Katniss gets a lot of hate.
But not from me. I love Katniss. This shouldn’t be surprising, but it is. Isn’t it?
Why do people dislike her so much? It’s not because she’s an antagonist. It’s not even because she’s a poorly written character. It’s simply because she’s “whiny”. Look, I won’t deny that Katniss complains – that would be ridiculous – but I do think her actions are justified. Katniss suffers through so much at such a young age and I wish people wouldn’t act as if she doesn’t have the right to be bitter.
Before the first book even begins, Katniss has already lost her father to a mining accident. She may as well have lost her mother too, because Mrs. Everdeen goes into a deep depression after her husband dies. At the age of eleven, Katniss has to figure how she’s going to feed and care for her family, because her mother certainly isn’t going to. For a while they starve, but gradually Katniss grows bold enough to break the laws and hunt beyond the fence surrounding District 12. That’s a huge amount of responsibility for a kid.
When she is sixteen, her little sister is reaped into the Games and Katniss volunteers in her place. If you want to be a nitpicking literal-minded idiot then sure, you can claim that Katniss had a choice when it came to entering the Games. But let’s be smarter than that! Consider what a horrible situation our heroine is in: she can let Prim go and be forced to watch her die, or she can go herself and save her sister (at least temporarily).
She is shipped off to the Capitol and learns how to act in ways that viewers will like – friendly and confident, but not too much of either. She has to hide her real feelings because scared tributes won’t get sponsors; who would want to support an easy target? Additionally, Katniss’ fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark, is someone she knows. He saved her from starving in the past. Now she may have to kill him.
Fast forward to the Games, and Katniss spends several weeks alternately killing children, watching others kill children, starving, and fleeing for her life. Oh yes, and in order to get sponsors she has to pretend to be in love with Peeta, but he thinks she really is in love. That’s enough to make anyone depressed, panicky, and bitter.
And that’s only the beginning – her problems just get worse from there on out. Katniss is sent back into the arena for the Quarter Quell. She fights against the Capitol, witnessing several horrific deaths including those of Finnick (one of the few she really trusted) and her own sister. PEOPLE, SHE WATCHED HER LITTLE SISTER BE BLOWN UP. That’s horrible irony – she went into the Games (thereby bringing about the rebellion) to save Prim. And now she’s lost her forever.
By the end of the trilogy, Katniss has lost almost everything of importance: friends, family members, a normal childhood, her sanity. Night after night she wakes up screaming after horrible dreams caused by the PTSD. And you say she whines too much? Fine. I’d like to see you do better.
The key word here is “compassion”, guys. I know Katniss is a fictional character but she’s not so different from us. (George R.R. Martin says it much better than I ever could: “Just as you grieve if a friend is killed, you should grieve if a fictional character is killed. You should care. If somebody dies and you just go get more popcorn, it’s a superficial experience, isn’t it?”) Think of how you would react if all that happened to the girl on fire had happened to someone you knew. Wouldn’t you listen to and attempt to comfort them, even when they’ve gone into the Crying A Lot, My Life Is Awful mode?
Katniss is one of my favorite characters of all time. She’s brave, resourceful, kind, and smart. She’s a female protagonist in science fiction – do you realize how rare that is? (No, Princess Leia of Star Wars and Uhura from Star Trek don’t count; they’re only supporting characters. The female main characters of books like Divergent, Matched, and Cinder don’t count either, as they merely followed in Collins’ dystopian trend.) Yes, sometimes Katniss tests my patience, but then I remember all she’s experienced and I ease up on the poor girl. I don’t know about you but if I’d been through so much, I’d be a sobbing wreck by now.