In the harsh environment of the Hunger Games, it is normal for tributes to form temporary “alliances” for strategic purposes, only to eventually kill their allies when the time comes. Yet though the Games turn tributes into brutal competitors who know only that they must kill or be killed, Katniss forms not alliances but relationships. First, she volunteers for the Games in place of her little sister, Prim. Because District 12 has a history of losing the Games, Katniss is essentially volunteering for a death sentence, showing that she cares more about her little sister’s life than her own—a revelation that immediately draws the attention of those in the Capitol, who aren’t used to seeing the inhabitants of the districts sacrifice for one another. Next, she breaks from common practice of tributes when she teams up with Rue, the smallest of the tributes, and tries to protect her despite the nature of the Games. This, in turn, prompts Thresh, a competitor from Rue’s district, to show mercy on Katniss.
Katniss certainly employs strategy in winning the games, but by treating her sister and at least some of the other tributes as people worthy of love and care, Katniss, in a sense, breaks the Games. Once she has created these relationships of caring, the logic shifts from how to kill each other to how to beat the Games themselves, which translates directly into beating the Capitol at its own game. This effort comes to a head in the last moment of the Hunger Games, when Katniss’s relationship with Peeta—a relationship founded on the love Katniss inspires in Peeta; and on Katniss’s own willingness to kill herself rather than kill Peeta—finally breaks down the structure of the Games. By preparing to eat the poisoned berries, Katniss and Peeta demonstrate that they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for one another, and this tragically noble display shows that there’s undeniably more to them than just bloodlust and survival instinct—their loyalty forces the Gamemakers to change the rules. And because the government gathers strength by dividing up its residents and pitting them against each other, the way that Katniss’s fierce and yet compassionate behavior encourages people to form groups willing to sacrifice themselves (as opposed to killing each other) is directly threatening to the Capitol’s control.
Love, Loyalty, and Compassion ThemeTracker
Love, Loyalty, and Compassion Quotes in The Hunger Games
Leave? How could I leave Prim, who is the only person in the world I’m certain I love? And Gale is devoted to his family. We can’t leave, so why bother talking about it?
I protect Prim in every way I can, but I’m powerless against the reaping. The anguish I always feel when she’s in pain wells up in my chest and threatens to register on my face. I notice her blouse has pulled out of her skirt in the back again and force myself to stay calm. “Tuck your tail in, little duck,” I say, smoothing the blouse back in place.
But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means goodbye to someone you love.
A kind Peeta Mellark is far more dangerous to me than an unkind one. Kind people have a way of working their way inside me and rooting there. And I can’t let Peeta do this. Not where we’re going. So I decide, from this moment on, to have as little as possible to do with the baker’s son.
Rebellion? I have to think about that one a moment. But when I remember the other couples, standing stiffly apart, never touching or acknowledging each other, as if their fellow tribute did not exist, as if the Games had already begun, I know what Haymitch means. Presenting ourselves not as adversaries but as friends has distinguished us as much as the fiery costumes.
I can’t help comparing what I have with Gale to what I’m pretending to have with Peeta. How I never question Gale’s motives while I do nothing but doubt the latter’s. It’s not a fair comparison really. Gale and I were thrown together by a mutual need to survive. Peeta and I know the other’s survival means our own death. How do you sidestep that?
I can’t stop looking at Rue, smaller than ever, a baby animal curled up in a nest of netting. I can’t bring myself to leave her like this. Past harm, but seeming utterly defenseless. To hate the boy from District 1, who also appears so vulnerable in death, seems inadequate. It’s the Capitol I hate, for doing this to all of us.