For the past two weeks, I have posted articles about Katniss Everdeen and how her story in the wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy mirrors and yet diverges from Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. In this final post, I will analyze the final part of this journey, “The Return.”
1. Refusal of the Return: Just like the refusal of the call, our hero is not ready to forsake their journey. In Katniss’ case, she contemplates eating poison berries and dying with Peeta than return to a world of oppression. At the end of the third novel, Mockingjay, Katniss struggles after the end of the war. Even though both President Coin and President Snow are dead, Katniss cannot easily go back to her old life. Revolution, war and devastation is all she knows. In fact, throughout the course of Mockingjay and the rest of her life as implied in the epilogue, Katniss suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, proving once and for all that she cannot completely assimilate into the real world.
2. The Magic Flight: In most mythic tales, the hero is transported back to the real world due to magic. Other times, this flight is a dangerous escape. For Katniss, leaving the arena at the end of the first novel nearly cost her her life. In Catching Fire, she used electricity to destroy the arena, nearly dying in the process and at the end of Mockingjay Katniss has to endure a battle to return home. It is after this pivitol battle that Katniss continues on the path laid down my Maureen Murdock in “The Heroine’s Journey.” Unable to save her sister Prim, the driving force behind her decision to enter the games in the first place, Katniss has to heal the wounded masculine. Her whole life was focused on doing whatever was necessary to protect her sister–hunting, stealing, even entering the Hunger Games. Despite all of her glowing masculine qualities however, Katniss was unable to save her sister. In a way, it made her question her abilities. After Snow was overthrown, Katniss “got her groove back” when she killed President Coin. Even though she couldn’t use her masculine abilities to save her sister, she re-discovered the power that she always had–the power to change the world. Just like she did in the first two books, Katniss used her bow and arrow to bring about change, thus regaining a part of herself that she had lost along the way.
3. Rescue From Without:When the hero completes their quest, they sometimes need help returning to the old world. This is where their friends and allies come into play. Once a new government is established at the end of Mockingjay, Katniss relies on Peeta and Haymitch to help her overcome the traumatic experience. Though they are all wounded, they slowly figure out how to live again.
4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold: This step goes hand in hand with the previous one.
5. Master of Two Worlds: Over time, the hero figures out how to apply the knowledge from their quest into the ordinary world. It’s a balancing act, one that takes Katniss a long time to complete.
6. Freedom to Live: At the end of Mockingjay, there is a two page epilogue that tells the readers what happened to Katniss and Peeta. You learn that despite her earlier stance on children, Katniss is happily married to Peeta and the proud parent of two children. Things are not perfect. Both she and her husband still suffer from PTSD, but they know they live in a better world. It is during this final stretch of the story that Katniss completes the final step of Murdock’s “Heroine’s Journey:” the integration of the masculine and feminine. By having kids, but still being strong willed and self-sufficient, Katniss has learned how to balance those two aspects of herself. The nurturing side she showed to Prim returned with the birth of her children. It is still evident however, that Katniss has lost none of her fire.
Unlike most male heroes, Katniss is not motivated by glory. She is motivated by the feminine qualities of love and affection. She volunteered in the Hunger Games to save her sister. Every move she made from that point on was to protect her family. In the end that’s all she wanted; a family to continue protecting. That’s why a story from a woman’s perspective is vastly different from that of a man’s. Women have different desires, different thoughts and feelings. Katniss is the most famous of these heroine’s but thanks to YA fiction, more and more strong female characters are having their day in the sun.
So that’s it for this series of articles. Leave a comment or talk about which female characters you admire.