The Fan Meta Reader

“Why I think the ‘love triangle’ in The Hunger Games is actually really, really important,” by titania522

Okay, before you throw tomatoes at my blog (y’all know it’s all good), let me qualify a few things.

1.  I hate love triangles.  I read the Twilight novels, gagging the entire time because, dude, how is there even any competition?  I’m gonna choose a warm, hairy, stinky dog man over a sparkling piece of vampiric rock any day of the week.

2.  When I first saw the promotions for the movie, Catching Fire and saw how badly LG was playing up Gale and downplaying Everlark to create a triangle similar to Twilight’s, I was like, gag me now.

However, in the context of the novels (I’m not going into the movies because they are essentially another iteration of the same story and a somewhat incomplete one at best), I’m going to say that the supposed “love triangle” and the “choice” Katniss must make between Gale and Peeta is actually extremely important to the theme of the novel.

Not to repeat the plot, because we’ve been in this long enough to know the story backwards and forward, I just want to say that Collins sets up Gale and Peeta as two aspects of Katniss’ character, two sets of values that she contains within herself and, to the extent that she honors one side or the other will also determine the larger theme in the novel (nice that boys are used to drive a female protagonists character development and not the other way around for once).

Gale, as we know, comes to represent Katniss’ fire, the part of her that fuels her unbreakable will to survive. He is the anger at injustice, the yearning for vengeance and eventually, death.  Initially, she sees Gale as an extension of everything that is home to her, that is integral to who she is as a person.  Note the quote below:

“I have chosen Gale and the rebellion, and a future with Peeta is the Capitol’s design, not mine.”
― Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire

Even in Catching Fire, Katniss is still struggling with where to put Peeta in her mind but it is not in the same place as Gale.  She still sees Peeta as someone imposed on her by the Capital, despite her feelings for him. Gale always represented the home camp, what she was supposed to want, the person who best understood her, whereas throughout the first novel and part of Catching Fire, Katniss still sees Peeta as “other” to her and works to figure out whether she can trust him or not. She describes Gale as follows:

“Until one time, I open my eyes and find someone that I cannot block out looking down at me. Someone who will not plead, or explain or think he can alter my design with entreaties, because he alone really knows how I operate.”
― Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire

As the story develops, however, Katniss’s allegiance, loyalty and love for Peeta grows while her relationship with Gale begins to change.  Gale becomes more and more polarized in favor of the rebellion while Katniss begins to have moral reservations for the lengths he is willing to go to see his beliefs and anger translated into actions.  Here is where we see Peeta’s importance and the alternative he represents to Gale:

“I wish Peeta was here— the old Peeta— because he would be able to articulate why it is so wrong to be exchanging fire when people, any people, are trying to claw their way out of the mountain.”
― Suzanne Collins,  Mockingjay

The alternative that Peeta represents to Gale’s fire and willingness to go to any lengths to win the war for the Rebellion is humanity, mercy, compassion and justice free of ideology.  Katniss invokes Peeta at that moment because she knows that he would argue against sealing the Nut and unnecessarily condemning soldiers to their death. It is not a coincidence that when the issue of The Nut comes up, the moral center of the novel, Peeta, is missing as it is often this type of morality that is notable absent when making decisions in war that involve winning by any means necessary.

The parallel between Katniss’ compassionate, nurturing side and Peeta’s is evident in Peeta holding the morphling in Catching Fire as she dies, which mirrors Katniss singing to Rue in The Hunger Games as she dies.  Peeta represents the humane, good, generous, self-sacrificing side of Katniss’ personality, the one who looks at individual suffering and searches for a way to comfort in the midst of horrific circumstances, the one who takes the weak and offers the best protection they can offer.

Gale was everything familiar and known to Katniss.  He shared in the particular injustices common to Seam folk which were more pronounced than those of the Merchant class and felt acutely the oppression of the Capitol, even witnessing the firebombing of District 12. Together they had managed to feed their families and represented sanity and survival for each other.  However, when he had the opportunity to see his anger vindicated, he became the very destructive fire that Katniss learned would eventually destroy her.

On the other hand, Peeta is the baker, the expert in managing fire for the purposes of creating and sustaining. As many posts have pointed out, Peeta is simultaneously associated with hope, warmth, safety, steadiness and eventually, life and rebirth. He is the Merchant, the “other” and yet it is in him that Katniss finds life and healing after the destructive fires of the wars.  He is hope and when hope is absent, death can only follow.  Consider the parallel imagery at the beginning of the novel when Gale brings Katniss the arrow piercing a roll and the same Gale at the end of the novel bringing Katniss the last arrow of the war, the bread notably absent:

“‘I brought you this.’ Gale holds up a sheath. When I take it, I notice it holds a single, ordinary arrow.”
― Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

Soon after, with the same breadless arrow, Katniss assassinates Coin and, privy of all hope, attempts suicide. She is thwarted by Peeta himself, who will not let her die.  Hope keeps her going even against the forces of death and destruction that would consume her.

Katniss, in a moment of self-reflection sees the paths that are opened to her, represented by her two love interests:

“That what I need to survive is not Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.”
― Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

Unlike other love triangles, whose only purpose is to serve up dramatic tension and is the focus of resolution for a story or series, the supposed “love triangle” in the Hunger Games is actually the symbolic center of one of the major themes of the novel: – what path does a human being take when confronted with forces and tragedies that are greater than what they can handle?  Specifically, what side of her character will Katniss obey?  I call it a “supposed” love triangle because Collins leaves clues throughout the narrative about what Katniss will choose. She will choose the one she cannot survive without. And she has shown time and again that she cannot live without hope.  And so she chooses Peeta.

Because in the end, it’s not fire that keeps us alive. There is only one thing that is stronger than fear.  And Katniss chooses to honor that in building her life with Peeta.  It is one of the messages Collins wants us to leave with and the love triangle is the vehicle she uses to deliver that message.

Why I think the ‘love triangle’ in The Hunger Games is actually really, really important,” ©titania522 originally posted 15 August 2015


4 comments on ““Why I think the ‘love triangle’ in The Hunger Games is actually really, really important,” by titania522

  1. falwyn
    November 2, 2015

    Excellent meta and analysis! I understand why people have a knee-jerk animosity towards love triangels, but bless you for looking deeper here. I think you are right on.

    (Just one technical thing – “privy of all hope” – this is… not really a phrase, or proper usage of the word “privy.” “Privy” has to do with private – as in a privy council, or “sharing in knowledge or secrets,” as in “he was no longer privy to her thoughts.” Maybe you want “deprived”? As in “deprived of all hope”?)


  2. Pingback: The Fan Meta Reader 2015 Masterpost | The Fan Meta Reader

  3. NikkiCunning
    June 8, 2016

    Reblogged this on Nikki Pond.


  4. Jess
    October 14, 2018

    This is such a phenomenal analysis of the “triangle”. I know it has a few years but you summed it up perfectly.


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