Why I Think Katniss is a Sucky Protagonist
How many times did we all rewatch the Catching Fire trailer? Two billion? FIVE SKRILLION? I was personally so jimmy-jazzed about it that I went to my bookshelf, dusted off the old hard covers, and started to reread the whole series AGAIN.
Then something weird happened about halfway through book two. I kept finding myself scowling every time Catnip opened her mouth. I realized, by the time I had reached the beginning of Mockingjay... I think Katniss is a pretty sucky protagonist.
Okay. Okay... OKAY. Now hold on a minute. I was with all of you! Screaming and hollering at the nay sayers, waving my seaweed colored District Four Loaf Airplane Pillow above my head. But let me just plead my case:
1) She's not proactive... like, AT ALL
This is the big enchilada.
One of the things that Suzanne Collins does better than almost anyone is keep you interested in the plot of her book. She does this by deftly turning scenes on their heads at the ends of chapters so you have NO CHOICE but to stay up till 3 am, addictively gobbling up pages like so many pizza flavored Pringles. And, I'll admit it, that blinded me during my first read through, too. All of these crazy things keep happening to Katniss!
But what I didn't realize until this second pass is that, in large part, things happen TO her. She doesn't really make a ton of choices herself.
Yes. She chooses to save Prim, of course. And she chooses to fight for her life. But, in story terms, a choice between life and death is not a compelling choice because... no doi. LIFE, obvs.
Once the games are set into motion, Katniss is virtually conveyer belted through every major event in the story. People tell her what to wear, what to say, and why. Many of the other tributes, Peeta included, have much more independent ideas about who they are and what they stand for. Katniss, however, just seems kind of vacant in that department. And that issue gets worse in the latter books. She's the symbol for the REVOLUTION, for crying out loud! And she's just kind of "hum-dee-dum" about it.
2) She doesn't know what's going on
This is a choice made by the author, and not so much a character flaw of Katniss's, but I kept thinking "this would be so much more compelling if Katniss were ABLE to choose to be a part of the revolution... but she can't because she doesn't know about it." In fact, she doesn't seem to know about an awful lot. It's a problem that feeds into the whole not-so-proactive protagonist thing. If she was able to find out more about what was going on, it would be easier for her to make the choice to either participate in the revolution, or not.
And I'm not saying she should just up and join the revolution just to do it. Great drama comes out of choices made under pressure. So give her the chance to MAKE A CHOICE. There were precious few opportunities for this. By the end of Mockingjay, she ends up making a couple key decisions, but by this time it's too little too late.
3) I have no idea what she really wants
When your protagonist doesn't have to make any tough choices under pressure, it's impossible to really get to know them. Because, not only does great drama come out of characters making choices under pressure, but so does the revelation of true character. And because Katniss is basically pointed in a direction and shoved forward for virtually the entire series, we get no serious insight into what she's really like.
What would have happened if Katniss was forced to square off with Rue in a fight to the death? How would she have behaved in that moment? The way she would have dealt with that ONE scenario would have told us more about her character than all of the inner monologue from all three books combined.
And, of course, I say all of this as I try to keep from dozing off because I was awake until 3 am last night finishing Mockingjay for the second time. A perfect series? Not by a long shot. Will I be there opening weekend to see J-Law get sent into the arena for a second time? You bet your butt I will!
Okay, you've held your tongues long enough. Tell me how wrong I am below.