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I need a Hero: Evaluating my feelings for Katniss Everdeen of ‘The Hunger Games’

I. Love. The. Hunger. Games. I’m reading them again for the second time. Today I was on the train reading Mockingjay and the girl next to me was reading it too and I was thinking about how excited I am for her that she’s reading it. So many people I know have read them and today I realized why.

I’m not even going to pretend that I’m saying something awesome and profound here, but I did figure it out. Katniss is a girl. The fantasy stories that are the hollywood favorites all have male heroes. Specifically, I’m going Star Wars & Lord of the Rings. The dudes I know LOVE these stories. They aren’t the stories of men who were born to be heroes. They are stories of nerdy young men who probably would have stayed inside playing video games forever if their aunt and uncle hadn’t been barbecued at the front door. They are stories of guys with height limitations that just held on tight enough and saved the world.

They are heroes. Reluctant heroes. That’s what makes these heroes so appealing, something could happen at any moment and turn a regular person into a hero. One day you’re eating your second breakfast and the next thing you know there are dwarves in your living room singing 85 stanzas of the most mundane song ever.

So just like you, guy who identifies with Legolas Greenleaf or Luke Skywalker or Elijah Wood, I identify with Katniss Everdeen.

Do I know how to shoot arrows? No. I did it once in junior high and had huge bruises on my forearms and complained that the target was too far away. Do I really in my heart of hearts think that I would be the one who could fight to the death to save humanity? No. If the world ‘ends’ tomorrow and someone writes a book about it in the very far future that follows the hero arch, I’m not in it. I’m not the hero. I might be mentioned once in passing in something like ‘and then there was Hawkes Klein in the kitchen canning beets’ which is much more my style.

I am just a girl who is damn proud of the hero.

Katniss never 100% embraces her fate. She doesn’t become any more excited about her new role as the books go on, she wouldn’t allow herself a ‘happily ever after’ she’s seen too much. Would she give it all up to be able to go back to her old life? I don’t think so. I think the entire time she understands that there is no going back and that even though it’s going to be difficult for her and for well, everyone, that she has to press on.

The thing is I needed a girl hero. I needed a big sister (do I think I would volunteer were my siblings taken away to be killed, yes) to look up to and be excited for and proud of. She’s pretty but only by accident and she doesn’t ever want to be thought of as anything but someone who would do anything for her family. She knows she’s not the smartest person in the arena, she’s not the best trained and she’s not the strongest. Her circumstances made her extraordinary.

The last woman I can think of in Young Adult lit that could be considered hero-ish is Hermione, because she reads and is awesome. Is Bella Swan a hero? Oh. Hell. No. Fairy tale princesses? No. Whoever Liv Tyler was in LOTR? No. Is Lisbeth Salander a hero? Not really.

I hope I’m just missing some. The women that I know and respect love The Hunger Games, I think it’s because there’s a love for the type of hero Katniss represents in all of us.

Who are your female literary heroes?

4 thoughts on “I need a Hero: Evaluating my feelings for Katniss Everdeen of ‘The Hunger Games’”

  1. Jiun Kwon says:

    Jane Eyre… Jo March… Matilda Wormwood…

    Lisbeth’s heroism is steeped in tragedy. Her bursts of ‘superheroism’ are really manifestations of the abuse that she has suffered her entire life. But she’s smart and industrious and strangely ethical in her methods, even when she’s technically committing crimes.

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