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I have chosen three significant passages that I feel develop Peeta’s character. They show him as intelligent and thoughtful, but principled.
Peeta is skilled at understanding and manipulating people. A good example of this is when the people of the capital are staring at them. Katniss feels sick, but Peeta “holds his ground” because “one of them might be rich.” (ch 4, p. 68). Katniss decides she has “misjudged him” (p. 68).
All of the pieces are still fitting together, but I sense he has a plan forming. He hasn’t accepted his death. He is already fighting hard to stay alive. Which means that Peeta Mellark, the boy who gave me the bread, is fighting to kill me. (ch 4, p. 68)
"Through the course of the interviews, Peeta admits on camera that he has always had a crush on Katniss; Haymitch encourages both of them to play up that angle because the crowds love it" (enotes essentials).This is significant because Peeta is intelligent and cautious. He is planning ahead for when the tributes might need things from sponsors. He is also acting in terms of his own survival, or so Katniss believes. She begins to realize that either way he is very cunning and he can get people to do what he wants. He behaves this way throughout the period before the games when he says he’s in love with Katniss, and during the games when he acts to sacrifice himself for her.
Another significant point about Peeta is that he is not morbid, and does not want to kill, but he accepts how he will act when he needs to survive.
“No, when the time comes I’m sure I’ll kill just like everybody else. I can’t go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to … to show the Capital they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their games” (p. 142, ch 10).
This shows that Peeta is not naive, but he is principled. He does not want to kill, but he realizes he will need to. He also wants to rebel, in his own way, and show the Capital they don’t own him.
Finally, there is Peeta’s reaction when he realizes that Katniss has been playing along and doesn’t really love him.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Peeta extend his hand. I look at him, unsure. “One more time? For the audience?” he says. His voice isn’t angry. It’s hollow, which is worse. Already the boy with the bread is slipping away from me. (p. 374-5, ch 27)
This passage shows that Peeta does have feelings for Katniss, and he’s hurt, but he understands her and he is still playing the game in order that they both survive.
Page numbers from this edition: http://www.amazon.com/The-Hunger-Games-Suzanne-Collins/dp/0439023483
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