It’s not hard to see that fictional characters are often forced into the role of pawns. In a well-written story, the hero or heroine is placed in an unexpected situation, and the outcome of the adventure is dependent on how they handle – or don’t handle – what falls on their plate.
The Hunger Games novels by Suzanne Collins are a prime example of this. The main character is one Katniss Everdeen, the District 12 tribute for the annual Hunger Games who not only defeats the Capitol at their own game, but eventually (and unwillingly) leads the rest of the districts into rebellion. The “girl on fire” ignites a war that leads to change across the entire nation of Panem. But Katniss also spends the entire trilogy as some sort of pawn: as a tribute in the Games, as a mouthpiece for the Capitol, and finally as the Mockingjay for the rebels. The twists and turns of the story come from how she chooses to obey or defy each new order. Unfortunately, as the trilogy goes on, the repeated traumas Katniss endures affect her in a very real way. By the end of the series, she is little more than a broken doll; she’s still being played with, but she’s not nearly the same person as she once was.
All throughout the books, we see her fight back against those seeking to dictate her actions: defying the Capitol, defying her mentor, defying the rebels, defying orders, defying expectations. And yet, her ending isn’t exactly happy. True, she’s allowed to live in peace in the remains of District 12, she has Peeta, and they even have children, but she’s still haunted by the past. She’s still suffering from PTSD, the nightmares never completely go away, and her peace of mind remains a fragile state. There’s no evidence to suggest that remaining a pawn would have made anything better, yet it’s also clear that fighting against everything didn’t gain her the freedom she was hoping for.
It can be depressing to watch a character struggle against so many odds and still never find what they are seeking. But maybe the takeaway lesson isn’t simply to fight and keep fighting. Perhaps it’s a matter of choosing your battles wisely, or only fighting if you have something worth fighting for. Either way, there are limitations on what human beings can do to save themselves.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Until the next time, keep reading!
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I have two passions: reading and writing. You can't write good stories without first reading good stories - that's my theory, anyway. So this is where I'll share with you the depth of those passions: background on what and why I write, as well as talking about the books that I read and how they impact my writing.