Tag Archives: dystopia

Katniss and the Heroine’s Journey

The classic heroine’s journey appears in many beloved books, like Coraline, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz. It features in works by Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen, and Juliet Marillier. And it permeates The Hunger Games, casting Katniss as a classic heroine beside classic heroes Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.

The true goal of the heroine’s journey is to become the all-powerful mother. Thus, many heroines set out on rescue missions in order to restore their shattered families: Meg Murray of A Wrinkle in Time quests to save her father then her little brother. Coraline tries to save her parents, Meggie of Inkheart, her mother. Alice and Dorothy struggle to return to their families. Katniss is protector of the family from her earliest years, as she feeds and cares for not only her little sister but her mother. She extends this protection to Gale’s family, her own district, and finally all the people of Panem, as she provides food and support for her loved ones and protects the innocent.

Katniss, like Artemis or Percy Jackson’s friend Annabeth, shoots a silver bow. Silver is the color of moon magic, perception, and feminine strength, while a bow is the elegant distance weapon of the classic warrior woman. Even Susan in the Narnia series is called “the great archer.”

In many fairytales from Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” to “The Six Swans,” the heroine’s most dire struggle takes place high in the prince’s castle, far from the magical protection of her forest or ocean home. This, like the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle, is the masculine world of law and tyranny, where the young heroine is truly helpless. The Hunger Games themselves are a similar fortress of the tyrant’s power, where the Gamemakers can torture Katniss with firestorms and viciously changing rules. In the final book, Katniss enters the Capitol itself to assassinate Snow on his home ground. She sneaks through the city-sized trap he has created, filled with mutts and deadly “pods” to find him awaiting her in his palatial mansion in the center.

By realizing that the tyrant’s power over her has ended, the heroine finds independence and strength. Just as Dorothy discovers the Wizard is a humbug, or Lucy and Susan see Aslan dead and helpless, Katniss perseveres through Snow’s threats and traps to see him die in the Capitol square.

However, the patriarch is not the real power in the heroine’s tale – he’s little more than a pompous blusterer who melts away when confronted. For the heroine, the true threat is the evil witch, murderess of the innocent. She is Mrs. Coulter of The Golden Compass, the Wicked Witch of the West, the White Witch of Narnia who tortures Edmund and keeps the land bound in sterile winter. Though Katniss realizes it too late, this adversary is rebel president Alma Coin. Coin, like Snow White’s stepmother, resolves to destroy the young heroine through jealousy and to maintain her own rulership. Katniss is a beloved symbol of revolution, Katniss could name another to be president, therefore Katniss must die.

Discovering the dark matriarch’s power, understanding her, confronting her, but not becoming her is the key to adulthood. Katniss destroys Coin’s influence over herself and over Panem, her world, and then retreats into the simplicity of the countryside. There she becomes, not a warrior woman, but a mature adult, protector of her family and figure of morality. This is the key to the heroine’s journey—traveling toward acceptance, balance, and nurturing love.

More information on the heroine’s journey, from charts to a booklist can be found at http://vefrankel.com

 

Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in The Hunger Games http://www.amazon.com/Katniss-Cattail-Unauthorized-Symbols-Suzanne/dp/146996824X

 From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey in Myth and Legend http://www.amazon.com/From-Girl-Goddess-Heroines-Journey/dp/0786448318/

 

Comparison of Models

The Steps of the Journey

 

Campbell‘s Hero’s Journey The Heroine’s Journey Stages
The World of Common Day The World of Common Day Innocence and Discovery
The Call To Adventure The Call To Adventure Innocence and Discovery
Refusal of the Call Refusal of the Call Innocence and Discovery
Supernatural Aid The RuthlessMentorand the Bladeless Talisman Innocence and Discovery
The Crossing of the First Threshold

The Belly of the Whale

The Crossing of the First Threshold

Opening One’s Senses

Journey through the Unconscious
The Road of Trials Sidekicks, Trials, Adversaries Journey through the Unconscious
The Meeting With the Goddess
Woman as the Temptress
Wedding the Animus

Facing Bluebeard

Finding the Sensitive Man

Confronting the Powerless Father

Meeting the Other
Atonement with the Father
Apotheosis
Descent into Darkness

Atonement with the Mother

Integration and Apotheosis

Meeting the Self

 

The Ultimate Boon Reward: Winning the Family Meeting the Self
Refusal of the Return
The Magic Flight
Rescue From Without
The Crossing of the Return Threshold
Torn Desires

The Magic Flight

Reinstating the Family

Return

Meeting the Self

 

Master of the Two Worlds Power over Life and Death

 

Goddesshood and Wholeness
Freedom To Live Ascension of the New Mother

 

Goddesshood and Wholeness

 

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Katniss, Queen of Children

The classic heroine’s journey sees girls questing to rescue their lovers and families from danger, questing into fairyland to retrive a stolen child, or stealing a husband from the troll queen. The most quintessential quest is protecting a daughter or little sister—the other half of the self.

Prim is both these to Katniss, the tiny sister she has mothered when their own mother withdrew from them, the girl she spends each day providing with food. As Prim bids her goodbye in Katniss’s own baggy dress, she’s Katniss’s younger most innocent self, the self most needing protection.

The Hunger Games is coded as a battle of adults versus children. Katniss’s parents are useless, from her dead father to her withdrawn mother who forces Katniss to care for herself and her sister (before abandoning her in the final book). Katniss is the one to hold the family together and keep them from starving, and through the book she dwells on her mistrust for her mother. Only Gale, a fellow teen and protector of his own family, can be relied on.

In Katmiss’ world, the older children protect the younger, as she does her little sister, or Rue does for her younger siblings. Since Rue is the eldest in her family, there’s no one to protect her but Katniss. Katniss realizes that Thresh and Rue would be her friends if not for the true enemy, the ones who hold the games.

Her true allies, she ones she shares sympathy with are the tongueless girl in the capital, Thresh, who would have been a friend, her hunting partner Gale back home. Even Madge, the baker’s daughter, gives her the mockingjay pin she wears as a symbol of home, while Katmiss discards her mother’s dress and shoes. Half the children in the games are reluctant to fight, from Thresh, who lets Katniss escape, to Rue, showing her she’s in danger from hornets, to Foxface, darting in to steal and run.

Adults are using her, from Cinna, who selects her dazzling outfits to show off his own talent long before he sees her as a person to Haymitch, who pushes her to shine for the sponsors. The Games themselves are the most fundamental example of this, run by adults to kill children for entertainment. In this world, the president is the ultimate adult and ultimate user, murdering families to control the victors of the games.

However, Katniss fails to become a leader. Book one sees her outsmarting the game to save Peeta as well as herself, but she has no message of rebellion for her audience. She charms the president into publically sparing her by using, of course, childish charm. In Catching Fire, she disturbingly never rises above a pawn, as Haymitch arranges with most of the other winners to protect Katniss and Peeta and smuggle them to safety.

At the end of book three, Katniss finally embarks on hrer own mission, leading the adults to go assassinate President Snow. However, a group of children including Prim are deliberately murdered as the final casualties of war. When Katniss realizes that rebel president Coin is the culprit, and that Coin plans to restart the Hunger Games and kill even more enemy children, Katniss decides who her enemy is and breaks every adult law and expectation to shoot the real target. She turns from the protector of living children to the champion of the dead, even as she leaves her own childhood behind forever.

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The Price of Beauty in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies

Far in the future, teens can design their own looks, from pulsing heartbeat tattoos to eye shape. The only guarantee is that they’ll leave the world of being Ugly—unmodified—far behind. Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series explores this dystopian future, showing what teens will become in a world in which appearance is the only status. Even the terrible Specials live by appearance, with needle-sharp teeth and frightening aspects.

As the heroine, sixteen-year-old Tally, discovers, becoming Pretty changes more than a face. The operations that make the teens fascinatingly appealing to behold also make them easy to control – frivolous perpetual teens interested only in parties and fun. Beauty becomes identity, as teens no longer resemble their families or bear the marks of experience on their features, but instead recreate themselves according to their childish whims. With the surface becoming such a priority, less and less remains beneath.

Other books like The Hunger Games or Brave New World address one society genetically altered to be unnaturally beautiful and youthful, who are conditioned to care only for luxury and entertainment. The cities of the Uglies and Pretties alike have disposable clothes, gadgets free for the asking, and a society filled with unnecessary inventions designed only for pleasure, from hoverboards to bungee jackets. There’s unlimited food and medicine. The other side, the have-nots, are condemned to live without genetic modification as they struggle for resources. This literary trend seems to contrast our own society of beautiful people with the have-nots of our own culture. This isn’t just a dystopic future—it’s the dystopic future of America

When Tally leaves the city, she’s struck by how differently the outsiders of the Smoke live. They hand-knit their sweaters and grow their own food. Unlike in her throwaway culture, items have value and must last. There are different manners in the outside world, different priorities and values. Love is forever, and the only unmodified young man she’s ever met, David, loves her for her unmodified face.

From this moment, discovering she’s lovable without artificial beauty and the vapidity that comes with it, Tally becomes a freedom fighter. She fights through four books for the right for each person to choose his or her destiny—Pretty or Ugly, they have the right to think for themselves. She provides a bridge between different societies, even counseling the primitive forest dwellers to venture beyond “the edge of the world” and find freedom from exploitation. She’s escaped her own conditioning, so she insists on a world that carries the same strength.

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