Exercise 24: Analyze a Female Character

Since I blogged about writing strong female characters on Wednesday, I thought I’d base today’s exercise on that. And for another change of pace, I did the exercise, too, this time. Scroll on down for my analysis of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.

I’m not ready to do anything like this publicly for any of my own characters. I picked Katniss because The Hunger Games has been out for a while now, and I don’t feel like I need to worry about spoilers. I’m guessing most people have either read the book or watched the movie by this point. But the analysis is below the exercise, so you can skip over that if you’re worried.

Use the information from Wednesday’s blog post to analyze a female character in a story you’ve written. If you feel like you need to make changes, do it. If you’ve never written a female character, this might be the time to give it a try. You can also analyze a character from your favorite book, movie, or TV show if you’d prefer.

Character Analysis-Katniss Everdeen

This is limited to the first book in the trilogy. I’m just going to use what I wrote in Wednesday’s blog post as a sort of guide for this analysis.

Basic Personality Traits

Caring

From the opening, it’s clear that Katniss cares deeply about her sister, Prim. Her first thought upon waking up in the morning is about Prim. I honestly think that her love for her sister is the only reason the author is able to get away with mentioning how Katniss tried to drown Prim’s cat on the first page and still have a character that comes across as likable.

Courageous

There’s no question that Katniss is brave. She sneaks out of the district to hunt, even though it’s illegal. She enters her name into the drawing in exchange for tesserae even though it raises her chances of being reaped. She volunteers to go to the Games in Prim’s place. All of these things happened within the first few pages of the book, and Katniss continues to show and develop her courage time and time again all the way to the end.

Intelligent

So Katniss may not be a rocket scientist, but she’s no slouch, either. She learns, almost without being told, to keep her criticism of the Capitol mostly to herself. After her father died, she figured out a way to provide for her family–she basically took over as head of her household at the age of eleven. She has an extremely impoverished and disadvantaged background, but she’s able to survive and support two other people. Katniss is calculating, cunning, and observant. She also has survival skills; she remembered the things her father taught her and was able to apply them to real life problems and situations even years after he died. She’s very smart, and her intelligence plays a huge part in getting her through the Games.

Vulnerable

Although she’s deeply pragmatic, and can even seem cold-hearted sometimes, Katniss has a soft heart and she knows it. She tries to put distance between herself and others to avoid forming attachments to people, but somehow she still manages to defend Madge from Gale. She bonds with Cinna almost immediately. She gets attached to her stylists even though their shallowness shocks her sometimes. We all know what happens with Rue. And by the end of the story, she might even be developing some feelings for Peeta. You’d almost think that kind of vulnerability is a weakness, but Katniss needs some softness in her personality to help readers empathize with her.

Other

Interpreting literature is almost as subjective as writing. There’s a lot more I could say here, like Katniss is selfless or determined, and I think most of you would probably accept that. I just don’t want to go on about it. Also, she’s obviously physically strong and a natural athlete.

Depth

At first glance, Katniss doesn’t seem that deep. She’s pretty straightforward–Prim good, Capitol bad. But if you pay attention, you’ll see there’s quite a bit more to her than that.

She has plenty of interests that add depth to her character–the tragic background helps, but she also has things like survival and hunting skills, singing, a decent sense of humor sometimes, a love of food, and an open mind. She may not respect Effie or Haymitch in the beginning, but she certainly does by the end. She’s not afraid to challenge herself, and I think that adds a lot of depth to her personality.

Gender-specific traits

Katniss is not written as a traditionally feminine character for the most part, but we still get glimpses of this side of her from time to time. She’s motherly toward Prim and Rue. She cares about her appearance; it’s not overstated, but you can see it in the scene when they’re getting ready to go to the reaping and she gets to wear one of her mother’s nice dresses. You see it again when she twirls for Caesar during her interview. Cinna put her up to it, but she seemed like she enjoyed it in the moment.

Regarding “Things to Avoid”

Overly Aggressive Behavior

You’d almost expect someone like Katniss to have a temper, or some hotheaded moments, but she keeps her cool for most of the book. When she does get angry, I think her reactions are appropriate. The closest she came to an inappropriate reaction was during her private session when she shot the apple out of the pig’s mouth–and even then she didn’t hurt anyone, so I don’t think it crossed a line.

“Not Like Other Girls”

Katniss is definitely not a girly-girl, but the author has written her in a way that keeps her from falling into that “not like other girls” trope. She’s motherly toward her sister and Rue. She holds Peeta’s hand when he’s nervous during the chariot ride–and even blows kisses to the crowd. Sometimes she questions other girls’ behavior, but she doesn’t shame them for it.

Prejudices

Katniss has every reason to hate the Capitol, considering her background, but she doesn’t take it out on the individual Capitol citizens that she meets. She listens to Effie and Cinna. She’s kind to the Avoxes. She seems to think her style team is shallow and silly, but she doesn’t hate them for it.

Weaknesses and Struggles

Some of her weaknesses are debatable. You could almost argue that her love for Prim is a weakness because people can use Prim to hurt her. She’s stubborn, which can work in a character’s favor or against them depending on the situation. She also has a hard time trusting people–she harbors doubts against Peeta for a lot longer than she should, and she’s afraid of whether her mother will be able to take care of Prim if she dies during the Games.

As far as struggles go, Katniss has those in spades. Poverty. Having to grow up too fast. The Games themselves. There’s plenty of conflict here.

Winning and Losing

There’s a lot here, too. Katniss gets reaped, but then she wins the Games. She keeps Peeta alive, but he loses his leg. She teams up with Rue, but then can’t protect her. She thwarts the Capitol, but now she has to live under their watch for conceivably the rest of her life.

Katniss almost always comes out ahead, but there’s a trade-off for every win. It helps keep the story moving, and that helps keep the audience interested.

Image Credit: Annie Spratt

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