Katniss Everdeen is my girl. I’ve never been more invested in a female protagonist than I was with The Hunger Games’“girl on fire.” The tough, no-nonsense girl from District 12 who is forced to participate in Panem’s sadistic Hunger Games is different from your average female lead in young adult novels. She’s not as smart as Hermione Granger or as insane as Lisbeth Salander. She’s just a girl who’s lived a tough life and is forced to step up because of circumstances far beyond her control.
In honor of the release of the big screen adaptation of The Hunger Games this Friday (look for my review Thursday at midnight!), I decided to ask myself this question: what have I learned from the journey of Katniss, as well as the rest of Suzanne Collins’ pantheon of characters? Read on, and may the odds of you learning something too be ever in your favor:
1.) Don’t Be Just A Piece In Their Games
The night before the games are set to begin, Peeta, the male tribute from District 12 and a third of the novel’s main love triangle, imparts these words of wisdom to Katniss: “I want to show them that I’m more than just a piece in their games.” His words resonate more than just in terms of defying The Capitol. Never feel like you’re nothing more than an expendable pawn in someone else’s game. Don’t allow yourself to be molded into something you’re not. As Peeta also says: “If I die, I still want to be me.”
2.) Crying Can Be The Best Medicine
I’m going to make a bold statement here: Rue’s death was just as sad as Dobby’s in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. What made it so effective was Katniss’ reaction to this devastating turn of events. The lullaby she sang (“Deep in the meadow, under the willow/A bed of grass, a soft green pillow”) was heart-wrenching enough on its own, but then she cried. And cried and cried. You don’t see strong female characters like her just break down like that very often. She demonstrated that showing emotion isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign that you’re strong enough to show how you feel without caring who sees it.
3.) Admitting You Need Help Doesn’t Show Weakness
Katniss is fiercely independent, almost to a fault. If she had it her way, she would have gone through the Hunger Games with nothing but a bow, a few arrows and her wits. Luckily for her, she wised up quickly and allowed Rue and Peeta to make her life a little easier. Just because you can’t do something alone doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It’s okay to swallow your pride and ask for help; you’ll be thankful you did it later. Would Katniss have had the wherewithal to escape that tree without the aid of Rue and a nest of tracker jackers? Doubtful.
4.) Love Triangles Don’t Have To Be Tedious
This isn’t a life lesson so much as a literary one. Whoever told me The Hunger Games was “the new Twilight” couldn’t have been more wrong. That series revolves around a love triangle between a useless and seemingly suicidal girl, a vampire who broods and sparkles and a werewolf who eventually falls in love with a baby. Though Katniss does wrestle with feelings for Peeta, and Gale (Katniss’ longtime friend and hunting partner), I’d say that’s only about 30 percent of The Hunger Games trilogy. Between fighting for survival, protecting family and friends and becoming the face of a rebellion, there’s too much going on to worry about silly crushes. And when romance is brought up, it works because you actually care and like all three characters. Stephanie Meyer: take notes for future reference.
5.) One Kiss Is Worth A Bowl Of Broth
One of the only reasons Katniss and Peeta survived as long as they did in the arena was because of the star-crossed lover angle they tapped for all it was worth. The more they won over Capitol citizens with their heartbreaking story, the easier it was for their mentor Haymitch to get sponsors and send them supplies. I saw this as beating the Gamemakers at their own game. Sometimes the only way to win, or even to stay alive, is to play by the rules. Smile for the cameras, give the people what they want to see. Of course, that doesn’t mean you still can’t maintain your independence while doing this. Nightlock berries, anyone?