The Transformation of Katniss

BEWARE: If you have not read The Hunger Games, the following analysis will spoil the crap out of you. You’ve been warned. I had a frowny face and everything.

Katniss begins the Hunger Games as a highly cynical girl, constantly calculating and unfriendly towards others. She has a certain sarcasm to her voice, and the only person she really seems to trust is Gale, her hunting friend. She loves her mother and Prim, but sees herself more as their protector and guardian (since she provides) than their companion. Her internal commentary on the Games as the names are drawn is cold and impersonal, because she has become hardened to the brutal facts of her life. Even when she is chosen and must go to the Capitol to prepare, she is emotionally distant to what is happening around her, analyzing her opponents almost mechanically. She consider’s Peeta’s warmth toward her as a ploy or a calculated move – because she is seeing reflected in Peeta the same calculating thought process she herself possesses.

It is only once Katniss enters the Games and is in the arena that she begins to trust and open herself up to others. We first see this in the tragic case of twelve-year-old Rue, who, of course, is a typological parallel to Prim, Katniss’ own sister. But this brief, though moving, episode is only the prelude to her transformation over the course of the book. The true transformation begins when she finds Peeta and nurses him back to health. Even though she is in some ways acting to be in love with him so they can survive, she has already stopped thinking about herself alone, as she did at the start. Instead, she has come to look beyond her own survival into a place of selflessness. We see this expressed most obviously when she risks her own life, throws away her own survival, for the sake of getting Peeta’s medicine. While the more romantic moments she formulates and manufactures for food or aid, her self-sacrifice in this moment reveals that despite it all she really does care about Peeta. Her mercy-killing of Cato out of pity is the climax of this transformation, though emotionally her response to Peeta’s injuries on the hovercraft demonstrate that she truly has ceased to be the calculating, self-serving girl she was.

This is an ironic reversal. Katniss begins the story in the world without trust, living with people she should trust and rely upon, but once she is in the Games – a place she most certainly should not trust others – she learns to trust and be selfless and think of others before herself.


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