Tag Archives: Katniss Everdeen

One Life: A Human’s a Human, No Matter How Small

Mockingjay

I think that Peeta was onto something about us destroying one another and letting some decent species take over. Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences. – Katniss Everdeen in Mockingjay (Emphasis added)

Image result for march for life

This week there have been and are going to be several marches for life protesting legalized abortion across the United States. If you are pro-choice and believe abortion is okay, you should remember something very important: you were once a twenty week old “lump of cells” in your mother’s body, too.

Image result for babies

We all were. We were all three day old cells carried by our mothers’; we were all eight month old unborn babies – except for those of us who were born premature. Then we were brought into the world even earlier. And you know what? We all – eventually – looked like this when we were born, premature or otherwise: healthy infants.

Image result for babies Did you ever think about babies who were born premature, readers? They were born before they were, as the cliché goes, “viable outside of the womb.” But are we going to argue that these premature infants are not human beings? If so, we are lying to ourselves.

This means that the argument that the “fetus” to be aborted is just an unfeeling lump of cells at these stages is very unscientific. Premature babies are not unfeeling lumps of cells, are they? They can cry and move, make faces, and need their diapers changed just like healthy babies born nine months after conception.

At twenty weeks, one of the favored stages for an abortion, the baby has a head, arms, legs, and can make facial expressions, not to mention move around. A woman can hear and feel the baby hiccup sometimes at that point, too. Three days after conception, a heartbeat can be detected from that single cell which will grow into a baby.

To say this argument over abortion is about a woman’s right to control her body is silly. Yes, a woman has a right to control her own body. But does she have the right to control the body of the person she is carrying? Has no one stopped to ask that question?

Why is a baby that is wanted, or “planned,” referred to as a baby while in the womb, but a baby that is unwanted or “unplanned” is spoken of as a “lump of cells” or “tissue”? If the latter is true, then there should be no joy for a couple when the pregnancy test comes back positive and no sorrow when a woman suffers a miscarriage.

Yet this is what happens. Why the societal dichotomy?

Maybe you should ask yourself this very important question, too, readers: What if my mother had aborted me?

You would not be here to read this if that were the case. You would either be zapped out of existence, dissected in utero, or “harvested” and your body parts sold to the highest bidder. What if your mother had decided to abort you? Do you want to help abortionists do that to the next Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King Jr., or John F. Kennedy? Do you want to continue to support infanticide?

Think about it, readers. Think about it harder than you have ever thought about anything else in your life. This is not a battle with a fence to sit on. This is a battle between life and death. Which do you choose?

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The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen

The Hunger Games

It has been a long time since there was a post here about a character in The Hunger Games. This article focuses on the lead character for Suzanne Collins’ trilogy: Katniss Everdeen.

Truth be told, Katniss drives me crazy. She is as thick as a fence post six ways from Sunday. Yes, she is skilled at hunting and surviving. She was a child who was forced to grow up quickly in order to protect and support her family. That is not my problem with her. My problem with Katniss is that her ability to read people is seriously lacking, and this is a survival skill everyone should practice. Her inability to understand others is a severe handicap which Katniss never quite overcomes as she works on surviving the deadly situations she finds herself in.

To avoid being too harsh, it is true that plenty of people in Katniss’ position would be unable to see the labyrinthine plots the chess players are weaving on The Hunger Games’ board. Often we are unaware of the webs others spin around us, or which we spin about ourselves when we “practice to deceive.” But that does not mean that some people in Katniss’ role would not be able to make a few educated guesses about the whats and wherefores of the forces at play in their lives.

Katniss does not appeal to me as a character. But her position in the world of Panem is hard to misunderstand. Like people in North Korea, or those who Russia kept in the Siberian gulags, the people of Panem live in cordoned off regions. These areas are prison camps. In The Hunger Games, they are known as Districts.

There are Twelve Districts at the beginning of the trilogy. Originally, there were Thirteen, but after the first rebellion against the Capitol, District Thirteen was destroyed by the government. This was also when the Capitol began the Hunger Games. In the annual Games, two children within the 12-18 age range are selected by lottery to be “tributes” in the arena. There are always two from each District; one boy, one girl. These two then have to face not only each other but the other twenty-two tributes in a televised battle to the death. The last child standing is the winner.

The winners receive enough wealth to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. They never have to worry about starving to death. But their children are still put in the lottery – the Reaping – and neither they nor their families will ever be free of the Capitol’s tyranny.

As an example, the dashing Finnick Odair, a Victor from District Four, was used as a sex slave by the politicians and rich citizens of the Capitol. Johanna Mason apparently refused this path with her characteristic vehemence; so the government killed her whole family to make an example of her to the other Victors. Haymitch Abernathy, who won his Games and embarrassed the Capitol in the process, lost his mother, brother, and girlfriend to “accidents” the government had staged.

These three Victors were free of the threat of starvation. They were not free of the dictatorship which was the Capitol.

At the start of the trilogy, Katniss understands that openly calling out the government on anything puts one at risk of swift retribution. But to her, the Capitol is a relatively distant threat. Living in the poorest District in Panem, District Twelve, Katniss’ hatred for the Capitol simmers under the concerns of daily survival for herself and her family. Ever since her father died in a coal mine explosion, she has had to provide food, clothing, and the other necessities of life for her mother and baby sister.

But Katniss’ attitude toward the Games is stood on its head when her sister, Prim, is Reaped for the seventy-fourth Hunger Games. Desperate to protect the only person she knows she loves, Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place in the Games. Since she is sixteen, she can volunteer. Anyone over eighteen or under twelve is, by law, not allowed to volunteer to take a lottery winner’s place in the Games.

Through her experiences in the Games, both in the first book and during the next two novels, Katniss grows to understand the extent of her enslavement and that of her fellow citizens to the government. She has survived for four years by hunting and gathering, yes. In that regard, she is not dependent upon the “generosity” of Panem’s government.

But she and her sister are still under threat of being Reaped for the Hunger Games until they turn nineteen. So are thousands of other children, in and out of District Twelve. Katniss’ own vow never to marry, so she can avoid sending any children she would have to the Games, is not a vow everyone in Panem has taken. After a point, they simply cannot make this vow and keep it. We are supposed to “be fruitful and multiply,” after all. (Emphasis on supposed to, people!)

Up until her sister’s name is called at the Reaping, Katniss’ feelings toward those taken for the Hunger Games are, basically: “Sucks to be them.” Once Prim is chosen, however, Katniss is shaken from her detachment toward the Games’ bloody results. She has seen the Hunger Games broadcast into her home since early childhood. She knows what would happen to her sweet, innocent younger sister in the arena. Prim could not hurt a fly without crying over it. She would die on the first day of the Games.

Katniss will not let that happen.

Catching Fire

But the event which totally snaps her once detached distaste for the brutal, retaliatory punishment from the Capitol is the death of her ally, Rue. From District Eleven, Rue is the same age as Katniss’ sister. Despite the racial differences between the two, Katniss instantly feels attached to the younger girl for her habits, which mirror Prim’s. This attachment is made most obvious when the two become allies in the arena.

This is the reason Rue’s death infuriates Katniss. If she had watched Rue die on the television, she would have shrugged the event off. Having spent a few hours with Rue in the arena, and having watched her prior to entering the Games, Katniss has no such reaction to the younger girl’s death.

Rue’s death is Katniss’ turning point. She “buries” Rue with flowers, restoring the little girl’s humanity with that one act. To the Capitol, Rue was just a number, a face in the crowd. She was an expendable slave killed to keep the rest of the herd in line. They did not know her and they did not care to learn about her as a person.

Rue was a twelve year old girl with five younger siblings, loving parents, and more friends than you could shake a stick at. She protected and looked out for her siblings. She sang to the mockingjays so that the people of District Eleven would have a beautiful end-of-harvest-time alert each day. Rue was a gentle, sweet, loving little girl.   She was athletic and had a wide knowledge of healing plants. In another world, she would have had a future so bright it would blind most people.

The Capitol took that away from her. They chose Rue to be a piece in their murderous “Games,” along with twenty-three other children. They murdered a sister, a daughter, a little girl with enormous promise so that they could keep their power.

With Rue’s death, the Games stop being games for Katniss. For a while, the Games were simply another survival routine. Make it out alive, and her family would live as well.

Rue’s death changed the game. Peeta being in the game at all changed the rules, too. Katniss felt she owed him for inspiring her to work to survive. She owed him her life. How could she repay him by taking his? Her best hope for the majority of the first book is that someone else will kill him so she does not have to do so in order to clinch the win.

The Capitol drove everyone in the Districts to, and kept them on the brink of, starvation for one simple reason: to control them better. In situations like that of the Districts, a number of people start maintaining a “look out for number one” policy. A survivor of the North Korean prison camps revealed he turned his own mother in to the camp authorities to be killed so he would have more food to eat. The Hunger Games are based on a similar principle. Their aim was to keep the people of Panem so self-interested, so determined to protect themselves, that they could be herded about like sheep or cattle.

Katniss Everdeen is no sheep. She is more like a wolf. Out to ensure her life and the lives of her ‘pack’, Katniss’ aim is to survive deprivation at all costs. But this attitude was not confined simply to herself and her family. When she came home from hunting, Katniss sold some of her gains on the local black market. Indeed, this was mostly to earn the money she needed to get the non-edible supplies her family required, not to mention pick up other necessities or treats at bargain prices.

But it also helped her community. Other people, such as the Mellarks, benefited from the meat she brought back to the District. The Mayor of District Twelve had a fancy for fresh strawberries and was quite willing to ignore where they came from. In Catching Fire, Katniss makes sure to throw her Victor’s money around as often as possible. Guaranteed by law to never be poor again, Katniss does her best to shower coin on those she knows need it most. Her regular clients at the black market Hub do not turn her down, recognizing her generosity and accepting it.

Where Peeta is a man whose eye is on the future, who looks to the spring that always follows winter, Katniss is different. She was born with a soul of fire, the fire one builds in winter to keep alive during the coldest months of the year. When the day is at its coldest, when the night is full of threats, this is when “the Mockingjay” burns at her brightest.

This, of course, brings up an issue other people are always harping on with regard to Miss Everdeen. Yes, Katniss killed a great many people. Her nightmares from the arena are understandable. The arena was a stage set up by the Capitol politicians. She had to defend herself in order to survive the seventy-fourth Hunger Games but her opponents, the proxies of the government, were mostly her age or younger. She was not fighting trained troops, partisans, or paramilitary agents; rather she was facing other children, most as desperate as she was herself.

In the war which plays out in Mockingjay, things are different, though Collins does not distinguish the difference. This is exhibited best by Katniss and Gale’s indiscriminate firing on people in the Capitol near the end of Mockingjay.

Mockingjay

Killing another human being is not and never should be fun or considered so. Gale breezes past this “red line,” as demonstrated by his virulent hatred toward the Capitol and its supporters/denizens with his determination to kill every Capitol supporter he can. In the process he embraces terrorism, along with President Coin, as they stage a compound attack against civilians and resistance medics. (These are yet more points which are against him.)

But Katniss finds herself in the opposite position, blaming herself for the deaths of all the soldiers on both sides of the conflict, even when she was not there. This is foolish, since the war was coming anyway. Katniss just happened to be the stand-in for the spark which ignited the war. If it had not been her, it would have been someone else. It is that simple.

Killing in self-defense or to protect others is a terrible thing. However, it is not murder. (Dean Koontz agrees; read some of his novels.) In a just war, a soldier fights to defend himself, his fellow soldiers, and the people back home. If he has a family, they and the soldiers he fights beside will be the ones he cares for most. Such a man is not fighting and killing for the hell of it, as some “experts” like to claim.

The war the Districts waged against the Capitol, though it was a civil war, was a just war. And even just wars are hell, because killing is never fun. However, the only way to be freed of the Capitol’s control was to fight for it. President Snow and his cronies were not going to grab a gun and go shoot at the Mockingjay themselves. They would need spines to do that, and they did not have those. Only cowards kill children, and President Snow and the other Capitolites running the Hunger Games were all cowards.

President Coin was, too. She bombed helpless children and Primrose Everdeen because it was useful to her campaign. That is evil of the highest order.

So Katniss’ nightmares are largely overplayed in regard to her part in the war, in this writer’s opinion. Her nightmares about the arena are more understandable and permissible, to my mind.

On the whole, I appreciate Katniss Everdeen. I do not like her, but no one said that affection for the main character was mandatory. The Hunger Games trilogy has a great importance for today. We stand “on the edge of a knife,” as the Lady Galadriel told the Fellowship when they came to Lothlorien. “Stray but a little” and we end up in the universe of Panem.

Getting out of that trap will be uglier by that point than climbing back to a just society ever will be. Which would we rather have, readers – a just society, or a civil war for our very freedom?

I know which I would rather have.

The Mithril Guardian

The Hunger Games: Peeta Mellark

The Hunger Games

Catching FireMockingjay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often when I go to look up a story I have enjoyed, I find that the opinions of other fans regarding certain aspects of the story do not match up with my own. In some cases, this helps me to understand a part of the story I did not appreciate before. In some cases, it is a difference of preference, wherein I and another person can agree to disagree. In other instances, the disagreement is more than an argument over simple taste, but a debate over a point of the story or a character in the story.

That, readers, is the matter at hand in this post on one of The Hunger Games’ most important – and most maligned – characters: Peeta Mellark.

Peeta is a central character to The Hunger Games trilogy. He is Katniss Everdeen’s fellow District 12 tribute, who also happens to be desperately in love with her, a fact she takes forever to realize. In addition, if it were not for Peeta Mellark, there would be no Hunger Games trilogy, because Katniss would not have lived long enough to star in it. Peeta Mellark’s love for Katniss is actually the axis on which the whole trilogy turns!

Despite all this, Peeta is often dismissed as “boring.” One critic has called him (and Gale Hawthorne) “thinly imagined.”

It is always surprising to me to see what elements or characters in a story others think are so easily set aside from it. Peeta is not the first underdog character I have taken a shine to, and for that reason I am now engaged in writing a post vouching for his strengths. Oh, well, here goes nothing!

“Thinly imagined” is not a phrase I would use to describe Peeta at all, for one reason and one reason only: Peeta is one of the strongest (perhaps the strongest) characters in the entire Hunger Games trilogy.

Proof of his strength is shown to us very early on, and by none other than Katniss Everdeen herself. In her recollection of how Peeta saved her life and the lives of her family, Katniss recalls that Peeta burned two loaves of bread on purpose so that he could give them to her. This was after his mother had chased Katniss away from the bakery’s trash bins. When Peeta burned the bread, his mother slapped him across the face, berated him, and sent him out to feed the pig with the toasted loafs. Peeta pulled off the worst scorch marks on the loaves and then threw the bread to Katniss.

No one can tell me that Peeta did not see his mother’s reaction coming. From all the hints in The Hunger Games, we can safely infer that Peeta’s mother was not a kindly disposed woman. She sounds like an abuser – of her husband as much as of her third child (Peeta’s brothers were probably also mistreated by her, but we are not even given their names, so it is hard to tell). But somehow, despite all this maltreatment, Peeta turned out one hundred percent normal, not to mention extraordinarily kind and understanding.

Later, in the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games, Peeta is injured by Cato after Katniss drops a tracker jacker hive on top of him and the Career Tributes. He gets blood poisoning from the injury and lies on the riverbank for days with a high fever, until Katniss finally finds him and starts tending to him. Anyone of weak constitution – or weak character – would have died long before Katniss was able to find him. Peeta survived.

In Catching Fire Peeta proves his strength of character spectacularly when he paints a picture of Rue on the Training Room’s floor during his evaluation by the Game Makers. Painting a portrait of a former tribute whose death and subsequent, flowery burial by “the Mockingjay” earns him a ranking of twelve, making him a high profile target in the Seventy-fifth Hunger Games. Not only that, Peeta could not be sure his action would not put his family and everyone in District Twelve in mortal peril.   But Peeta painted the picture anyway because he wanted to hold the Capitol responsible “for just one moment” for what they did to Rue.

Finally, in Mockingjay, Peeta is rescued from the Capitol after he was captured by their forces at the end of Catching Fire. Katniss is thrilled to have him back – until it is revealed that Peeta has been “highjacked” and turned into a mad assassin the Capitol hopes will kill Katniss.

Peeta’s confused and beleaguered mental state, which shows no sign of improving when Katniss stays near him originally, is too much for her to bear. So she writes him off as a loss. Haymitch is able to chastise her into at least trying to reach Peeta. With her help, Peeta slowly starts to reorient himself. He shows definite signs of improvement before his and Katniss’ rebel squad end up trapped in the Capitol. But, save for a momentary lapse brought about by the situation, Peeta’s mind comes back into balance well enough that he can fight and overcome the Capitol’s manipulation and torture of him. It does not happen all at once, but eventually he does become his own master once again.

Would a “thinly imagined” or “boring” character be able to do any of this? Not likely. If one only looked as far as the surface, then Peeta could perhaps be described as a weak character. But the Hunger Games trilogy is not a series I would recommend to readers who only skate on a story’s exterior. There is depth to every story, be it shallow or several fathoms deep. I am a story scuba diver; I may not like all the depths I travel, but I am not averse to diving in most times.

So what is my judgment of Peeta Mellark? He is a strong character with an ability to survive the most devastating attacks against the human spirit: physical and mental abuse. What is more, he manages to maintain his generosity and good nature throughout his trials, proving that he can be beaten, but not conquered. It is, I think, his gentle nature which tends to make people write him off as uninteresting.

But, as Katniss proves, writing off a tortured gentlemen is a really stupid idea.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Spotlight: Strong Women

Pepper and Tony

The scene I want to Spotlight! today occurred during Marvel’s The Avengers. It is the scene where Coulson arrives to enlist Iron Man’s help in stopping Loki, ruining “twelve percent of a moment” between Pepper Potts and Tony.

In this scene, Pepper realizes that something important is in motion and, to stop it, SHIELD needs Iron Man’s help. Tony, naturally, does not want to help SHIELD. Apart from the fact that he rightly distrusts the huge ‘peacekeeping’ agency, he does not want to leave Pepper. She is, quite frankly, the first woman he has ever truly loved in his life, and people do not want to part from those they love.

But Pepper, on seeing the “homework” Coulson has detailed for Tony, realizes that their “moment” must wait a little longer. Tony is needed elsewhere, and as much as she would prefer he stayed with her, if he does they may still be separated later on and in a worse way. So she does the sensible thing and tells him to go help SHIELD. Pepper does not tell him to do this because SHIELD needs help, but because there are lives at stake, maybe even their own. In verbal shorthand, she instructs Tony to go out and save the world; she will be waiting for him when he returns.

From my perspective, this is Pepper’s strongest moment so far in the Avengers’-themed films. In this scene, Pepper proves herself the fictional descendant of Ulysses’ wife Penelope. Penelope waited for Ulysses’ return from both the Trojan War and his years of roving. The Trojan War took ten years, and Ulysses went wandering the seas for ten years. So Penelope waited for Ulysses’ return for twenty years, during which time everyone else in his home town believed him dead. Waiting for him to come back took determination, to say the least!

Now allow me to contrast Pepper with another female Marvel character. This may get me in hot water, but I have yet to learn why so many people fawn over Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. For those of you who have never encountered the character, Carol Danvers was a U.S. Air Force pilot who ended up with Kree abilities (the Kree are a humanoid alien species which inhabit the Marvel Comics universe). Danvers possesses the capabilities of near supersonic flight, near invulnerability, the ability to fire energy blasts from her hands, and apparently the ability to predetermine her opponent’s moves in battle – though this one is news to me and seems to be a recent addition to her power roster.

I have to admit, Danvers’ powers are impressive. The sad fact is that Danvers’ powers are the only remarkable things about her. If a person stands Danvers next to other female Avengers such as Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Rescue (Pepper Potts), or Mockingbird, that person quickly gets the impression that a novice’s sculpture has suddenly and inexplicably been set amidst statues fashioned by the Ancient Greeks. Danvers seems too clean cut, too perfect, when compared with her fellow Avenging females. She has immense power, yet she thinks and reacts like a California “Valley girl” (which may explain why she is so susceptible to psychic attacks and mind control).

I have considered Carol Danvers to be a “hollow character” since I first researched her. Her existence as a character appears – to me – to be based solely on her physical strength and not on the force of her personality (or lack thereof). In contrast, Pepper has a lot of personality: she is witty and smart, but also kind and compassionate – sometimes to a fault. Danvers lacks the former traits and if she has the latter then they are, at best, exhibited lukewarmly and infrequently.

Why do I bring up Carol Danvers in relation to Pepper Potts and her best scene from The Avengers? Because of the two, Danvers has received more acclaim from reviewers and fans than Pepper. Most seem to think Danvers is strong and Pepper is not – at least, they do not think Pepper is “strong” until she swallows an unstable Super Soldier Serum and gains inhuman abilities from it.

Today we are constantly inundated with news reporters or other TV talking heads yapping about what makes a strong woman. Hollywood frequently praises female leads that shoot impossibly large guns, use martial arts, super powers, or some other weapon when fighting their enemies. I know what you are thinking, and what you may well think throughout this post on this often-argued topic. So first let me state that I am not belittling the achievements of women anywhere.

No, I am asking a question, one I think too many people forget to ask. That question is, “What makes a strong woman?” Who is the strongest female character you have ever encountered, readers, and why is she strong? I do not mean what makes her physically strong, but what makes her a strong woman?

Most of us can think of a number of popular, strong female characters off the top of our heads. Storm, Black Widow, Wasp, Princess Leia Organa Solo, Mara Jade Skywalker, Stella from Silverado, Katniss Everdeen, Seven of Nine, Captain Janeway, and Lieutenant Uhura are all strong ladies who jump immediately into many minds.

But what do these women possess that makes us consider them strong? Is it their super powers (i.e. Storm, Wasp)? Is it their skill with a gun (Princess Leia, Lieutenant Uhura) or a bow (Katniss Everdeen)? Is it their skill with science and technology (Captain Janeway, Seven of Nine)? Or is it their spy skills (Black Widow, Mara Jade)?

If you answer yes to these questions and follow the reasoning to its conclusion, you find a rather thin strength, do you not? After all, what happens in a situation where Storm cannot access her powers, Uhura loses her phaser, or Black Widow is trussed up tighter than a Thanksgiving Day turkey and cannot use her martial arts skills to fight her way out of a tight spot?

And yet, all these fictional women – and a great many others – have fought their way through such situations regardless of the loss of powers, weapons, technology, or skills.

But, by continuing to use the reasoning that said these women were strong because of their assets – powers, weapons, etc. – we are left with a flimsy, incomplete picture of these fictional heroines. After all, if Storm loses her powers – the abilities that make her “strong” – then she is no longer strong when she cannot use them.

As a fan of the X-Man Storm from youth, when I was younger I would have found such a statement insulting to her. “Storm is strong without her powers!” I would have shouted angrily.

Thankfully, time brings growth, and I am at least old enough now to know that not all battles can be won by shouting – although that may be my initial, instinctive reaction. Suppose that, today, someone was to say to me, “Storm’s great, but she’s only strong as long as she has her powers.”

Stifling my kneejerk reaction to shout and lose my temper, I would stumble and say, “No, she’s strong even without her powers. If Storm were to lose her powers – which she has, on occasion – she would still be a force to be reckoned with. Because even without her powers, Storm is determined to survive – when she fights, she fights to win.”

And that is the point right there. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog,” as they say. Storm and the other leading ladies I have listed here all have a strong will, the determination to survive adversity and evil. These fictional women are not disposed to yield to those who threaten them and/or those they love. They will fight anyone who threatens them. Whether they fight with weather warping abilities, or with something as “simple” as a spoon or a rock, they will fight to the death to protect themselves and those they care about.

So is the true strength of a woman (or of a man) to be judged by how much they can physically do? Should it be judged by the flash, flamboyance, or elegance with which they do it?

Or should the true strength of a man or woman be judged by the force of their will to be strong?

History is already witness to many women with strong wills achieving great things. Women such as Artemisia, Boudicca, Margaret of Provence (queen of France and wife of Louis IX), Catherine of Siena, Maria Theresa of Austria, Isabella I of Spain, Madeleine de Verchères, and Catherine the Great were all strong-willed women who achieved much in their lifetimes. Actresses Hedy Lamarr, Lucille Ball, and Maureen O’Hara accomplished much in their lives as actresses and as career women.

Yet still there are those who see only the outer shell, or who refuse to see it. Still you will hear the shrill Cabbage Patch dolls on TV or in Hollywood proclaim that this leading female in that film is strong simply because she can swing a sword, shoot a gun or a bow, use magic, or ride the wind and cast lightning bolts out of a clear sky. It is sad that so many in this age choose to view women in this light.

So then what do I think makes a strong woman, readers? I think a strong woman is defined by her will to keep fighting, by her determination to do her part, small though it may appear to be. No matter how much it hurts or how unfulfilling it appears, how thankless or humble a job it is, these fictional heroines have kept going. Theirs is an honorable position, whether it is Pepper’s waiting for Tony to return to her or Captain Janeway guiding Voyager on its journey home. It is an honorable duty they each work to fulfill to the best of their abilities. They should be given respect for that strength of will, not for their physical skills.

In conclusion, I will say this, readers: I preach no sermon, I advocate no crusade. I simply ask you an honest question:

“What do you think makes a woman strong?”

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

The Hunger Games: Finnick Odair

The Hunger Games Catching Fire Mockingjay

Initially, I did not want to read The Hunger Games trilogy. Bad memories from reading another series about teenagers fighting and killing people meant I never wanted to pick up a book with such a premise again. But between the urging of a friend and my own curiosity, I gave in and read Collins’ books, determined not to like them at all.

That changed while I was reading Catching Fire.

For anyone who has read the series, watched the film, or cheated and read the Wikipedia files on the trilogy, they know that in Catching Fire Katniss and Peeta end up allying with other tributes from other districts during the Seventy-fifth Hunger Games. One of their new ‘teammates’ is Finnick Odair, a victor from District Four.

Known for his good looks – which send almost every female citizen in the Capitol into a swoon – Katniss dislikes him for his reported string of Capitol lovers and shallow character. And until he enters the arena, Finnick makes himself appear to be a genuinely dislikable ladies’ man.

In the course of the Games, however, he proves to be a noble and generous fellow. He even shows a deep sense of humor. After he, Katniss, and Peeta escape a poisonous fog, they are left with scabs on their skin as they heal from the effects of the toxic mist. When a sponsor sends the three tributes medicine to cure the itchy scabs, Katniss and Finnick are the only ones awake when it arrives.

They begin applying the ointment to each other and discover that, while the medicine eradicates the itching, it also turns their skin an awful shade of green. Katniss then decides to awaken Peeta, whereupon Finnick says they should both do it in order to surprise him with their new color, which makes their appearance hideous. They do manage to scare Peeta awake, and his reaction to their startling “new look” subsequently sends the two into fits of laughter.

It is the one scene in the entire trilogy which actually made me laugh out loud while I was reading it.

In Mockingjay, however, Finnick’s vulnerable side is revealed as he struggles with the knowledge that Annie Cresta, a damaged District Four victor he is in love with, is now in the Capitol’s power. I have to say that I hated reading about his death in that book. I had grown to really like him by that point.

Finnick’s presence in the final two books went a long way to softening my view of the trilogy. It is strange how a second tier character can become so interesting; Finnick’s swashbuckling chivalry, wit, and fun-loving attitude both lighten the hard moments in the books and furthers their point. If I had to choose only one favorite character out of the entire trilogy, I think it would be Finnick.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

The Hunger Games: Rue

The Hunger Games  Catching Fire  Mockingjay

I do not know how other readers feel about Rue, Katniss’ twelve year-old ally in The Hunger Games, but I liked her almost on the spot.   I am fairly sure that there are very few readers of the trilogy who could not like Rue.  Though tough, determined, and a competent survivor, Rue still possesses a measure of innocence throughout her part in The Hunger Games novel.  It was not fun for me to read about her death.

One of the interesting things about the character of Rue is her name.  Though “rue” is indeed the name of a plant species, I did not know that at the time I was reading The Hunger Games.  Instead, I thought of the other meaning for her name, which is:  “regret, sorrow,” or “to feel sorrow, remorse, or regret.” [Thank you, Merriam-Webster! 🙂 ]

And indeed the Capitol does come to “regret” Rue’s death in the Seventy-fourth and Seventy-fifth Hunger Games.  It is Rue’s death that is a turning point for Katniss because it infuriates her.  With her ally’s murder, Katniss realizes the fetters the Capitol has enchained her and all the other districts with:  In Panem, if the Capitol wishes you dead, then you die.  If they wish you life, you live, until you are no longer useful to them.  The people of Panem are slaves to a pitiless master who watches them kill each other for sport.

Katniss, however, defies the Capitol.  Not just in The Hunger Games, where she buries Rue in flowers.  Not simply where she saves Peeta’s life as well as her own.  She defied the Capitol prior to that.  She defied the Capitol by surviving her father’s death in the mines and her mother’s depression, ensuring the survival of her family.  By the Capitol’s thinking, as soon as Katniss’ mother became unable to care for them, Katniss and Prim should have been sent to the District 12 children’s home, a place where orphan children were brought up so that they could go to work in the mines.  It was of no consequence to the Capitol whether or not Katniss and her sister would have been happy and cared for at the children’s home, or whether they were treated as property that must be cleaned and fed, it should have happened.

And if it did not happen, then the girls and their mother should have starved, as other people in District 12 who could not care for themselves did.  There were more people where the Everdeen family came from, an idea which is stood on its head in Mockingjay, where District 3 victor Beetee mentions that the population of Panem is dying off.  This is primarily blamed on the war in the third book, but I am not inclined to believe that annually killing twenty-three youngsters (and, in the Second Quarter Quell, forty-seven youngsters) helped the population maintain a healthy balance, either.  Nor did the constant death in risky jobs such as, say, deep coal mining in District 12 and the harsh punishments meted out for infractions of Capitol law in all the districts help to sustain the population of Panem.

But as long as the Capitol retained control of the districts, that is, as long as everyone in Panem (even in the Capitol itself), lived and died according to the Capitol’s rules, then nothing was wrong.

But everything in such a system is wrong.  And that is what Rue’s death finally drove home to Katniss.

Though her part is as small as her stature, Rue is an unforgettable component of The Hunger Games.  She made sure, in her own small way, that the Capitol came to “rue” the day they Reaped both her and Primrose Everdeen for the Hunger Games.  From the day of her death onward the “odds” were no longer in the Capitol’s favor.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian