Last week, I posted the first in a series of articles that would dissect The Hunger Games trilogy according to Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey and the journey of Katniss Everdeen from District 12 resident to a trailblazing heroine. I left off at the end of the first section, “Separation.” This post will deal with the second stage of the monomyth, “Initiation.”
1. The Road of Trials: Throughout the entirety of the trilogy, Katniss and her fellow tributes endure a seemingly never-ending road of trials. Not only is Katniss forced into the Hunger Games twice–but she unwillingly becomes a symbol of rebellion for Panem, a job that costs her dearly in the end.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss’ “Road of Trials” is her increasingly dangerous encounters with her fellow tributes. While in the arena, she has to not only defend herself, but learn who to trust, who to stay away from, and how to get the help she needs from her sponsors.
The stakes are even higher in Catching Fire when Katniss must endure President Snow and the Victory Tour. In these books, every move she makes is a trail by fire.
It is also during this point that Katniss achieves what Murdock refers to as the boon of success. After she wins the first Hunger Games, Katniss thinks her journey is over, but her act of rebellion sends Panem down the path of war. Also, when she and Rue try to out smart the other victories, Katniss thinks they succeed until her little ally is brutally murdered.
2. The Meeting with the Goddess: According to Joseph Campbell, this step is when the hero meets someone who they love unconditionally. In many ways, you can say that Peeta is the metaphoric “goddess.” Throughout the series, he provides the unconditional love and inspiration Katniss needs to triumph. Though that is true in The Hunger Games to a certain extent, I think the role of the goddess is more fitting for Rue. Katniss cared for her like a sister and her death was a loss that Katniss never fully recovered from–a loss that compelled her to turn the entire nation on it’s head.
3. Woman as a Temptress: Once again, this part of the Hero’s Journey is specifically tailored to a male, but the arc is still present in The Hunger Games. I believe that the “temptress” is Gale. He often talks about running away and rebelling against the Capitol. Katniss believes she has feelings for him and at one point, she chooses him over Peeta. But it becomes clear in Mockingjay that they are on very different paths. Gale essentially “tempts” Katniss to live a different life. It is Peeta’s love and devotion that keeps her on the right path.
4. Atonement with the Father: This is a step that never appears in Katniss. I would say there is an “Atonement with the Mother” but I would be lying. Katniss really doesn’t reconcile with her mother. After the war, she goes back to District 12 and lives her life with Peeta.
5. Apotheosis: Campbell refers to this step as when someone dies a physical or metaphorical death. The loss of Prim compells Katniss to make a critical decision at the end of Mockingjay, a decision that sets her on the return path home. It is also the moment she dies “emotionally.” At the same time, after Prim’s death, Katniss experiences an urgent yearning to reconnect with the feminine. That is where Peeta comes in. His unconditional love for her, even after all he had been through, helps her come to terms with Prim’s death. She begins to display real emotion again. This ultimately helps heal what Murdock calls the mother/daughter split.
6. The Ultimate Boon: This is the goal that the hero has been working so hard to achieve. For Katniss, it’s killing President Coin and overthrowing the Capitol.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment.