The protagonist of the novel and its narrator, Katniss Everdeen is a strong, resourceful sixteen-year-old who is far more mature than her age would suggest. Katniss is the main provider in her family, which consists of Katniss, her mother, and her younger sister, Prim. Katniss is fiercely protective of her younger sister, and she volunteers to take Prim’s place in the Hunger Games to protect her. In fact, Katniss is more responsible than anyone else for her family’s wellbeing. Notably, she is responsible for feeding her family, which she does by hunting and foraging, skills she learned from her father before his death in a mine explosion years earlier. Hunting, however, is illegal and punishable by death. Katniss does it anyway, indicating a rebellious streak in her. Moreover, what she catches or collects that her family doesn’t need to eat, she sells in the district’s black market, again implying a disregard for rules.
This disregard, however, developed out of necessity rather than an inherent defiance. After Katniss’s father died, her mother sank into a depression, leaving Katniss to take care of the family despite her young age. Katniss realized that, without her hunting, her family wouldn’t have enough to eat, a serious problem in District 12, where starvation is common. As a result of these conditions, Katniss has grown into a tough, unsentimental, and practical girl. Ironically, the hardships she faced as a result of her impoverished upbringing wind up working to her advantage once she’s in the arena. The skills and qualities she developed to cope with the everyday challenges of being poor, including her ability to hunt, her toughness, and her resourcefulness, turn out to be what keeps her alive through the Games.
During the weeks over which the Games occur, Katniss’s character does not fundamentally change. What changes are her circumstances, and most of the novel watches her dealing with the situations she encounters. She does not begin to seek attention once she becomes a celebrity and begins doing television interviews. Rather, she always tries to figure out how to get through the interviews so she can go back to her life. The Hunger Games similarly do not turn her into an unfeeling killer, and the only times she kills she does so out of necessity, and to some degree in Cato’s case, pity. That her sense of compassion remains intact is clear through the way she treats Rue. Furthermore, before the Games, she has little interest in boys and is instead focused on her responsibilities, and though she develops feelings for Peeta and becomes aware of feelings for Gale during the Games, romance remains a peripheral interest for her at the end of the novel. This lack of change, however, can be seen as a victory for Katniss. She maintains her sense of identity and integrity, just as Peeta at one point says he would like to, despite the horrible ordeals she faces in the Games.