In my last post, I discussed the differences between Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and Maureen Murdock’s “Heroine’s Journey.” In order to see the model in action, I have decided to analysis Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy. Today’s post will deal with the first part of the hero’s journey, “Separation” and how Maureen Murdock’s theory comes into play.
1. The Ordinary World: At the beginning of The Hunger Games, we learn a little about Katniss Everdeen’s background. She comes from District 12, the coal mining region of the nation known as Panem. Due to her mother’s incompetence, Katniss is the primary breadwinner of her family, breaking the rules to put food on the table for her sister Prim. We find out very early on that Katniss’ father died in an explosion in the coal-mine. Her mother shut down after that and it was up to Katniss to pick up the slack. This is when Murdock’s concept comes in. The first stage of “The Heroine’s Journey” talks about a woman’s separation from the feminine. Katniss became a hunter and emotionally cold, caring only for her mother and sister. She is the one who makes the decisions for the family. The point of “The Heroine’s Journey” is for a woman to strike a balance between the masculine and feminine sides of herself. When readers first meet Katniss, she had already passed through the second stage of “The Heroine’s Journey,” or the identification with the masculine & gathering of allies. Katniss ventures out into the woods with Gale Hawthrone, who also hunts for game to keep his family nourished. It should be noted that Katniss has no other female friends. Thought she does maintain a correspondence with the mayor’s daughter, Gale is her one and only friend. He doesn’t treat her like a girl, but rather a friend, “another guy.” Katniss is completely comfortable in this position. She shuns feminine pursuits and often identifies with her father.
2. The Call to Adventure: In this section of the story, the hero usually has to make a tough decision. Do they stay in the comfort of their own world, or do they forsake that safety and pursue their destiny in the great unknown? In The Hunger Games, “The Call to Adventure” is not the Reaping, but rather Gale’s plea to run away. He says they could take their families and disappear into the woods. They would be safe from the Reaping and the Capitol.
3. Refusal of the Call: Though Katniss is tempted by the offer, she ultimately decides not to go because she has an obligation to protect her family. She knows that they would not survive in the woods. So she attends the Reaping where, to her horror, she discovers that her sister had been chosen for the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Katniss loves her sister and despite her previous refusal, Katniss bravely takes her sister’s place, thus beginning the first part of her journey.
4. Supernatural Aid: Campbell’s monomyth was based primarily in folk lore; stories that used magic to teach a moral lesson. Though Katniss doesn’t receive any “supernatural” help, she is aided in her quest by her mentor Haymitch Abernathy, Effie Trinket and designer Cinna. They teach her how to act like a Tribute and provide her with the skills she needs to ace interviews in the Capitol.
5. Crossing the Threshold: Suzanne Collins takes this step quite literally and uses a train to take Katniss from her old life in District 12 to her new one in the Capitol. Danger and imminent death lay ahead. As Obi-Won Kenobi said so wisely in Star Wars Katniss had “taken her first step into a larger world.” Once at the Capitol, Katniss is introduced to an extravagant life style that both amazes and disgusts her.
6. Belly of the Whale: The final step of the “Separation” phase of the Hero’s Journey is the “Belly of the Whale.” This is when the hero completely leaves their old world behind and embarks upon the dangerous journey that lies ahead. In The Hunger Games, Katniss enters the “Belly of the Whale” the same time she enters the arena. The sight of kids killing other kids is an eye opening experience for Katniss. There is no going back. She is now fully immersed in the new world.
Stay tuned for the second part of this blog series! Please like and leave a comment.