"When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country, Panem, from the far-off city called the Capitol. Eventually I understood this would only lead us to more trouble. So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts."
This passage describes a few of Katniss's characteristics that are central to her journey through the novel. First, they illustrate that she has an inherent understanding of the injustices perpetuated by the Capitol, as well as an inherent revolutionary spark. However, she has learned in her life that prudence suggests a stoical outlook, which she adopts in order to not draw attention to herself. Her "indifferent mask" helps her to provide for her family. This forced attitude is one that she will challenge throughout the adventure in order to rediscover who she is deep down: a revolutionary with a deep sense of empathy for those plagued by injustice.
"As long as you can find yourself, you'll never starve."
This phrase is spoken by Katniss's father to her in one of her flashbacks. Literally, it was spoken when he introduced her to the plant katniss, an edible root and her namesake. However, it figuratively serves as a philosophy that will provide the key to Katniss's success. Her journey is one of discovering her true identity, which involves a balance between her stoic determination and her more emotional side. It is also telling that her father, the man whose death led her to eschew her emotional side, speaks this line.
"I'm ashamed I never tried to help her in the woods. That I let the Capitol kill the boy and mutilate her without lifting a finger. Just like I was watching the Games."
These are Katniss's thoughts about the redheaded Avox who serves her in her Capitol lodgings. The memory of her inaction continues to haunt Katniss, providing a challenge to her stoic demeanor. Deep down, she simultaneously knows that inaction was the prudent move to protect herself, and yet feels that she observed an injustice that she could have challenged. It reflects the deep division in her identity between reason and passion, and what's more, in this thought, she begins to compare inaction to that of the population who refuses to fight against the barbarous Games. This guilt is one of the first steps that leads Katniss towards establishing her revolutionary zeal.
"Gale gave me a sense of security I'd lacked since my father's death. His companionship replaced the long solitary hours in the woods. I became a much better hunter when I didn't have to look over my shoulder constantly, when someone was watching my back…Being out in the woods with Gale…sometimes I was actually happy."
On a literal level, this passage details how Gale became important to Katniss as a teammate. But it also illustrates that, deep down, Katniss possesses a self-knowledge that she never realizes until going through the Games. Much of her journey in the novel is learning to trust her feelings of community, to recognize that people are stronger when they work together. Her life as hunter taught her that stoic detachment was her most valuable asset, and she tries to use this in the arena. In spite of herself, she ends up allying with Rue and then Peeta, and these alliances strengthen her chances. By the end of the novel, she has come to realize the importance of trusting others, but this is not something she learns out in the arena, but rather something she knew deep down all along, as this quote illustrates.
"Why don't you just be yourself? … No one can help but admire your spirit."
These quotes are spoken by Cinna to give Katniss guidance on how to best sell herself to the audience in her first interview with Ceaser Flickerman. The whole situation, as well as the work Haymitch does to help Katniss shape an image, speaks to the pervasiveness of the spectacle that is the Hunger Games. It is telling that Cinna's suggestion – that Katniss should just be herself – is almost revolutionary in a world where the spectacle is so highly prized. What's more, behind Cinna's suggestion is the message that everything Katniss needs not only to win the Hunger Games but also to become a hero is already inside of her. Her victory comes not from the stoic determination that makes her a good hunter, but moreso from her acceptance of her emotional and empathetic side. The revolutionary she approaches becoming by the end of the novel is someone she already is – she just has to learn to be herself and thereby accept it.
"They do surgery in the Capitol, to make people appear younger and thinner. In District 12, looking old is something of an achievement since so many people die early. You see an elderly person, you want to congratulate them on their longevity, ask the secret of survival. A plump person is envied because they aren't scraping by like the majority of us. But [in the Capitol] it is different. Wrinkles aren't desirable. A round belly isn't a sign of success."
These are Katniss's thoughts after observing up close how youthful Caesar Flickerman continues to look because of plastic surgery. These thoughts emphasize how significantly class differences affect every element of a person's life and perspective in Panem. Katniss confronts her contradictory feelings about class through her early stages of being a tribute, as she is overwhelmed by the luxuriousness of the Capitol. And yet she considers herself simply a "girl from the Seam." Class resentments play a recurring role in the novel and the arena, and the pressures of poverty actually provide her with a strength and resilience that helps her succeed.
"I bite my lip, feeling inferior. While I've been ruminating on the availability of trees, Peeta has been struggling with how to maintain his identity. His purity of self."
Katniss thinks this after Peeta confesses to her on the roof that what he wants most in the Games is to not compromise himself. His confession forces her to directly confront a contradiction within herself: while she has chosen to maintain a stoic determination for victory, she actually has strong empathetic feelings for other people, motivated partly by hatred of the Capitol. When Peeta expresses how firmly he is to his own identity, it cuts Katniss to the quick. She knows deep down that she is a bigger person than the hunter obsessed with victory. Her journey through the novel is to accept her human, caring, loving characteristics.
"As I hike along, I feel certain I'm still holding the screen in the Capitol, so I'm careful to continue to hide my emotions. But what a good time Claudius Templesmith must be having with his guest commentators, dissecting Peeta's behavior, my reaction. What to make of it all? Has Peeta revealed his true colors? How does this affect the betting odds? Will we lose sponsors? Do we even have sponsors? Yes, I feel certain we do, or did."
These thoughts, which take place during the period when Katniss believes Peeta is working with the Careers, show how she aims to operate while in the arena. She consciously chooses to play to the spectacle, maintaining her stoic demeanor not only for success but to attract sponsors. There are countless other examples of this throughout the novel. Though it's clear to the reader in this passage that she feels betrayed by Peeta's seeming alliance, she won't admit that to herself. Instead, she denies her emotions and focuses only on how the betrayal tactically affects her chances. This is not truly who she is deep down, and her time in the arena will help her discover that.
"Rue's death has forced me to confront my own fury against the cruelty, the injustice they inflict upon us. But here, even more strongly than at home, I feel my impotence. There's no way to take revenge on the Capitol. Is there?"
This passage shows Katniss's wakening consciousness to the pervasiveness of the injustice perpetuated by the Capitol. Katniss is beginning to lose her stoic detachment and identify her true antagonist as the Capitol. She has not yet recognized that the answer to victory will lie in trusting her community. However, the indignation that drives her revolutionary zeal is beginning to manifest in this passage. The first step towards discovering her true identity will involve her more fully accepting her emotional side, something that begins to happen after Rue's death.
"The idea of actually losing Peeta hit me again and I realized how much I don't want him to die. And it's not about the sponsors. And it's not about what will happen back home. And it's not just that I don’t want to be alone. It's him. I do not want to lose the boy with the bread."
One of Katniss's most extreme emotional conflicts is how to understand the burgeoning relationship between her and Peeta in the arena. Because of the spectacle, she is able to convince herself that it's all a show to play to Haymitch's unified front strategy. But there's plenty of dramatic irony in the reader's awareness that she is falling for him. What's more, in calling him "the boy with the bread," she connects him to the kindness he performed for her so long before. Such selfless kindness is a virtue she herself possesses, though she considers it a weakness until she learns to accept it. This passage, unusually forthright for Katniss, is a moment where she admits to herself the depth of the feelings that helped her win. Through most of the preceding adventure, she is much less self-aware of her feelings.
The Hunger Games Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Hunger Games is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.