We often enjoy books we can identify with – books that make us go ‘Ah I know a person like that’ or ‘Oh this could happen to me’.
But then there are also another kind of books – books where the author crafts a whole different world. And she transports you right there till you feel completely part of that world and are living with the characters. Classic examples would be George Orwell’s 1984 or the more recent Harry Potter series.
Today’s protagonist comes from one such world – Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The book published relatively recently (in 2008) is a first of a Trilogy, and as is often the case with trilogies, is the most gripping.
Collins creates a dystopian nation, Panem with 12 districts governed by the city called Capitol. Long ago the districts had rebelled against the Capitol and were defeated. To remind them of the Capitol’s supremacy, each year a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 is chosen from each district. Called Tributes, they have to compete in the Hunger Games. Each one has to try to kill the others or get killed trying till there is a single survivor. The event is televised and watched like a reality show.
The story is told in first person by Katniss, from District 12. When her sister’s name is picked for the Games, she volunteers to go in her stead.
Katniss stands out as the perfect protagonist. She’s strong and brave and proud. She is a fighter against all odds. At 11 years she takes on the job of the breadwinner for her family of three, when her father dies and her mum goes into depression.
Katniss the heartless provider
All of Katniss’ actions are guided by a strong sense of responsibility towards her family. On the surface she seems practical and emotionless to the point of being callous. She hunts for her family without emotion or compassion. She tries to drown their cat who she looks on as just ‘another mouth to feed’. She doesn’t want to have children because she thinks of them simply as more mouths to feed.
When she’s leaving for the games she shows little emotion. All she talks about are practical things that will equip her mum and sister for their day-to-day survival in her absence.
… and yet love is what guides her
She volunteers for her sister – a pure act of love. It is love that makes her stay with her mother and sister rather than running away. It is love that prompts her to not bring children into a world of starvation and it is love that makes her try to drown the cat rather than see her starving to death.
“if we have to choose between dying of hunger and a bullet in the head, the bullet would be much quicker”, she says.
When faced with kindness she reacts with anger and suspicion yet she strikes up a friendship with some of the tributes. She tries to block them as she is aware that she might have to kill them. Yet she bonds with them.
I like that her better feelings always win in the end. The final act of rebellion against the powers of the Capitol, is the perfect ending to the book. If I have piqued your interest enough – go read it, if you haven’t already, and tell me what you thought of Katniss Everdeen.
Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.