Katniss Everdeen: Master of the Mask
It is safe to assume that Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games, is one of the most iconic characters in science fiction literature. Katniss has changed the lives of many people in her country, Panem, as well as those of our own world. However, various opinions arise when it comes to her unusual disposition. Many see Katniss as a cold, selfish, and impulsive character who only thinks of her own family rather than the entire country. Though she contains a variation all of these traits, I believe there is an underlying reason as to why she comes off as emotionless: survival.
From the very beginning of the novel, we see the reasons behind Katniss’ actions. Rather than allowing her emotions to be displayed, she wears a mask of indifference, guarding herself from everyone (Collins 6). Katniss reminds us several times throughout the novel about the awareness of her facial features, especially in front of the cameras at the reaping. While on stage, Katniss fights tears so that she is able to remain composed in front of the country and, most importantly, her sister (25). According to Katniss and, most likely, the entire Capitol, crying on national television is a characteristic of the weak. A composed teenage girl who is put into a particularly terrifying situation, however, shows strength and determination.
Her limited display of emotions most definitely contributes to the theory of Katniss being characterized as cold. However, as previously discussed, Katniss has trained herself to mask her emotions from an early age. This mixed with her knowledge of the Hunger Games leads to her overall apprehensive behavior towards the other tributes, often coming off as cold. She is constantly worrying about the intentions of the others, especially Peeta. It starts on the initial train ride to the Capitol when Peeta offers to clean up Haymitch. Katniss ponders why Peeta is being so kind to her, saying “kind people have a way of working their way inside me and rooting there” (49). She is constantly on the fence with Peeta, wondering if his goal is to destroy her. The constant battle of trust is what leads to her isolation for most of the Games, but ultimately to the crown of victory.
Though she hides it well, Katniss tends to be a bit impulsive. Her impulsiveness can also make her seem selfish. A perfect example of this is when she shoots the arrow through the apple during her private session with the Gamemakers. Many readers believe that this is her first act of rebellion. However, she directly states “that with my life on the line, they don’t even have the decency to pay attention to me” (181). This, to me, is not an act of rebellion, but an act of survival. Gaining the attention of the Gamemakers ends up saving her life. The impulsive act of threatening to eat the berries with Peeta saves her life. Each impulsive act saves her life in the end.
Katniss can be seen as a cold and selfish person, but that is not the case at all. The reason she hides her emotions is strictly for her and her family’s safety. It is true that she thinks of nothing but her family, but wouldn’t we all in that situation? She is impulsive, but that is due to the constant pressure to mask her feelings. When something extreme happens, like Peeta declaring his love, she cracks. Again, wouldn’t we all in that situation? Therefore, I don’t see Katniss as a dull and boring character at all. I don’t even see her as selfish or cold. She was brought up in a terrifying world with the constant fear of punishment. She was taught to guard herself, not to trust others and fend for herself, which is exactly what she does in the Hunger Games and she survives.