go into the forest and hunt game in a dystopian North American country known as Panem. Doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Has a (male) best friend called Gale Hawthorne, a sister named Primrose and a mother who has a history of depression meaning that after the death of the father, Katniss became head of the household. She is tough but not a bitch. When her younger sister is chosen in the annual Reaping, the selection to decide who goes into the annual Hunger Games (a fight to the death between one boy and one girl chosen from each of the 12 Districts), Katniss volunteers.

Of course she wins but the figurehead that she becomes starts a revolution that carries on into the other two books in the trilogy.

Complexities of the character: She is smart without being arrogant; aware of the failings of those around her but gets on with life without having an attitude of entitlement nor a victim complex. She is not self-absorbed yet she is fully aware of her own strengths and limitations. She is determined yet full of self-doubts. She is deeply complex yet displays a cool exterior. It is through her thoughts, not her actions (for the most part) that we experience the Hunger Games and had she not been such a well-rounded and well-constructed character, the books would not have been half as good.

“You’re not leaving me here alone,” I say. Because if he dies, I’ll never go home, not really. I’ll spend the rest of my life in this arena trying to think my way out.

The below quote speaks to all of our teenage insecurities as she tries to get by in the world. She gets on with it and despite the harshness of her existence, she does so without complaint – at least externally – because sometimes she feels inner rage. She channels all of our anxieties yet she is composed in the face of danger and in the contrast of the opulent lifestyle of The Capitol. She is also a reluctant hero demonstrating the old cliche some people have greatness thrust upon them.

So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts.

She is a reluctant hero. Pushed and prodded into a position she never asked for; she was the girl that defied an empire, that began a revolution with a handful of deadly berries. Yet even in the middle of the revolution she abhors the actions of some of her allies. She dislikes the showmanship of the propoganda and she resists for the most part, all attempts to transform her into the figurative mockingjay.

I want to tell the rebels that I am alive. That I’m right here in District Eight, where the Capitol has just bombed a hospital full of unarmed men, women, and children. There will be no survivors. […] I want to tell people that if you think for one second the Capitol will treat us fairly if there’s a cease-fire, you’re deluding yourself. Because you know who they are and what they do. […] This is what they do! And we must fight back! […] President Snow says he’s sending us a message? Well, I have one for him. You can torture us and bomb us and burn our districts to the ground, but do you see that?” We’re with the camera, tracking to the planes burning on the roof of the warehouse. Tight on the Capitol seal on a wing, which melts back into the image of my face, shouting at the president. “Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!”

She is her own person. In Mockingjay, though a refugee in District 13, she doesn’t fully trust her benefactors, keeping her distance from President Coin and realising toward the end that that mistrust is well-founded. In the final act of the last book, she is chosen as President Snow’s executioner. Just prior to this, the unthinkable happens – an act of terror against a group of children. Katniss at first so utterly convinced that Snow was responsible suddenly has second thoughts. She ends up thinking that Snow, for all his cruelty, actually was not responsible. She becomes convinced that the rebel leadership were responsible. Katniss kills Coin knowing that the consequences of doing so could be horrific. She is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to save further tragedy.

I refuse for this to be true. Some things even I can’t survive. I utter my first words since my sister’s death. “I don’t believe you.”
Snow shakes his head in mock disappointment. “Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other.”

As a role model: What does it mean to be an independent woman? Not the commercially packaged rubbish espoused by the average RnB act who throw around the term “independent woman” as if it is going out of fashion without actually definining what is means. No, Katniss is truly independent. She gets on with it; she makes the best of the situation and will give anything her best shot. Of course she has her fears but she is determined not to succumb to them. She is brave because she has to be and at so many points in her life she has had no choice, not because she wants to be a hero. Even in the face of danger feeling absolute terror she remains strong and faces her situation head on. Her gender does not come into it as she does not hold it up as a flag – this is true independence.

Why a Mockingjay?: The bird is a hybrid of a naturally evolved mockingbird and a genetically engineered jabberjay. The jabberjay was developed as a biological weapon to record rebel information, like a tape recorder they could repeat lengthy conversations. Yet the previous rebellion got wind of it and used them to feed false information to The Capitol. The creatures were allowed to die out but a few remaining specimens bred with mockingbirds to create the mockingjay. Reading the book the metaphor of the bird is obvious. The mockingjay is nature’s ability to adapt to any attempts to destroy it. You create a weapon, it becomes no longer useful to you and you try to get rid of it. Yet it becomes something else, it breeds, evolves and in the end it comes back to bite you.

Katniss is the mockingjay in that she was a tool of The Capitol by which the Districts were kept oppressed – a tribute in the games. Yet she did not play their games; she refused to and would rather die than kill Peeta (her District 12 companion) and the two made a suicide pact. She defied them, she refused to follow the natural order and started something else. The mockingjay is a creature that nobody planned for, a tool gone wrong and that is exactly what Katniss became when she defied The Capitol in the 74th Hunger Games.

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One thought on “Character Feature: Katniss Everdeen

  1. Pingback: Social Commentary in Science Fiction: The Hunger Games | Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink

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