Katniss Everdeen is a female figure in Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games that is frequently associated with strength, resilience, and rebellion. Katniss, depicted as nurturing mother, desired love interest and “Girl on Fire” is unarguably a multi-dimensional character. Focusing specifically on Katniss’ relationship with “beloved compatriot” (Skinner & McCord 108) Rue, there are many interpretations of said partnership that synonymize it with Katniss’ relationship with Primrose: “Katniss’s relationship with Prim is paralleled to her bond with Rue in the Games…Her relationship with Rue is very sisterly, taking on aspects of mothering” (Woloshyn & co. 154-155). However, through contrasts and comparisons of the different relationships present within the novel, Collins uses Rue as a medium to display Katniss’ capability for emotional intimacy beyond maternal or romantic affection. Katniss treats Rue more as an equal – a comrade – rather than a dependent, likening Rue to Gale in that respect.
Primrose is a source of motivation and action for Katniss (Ramberg 12) that Katniss “protect[s] in every way [she] can” (Collins 15). However, Primrose is a dependent. Having been spoiled nonstop by Katniss’ maternal guide, she is in constant need of attention and care. She is plagued by nightmares before the reaping, is too gentle for the hunt and the games, and will require the generosity and fondness of Gale and District 12 respectively to stay alive without Katniss.
Katniss’ initial response to Rue is to liken her to Primrose: “She’s very like Prim in size and demeanor” (45). Collins explicitly uses these similarities to draw a connection between the two young girls, promoting the maternal affection and instant concern Katniss immediately has towards Rue. As their relationship develops, more similarities between Rue and Katniss herself are discovered, leading their relationship into one of mutual trust and support – a relationship of equals. Firstly, “Rue the oldest of six kids, fiercely protective of her siblings, who gives her rations to the younger ones, who forages in the meadows in a district where the Peacekeepers are far less obliging than ours” (211) is likened to Katniss, also the eldest of her family, who selflessly provides for her family, who hunts illegally in the woods where dangerous predators lurk. Their similar familial circumstances become the foundation of their camaraderie. Secondly, the skillsets Rue brings to their alliance – ie. her knowledge on edible plants and wildlife resources, her observations of the environment and the Career tributes – elevates their relationship from one of mother and child to one of equals. Both Katniss and Rue are capable of survival on their own; their alliance solely improves their collective circumstance with increased accessibility to food sources, more awareness of the Career doings and habits, and more productive ideas contributed. Thirdly, Rue and Katniss both hold a mutual level of trust, respect, and concern for the other. “If you hear the mockingjay singing it, you’ll know I’m okay, only I can’t get back right away” (213). The mockingjay signal is a direct indication of the care and concern within their relationship. The allies use it as a means of communication to ensure each other’s safety and gather peace of mind. Similarly, “Rue has decided to trust [Katniss] wholeheartedly…Nor [does Katniss] have any misgivings about her” (208). Without hesitation, Katniss and Rue fall asleep together in a shared sleeping bag, further outlining their comfortability and trust.
Similarly, as the relationship between the two tributes develop, a dissonance between Rue and her resemblance of Prim is recognized. Rue grew up in District 11, a District seemingly more severe than District 12. “They whip you on the spot and make everyone else watch…it’s not that uncommon an occurrence” (202). Rue has grown up in this environment, accumulating first-hand experience and knowledge of its harshness and severity. Contrastingly, Prim lives a relatively sheltered life. Although District 12 leads a life of hardship, Prim does not shoulder the stress of finding enough food to make it to the next day, whereas Katniss and Rue share this burden. Prim is so loved, so protected, that the punishment of the Capitol – the Hunger Games – is unable to touch her as Katniss immediately volunteers in her stead. Contrastingly, “when [Rue] mounts the stage… there’s no one willing to take her place” (45). Rue does not have the luxury of a protector as Prim has Katniss. “She’s a survivor” (281).
The dynamic of Rue and Katniss’ relationship is rather much more similar to Gale and Katniss’ relationship: they are partners, allies, friends. “Gale is her first real friend in District 12…They’re quintessential hunter-gatherers…[who] have [a] vital relationship to nature, which holds and sustains their spirit…They join together to survive trauma…and these companions and co-conspirators have each other’s backs in their constantly threatened environment” (Skinner & McCord 111). Gale and Katniss, “both of [them] can hunt alone, but [they’re] better as a pair.” (Collins, 109). Likewise, Rue and Katniss are connected by their mutual experience as tributes within the arena and together, are able to contribute more to their spoils than they would alone. They “divide up their food supplies” (Collins, 204) just as Gale and Katniss would, as equal contributors. Also, Rue frees Katniss from “how very lonely [she’s] been in the arena” (208) just as Gale’s “companionship replaced the long solitary hours in the wood” (112).
Through the distinctions and deconstruction of Katniss’s relationships, the role Rue plays becomes evident as an equal partnership. As Katniss’ relationships with females usually illustrate her maternal and protective nature, Rue’s character brings to light a side to Katniss that is not seen at face value – her ability to trust and develop true friendships with females.
How does the relationships in Katniss’s life play a role in determining the development of her character?
In what ways does Katniss and Rue’s relationship reinforce or deconstruct the gendered stereotypes associated with relationships of female protagonists in young adult dystopian literature?
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, 2010.
Ramberg, Malin. “What makes her tick? Katniss Everdeen’s use of defense mechanisms in The Hunger Games.” Thesis. Karlstads Universitet. 2012. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:537471/FULLTEXT01.pdf. Accessed 18 September 2016.
Skinner, Margaret and McCord, Kailyn. “The Hunger Games: A Conversation.” Jung Journal, vol. 6, no. 4, 2012, pp. 106-113, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/jung.2012.6.4.106. Accessed 18 September 2016, doi: 10.1525/jung.2012.6.4.106.
Woloshyn, Vera, Taber, Nancy, and Lane, Laura. “Discourses of masculinity and femininity in The Hunger Games: ‘Scarred,” “Bloody,” and “Stunning.” International Journal of Social Science Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2013, pp. 150- 160, http://www.redfame.com/journal/index.php/ijsss/article/view/21. Accessed 18 September 2016, doi: 10.11114/ijsss.v1i1.21.