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From its beginning, The Hunger Games makes clear that Katniss is no ordinary 16-year-old girl. On the contrary, from the opening of Chapter One, Suzanne Collins’ narrator, Katniss, describes her daily routine as one of continuous struggle to feed herself and her family, her father having been killed in a mine shaft explosion. Katniss resides in District 12 in Panem, the designation for what used to be North America.
The Hunger Games opens with Katniss awakening on the morning of the annual “reaping,” the ceremonial event during which one male and one female, both between the ages of 12 and 18, are selected at random to compete for survival. That Katniss is her family’s only means of survival is evident in her recitation of the day’s events, and of her description of life with her mother and younger sister, Prim. Early indications of Katniss’ vital role in the survival of her family are suggested in her discussion of the family cat, Buttercup, and its symbolism both for the burden’s under which Katniss lives and for the role she plays in ensuring her family’s survival:
“Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed.”
“Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails.”
Katniss is clearly a heroic figure in that she has taken it upon herself to provide for her mother and sister in a time and place when such responsibilities involve daily infractions of the laws under which they live and the penalties for which could involve death. Chapter One, in addition to establishing the setting and atmosphere in which the story takes place, also provides a picture of the daily struggle for existence and of Katniss’ resourcefulness and bravery in providing for her family. To the extent there is heroism implicit in assuming responsibility for the welfare of others, then she is clearly heroic. The risks that Katniss assumes in her daily struggle for food to feed Prim and her mother, for whom she feels only loathing, are suggested in her description of the bow she uses for hunting and the risks involved in such endeavors:
“My bow is a rarity, crafted by my father along with a few others that I keep well hidden in the woods, carefully wrapped in waterproof covers. My father could have made good money selling them, but if the officials found out he would have been publicly executed for inciting a rebellion.”
We soon come to understand that Katniss is heroic on two counts: she assumed the responsibility of providing for her family at daily risk of death from attack by wild beasts, and she conducts these activities at the risk of capture and execution at the hands of ruling regime. The final indicator of her heroism in the opening chapters, however, involves her decision to volunteer to be that year’s female “tribute” in order to spare Prim, whose name has been drawn during the reaping activities. Chapter One ends with the revelation that Prim’s name was drawn and that she will be that year’s “tribute.” Chapter Two begins with Katniss’ expression of alarm at this development, and of her reaction upon seeing her little sister approach the stage and confront the most horrific fate imaginable:
“With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me. ‘I volunteer!’ I gasp. ‘I volunteer as tribute!’”
Nothing is more heroic than sacrificing oneself for others. Katniss is heroic for doing so.
Katniss didn'y necessarily develop into a herione, as she was one already. She wasn't a average girl, and she supported her family by hunting in the woods. By helping her family, she was a heroine already. Although, her responsibilities as a heroine increases throughout the novel as she goes into the hunger games.
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