Katniss Everdeen, the Strong and Selfish Hero

As The Hunger Games settles into a concrete place in our culture’s consciousness, it’s worth reexamining our assumptions about the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen.

By Wynter Miller

The Hunger Games rose to fame as a wonderfully violent tale of a young woman saving the world. The center-point of the story’s charm is its initial hook:  a teenage girl selflessly sacrifices herself to save her beloved little sister.

But what if it wasn’t selfless? What if this courageous action that set everything into motion, ultimately saving Panem, was all because Katniss Everdeen was weak and unable to face another heartbreak? What if the courage she muddles up for each task rests in her certainty that everyone she holds dear is likely to die without her?

We learn at the beginning of the series that Katniss Everdeen’s father died in a mining accident some time ago. Katniss also tells us that after this happened her mother emotionally shut down, leaving Katniss the caretaker and provider for their family. She hunts, becoming skilled and amazing so that she may keep her family alive. She then famously rescues her sister from the reaping the only way she knows how, by volunteering herself. Now, I am sure it appears that Katniss is a hero for this, this act she does in front of all of Panem, but why does it still feel wrong? Why, even though Katniss proves herself a capable hero, does she still come off wrong for the role?

Katniss somehow finds a way to love only the weak.

The way I see it, Katniss is selfish. The Girl on Fire is a sad selfish mess when the reaping comes. She is absolutely unfazed by the thought of her own death, so, when it comes down to her life or that of her sister, she easily chooses her sister. Everything she did was for Prim, or so you are led to believe.

Katniss would have let herself die years earlier but she was entirely convinced that Prim would die if Katniss weren’t with her all the time hunting and trading. In Katniss’s mind,  Prim is a child, incapable of anything, which is why it surprises and somewhat angers her when Prim goes off and becomes a doctor and starts helping people. Prim’s success shows Katniss that Prim isn’t weak, and that doesn’t sit well with her.

Katniss somehow finds a way to love only the weak. Gale is the only friend she has at the beginning who isn’t dependent on her, as he doesn’t need anyone to help him because he is the caretaker and supporter of his family. She bonds with him because she sees him as a kind of doppelganger, also constantly risking everything for those he loves. He see the world as she does, in the way that it is just him against the world, trying his best to keep his family alive. This is why she chooses Peeta when it comes time for her to make a decision, because Gale is too much like herself, and she can’t see how anyone could love someone like her.

In her eyes Peeta was still someone she could protect, because to her, she is the provider, the one everyone can’t live without.

So when she meets Peeta, she is drawn to him because she sees him as weak. In reality, Peeta could have won the Hunger Games even if Katniss had not been there. You may not see it that way if you read the books, because Katniss sees him as weak, and since she is the narrator, you do too. She feels she is constantly saving him, when really, in the beginning, he is saving her. Peeta is adored by all, he is the baker’s boy with amazing strength and the amazing skill with with camouflage, he does the best he can to make Katniss look like an approachable, nice girl, “the girl next door” you might say. Then, when they arrive in the arena he becomes an ally with the most dangerous people in the games. His strategy and technique keep him alive, and it isn’t until he sees Katniss that he almost dies. After that he is weak, but to Katniss, he has always been weak, and she fails to recognize that his situation only happened because he is temporarily incapable of defending himself. So in the end, after the second games and the kidnapping, she chooses Peeta to be her husband; but in her eyes he was still someone she could protect, because to her, she is the provider, the one everyone can’t live without. She does this because these are the people she is afraid of losing, a confusing concept, but sweet nonetheless.

So there you have it, my reassessment of the truth behind Miss Katniss Everdeen, the Girl on Fire.