After Presidents Snow and Alma Coin, Brutus, Enobaria, Cashmere, Gloss, Glimmer, Cato, and Clove, I think the character in The Hunger Games trilogy I dislike the most is Gale Hawthorne. In part, this is due to the fact that I have never seen much use for so-called “love triangles” in any kind of story. In a “love triangle” plot/subplot, the girl falls for two totally different guys but cannot make up her mind which one she truly loves, blah, blah, blah, puke, puke, puke.
This is not a way to enhance my appreciation of a character. In fact, it is more likely to do the opposite, since all the “love triangle” girls seem truly capable of doing is a lot of dithering.
I mean, how hard is it to really know which guy is better than the other? Pretty generally, in a “love triangle” story, one guy is sincere in his love for the girl and the other guy is not. All the girl has to do is watch and see which fellah behaves better and actually means it and she’s found her guy. But instead we often have the girl wailing and gnashing her teeth while saying, “I can’t choose! I can’t choose!”
Oh, give me a break.
Anyway, of the two young men who end up vying for Katniss’ affection in The Hunger Games, Peeta wins out. Why? Well, if you cheat (the way I did) and read the Wikipedia files, it is said that Peeta beats out Gale because Gale and Katniss both have the “same fire.” (Funny how no one on Wikipedia mentions Gale also kissed and dated other girls prior to Katniss, which makes him, to my mind, to be of doubtful constancy. He fell for girls prior to her, what’s to keep him tied to Katniss forever after, hmm?)
Okay, having read The Hunger Games books, I can say that this thing about Gale and Katniss having the “same fire” is baloney. While Katniss and Gale both have fiery personalities, their fire is most definitely not the same. Katniss’ fire is her will to survive, no matter what. Gale’s fire, however, is the fire for vengeance.
This desire of his is understandable. Gale’s father died in the same mining accident which killed Katniss’ father. He is whipped in Catching Fire for hunting and killing a turkey so that he, his three younger siblings, and his mother could survive without recourse to the Capitol’s “liberality.” He saw his home destroyed and his friends killed when District 12 was burned to the ground. It is perfectly understandable that he would want revenge for all the suffering the Capitol had inflicted on him and those he loved.
But we are warned not to seek vengeance for wrongs committed against us for a reason. In his thirst for payback, Gale becomes very similar to the people he hates. His loathing for the Capitol is so strong that he sees Katniss’ harmless, fluff brained prep team – which has never known true suffering and want in their lives – as monsters. Never mind that they have been raised by the society of the city to be as helpless as children, he does not appreciate that the prep team’s only experience of ‘reality’ has been the decadent lifestyle of the Capitol.
Unlike Katniss, Gale has never been to the Capitol. He has no idea what the people in the Capitol are taught to believe, so he never considers anyone from the city as less than evil. The Capitol citizens are encouraged to lead the lives they do by the government of Panem. As the Hunger Games are a form of control over the districts, so this dissolute way of living is encouraged in the Capitol to keep the city’s people under the control of Panem’s government. Having witnessed life in the Capitol, Katniss has a better understanding of the mentality of its citizens than Gale does.
Gale shows just how far he has fallen when he devises an attack on the Peacekeeper base in District 2. The Capitol Peacekeepers have retreated into a mine/military base in a mountain in the District. With them are a number of District 2 miners and undercover rebel operatives. In planning the rebel attack on the mountain, Gale never stops to sympathize with the people who are pinned down in the mountain. He never stops, as Katniss does, to consider how many of the people inside the base are actually on the Capitol’s side – all he wants is revenge.
Katniss is able to convince the other rebel commanders to leave the District 2 people a way out of the mountain. Remembering her own father’s death in a mine, she is unwilling to condemn so many others to a similar fate. This is something Gale does not appreciate because – as I have already stated – he sees everyone who lives in the Capitol and at least half of the population of District 2 as the enemy. Katniss lacks the ability to articulate to him that his view is wrong, but in the end she knows he is in error and she also knows that he will not be swayed from his point of view.
This is what helps her to realize that Peeta is the better man. Consumed by the fire of his hatred, Gale will do whatever he can to strike back at the Capitol and make them hurt the way they have hurt him. That is all that matters to him.
The first hint of this is in Mockingjay. In the third book, Katniss and Gale witness Capitol hovercrafts bomb a hospital full of wounded District 8 inhabitants. While Katniss did not expect the Capitol to target the hospital, Gale did, leading her to say that Gale understands their enemy. Gale does in fact understand them for he has met the enemy and they are him.
So, is it the “same fire,” readers? I think not. I think it more accurate to say they have incompatible personalities with undeniable similarities. Gale’s flame is the fire of destruction; Katniss’ fire is for the preservation of life at the necessary price. Vengeance destroys, while survival recognizes the importance of humanity and life and – well, survives.
The Mithril Guardian