Katniss Everdeen Hero’s Journey Analysis

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In Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with A Thousand Faces, the journey of a hero is laid out in a series of steps which are subdivided into three main categories; departure, initiation, and return. As a hero embarks on a quest he will go through a sequence of events in which he will be presented with many challenges which test his skills and ability to overcome certain tests or trials in order to acquire something of value. The steps of a monomyth are persistent throughout most, if not all forms of heroic stories in Greek mythology and can be compared to a vast majority of films and media in modern culture. The motifs emphasized in the journey of a hero as classified by Campbell are recurrent with the monomyths of mythological heroes, such motifs are also persistent in the monomyth depicted by Katniss Everdeen, a heroine who is coerced to partake in the Hunger Games in which competitors must fight to the death, and only one remaining as the victor.

The Hunger Games (2012), is set in a dystopian future where the country of Panem is divided into the Capitol and the twelve districts. The Capitol serves as a totalitarian government, holding great power and control over the districts which are all responsible for producing a specific commodity. Much of the districts live in impoverished conditions and suffer from hunger, whereas the Capitol embodies luxury and high status in the country. In order to prevent the districts from an uprising, the Capitol holds the annual Hunger Games every year, where two tributes, one girl, and one boy are chosen from each district and are taken away to participate in the nationally televised event and battle for survival.

The last one standing in the arena is deemed the winner of the Hunger Games and is awarded special honors. The victor will essentially maintain high status in their districts and is granted a life of luxury, provided for by the Capitol. The initiation of the games can be interpreted through the social charters of customs and beliefs which are set upon the districts who are limited to access of resources and wealth based on their social status. The Hunger Games serves as a competition to gain fame and glory, when in fact it’s more of an inhumane punishment where children are forced to enter a bloody battlefield with very little odds that they will survive.

Campbell classifies the call to adventure as a point in a person’s life where an important event triggers a change in direction, leading to a heroic journey. In The Hunger Games, the call to adventure is first initiated on the day of the reaping where two tributes from district twelve, mostly known as an underprivileged coal-mining region, are chosen from a lottery to be contestants in the games. Upon choosing the district’s female tribute, Prim’s name is drawn out from the loot and she is picked to compete in the lethal competition. As she is taken away, Katniss volunteers for tribute, taking Prim’s place in the Hunger Games. Overprotective of Primm and afraid of what might happen to her, Katniss is willing to sacrifice herself in order to spare Prim’s life. Katniss tries to be strong for her family and promises Primm to try and win the games. Katniss begins her journey as she and Peeta, the male tribute departure for what lies ahead.

The call to adventure is often initiated in every hero’s journey throughout classical mythology. In the myth between Theseus and the Minotaur, King Minos of Crete tragically lost his son who was killed by a dangerous bull during his visit to Athens. Consequently, King Minos set upon a war on Athens as revenge. In efforts to appease King Minos, the Athenians were forced to send seven boys and seven girls as tribute every seven years to be devoured by the Minotaur, who was a monstrous creature that maintained the half body of a bull and a human. Every seven years, fourteen tributes were heartlessly locked in a labyrinth with no means of escaping and where inevitably devoured by the Minotaur. Theseus call to adventure is initiated as he learns of the horrendous act and volunteers to serve as a male tribute, determined to kill the Minotaur once and for all. Like Katniss, Theseus is selfless, he is willing to sacrifice himself in order to prevent the death of others. The call to adventure marks the point in which both Katniss and Theseus are triggered in a new direction.

In the Iliad, Odysseus’s call to adventure begins during the Trojan war. Odysseus departures from home when he is summoned by King Agamemnon to lead the armies in battle and fight the war in Troy. Odysseus is forced to leave behind his wife, Penelope and his son, Telemachus as he is called to a new adventure. Like Katniss, Odysseus must leave his home and embark on a new journey where he will essentially enter a deadly battlefield and be forced to kill others in order to stay alive. Katniss, Odysseus, and Theseus all exhibit the archetype of a hero as they are willing to sacrifice their lives for others by leaving the world they are familiar with and entering a world of the unknown. Within each of their journeys as heroes, the characters will face many obstacles and trials which they will unquestionably overcome.

The crossing of the first threshold as denoted by Campbell is identifying as the point where the hero actually begins his or her adventure by entering the new and unfamiliar territory. The hero is required to leave the familiar world behind and enter dangerous regions where the rules are unknown. Upon arrival into the new world, the hero isn’t fully aware of the challenges that lie as their adventure begins. In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen enters the world of the unknown upon her arrival at the Capitol. Throughout her time in the Capitol, Katniss spends her time training for the games and making several appearances in televised events, these can be thought of as a series of occasions leading up to the main competition.

Katniss truly embarks on the world of adventure as she is lifted into the arena, where the rules are unknown. The game makers are responsible for initiating any and all forms of challenges, resources, and elements comprised of the Hunger Games. At the start of the games, the tributes are positioned in a circle surrounding the Cornucopia, which contains loads of supplies and weapons. The opening sound initiates the commencement of the games, triggering the tributes to kill each other as they try to acquire weapons and resources from the cornucopia. During this point in the film, Katniss leaves the familiar world behind and enters a full-on blood battle as the tributes begin the fight for survival, unaware of all the challenges and difficulties to come.

In his departure to slay the Minotaur, Theseus crosses the first threshold by leaving Athens and journeys to the city of Crete on a boat. Upon his arrival, Theses prepares to enter the inescapable labyrinth and is faced with the challenge of killing the Minotaur. Katniss and Theseus cross the first threshold along their journey as depart from their normal lives and partake in a dangerous battle which could essentially cost them their lives. The point at which both heroes are trapped in an inescapable arena, surrounded by their enemy(s) marks the initiation of their adventure. Through a structuralist interpretation, the motif as indicated by both Katniss and Theseus expresses the binary between life and death. Their actions impose the morality of human nature in relation to good and evil. Both Theseus and Katniss are situated in a new direction as they are willing to volunteer for tribute in order to prevent the deaths of others. As they cross the first threshold, the odds of survival are weighed against them at a point in which there is no turning back.

Orpheus journeys to the Underworld to retrieve his wife, Eurydice after she had died from a snake bite. Along his journey as a hero, Orpheus must cross various thresholds in order to reach the Underworld. In attempt to persuade the king and queen of the Underworld to return Eurydice back to him, Orpheus traveled through a cave which provided a portal to transport him to the Underworld, crossed the River Styx, and overcame the three-headed Cerberus to get past the gates of the Underworld. Although Orpheus makes it past many roads during his journey, he must go to great lengths to cross the thresholds that lead to the Underworld. Like Katniss, Orpheus experiences the same motif, where both characters enter a new and unfamiliar world at the start of their adventure. The interrelationships of life and death are present within this motif, presenting a dichotomy of the values associated with death and the aftermath. In the myth, Orpheus ventures into the Underworld through great depths in order to get his wife back, whereas, in the Hunger games, citizens of Panem are offered as tributes to serve as pawns in an intricate game of life or death. There is no value set upon the meaning of life.

The road of trials signifies the initiation of a hero’s journey where the hero is faced with a series of tests, tasks, or challenges in which they can overcome. Katniss begins the road of trials throughout The Hunger Games. Upon her arrival at the Capitol, Katniss must prove herself to the game makers in a private session where she shows off her skills. Angered by their lack of attention, Katniss shoots an arrow straight at the game makers table which surprisingly gets their attention. She earns a total score of eleven out of twelve and becomes a target in the game.

Katniss faces many enemies, allies, and tests during her time in the arena. Upon the first strike, Katniss enters a battle with another tribute to get a backpack and runs into the forest to escape the bloodshed up until she encounters a group of highly skilled tributes who form an alliance and try to kill her. Katniss is targeted while severely injured by a massive forest fire generated by the game makers and struggles to stay hidden from the tributes. In an attempt to save herself Katniss tries to climb up a tree and cuts a tracker jacker nest to ward off her enemies.

Sadly, she gets stung by the tracker jackers which are mutant killer wasps and suffers from hallucinations but is able to escape in the end. Katniss is able to form an alliance with Rue, an eleven-year-old girl and the two are able to take out the tributes food supply. Soon enough, Katniss, Peeta, and Cato are the last tributes left in the game. A new rule indicated by the game makers state that two tributes can be deemed the victors as long as both are from the same district. With the new rule in place, Katniss tracks Peeta and discovers that he is severely ill and wounded. With the help of sponsors, Katniss is able to obtain medicine to aid Peeta back to health by displaying a romantic relationship between the two.

The dynamics present within the Hunger games sets a structuralist binary between the hunter and being hunted. Ultimately, the purpose of the game is to be the hunter, killing others in place rather than being the hunted, or the one to be killed. From Katniss’ perspective, all of her efforts are guided towards staying alive. She is both cunning and smart when it comes to survival tactics and is able to form strategic tactics to combat many of the tests she is faced with in the games. Like Katniss, Heracles is able to tackle all of his labors in intricate and clever ways. In efforts to atone for his crimes against killing his wife Megara and their children, Heracles must serve King Eurypterus and complete the labors he would execute.

Heracles successfully completed all of the impossible twelve labors by implementing crafty means of incredible doings. Killed or be killed is synonymous to the binary pair of hunter and hunted, this structuralist theme is seen time and time again throughout various myths. The labors of Theseus set a precedent for the interrelationships at play between Theseus and the criminals who would rob and kill travelers in vile and inhumane ways. During his journey from Troezen to Athens, Theseus successfully killed all of the criminals implementing the dualistic relationship of kill or be killed.

The Ultimate Boon denotes the achievement of the goal or quest. It is ultimately identified as the purpose of the journey, more specifically what the hero was trying to get or acquire. In the Hunger Games, the tributes are essentially fighting for survival, the last one standing is deemed the victor and acquires various benefits offered by the Capitol. In the final battle, the game makers release giant mutant dogs to hunt the remaining tributes. While grouped on top of the Cornucopia, Katniss and Peeta work together to escape the wild dogs. Ultimately, Katniss shoots Cato’s hand with an arrow causing him to fall into the pack of the mutant wild dogs as they rip his body to shreds.

At this point, Katniss and Peeta are the remaining victors and believe to have won the games. To their disbelief, the game makers decide to take back the new rules and announce that only one tribute can be the victor. Unwilling to kill each other, Katniss and Peeta decide to take their own lives. They each take half of the poisonous Nightlock berries so that they can die together. In order to prevent the Capitol from being left without any victors, the game makers take back their recent announcement and declare Katniss and Peeta the winners of the Hunger Games. In the end, Katniss and Peeta are claimed by the victors and ultimately, receive the ultimate boon of the games. Katniss and Peeta both return to district 12 to live out a life of ease and luxury.

The Ultimate Boon signifies the fundamental purpose or goal of a quest and is often depicted in every journey a hero embarks on. In classical mythology, the ultimate boon is portrayed with the hero Perseus who sets out on a mission and goes to great lengths to retrieve the head of Medusa. With the help of Athena, Perseus is able to kill Medusa in her sleep and chops off her head, which he then returns to King Polydectes. In Theseus quest, he is able to acquire the ultimate boon with the help of Ariadne, the daughter of Minos who he falls in love with. Ariadne gives Theseus a thread, which allows him to escape the labyrinth as he is trapped with the Minotaur.

In the final battle between Theseus and the Minotaur, Theseus ultimately succeeds in killing the monstrous creature and escapes from the labyrinth. He is celebrated by the Athenians and later becomes King of Athens. Katniss and Theseus both set out on a dangerous journey and are faced with many challenges as their hunt progresses. Along the journey, both heroes acquired help from others and were able to receive the ultimate boon after their final confrontation with their enemies. Not only does this motif symbolize the triumph of their quest, but also emphasizes the elements that make up the archetype of a hero. Katniss and Theseus offer themselves as tribute to save the lives of others and journey to a new and unfamiliar world where they encounter many tests and trials which will determine the outcome of their lives. In the end, both heroes are victorious and receive the ultimate boon.

In The Hunger Games, the citizens of Panem are forced to participate in an annual televised event, where two tributes from each district are chosen to enter the ultimate battle of life or death, where the last remaining tribute is proclaimed the victor. The theme illustrated in the film is synonymous with the myth portrayed between Theseus and the Minotaur, where the people of Athens also suffer from social oppression and are forced to offer tributes to an inhumane sacrifice. Through a structuralist interpretation, the recurrent pattern of binary opposites such as life or death, killed or be killed, is enforced in both of these stories. Katniss’s journey as a hero depicts various motifs as experienced by Theseus as well as other heroes in Greek mythology. Within the departure, the call to adventure initiates a new path which the hero must take. The crossing of the first threshold is the point during which the hero leaves the familiar world behind, signifying the start of the adventure. Along their journey, the hero must face a road of trials and tests which they overcome to essentially reach the ultimate boon, or goal of the mission. The departure, initiation, and return of a hero’s journey is persistent throughout all forms of heroic stories and often depict the archetype of a hero.


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Katniss Everdeen Hero’s Journey Analysis. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/katniss-everdeen-heros-journey-analysis/



Does Katniss follow the hero's journey?
Yes. Katniss follows the hero's journey in the book.
How is Katniss Everdeen a hero?
Katniss is a hero because she is selfless and always puts others before herself. She is also brave and is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, even if it means putting her own life at risk.
What hero archetype is Katniss Everdeen?
Katniss Everdeen is a self-sacrificing hero who puts others before herself. She is also a skilled archer and hunter.
What was Katniss Everdeen's quest?
One boy and one girl from each District are placed into an arena and forced to kill each other until one winner remains . Rather than seeing her innocent sister die, Katniss volunteered to take her place.
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