Understanding Characters in The Hunger Games
This article is an exploration of the relationships that Katniss maintains with the people in her life. Its purpose is to underscore the very human interactions throughout the novels in the hopes of bringing Katniss's own personality more fully into light.
Originally, this article started out as a mind map, the intention of which was to help determine personality traits significant to the story of The Hunger Games.
In order to fully understand Katniss, you must understand her relationships. Hopefully, following this article, you'll have a better understanding of who she is through her relationships with other people in the books.
Please note that this article contains spoilers for The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. If you wish to avoid spoilers, please skip this article!
Who Is Katniss Everdeen?
The answer to this question seems to differ depending on who you ask. Is she strong? Some people feel that she is. Is she weak-willed? There are readers who believe that she is a weak heroine with no strength to change the world she lived in.
To take the most sensible route to answer this question, Katniss is the heroine of The Hunger Games trilogy. She is the girl on fire who volunteered to save her sister's life when the twelve-year-old was reaped in The Hunger Games.
She is an archer and a hunter, a provider and a sister. To some, she is a friend, and to others, she is the girl who sings. Many people love Katniss, and just as many people hate her for a number of reasons. Far from perfect, she's not your typical teen hero.
Two-Dimensional or Dynamic?
Some people argue that Katniss is two-dimensional. You'll have the opportunity to give your point of view. As for me, I believe that Katniss is one of the most dynamic females in young adult fiction (among those novels I've read), and I hope that through these pages, I can convince you of the same.
If you haven't read the series yet, this is a good time to purchase it. The hardcover boxed set is available if you think that you're going to enjoy the series. Otherwise, it's less expensive to purchase on Kindle. The hardcover set is nice to have for those who enjoy The Hunger Games, however, and it is recommended.
Her Relationship With Prim
Following the death of their father, Prim's mother descended into a deep depression, which left Katniss solely responsible for caring for herself and for Prim. This was a key turning point for Katniss because, without it, she may not have become the adolescent she is throughout the novels. Her love for Prim is obvious both in the novels and in the films.
Everyone who has seen the movie trailers knows the line, "I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!" This emotional moment occurs because Katniss is so protective of her sister that she cannot bear to see Prim go into the Games.
Later, when Prim comes to say goodbye to Katniss in the Justice Building, she tells Katniss that she has to win and come back to District Twelve. Though she believes there is no hope of her returning home, Katniss promises Prim that she's coming home and later informs Caesar Flickerman that she's going to try.
When she's in the Arena, Katniss begins to see her sister, Prim, in a twelve-year-old tribute named Rue, whom she vows to protect in the Arena as much as she can. It is because of her love for Prim that Katniss loves Rue and goes to great lengths to attempt to protect her.
Her Relationship With Her Mother
In the case of Katniss's relationship with her mother, it is illustrated differently in the movie than it is in the books. However, if you are a reader (and not just a movie-goer), it is clear that Katniss has not (and may never) forgiven her mother for abandoning her and Prim when their father died in the mines.
This is a significant point that underscores Katniss's ability to hold a grudge. The question is, did her mother deserve her hatred?
Throughout the books, Mrs. Everdeen gradually improves, but Katniss's feelings for her quite apparently do not. It was Mrs. Everdeen's fault that Prim nearly starved, and Katniss has never forgiven her mother for nearly taking her sister away from her—or putting herself in a position to nearly die of starvation in the district when her mother could have been working.
Her Relationship With Gale
Of all of the relationships throughout The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss's relationship with Gale is the most complex and, at times, confusing. From the earliest part of their relationship, the two of them have relied on one another and one another's skills in order to survive and support the survival of their individual families.
Katniss has great skill with a bow, taught to her by her father, and Gale is an excellent trapper. Together, they can bring down almost any game in the woods that surround District Twelve. Aware of Gale's large family, Katniss provides for his family while he provides for the Everdeens what Katniss herself cannot kill.
Platonic or Romantic?
Early on in the first novel, Katniss says that her relationship with Gale is platonic and that she can't think of him romantically because of the fact that they rely on one another in the woods and as friends.
This is where the complexity of their relationship becomes profound, if not astonishing. Bear in mind that when reading the books, we only have Katniss's perspective on the events of the story. In the movie, we get to glimpse Gale's affection for Katniss in a different way.
Throughout the story of Catching Fire and later in Mockingjay, it becomes apparent that Gale has feelings for Katniss and that she may return those feelings for him. In many ways, this is a sudden turnaround from platonic, friendly affection to romance, the love triangle that has become so popular in teen novels in the twenty-first century.
Her Relationship With Peeta
Ultimately, the entire Hunger Games trilogy is about Katniss's relationship with Peeta. To attempt to explain their relationship in a few words seems foolhardy, but it's required in order to establish who Katniss is. Consider this a breakdown, and look for future articles on the subject of Katniss and Peeta's relationship with one another.
So consider this a summary of Katniss's relationship with Peeta.
According to Peeta's explanation of their meeting (during what is widely known as the Cave Scene among fans), the pair met when they were five years old on the first day of school. Though Katniss failed to notice Peeta, he noticed her, her dress, and her pigtails. Later his father told him that he had once been in love with Katniss's mother but that she had chosen Katniss's father for his beautiful singing voice.
Katniss didn't notice Peeta at the time. She would only come to recognize him years later when she was starving and digging through the garbage behind the Mellark Bakery. His mother tried to run her off, and she and Prim would have starved if Peeta hadn't dropped some loaves into the fire, then tossed the ruined bread to Katniss to take home to Prim.
Later, when Katniss saw a dandelion in a field, she associated the flower with hope and hope with Peeta. He was, ever after, The Boy with the Bread. He had saved her life.
So when Peeta's name was called out at the Reaping, his was only the third most dreaded name Katniss could have heard (the first being Prim's and the second being Gale's). She knew that in order to survive and return from the Arena, she was going to have to kill him or see him be killed.
Throughout the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss pretends that she is in love with Peeta in order to please the sponsors, but she immediately reveals the truth upon their return from the Arena. Peeta is, for obvious reasons, devastated, but he remains determined to convince her to love him in spite of her rejection.
Perhaps because of her rejection, the Capitol doesn't have a hard time convincing Peeta that Katniss never loved him and was, in fact, his enemy. In the end, it's Katniss who must convince Peeta of their love for one another.
It takes the events of Mockingjay for Katniss to begin to come to terms with her feelings for Peeta and to be able to tell him that she loves him. The question is, does she, in fact, love him in the end, or is this just another form of manipulation used by Peeta to make her think that she does?
Some people believe that Peeta manipulates Katniss throughout the series, and others believe that it's Katniss who manipulates Peeta. What's your opinion? Weigh in below!
Her Relationship With Haymitch
From the very beginning, the hostility between Katniss and Haymitch is obviously hostile. Haymitch's heavy drinking may have something to do with Katniss's lack of trust in her mentor, but his obvious appreciation of Peeta also stands in the way of their relationship.
During the training period in the Capitol, it's obvious that Haymitch is conspiring with Peeta without discussing their plans with Katniss. While this may be standard for the training before the Games, Haymitch is also one of the ones who encouraged Katniss and Peeta to stick together.
Over time, their relationship grows into one that is less hostile and more affectionate, particularly after Peeta is taken by the Capitol at the end of Catching Fire and the beginning of Mockingjay.
Her Relationship With Cinna
From the very outset of their time together, Katniss's relationship with Cinna is affectionate. He's kind to her, telling her that he's sorry she was reaped and that he's going to do everything he can to help her center herself and be prepared for the Games.
Cinna is, in essence, Katniss's best friend in the Capitol. He is one of the people who hold her together when it's obvious that everything else could easily fall apart. It's Cinna who grounds and focuses Katniss when she's ready to fall apart.
Her Relationship With Effie
Katniss has every obvious reason in the world to hate Effie Trinket, as she represents the Capitol to the people of District Twelve. Affected and obtuse, she is the one who is charged with the responsibility of getting Katniss and Peeta to the Capitol, where they may eventually meet their untimely deaths.
Who could like a person who is cheerful (gleeful, even!) about seeing them sent off into the Arena? Moreover, who could feel comfortable with a person who doesn't have any faith in their ability to survive the Hunger Games?
Effie's not really a bad person: She's just affected by the Capitol the way that so many of the wealthy people in the stories are affected by it, and of course it shows in the way that she treats the tributes. Her very genuine sorrow in Catching Fire is indicative of a kindness of spirit that she hasn't hitherto shown to the tributes.
Her Relationship With Rue
Spoiler warning: If you've not read the entire trilogy, stop right now and wait until you have. You won't get more warning than this!
We know from the very outset that Rue reminds Katniss of Prim. She's a twelve-year-old who was reaped from District 11 and who never had any chance of winning the Games, but Katniss paired up with her because she could see that she needed a friend. Rue protected Katniss during the attack from the Careers, but in the end, Katniss couldn't save Rue.
After all, only one of them could win, and in the end, it had to be Katniss, didn't it?
But Rue also foreshadows future events in Mockingjay, when the bomb is dropped, and Prim is killed in the resulting explosion. Katniss not only lost Rue, but ultimately she lost Prim as well, and she never stopped feeling guilty that it was Gale who was responsible.
© 2014 Becki Rizzuti
Emma M. on May 28, 2020:
I know Katniss finds it hard to choose either Peeta or Gale, but she chose Peeta because her love for him is much more stronger. Her brain always "Peeta" and he meant A LOT to her and her heart is saying that.
Rosie on September 16, 2016:
You couldn't even explain that Katniss' feelings for her mother was misplaced or that she would eventually discover what Mrs. Everdeen had experienced?
Becki Rizzuti (author) from Indianapolis, Indiana on December 02, 2015:
In what way have I done that, Rosie? The intention of this hub was not to expose or examine Mrs. Everdeen's character, but Katniss's relationship with her. I could write a future, exploratory, hub that features Mrs. Everdeen and her experience in District 12 and the Capitol throughout Mockingjay, but that would take an entirely separate article.
Before calling me "immature" you might want to make sure that you're reading in a mature way.
Not only was this article not intended to specifically address Mrs. Everdeen's feelings, but the statement to which I believe you are referring is a reflection of KATNISS'S feelings, not my own, written in the most concise manner possible.
Rosie on October 30, 2015:
You managed to condemn Mrs. Everdeen without explaining her depression or understanding it. Are you really that immature?
Rosie on June 20, 2015:
["Throughout the books Mrs. Everdeen gradually improves, but Katniss's feelings for her quite apparently do not. It was Mrs. Everdeen's fault that Prim nearly starved and Katniss has never forgiven her mother for nearly taking her sister away from her -- or putting herself in a position to nearly die of starvation in the district when her mother could have been working."]
Has anyone ever heard of DEPRESSION? Good grief! How can you blame someone for suffering from depression and grief. It's not something anyone can switch on and off . . . something that Katniss will discover for herself. This description of Mrs. Katniss is that of a sixteen to seventeen year old girl. What the hell did she know?
sade on October 19, 2014:
i would say she was in love with peeta nothing against gale but after the rescue mission she saw gale bleeding and hurt she didn't even run to his side doctors said peeta waking up she almost broke a sweat trying to get to him and they both manipulated each other and that darn pearl every time told me peeta was on her mind
Becki Rizzuti (author) from Indianapolis, Indiana on September 25, 2014:
The more I read the series, the more that I agree with you.
paola on September 23, 2014:
Katniss never loved Gale. She always loved Peeta but her feelings to him are really complicated.
Just another fan on June 12, 2014:
Really good insight into Katniss' relationships in the series.
Becki Rizzuti (author) from Indianapolis, Indiana on February 23, 2014:
Thank you so much, Funom! It means a lot to me to know that people enjoy reading my assessment of her relationships. It's helped me to develop a clearer picture of who she is so that I can continue to write about Katniss and her Hunger Games.
Funom Theophilus Makama from Europe on February 23, 2014:
I did not read the book though, it was the Movie I watched and all I can say is... This is a great review on Katniss... Such a wonderful share.
Becki Rizzuti (author) from Indianapolis, Indiana on February 23, 2014:
Merri, you are absolutely spot on. I've read the books three times now (then my Kindle broke so I need to purchase a new one) and while I find that I like Peeta better every time (and Katniss less, I'll confess), I've never come to terms with her relationship with him. It's clear from the very first moment that she loves Gale and that their relationship is special. While I can understand her feelings for him at the end of Mockingjay, it feels as though she's "settling" for Peeta. Maybe she loves him, but it's not the kind of enduring love that makes a marriage last.
Beside which, it felt forced, as though Collins had to give the fans an ending they would enjoy. Katniss could, feasibly, have been alone in the end of the trilogy without the story losing it's power.
Merri on February 23, 2014:
Very good study of the Hunger Games. I loved the books and the movies. I like your insight into the characters, their relationships and pointing out traits I hadn't thought of. I am one who believes Katniss never really loved Peeta, but came to terms with having to be with him because Gail was on the run. I kept hoping he would come back so she and him could be together, even though he was responsible for dropping the bomb on District 12. It was part of the rebellion.