Catching Fire: Katniss Everdeen and the Evolution of Female Characters

Every so often on social media, my family and friends go through a book phase where they all read the same story and sing the book’s praises to everyone they know.  Such books include “Harry Potter”, “Twilight”, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, and “Game of Thrones”.  Normally I ignore such mass reads as I like to read a story on what sounds interesting to me instead of what’s currently popular (I haven’t read the four stories mentioned above, but I admit Game of Thrones sounds intriguing), but there was one time that I followed the crowd, and that was when “The Hunger Games” came out.

I waited awhile before I got the book.  I wanted to see people’s reaction to the story and whether it would be worth my time or not.  But the praises being presented were just too much to ignore, so by the time everyone else was reading “Mockingjay”, I decided to go over to Wal-Mart and buy “The Hunger Games”.

Better late than never, right?

I finished the book in a few days.  It was dark, emotional, thought-provoking, and at times, even funny (seriously-was anyone else disappointed that there wasn’t a drunk Haymitch on the stage when Katniss volunteers during the film?)  But what intrigued me even more was that the story featured a female lead that was compassionate, strong, and one heck of a an archer.  We didn’t get a damsel in distress.  Instead, we got a damsel who was giving the distress by kicking rear.

Stories have always had complex, well-written male characters, but I’ve noticed lately that female protagonists (and antagonists) have been going through their own special makeover in character development.  No longer are the majority of the ladies the typical damsel-in-distress or one-dimensional eye candy who just stands there and looks pretty.  Today’s ladies are smart (Hermione Granger), wise (Lucy Pevensie), brave (Princess Leia), strong (Eowyn), sometimes conniving (Azula), and comical (pretty much any character Melissa McCarthy has played-honestly, she’s a comedic genius).  They’re no longer limited to just one or two roles anymore.  Now, they’re roles are more complex and emotional.

And so we have Katniss.  We first see her in the Hunger Games as a female character who could probably be seen as your typical one-dimensional female character.  She’s providing for her family, she’s worrying over her sister, she’s taking care of the affairs of the house.  But then she gets pulled into the Battle Arena.  She’s no longer the typical female taking care of things at home.  Now she’s more complex.  She’s got to be smart, clever, fast, and strong in order to survive.  Does she compromise her morality to win the Games and live?  What does she do about Peeta, her friend who is stuck in the Games with her?  There’s only one winner, after all.  And then there’s the whole political situation with Panem.  Does she take a stand against the dictator-president?  Or should she take the safe route and simply do what she’s told?  It’s questions like these that Katniss struggles with during the story (and after), but it’s these sort of questions that develop her character.  The girl we meet in The Hunger Games is very different from the one we meet in Mockingjay, but that is the goal of every character in a story- to grow and change and become better (or, in some cases, not grow and change and become worse.)

Catching Fire will be arriving in theatres in a few weeks and I admit I’m looking forward to it.  Not only because I’ll get to see Katniss and Peeta in all their rear-kicking glory, but also because Johanna and Finnick will be joining the cast (the dude fights with a trident.  A trident!  I haven’t seen one of those things since The Little Mermaid).  Regardless, the film is one of many upcoming stories with great female characters that will doubtless give the ladies a chance to cheer for one of their own.