In what ways does katniss everdeen challenge or confirm our understanding of a typical hero in ‘the hunger games’? Essay
The question of whether Katniss Everdeen, of ‘The Hunger Games,’ confirms or challenges the idea of an archetypal hero is one debated worldwide. Throughout the novel, written by Suzanne Collins, Katniss demonstrates qualities and undertakes actions which are, without a doubt, heroic. However, whether or not this makes her a hero is dependent upon who you are asking; many characters in the novel would have very different ideas as to what a hero is. Also, although Katniss may come off as a hero many times in the book, she also challenges that title in countless instances with less-than-heroic actions and thoughts. So is Katniss Everdeen a hero? Through her actions, thoughts and personality, Katniss both confirms and challenges the idea of a typical hero.
Katniss confirms our understanding of a typical hero with her noble personality attributes and heroic actions. She exhibits moments of tolerance, endurance, selflessness and compassion; all of which are what makes up our overall perception of an archetypal hero. We see Katniss display these heroic attributes on reaping day, when Katniss’s little sister Prim is chosen to be a tribute for District 12. In a selfless act of bravery, Katniss volunteers to take hr sisters place, hence saving her from certain death. In this one great deed, Katniss attains the ultimate ‘heights of self-sacrifice reached by the most noble of heroes,’ catapulting her to the realms of the true archetypal heroes; a title which she upholds for most of the duration of ‘The Hunger Games.’ In another instance, Katniss demonstrates saint-like levels of tolerance and kindness when she tends to Peeta whilst he is injured and unable to walk. He slows her down; he’s a total burden yet Katniss nurses him back from the brink of death, risking her own life as she does it. To deny the incredible levels of heroism demonstrated by Katniss throughout the novel is nearly impossible to do; through most of her mannerisms and actions, Katniss fits perfectly into society’s mould of the ideal archetypal hero.
Is Katniss Everdeen a hero? And what is a hero? The answer depends entirely upon whom is being asked. For example, President Snow’s opinion on heroism would be very different to the likes of Gale’s. President Snow, the megalomaniacal and cruel ruler of the Capitol, would think a hero to be a
follower; a mere sheep, someone who does Snow’s bidding and doesn’t question the tyrannical rule of which they live under. Snow’s hero would find ‘honour’ and ‘sacrifice’ in the hunger games, would play the game with pride; Gale’s hero would be almost the polar opposite, Gale’s hero would be a rebel; someone to fight the Capitol’s oppression or the districts, a symbol of equality and justice. And in all of this, does Katniss stand? She doesn’t conform fully to either of these conceptions of a hero; she is, as some would say, sitting on the fence. In a way, Katniss is President Snow’s hero, as she plays the game; she builds for herself a hunger games identity, and she kills other contestants- she does what is almost mandatory to survive in the games. In another way, Katniss rebels against the games, and it is in these moments that Katniss is Gale’s idea of a hero. She defies the games by giving Rue a dignified and proper burial- she refuses to let Rue ‘die as cattle,’ and in doing so exhibits the heroic and rebellious qualities that Gale’s hero would possess. Katniss Everdeen doesn’t fully conform to anybody’s idea of a hero. Many would argue, however, that she very much confirms the idea of a archetypal hero; yet a lot of people would argue how much she challenges it.
Although Katniss confirms our idea of a typical hero in a lot of way, she also challenges it many times throughout the novel. Through a lot of Katniss’s actions and thoughts, she comes off as selfish and apathetic; generally not-so-heroic traits. We see Katniss’s selfishness when she pretends to love Peeta just so that she can live, and go home to Prim and Gale. Katniss deliberately toys with Peeta’s emotions, taking advantage of his obvious feelings for her; and, with only her own interests at heart, Katniss fools Peeta and lets him believe that she loves him. She only lets him in on her deceptive games after the games are over, and she is safe and sound and going home. It is a popular belief that a hero is to be ‘honest, upstanding, righteous, brave and true,’ yet Katniss exhibits the complete opposite of these attributes whilst leading Peeta on. In this instance, Katniss is almost the polar opposite of a hero. On top of this, we watch as Katniss unflinchingly kills another tribute, feeling no remorse; in fact, she is ready to kill another person at any moment, without batting an eyelid. This cold blooded murder is in no way typical of a hero; it is actually thought of as a very villainous act to commit. Instinctive murder is often thought of as an act of a villain. Katniss mightn’t be a villain, as such, but she does certainly challenge the concept of her being a typical hero.
Katniss Everdeen both confirms and challenges the concept of an archetypal hero in numerous ways, be it through her actions, her thoughts or her words. In many parts throughout the novel, Katniss demonstrates heroism beyond belief; she volunteers to take her sisters place in the hunger games, surely saving Prim’s life; and despite the risk it puts her in, Katniss cares for a Peeta at his weakest during the games. As heroic as these actions may be, Katniss still isn’t a true typical hero- but what a hero is is essentially dependent upon whom is asked. President Snow’s and Gale’s ideas of what a hero is are two very different notions, and yet Katniss fully fits into neither of them. As heroic as Katniss may come off, she tarnishes her reputation at times during the novel when she commits dishonourable acts. Katniss Everdeen is a very complex character, one who both confirms and challenges the concept of an archetypal hero. As many ignoble acts Katniss carries out, they are outweighed by the many valiant one she performs. Nobody’s perfect, and everybody makes mistakes; even heroes. What makes them heroes are the good things they achieve, and for the benefit of others. A true hero is someone who, after their wrongdoing, gets back up and keeps fighting for what they believe in.