First off, I’d like express my thanks to all of you have joined me on this five-week exploration of “the hero’s quest.” Your feedback and comments are much appreciated. I’ve also been thrilled to see all your thoughtful and insightful answers to my discussion questions about “The Hunger Games.” This movie has proven to be a perfect place for us to start this media studies series because it has such clearly identifiable stages in the hero’s quest.
The Reaping represents the call to adventure, which Katniss (like any reasonable person) does not want to answer because it’s either a death sentence or an invitation to become a mass murderer for the sake of televised entertainment. However, Katniss does accept the call when she volunteers to take the place of her little sister as Tribute. This willingness to sacrifice herself for her loved ones and for her ideals clearly marks her as a hero prepared to face this adventure.
A past winner of the games, Haymitch has been appointed as Mentor (literally) to Katniss and her fellow Tribute Peeta. But at first Haymitch seems to be her mentor in name only. He appears to be nothing more than a surly, jaded, drunk who dismissively calls Katniss “sweetheart.” That Haymitch gradually comes to respect Katniss and starts to behave as a proper mentor demonstrates her heroic ability to inspire others to be better people. This change in Haymitch proves vital, as he later in the games provides Katniss and Peeta with essential supplies (balm, soup, etc.). Haymitch also develops the all-important “star-crossed lovers” narrative that allows them to survive the games. (Read more about this in my follow-up post: Katniss and Peeta as “Star-Crossed Lovers.”)
The mockingjay pin serves a talisman to Katniss. The pin is not magical, but as a gift, first from the shopkeep, then to her sister, then from her sister, the pin become imbued with special social and emotional significance. It not only reminds her of her district and her sister, but it also comes to symbolize the connection she makes with Rue as they use mockingjay calls to communicate in the woods.
Rue is one of the many friends and helpers that Katniss finds along her journey. Others include Cinna, the stylist who turns her into “the girl on fire” and makes sure she can take her talisman into the games.
During the games Katniss overcomes many challenges that test her strength, speed, stamina, agility, intelligence, and more. Through all of these trials and tribulations she maintains her integrity, her grace, and her kindness toward others, quite the accomplishment in a battle royale.
The way in which Katniss continually holds true to her ideals ensures that she passes her final test of worthiness. She could easily kill Peeta. In fact, he admits as much and offers no resistance. But Katniss would still rather sacrifice herself than surrender her integrity. She is a true hero, deserving of the ultimate boon, an unexpected capitulation by the authorities, allowing both her and Peeta to survive the games.
Finally, as all heroes must do at the end of their journeys, Katniss returns home, somewhat changed by her experiences but essentially a stronger version of her true self.