From a Farouche Adolescent to an Important Part of Society. The Psychosocial Development of Katniss Everdeen In "The Hunger Games" Trilogy

Bachelorarbeit, 2014

46 Seiten, Note: 1,3


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Katniss' personality in theory - a psychological framework

3 Before the 74th Hunger Games - Katniss' life in district 12
3.1 Katniss' self-image - her chosen role in society
3.2 Katniss' family - the role of mother and sister
3.3 Gale, Madge and the Hob - Katniss' small extra-familial world

4 A life-changing challenge - the impact of Katniss' 1st Hunger Games
4.1 After the reaping - 1st time outside the district
4.2 Vulnerable girl in love or fighting machine? - Katniss' role inside the arena
4.3 Peeta and Rue - first steps away from egocentrism
4.4 Back at home - nothing stays the same

5 The Quarter Quell - first time as team player?
5.1 Katniss as bodyguard and rebel - a new identity and social challenges
5.2 Pretending to be a team player - discrepancy between personal and collective aims inside the arena

6 The rebellion - a final revolution of Katniss' personality
6.1 Growing into a new role - the Mockingjay spreads her wings
6.2 A new life in District 13 - developments in war situation and their impact on Katniss' personality
6.3 Freedom, family and femininity - the long way into a new life

7 Conclusion

8 Bibliography
8.1 Primary Literature
8.2 Secondary Literature

1 Introduction

The three books of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy have been published between 2008 and 2010 and tell the story of Panem, a North-American state of a dystopian future, and how a slowly upcoming rebellion, led by the protagonist Katniss Everdeen, helped the people to overcome the political oppression of a totalitarian government. Throughout the first book, which appeared under the global title The Hunger Games, the reader gets to know the main characters and the political and social situation in Panem, with the central problem of the Hunger Games as omnipresent fear for the entire society in the twelve districts. At the end of the first novel, after taking part in and winning the Hunger Games herself, the protagonist triggers more or less unwillingly a couple of happenings that slowly lead to the rebellious break out in the second book, which is appropriately called Catching Fire, since it thematises the upcoming rebellious actions and how the Capitol tries to stop the rising number of rebels throughout the country. The entire last volume of the trilogy, Mockingjay, deals exclusively with the revolutionary actions and the slow fall of Panem's Capitol and the totalitarian system. The main target group of Collins' trilogy are young adult readers, however, it is also able to attract adults due to its complex plot and the profound representation of the topic. Also, The Hunger Games trilogy is a hybrid novel, which cannot be assigned to one single genre as it includes aspects of a dystopia, romance and war literature; predominantly, however, it is a so called bildungsroman with two main focusses: On the one hand, there is a central socio-political statement, which has been created “very intentionally […] to characterize current and past world events”1, according to the author herself. On the other hand, the novel deals intensively with the topic of growing up by highlighting both, normal psychological issues of teenagers, e.g. the first love, and the special circumstances, in which Katniss Everdeen grows up.

As the trilogy has been on everyone's lips, even more since the first film adaptation came to the cinemas with great worldwide success, it is no surprise that the novel also becomes more and more an object of scientific research. However, while most researchers tend to focus on the central socio-political aspect of the story, the psychological background also provides a lot of material to take a closer look on; even more since psychology is a still young field of research, which is more than ever interesting for many people in the Western culture of the 21st century - proven by the high and constantly rising number of psychology students, not only but also in Germany. Furthermore, the psychological background is at least as important for the development of the plot as the social and political one. Katniss is not only a figure that tells the reader the political plot, but a complex character that deserves to be analysed in detail. The protagonist's personal development as a central issue of the novel can be easily followed due to the focalising, which hardly switches to another character throughout the whole story.

The central target of this thesis is to answer the question in which way Katniss develops a solid self-identity and finds a place in society, and in how far the political and social circumstances, her personal experiences throughout the story and her social environment influence this development. In his master thesis, which also partly deals with Katniss' psychosocial issues, Chakoshi states that “[t]he political character of Katniss progresses simultaneously with her surrounding environment and events, and the general condition of her life.”2 The analysis of the connection between these progresses is the central issue of the given bachelor thesis. The findings given in the main part of the thesis are primarily a result of a detailed analysis of all three parts of the trilogy, with a special focus on Katniss' emotions and her behaviour towards fellow people around. In order to make it easier to understand the realistic depiction of psychological phenomena in Katniss' character, and how they affect her and the story, one finds a short theoretical paragraph ahead of the main part. The latter is built up chronologically and follows Katniss' development step by step, beginning with the initial situation of her life in District 12. Afterwards, an analysis of the changes due to both Hunger Games, in which Katniss takes part, precedes a chapter about the final development of her personality during the war.

2 Katniss' personality in theory - a psychological framework

Psychological aspects of Katniss' character and her development throughout the story are an important part of the plot, and their understanding is therefore inevitable. In the following paragraphs, the main psychological phenomena of the plot will be defined, including their connection to Katniss and their role in The Hunger Games.

An important factor, that influences Katniss' behaviour from the very beginning of the story, is the indication for post-traumatic stress disorder caused by two traumatic experiences: her father's death that changed Katniss' complete life, and the experiences around the Hunger Games, primarily those she made directly inside the arena. According to the ICD-10, quoted by Wittchen and Hoyer, this disorder is a reaction on a potential or real threat to life, severe injury or a threat for the health of oneself or others.3 A confrontation with the object of this trauma triggers fear, helplessness and the instinct to flee - symptoms which can be observed when Katniss realises that she has to go back into the arena in Catching Fire, and also in District 13, when she starts seeing the whole country as a big arena. Other typical symptoms for the post-traumatic stress disorder are flashbacks, dreams and sudden memories which trigger fear. Katniss mentions more than once that she cannot get rid of the images of the exploding coal mine, in which her father died, in her mind. Also under the influence of the tracker jacker venom, she hallucinates about her father. The last evidence provides her loss of happiness with things and actions she used to like, after coming back home from her first Games. This, together with a certain emotional numbness, is another symptom of this mental illness.

Beyond the influence of a possible mental illness, Katniss' characteristics and her behaviour can easily be explained by the use of psychological definitions. For example, the girl seems to have a typical schizoid personality, which - according to Vollmers - can be recognised through a cool, distant and emotionless behaviour. These people do not feel a connection with others, and therefore seem to be strong and independent, like Katniss.4 Due to this missing connection, schizoid persons do not have many friends or romantic relationships and cannot express emotions to their fellows. As a result, they tend to prefer free time activities that can be done alone and at rather lonesome places. Also here, Katniss fits in due to her love for the woods and the hunting, which she does not even want to share with Gale at the beginning. This schizoid personality might also be a reason for Katniss' distinct egocentrism that she shows from the very beginning of the first novel. Egocentrism is described in different ways in developmental- and personality psychology. In both cases, however, it origins in Jean Piaget's work La représentation du monde chez l'enfant, which has been translated into several languages. Piaget describes egocentrism as supremacy of the own point of view in an infantile conception of the world.5 The child is not able to get an objective view on the world, it can only see itself as central and therefore generalises its wishes and ideas, unable to show empathy to other people and their emotions and wishes. In personality psychology, this phenomenon is transferred into the adult world of experience, in which empathy is obligatory for most people. In this age, egocentrism is no longer a phenomenon of normal age-related limitations but an individual characteristic of people who perceive themselves as central, and expect others to circle around them. Eckert describes this characteristic in Gesprächspsychotherapie as incapacity for empathy to others, to change the own perspective or to accept the own point of view as only one among many possible ones.6 To change this characteristic, is one of the biggest challenges for Katniss on her way to maturity.

The central factor of this thesis, however, is Katniss' social environment and her psychosocial development. Also Lem and Hassel underline the importance of psychosocial factors for the story by stating that “[r]elationships are the lifeblood of this novel.”7 The phrase psychosocial can be defined in different ways as there is not the one definition used in literature. In this thesis, it is understood as factors concerning social circumstances that influence the human psyche,8 or the other way round, factors concerning experiencing and behaviour of a person, if and when it is connected with social interaction.9 These definitions already imply that the social environment is an important factor for the psyche of every human being. In Grundwissen Psychologie, Vollmers describes people as open systems, which are constantly in a dialogue with one another.10 That includes a permanent influence among the members of a social system, willingly and unwillingly. Concerning the family as a social system, Vollmers states that a solid alteration of one member of this system also triggers an alteration of the other ones, in order to equilibrate the system anew.11 Regarding Katniss' development, one can take into account her small social system, the family, which had to equilibrate anew after Mr Everdeen's death and his wife's depression. But one can also include the entire society as a big system that influences Katniss and vice versa, so that both, the society of Panem and Katniss herself, eventually find a new inner balance.

3 Before the 74th Hunger Games - Katniss' life in district 12

From the beginning of The Hunger Games until she leaves for her second Games in the middle of Catching Fire, Katniss' home is District 12, one of the smallest and poorest districts of Panem. The life of most people there is determined by the fight against starvation and subliminal fear of the dangerous circumstances in which the miners have to work day by day. The protagonist lives in the poorest sector of the district, called “the Seam”, and does not only have to fight for her own survival but also for her mother and her little sister Prim. Since her father died of an explosion in the mines, Katniss feeds herself and her family by illegal hunting in the woods outside the district, and trading at the black market. Also her social environment is, apart from her family, concentrated on people she meets at the market, her hunting partner and best friend Gale, and Madge, the mayor's daughter, who is Katniss' only friend at school. The following section discusses Katniss' life at the beginning of the trilogy with a special focus on her living conditions, her social environment and how both influences her character and self- image.

3.1 Katniss' self-image - her chosen role in society

Both Katniss' self-image and the role she chose for herself are results of her father's early death and the situation in which he left his family. As an eleven-year-old, the girl had no choice but taking over the role as feeder and “head of the family”12 while her mother was lost in her post-traumatic depression, not able to fulfil her mother-role or substitute for the girls' father. Due to the life threatening situation for the whole family, Katniss' only objection in life used to be the well-being of her family, which is still practically her only aim at the beginning of the first novel of the trilogy. This becomes clear through her relationship to her sister Prim's cat. While for many people a pet means joy and an enrichment for their lives, Katniss perceives “Buttercup” just as “another mouth to feed”13, although the cat should be able to feed itself. In order to feed her family, Katniss leaves the district every day to hunt for game in the woods. She is aware of the fact that hunting, and even simply leaving the district, are illegal actions, which might make her behaviour seem rebellious, although Katniss probably does not have any rebel ideas while hunting, since it is the only way for her and her family to survive. Therefore, illegal hunting just shows that she does not obey blindly to given rules but has her own ideas of right and wrong, given the fact that many people in the district die of starvation.

Furthermore, Katniss is aware of the leaders of Panem in the Capitol fearing another rebellion, but she is not at all revolutionary herself. Miller brings this to the point in mentioning that “Katniss acts decisively and often effectively, but only when she’s backed into a corner.”14 Otherwise, Katniss acts much more passively and guided by rationality, unlike her friend Gale, who constantly moans about the Capitol, and who's plan to get out of the district to live in the woods in more freedom is rejected by Katniss. Being a very rational person, without dreams or illusions, she knows that escaping into the woods with all their little siblings would not make sense, and therefore accepts her poor life in District 12, rather than dreaming of another, better life, that would - or would not - follow a rebellion. Due to her rationality and lack of illusions, Katniss does not see the point in Gale moaning about the Capitol. Here again, her prior aim of feeding the family leads her very practical thinking. Neither moaning nor a rebellion, that she cannot see coming anyway, can “fill [their] stomachs”15 and hence, she does not appreciate either of them. Her own feelings about the state are not positive either, but she learned early not to talk too much about it. Although she is not very active against the Capitol, Chakoshi points out what Katniss also knows, by stating that “[a]lliances and unification within and among the districts is one of the dangers that have always threatened Capitol” and claims that “Katniss begins to plant the seeds of union from the beginning of the first volume.”16 For evidence, Chakoshi points out her hand-holding with Peeta and the loyal alliances with him, respectively Rue, during the Games. This, however, only happens after Katniss had to leave her home for the Games. Before, unlike the career tributes from District 1 and 2, her view on the Hunger Games is naturally very negative, and not only is she aware of the tesserae as a trigger for hatred among the district people, but also of the logic behind that, which is connected with the state's omnipresent fear of a rebellion. Helen Day states in her essay Simulacra, Sacrifice and Survival that the mentioned hatred is to ensure “that they [the people] never trust each other” because “trust and friendship are enemies of the state.”17 Although Katniss understands these connections, she does not see herself in a position to try and change the situation for all of them since she is busy with her role as head of the family.

Another factor, that is strongly influenced by Katniss' living conditions, is her gender role, which is by far not clear and seems to be alterable. After her father's death, she has to fulfil both, a male and female role. The protagonist takes over her mother's maternal role for her sister Prim - a stereotypical female role, even in the 21st century and apparently also in the dystopian future. This feminine role is supported by Katniss hunting preferably rabbits, an animal which is the ”traditional symbol of female fertility.”18 Yet, she does not show characteristics that Johnson in The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy mentions as typical female, such as “cooperation, […] vulnerability, a readiness to negotiate and compromise [or] emotional expressiveness.”19 Nor does Katniss perceive herself as woman with specific female qualities. She loves to spend time hunting in the woods, which is a sphere connected with masculinity, and her personality can rather be described by the use of qualities that Johnson matches with a prototypical male person, such as “strength, […] autonomy, self-sufficiency, and control over any emotion that interferes with other core values (such as invulnerability)”.20 One can see her preference for this male role in Gale's statement that the normally unhappy, sad Katniss “never smile[s] except in the woods.”21 Also her own feeling of happiness and perfection at this place serves as evidence for her preferred role in both, the family and the society, as everyone in the district knows about her illegal disappearance in the woods. However, the clearest statement against femininity, strongly connected with the social situation in Panem, might be the strong rejection of typical female desires like having a male partner and children. Katniss “cannot afford the kind of love that leads to a family, to children”22 because she is afraid of seeing her own children being forced to go into the arena of some future Hunger Games.

Hence, it is proven that Katniss' self-image and how she wants to be perceived in public before she leaves for her first Hunger Games, is primarily influenced by her personal familial situation and also the whole social situation in her home district. Additionally, does she not have the attitude or motivation to try and change anything about her living conditions at the beginning of the first novel.

3.2 Katniss' family - the role of mother and sister

For Katniss, her family is the centre of her social life as she is not very open-minded and therefore does not have many friends. The most important person in life is her sister Prim, with whom she has a very strong connection. Not only do they share one bed to care for each other; according to Katniss, Prim is also the only person that she really loves and that can make her laugh openly. Although she is rather an egocentric person, who is not that interested in other people, Katniss is interested in Prim's feelings and is even fine with her sister holding the cat she brought home. Although Katniss does not like the cat and perceives it more as a burden than an enrichment, it is allowed to stay only for Prim's sake, to make the little girl happy. Beyond that, Katniss has no doubt in signing for “tesserae” to ensure her family's survival. In exchange for food that is badly needed, she sacrifices herself by rising the risk to get reaped for the Hunger Games. Also Firestone confirms that Katniss' attitude is “a result of living in a home where there is no longer a male provider. She is unable to behave selfishly, because she has the responsibility of caring for her mother and younger sister.”23 The only situation, in which Katniss has no control and cannot protect Prim, is the reaping. By volunteering, she proves that she values her sister's life more than her own, or at least could not imagine a life without Prim, who would for sure get killed in the arena. Although one could consider this action as a very first glimpse of rebellion, since District 12 - as the other outer districts - has never had a volunteer before, it seems to be rather an act of maternal love. Also Guy Andre Risko states in his essay Katniss Everdeen's Liminal Choices and the Foundations of Revolutionary Ethics that “Katniss [does] not intend for her decision to be read as anything other than an attempt to save her sister from the Arena” and that her “choice is not some Kantian maxim, nor some Levinasian infinite obligation. She protects her sister, no one else. From this perspective, Katniss's action seems less revolutionary and potentially less ethical.”24

The relationship between Katniss and her mother cannot be compared to the one between her and Prim, as it is much more characterized by emotional distance between mother and daughter. That becomes clear early in the novel, when the reader learns that Katniss talks about her by calling her “our mother”25 instead of the more emotional “mum”. The girl declares herself as “not the forgiving type”26, which her mother experiences first-hand. Katniss cannot forget that she and Prim were almost starving to death after their father's death, while Mrs. Everdeen was imprisoned in her depression. That shows additionally Katniss' incapacity to show or feel empathy with other people. She cannot and does not want to understand her mother's mental illness and rather prefers to judge and punish her for the situation the two girls got in. In order to transport her opinion to her mother, she used to reject any help and offers from her for a long time. However, accepting her mother's precious dress for the reaping shows that Katniss is at least willing to try and give their relationship a chance.

3.3 Gale, Madge and the Hob - Katniss' small extra-familial world

Apart from her family, Katniss does not have an intense social life, neither does she seem to have a proper feeling for social commitment. Even years after the happening, she still cannot understand why Peeta let the bread fall into the fire just in order to give it to her. To help someone, who is not part of the own family or one of the dearest friends, seems to be strange for Katniss - even more if one gets punished for this action, like Peeta. Throughout the trilogy, she keeps on emphasizing that she does not want to owe somebody something, e.g. Peeta for saving her and her family of starvation. This puts her in an uncomfortable situation, not only right afterwards in school, but also years later when she meets him again at the reaping. Katniss thinks she still owes Peeta and does not like the connection between them that she feels due to these circumstances. Being connected to other people, except from a few chosen persons, is not what the egocentric and farouche girl appreciates.

This might also be a reason for not having many friends at school. Katniss is not integrated in a peer group, something that is of great importance for most teenagers. But she does not suffer from the situation, because this is what she wants. Apart from the aversion for connections with other people, she does not seem to have advanced communication skills. Katniss herself verifies this later on in the novel by her preference to let Peeta talk whenever it is possible, which she justifies with his communicative strength that she lacks. But also at school, she does not like talking, and her only frequent company is Madge, the mayor's daughter, whose companionship she more accepts than seeks. The girls do not talk a lot and Katniss likes Madge for her calmness. Also, Katniss' propensity to egocentrism becomes apparent in the connection with Madge. She likes the girl not only for not talking a lot but also for being for herself - both characteristics that Katniss shows herself. Hence, she appears to prefer people who are similar to herself, which indicates that her own personality, and therefore she as a person, is central in her life, rather than getting to know other characters.

The only person outside her family, who Katniss calls “friend”, is her hunting partner Gale, to whom she has a very close, but also complicated relationship. In the first place, the two teenagers are not only friends but also a good team. They met in the woods and formed a practical alliance to the advantage of both: Gale taught Katniss how to lay snares and in return he took advantage of the girl's hunting skills. However, over the years, the connection between both grew stronger. Not only are they able to finish each other's sentences, much stronger evidence provides the fact that Katniss can relax when “the only person with whom [she] can be [her]self”27 is around, and the girl, who is always in disguise in presence of other people, is able to get rid of her “indifferent mask”.28 But the relationship does also reveal a lot about Katniss' character and social skills. Her problem with making friends is not only apparent in school but also when it comes to Gale, as both were not friends from the very beginning. Even with him, Katniss needed some time to open up and accept him as a friend. Beyond that, it seems obvious, that people with a practical value are more precious for her than those, who can only function as company. This is why she cherishes Gale more as business partner than as friend. One can see that in her jealousy, that stems from the fear someone could take away her hunting partner - not her friend.29

However, this is just true for readers who rate Katniss as reliable in that case, since her relationship with Gale is not as simple as it seems.


1Blasingame. 2009. p. 726

2 Chakoshi. 2012. p. 10

3 cf. Wittchen, Hoyer. 2011. p. 986

4 cf. Vollmers. 1999. p. 67

5 cf. Piaget. 1978. p. 206

6 cf. Eckert. 2012. p. 271

7 Lem, Hassel. 2012. p. 125

8 cf.

9 cf.

10 cf. Vollmers. 1999. p. 34

11 Ibid. p. 31

12 Collins. 2008. p. 27

13 Ibid p. 3

14 Miller. 2010. n.p

15 Collins. 2008. p. 14

16 Chakoshi. 2012. p. 11

17 Day. 2012. p. 173

18 Trites. 1997. p. 75

19 Johnson. 1997. p. 7

20 Ibid.

21 Collins. 2008. p. 6

22 Ibid. p. 373

23 Firestone. 2012. p. 213

24 Risko. 2012. p. 85

25 Collins. 2008. p. 3

26 Ibid. p. 8

27 Collins. 2008. p. 6

28 Ibid. p. 6

29 cf. ibid. pp. 10 f

Ende der Leseprobe aus 46 Seiten


From a Farouche Adolescent to an Important Part of Society. The Psychosocial Development of Katniss Everdeen In "The Hunger Games" Trilogy
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn  (Institut für Anglistik, Amerikanistik und Keltologie)
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from, farouche, adolescent, important, part, society, psychosocial, development, katniss, everdeen, hunger, games, trilogy
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Nicole Eismann (Autor:in), 2014, From a Farouche Adolescent to an Important Part of Society. The Psychosocial Development of Katniss Everdeen In "The Hunger Games" Trilogy, München, GRIN Verlag,


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