Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Character Arc: Transformation

A deeper look at Katniss Everdeen’s arc in The Hunger Games
Brandi Spencer (formerly B. C. Marine), Secretary-Treasurer Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week, we examined Han Solo’s growth arc. Now let’s compare Katniss Everdeen arc. Does she grow or transform?

The Expectation

Because there is the show-within-a-show (or more accurately, show-within-a-book) aspect, we get to see how the other characters in the book react to Katniss as a character and respond to her arc, even flat-out discussing it at times. (Thank you Veronica Roth. You made this article easy for me.)
What do all these other characters want to see? A transformation arc. They want to see Katniss become the Mockingjay, to become the heroic embodiment of their rebellion.
There is also a similar expectation with many readers. It’s a young adult (YA) series, and for most of the beginning, it appears to follow the classic hero’s journey: she’s forced to leave home with a mentor and embarks on a series of trials. Classic storytelling has primed audiences to expect such a story to feature a grand transformation where the protagonist becomes the chosen one or an epic hero.

The Outcome

Katniss certainly grows and changes. She better understands her world and her place in it. But does she become the epic hero?
She resists it with every fiber of her being. She lacks the charisma and desire to lead. The spotlight brings out the worst in her lack of social skills. In the games themselves, her biggest tactic is to hide. It’s the ingenuity of those around her that saves everyone in the Quarter Quell, not her heroics. Even in the end, she follows Peeta’s dream to settle and start a family.
That transformation arc isn’t there. Despite all of her mentors and the resistance leaders demanding it, she refuses to become the Mockingjay.

Does It Work?

Just like the characters around Katniss, some readers become frustrated with her lack of transformation. The hero’s journey is centuries old and endlessly popular; audiences are deeply attached to it. Messing with that will always ruffle feathers.
Personally, I love it. I find Katniss far more interesting muddling through life as herself than the icon they wanted her to be.

Next Time

In two weeks, we’ll explore fall arcs, with a focus on Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair. But next week, we have an author interview about A Seer’s Daughter!

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