The relationships that Katniss is involved in. Throughout

The
Hunger Games, as already established, is a dystopic novel series comprised of
three books spanning approximately over two years- Hunger Games, Catching Fire,
and Mockingjay. The books follow the journey of Katniss as she evolves from a
weary, burdened sixteen year old to a tribute in the Hunger Games and
eventually to the face of the rebellion movement in the country of Panem. This
chapter follows a textual analysis to deconstruct the text to achieve the
research objections by answering pertinent questions. The analysis is
structured around the framework of the concept of objectification as proposed
by Martha Nussbaum. Objectification is the treatment of a person as a thing and
the main person in question here is Katniss although other women will be considered
in the later section of this chapter. It takes on two forms in the books that I
will be examining– the first being physical or sexual objectification, and the
second is a commodification of the female subject within a capitalistic
environment. Through the many instances of objectification, it can be affirmed
that the series does not hold validity as a ‘feminist’ text.

Sexual Objectification

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Sexual
objectification is primarily seen within the romantic relationships that
Katniss is involved in. Throughout the series, the plot follows two major
storylines- the political revolution of Panem and the relationships between
Katniss and her two possible love interests Gale and Peeta. The first book
follows Katniss and Peeta’s romance set up as a strategy for survival and the
harsh realities of being a citizen of Panem. Catching Fire sends them back to
the Games arena and sparks of Rebellion begin to light into flames. Mockingjay
centers on the districts’ rebellion against the Capitol and her final choice
between her two admirers. Thus it is increasing clear that the relationships in
the text are an integral part of every other issue presented, and manifests
itself as part of the action.

Although
Collins’ first introduces Gale to the reader as Katniss’s best friend and
hunting partner with a chance of a romance brewing between them, it is Peeta
who takes prominence in most of the novel as a male lead. Katniss and Peeta do
not know each other before they are chosen as tributes in the Games, but they
share a unique history. Peeta comes from a family of bakers, and he purposely
burnt bread as a young boy to cast it out into the alley where he had seen
Katniss scavenging for food. This came at a period in her life where her father
had just passed away, and this meant a great deal to a young girl of eleven who
had just assumed the role of provider of her family.

This
incident is important and sets the foundation for much of their interactions
that occur throughout the books. Their relationship is implemented by their
mentors to gain the sympathy of the people (by portraying star-crossed lovers),
and Katniss goes along with this strategy as she does later in other situations
as well, looking at it as owing Peeta for that incident. The first time Katniss
and Peeta are forced together, she is unaware of this plan and coerced into it
by her mentor Haymitch who says “He made you look desirable! And let’s face it,
you can use all the help you can get in that department” (Collins). Her immediate protests are shunned and
considered a tantrum typical of a teenage girl. Her “value is equated with
desirability … and she is pressured into accepting the undesired sexualization”
which can be considered unfair and an exploitation of her character. (Peters)

This
incident supports Nussbaum’s first notion of objectification which is
instrumentality i.e. “the objectifier treats the object as a tool of his or
her purposes.”(Nussbaum) The immediate purpose here
is to get the audience and sponsor support for them which ultimately benefits
their district. This strategic development excludes the consent of Katniss
making her the object. Along with instrumentality, yet another notion evident
in this passage is the denial of autonomy (of the object) where Katniss is
considered lacking the ability to make decisions that involve herself. She is
stripped of her independence and individuality when her opinion is not taken
into account and simply dismissed. Haymitch consistently makes out Peeta to be
a paragon of virtue while regarding Katniss as someone who ungrateful or stupid
to appreciate his affection. There is a complete lack of disregard for
Katniss’s agency by him.

This is not an
isolated incident and is supported with a near similar event that takes place
during the second book. It being the seventy-fifth year, the Quarter Quell is
held for which Katniss and Peeta are once again chosen, as only previous
winners can contend. During the tribute interviews that take place before each
games where candidate strengths, weakness and strategies are discussed, many
tributes make pleas to the Capitol to change the stringent rules. Peeta, during
his interview, makes it known to the interviewer and the audience that he and
Katniss were married in a private ceremony and are expecting their first child,
in an attempt to appeal to the Capitol. The news of marriage and pregnancy are
both lies, a concoction that was not made known to Katniss. However this time,
there is the implication of sexual prowess of the male which reduces the female
to a sexual object. The announcement is a huge violation of her privacy and
completely ignores her major involvement in this situation. This scenario can
be linked to Immanuel Kant’s analysis of sexuality and marriage where sexual
desire is “very powerful force that conduces to the thing-like treatment of
persons” that Nussbaum clearly states results in “instrumentalizing of
persons…closely linked to both a denial of autonomy…and also to a denial of
subjectivity”. It is implied that her position in the relationship is inferior
and her opinion is unimportant. Katniss responds with the expected anger, but
there is also a failure on her part to realize the pattern emerging in her loss
of control and subsequent manipulation.

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