Welcome to the final installment of the Unruly Women series! Thus far, we’ve looked at women from the ‘60s, ‘90s and present day. This week, we’re jumping way ahead and analyzing everyone’s favorite futuristic heroine, Katniss Everdeen.
It’s probably a safe bet that you’ve been acquainted with the storyline of The Hunger Games at some point due to its insane popularity, but if you haven’t, here’s a quick synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world made up of 12 districts, there is an annual event called the Hunger Games. A male and female tribute is chosen from each district to partake in the games, and, ultimately, fight to the death. When Katniss’ younger sister, Prim, is initially chosen as tribute, Katniss volunteers to take her place, and so the games begin.
Katniss grew up learning skills that were more so catered towards the men of her district. She is a skilled hunter, and her impressive capabilities with a bow and arrow are a major factor in her success in the games. However, once she gets into the games, killing surrounds her. This causes her to take on a slightly more empathetic viewpoint. Although all of her fellow tributes are working hard to make alliances with the strongest, most intelligent people around them, Katniss feels for a young girl named Rue who reminds her of her own sister. She refuses to make alliances based off of skill, but rather out of compassion.
When the first game comes to a close, she and Peeta are the last two standing. Since Katniss knows that only one person is technically allowed to come out of the games alive, she suggests that they eat poisonous berries together. This plan is successful, as their actions are halted by those overseeing the game, and Katniss and Peeta both are allowed to leave alive. The creators are not pleased with her intentionally defiant behavior, but it triggers what eventually turns into a much-needed rebellion.
When the second game is spontaneously scheduled, the rebellion is sparked in each of the districts. Although the capitol is well aware of this, they follow through with the game nonetheless. Unbeknownst to Katniss, the players in the game are working towards shutting down the game in an attempt to free her. If this can be done, they can subsequently offer her the position of rebellion leader. The plan is executed as intended, and Katniss is taken to District 13 where she quickly agrees to become their leader.
Here, Katniss leads the districts in various rebellions. She knows that people are getting killed in these war-like times due to the Capitol backfiring, but she also is fully aware that there must be a permanent change to salvage the future of her country. She has to put aside her fears and reservations and lead those depending on her in the creation of a successful rebellion.
There is, of course, a love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, another member of their district. However, this is a trivial plot point compared to the political aspects. When the focus does turn to this, Katniss is strong enough and smart enough to know that her work with the rebellion is more important than any relationship could possibly be. The only time we see Katniss falling head over heels for anyone is when she and Peeta announce that they will be getting married. However, this is done merely for the safety of her district and to appease the Capitol; she knows this will keep her in their good graces long enough to make significant change.
The same behavior is displayed when it comes to her femininity. Katniss shows no interest in her appearance or clothing, except for when she knows that it will be beneficial for her country. In order to gain a following, it is necessary for her to captivate the attention of a large audience. At first, the only way to do this is to wear flashy clothing and discuss her love life. Once she demonstrates her talents, though, she endures zero objectification. Her heroism is never defined by her gender, but rather by the admiration that she earns through proving herself as a worthy leader.
Katniss is a strong fighter, a compassionate friend, sister, and daughter, and an intelligent, sometimes conniving, leader. She is looked up to equally by both men and women, and justly so. Yes, most of her behavior is initially considered to be unruly and even unlawful, but she does it for the greater good of those around her and for the sake of creating a better world for each of them.
As we wrap up this series celebrating some of our favorite unruly women, we should note that not all unruly behavior can be measured equally. It can lead to positive outcomes for oneself or one’s community, or can similarly be detrimental. However, sometimes it’s necessary to bend the rules just a little bit to get to a place that is just. Let us know your favorite unruly female characters below!