Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hunger Games: Peeta Mellark, the boy with the bread

Peeta and Caesar.
Spoilers for all three books below.

The use of a sword or mastery of a bow and arrow isn’t necessary to fight a successful battle. Peeta Mellark manages to manipulate the Hunger Games without the use of spears, maces or other weaponry. Instead, he uses the mind.

A good love story pulls at the hearts of many. Peeta’s heartfelt revelation of his love for Katniss creates the ultimate helpless situation. There’s no way he can win. (Check out the clip of Peeta telling Caesar here.)

Peeta’s revelation not only creates sympathy for him, but Katniss as well, which was the point. Peeta hold no hope to win the Games. He wants Katniss to survive. Throughout the book, Peeta does various acts to play on the “star-crossed lovers” ploy he cooked up, probably with some advice from Haymitch. It’s not hard to believe that Peeta truly loves Katniss through his actions and words. 

Because the story uses Katniss’s point of view, readers don’t know what all Peeta does during the first part of the Games. Capitol replays some of his actions at the end of the book, but not all of them.

Waiting for the scores
Katniss uses her own forms of manipulation on the Capitol crowd, frequently playing off the love story once she figures out that’s what Haymitch wants. During The Hunger Games, Katniss has not realized how she feels about Peeta, aside from feeling as if she owes him and that they have some sort of past connection. It’s easy for readers to put the pieces together, though, to learn before Katniss does. 

Peeta’s work on Capitol’s crowd added to the foundation Katniss laid down by her own actions to that point. The two of them fought against Capitol not with the intentions of inciting a rebellion, but to save someone they loved. Neither character believed their actions would stop future Hunger Games from occurring or stop Capitol. 

Peeta takes the star-crossed lovers theme one-step further in Catching Fire when he announces that not only did he and Katniss wed already, but also that she is with child. On the surface, this move seems like a cheap shop to top Peeta’s reveal in the first book. It works even though Katniss and Peeta don’t play on the idea constantly throughout the Quarter Quell. The pregnancy claim stirs the hearts of the Capitol citizens once more, possibly forcing them to ask if it’s right to throw a pregnant woman in the area to die. Given how obsessed with the self the citizens are, it’s doubtful.

Because of the rebellion plot occurring, the pregnancy bit doesn’t seem as relevant as a reveal. It’s necessary, however, given how Peeta behaved in the first Games. He must continue to play on his true need to keep the woman he loves alive. As explained later in the trilogy, Katniss and Peeta did not know about what the plan the other allied tributes were following. To drop what Katniss believes is a ruse puts their lives in even greater danger, quite a feat given Katniss and Peeta’s participation in the Quarter Quell. Capitol made it clear with the scores that they want Katniss to die. The convenient use of the previous tributes is another strong indication of this, whether a reader believed that the card actually read what it did or that Capitol changed it. 

Peeta’s personality and determination to keep Katniss alive makes him a very likeable character. He doesn’t play the victim, something easy to do in the situation. He shows frustration with everyone, even Katniss, taking away the thought that he is a pushover. One of the best Peeta scenes occurs in Catching Fire when he finds Haymitch and Katniss the morning after the Quarter Quell announcement. He comes up with a strategy and puts the plan into action. 

Peeta’s injuries in both Games can make him appear as a hindrance to Katniss. However, Katniss’s caring side had to come out during the Games to remind readers of the type of person Katniss is. Aside from a survivor, she takes care of those she loves.

Capitol’s torturing of Peeta is heartbreaking. To see such a caring individual reduced to madness is hard to endure.  It’s easy to feel anger towards Peeta during the interviews in Mockingjay and his subsequent behavior, but it’s necessary to keep in mind what had happened to him.

The burned bread
Being unable to determine what’s real or not real leads to a terrible existence. The woman he loved would cause pure terror rather than help him recover. His family was dead. 

Peeta complements Katniss’s character without becoming a flimsy or transparent person. He maintains a true presence through the trilogy, something not all love interests manage to do. Peeta’s masters of manipulation deserve applause, for he helped beat Capitol at their own game.

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