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Essay on Survival in 'The Hunger Games'

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The dystopian novel “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins illustrates different battles the civilians of the society experience throughout their lives. The novel portrays how the Capitol dominates twelve districts economically and mentally. The districts are deprived of the standard lifestyle because the Capitol takes in all the wealth; it also brainwashes the citizens of Panem into thinking that the best way to avoid a civil war is to have an annual battle between the districts. This battle is known as the ‘Hunger Games’ and results in twenty-four candidates fighting to their death in an environment controlled by the Capitol. As the battle sparks into the arena, so does love between two of the tributes, Peeta and Katniss. Although both Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen are extremely skilled on the battlefield, Peeta cannot be considered a strong warrior because of his overpowering love for Katniss.

Panem throws randomly selected tributes into a death battle expecting them to show off their warrior skills for the Capitol’s entertainment. Showing off their skills isn’t always the case for those who end up fighting for their lives on the battlefield. Not every warrior is strong, not every warrior is what you expect them to be. Panem adores candidates who are willing to fight, to self-sacrifice for the adrenalin that comes from battles, and to fight for honor and status. Peeta is not the Capitol’s definition of a warrior. Peeta is a man who wants to go against the system. Mellark exposes his true feelings about the Hunger Games to Katniss on the rooftop, “I’ve never been a contender in these games anyway” (141). He wants to die as himself and not be the person who competes with others for a chance to be alive. The Capitol wants to see strong warriors in action, but Peeta is not happy to be a part of it. Throughout the Games, Peeta sacrifices himself for Katniss and agrees to kill himself just to save her life. This act does not make him a strong warrior, it makes him an honorable human being who feels love for someone. Everything he does in the Hunger Games contributes to the idea of him being in love with his female tribute. Being an injured tribute, Peeta does everything he can to help Katniss save herself, but he does not kill people to improve his chances of winning. Peeta is not on the battlefield to save his honor and fights until his death just to show off how much he values the battle itself. Mellark knows that there can only be one winner and he isn’t willing to be that person. Peeta has the qualities of a strong warrior, but he is not one. The tribute from district twelve self-sacrifices himself for the female he loves to increase the chances of her winning.

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Peeta’s unconditional love for Katniss begins in his childhood. Mellark first comes in contact with Everdeen at the age of five. Peeta’s father points Katniss out to his son upon the confession of his own feelings towards Katniss’ mother. Peeta is surprised, yet instead of concentrating on the shocking exposure, he shifts his attention toward Katniss. Mellark has a crush on Everdeen, which influences his future life decisions. The first time he shows his affection towards a poor, dying girl on the street, is when he throws her a loaf of burned bread. Sharing a piece of food suggests Peeta’s attempt to introduce himself as a kind person who is willing to sacrifice his own family's peace to show his unconditional feelings. In Peeta’s family, it is unforgivable to commit acts that are against the set-out rules. Therefore, burning a loaf of bread is a major unforgivable moment which according to Katniss has possible consequences for Peeta, “He didn’t even know me. Still, just throwing me the bread was an enormous kindness that surely resulted in a beating if discovered” (32). Despite this, having a chance of being physically hurt by his family does not end the male character’s feelings towards his female attraction. Peeta continues to have a crush on Katniss for the entire novel. When reaping comes around and Everdeen volunteers as tribute and Peeta gets chosen as another candidate, some hidden emotions are revealed. Mellark spends some of the trips to the train crying, which suggests that he is either upset over the idea that he will never get to be with his crush ever again, or that he will never see his family ever again. The context of the novel suggests that Peeta’s feelings for Katniss are so strong, that realizing only one will survive is a lot for him to handle.

The idea of the Hunger Games and the reality of imminent death scares Peeta but does not cause him to lose his emotions. Upon training, it is evident Mellark is a skilled, strong warrior. Katniss can easily identify his skills which are extremely valuable on the battlefield, “There’s always hand-to-hand combat. All you need is to come up with a knife, and you’ll at least stand a chance” (90). Everdeen believes Peeta has a strong chance of survival, because of how strong of a warrior he can be. For Peeta, it is a major step, because he does not hunt or fight. Although the male tribute does not truly believe in his chances, when thrown into the battlefield, he exposes his warrior abilities. At the start of the bloody battle, Peeta runs towards Cornucopia when it is much safer to run away from it. This action exposed his courage and desire to fight for his life, which makes him seem like a true warrior. Peeta tries to keep Katniss safe throughout the games to increase her chances of winning. However, midway through the games, Mellark is badly wounded, which prevents him from continuing his fight. The tribute from district twelve chooses to hide, rather than try to fight his opponents despite being injured, as a true warrior would do. Peeta’s feelings increase for Katniss when she finds him and helps him get better towards the end of the Hunger Games. Mellark depends on Everdeen and falls in love even more after they kiss. Both tributes fight until the end together, and when Katniss suggests that she should be the one losing, wounded Peeta understands that there can only be one survivor and he is willing to end his life for her to keep living. Katniss asks Peeta to shoot her, but Mellark immediately rejects her offer, “’ You know I can’t, he leans down and rips the bandage off his leg, eliminating the final barrier between his blood and the earth. When accused of killing himself he admits that that is what he desires” (343). Peeta is willing to end his own life just to keep her alive. This act is considered an act of a strong warrior who self-sacrifices, however, it is more of a self-sacrifice for the person you love. Dying for Katniss is an act of overpowering love that numbs Peeta’s mind, making him think from his heart rather than his brain. Peeta’s lovestruck attitude keeps him from portraying the qualities of an honorable soldier.

Obtaining the qualities of a strong warrior in Panem is difficult for most people; especially, for those living in districts eleven and twelve. Peeta and Katniss are robbed of opportunities to train as true warriors and are never prepped for the Hunger Games. During the reaping Katniss volunteers as a tribute; however, she has an advantage over Peeta because of her hunting abilities. When Peeta is chosen as a male tribute, he realizes that his main disadvantage is his long-term feelings for Katniss. Leading up to the start of the Hunger Games, Peeta questions his chances of survival because he undermines his own warrior abilities. Katniss oversees the effect she has on Peeta, which affects their chances of winning. Mellark spends most of the games wounded, but he keeps fighting to help Katniss win the games and go home to her family. Peeta self-sacrifices several times to ensure Everdeen’s survival, which shows he is a good man with the skills of a warrior. However, Mellark lets his feelings get in a way of his warrior abilities, which leads to Peeta’s desire to kill himself for the person he loves. Peeta's overpowering love for Katniss makes him a good man but prevents him from being a strong warrior.

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