I did it.
I finished The Hunger Games.
Not that I thought that I wouldn’t; as I’ve said many times, I knew that I would like them. But, after flipping that final page in Mockingjay, I just really felt like I had to set aside some time to sort through the myriad of thoughts going through my head, both as an author and also as a reader.
First of all, there’s only one thing I have to say:
FINNICK’S DEAD. My life is over.
Just kidding. 😉 Seriously though, he was one of my favorite characters (even surpassing Gale by the end). Finnick is (or, err, was) what we writers call a dynamic, round character. He had a thoroughly thought-out personality, character, and history. He was certainly not a stock character, least of all the “suave lady-killer” that we first anticipate him to be. He was real. He was human. A little messed up, confused, and yet sincerely vying for something, as we all are.
My issue with Finnick’s death is just that — that he’s dead. That, despite the great pains we went to to rescue his mentally unstable Annie, get them married, and then have him die without ever seeing the face of his baby is, in one word, despicable. Collins, you really peeved me with this, and it’s not just for the simple fact that, as a reader, I liked Finnick. It’s because, as a writer also, I know that you have committed a great taboo.
You killed a character that didn’t need to die just for the sake of eliciting an emotional response.
Now, to rebut the argument that I know is coming: I do not believe for one moment that Finnick’s death was to “support the genre,” as some may say. “He needed to die because the main focus of The Hunger Games is tragedy. It’s that people die and it’s not fair.” Bull.
Collins has dedicated three entire books to developing the concept that the world is an unfair, tragic place. All she actually proved was that she crafted a brilliant character named Finnick who, when it came down to it, decided not a climb a ladder and instead have himself blown up with a pack of lizard-wolf things rather than climbing UP the ladder and THEN blowing up the lizard-wolf things. Collins tries to throw in this fake “nobility,” that “oh I’ll stay behind so you can get away,” but the situation makes it look ridiculous. So, all she really accomplished is finding a pathetic opportunity for an emotionally attached character to die so that her readers would be sucked back in.
If that’s the way you have to suck readers back in, you gotta work on plot. Really.
Finnick’s death gets a whole paragraph. Rue’s got like four pages at least. This is unfair and just goes to prove that his death was almost like an afterthought. “Oh, this part’s getting a little dull. What could I do to fix it?” Collins thinks. “Oh, I’ll kill Finnick. Suddenly he’s too stupid to climb a ladder. And then, just for kicks, I’ll make his now-wife Annie NOT ONLY have a baby but also know that he died having his head ripped off, which was the same method (on another person) that drove her insane in the first place. Pleasantly peachy.”
I am disgruntled. Not because Finnick is dead and I wish he were still alive but because his death was unnecessary emotional fuel. Instead, Collins could have had Finnick reunite with Annie and give a different (but just as powerful) emotion boost to the plotline. Personally, I think that that would have been a wiser choice in order to balance out the possible (and very present) negative opinions of the next issue I want to talk about: the fact the Katniss and Peeta end up together.
Let me set something straight now — I have no issues with the fact that Katniss ended up with Peeta. I’ll explain why in a moment, but for now, let me finish this Finnick rant.
Collins should have known when she put Gale and Peeta in opposition to each other that one half of the readership would be displeased when Katniss made her final decision. SO, in order to appease that readership (which is now that half shouting “Mockingjay sucked!”), how about we keep Finnick and Annie alive, because they were the couple that everybody agreed on. The emotional appeal of that outweighs the sudden jarring punch that Collins threw in when she killed Finnick.
Anyway…why am I part of the half that is fine with Katniss and Peeta? “Oh, you ignorant fool!” you all shout. “Obviously she and Gale were meant for each other!” I disagree.
She and Gale were the epitome of a good friendship — you fight, you make up, you have fun, you learn things together, and you generally just really appreciate each other’s existence. But the hatred and resentment present within Gale (although certainly not directed at Katniss) is like a poison that would eat away at her. We’ve already seen evidence of it when she talks about how uncomfortable she was whenever Gale talked about destroying the Capitol during their younger years. Katniss is already a pessimistic, grouchy girl. She doesn’t need an angry and sulky guy to spend every waking moment with her for the rest of her life. Fire feeds fire, and I think Katniss has had enough of being “the girl on fire” for one lifetime.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the friendship that Katniss and Gale share. I always look forward to their encounters with each other. It is for this reason that I am so disappointed in Collins that she would just have Gale vanish. Literally, like poof.
“Oh, he found a job in District 2.”
Well good for him. How about saying goodbye? Or maybe telling us what kind of job he got? Or if he ever comes to visit? Katniss was such a HUGE part of his life — he admits quite boldly that he does in fact love her. And the he leaves…without another word. This is not Gale.
This is not that Gale that would die for Katniss. What happened to him, Collins?
That is my disappointment with Gale. I have spent the last few days convincing myself that he left in order to remove himself as a variable in Katniss’ life, making it easier for her to choose Peeta and get on with life with no regrets or awkward feelings of him still being there and living in the same town. Katniss seems to feel this too, saying after she hears that he’s gone, “I dig around inside myself, trying to register anger, hatred, longing. I find only relief.” Still, I’m left dissatisfied.
Now, for Peeta himself. Oh jeeze. Remember how I wanted SO BADLY for Peeta to die in the first two books? Yeah, that was because he wasn’t a character. He was a stock cardboard cutout character whose sole purpose in life was to worship the ground Katniss walked on and be unconditionally in love with her no matter how much she wished him to Hell and back. Thankfully, Collins remedies this in the final book.
Granted, it’s with quite a bit of insanity and homicidal tendencies, but now he’s real.
It is for this reason that I began to like Peeta a lot more in Mockingjay. Thus, when Katniss decides that she loves him (and I make a very important note here that she decides, not feels), I am okay with it. He is not Gale, the fiery anger-monger. Peeta is back to the way he used to be (despite occasional relapses) — quiet, gentle. The exact thing that Katniss needs to keep her from drowning in the deep well of her own pessimism and grouchiness.
As I said above, though, she decided to love Peeta. I do not believe that Katniss loves Peeta in the way that Peeta loves Katniss. Peeta loves her as an action, a way of life, and an intense feeling. Katniss does not have the feeling of love that he has. That is what I compliment Collins on. She realizes that love is not a feeling, it is a choice. And Katniss chooses to love Peeta for a multitude of good reasons, and I do believe that the feeling “love” accompanies their relationship later.
Another reason that I support Katniss/Peeta is Gale’s removal (however unintentional) from her life. He slowly distances himself from her as the final book progresses, becoming more agitated and harder to please, playing on her sympathies. When he cries in order to get Katniss to kiss him, saying that he knew she would do so “because I was hurting. That’s the only time you notice me.” The awkward conversation about whether Katniss blames him for creating the bomb that killed Prim. They drifted apart, big time.
Gale has no insight into what Katniss goes through as a Victor. He does not understand, however much he may want to try, her nightmares, her insecurity about feeling happy, or her guilt. These things will never leave her life, and at the same time, they are things that she cannot simply ignore. They can’t be talked down, as in Gale saying, “Come here. It’ll be okay.” Gale cannot understand, through no fault of his own other than not being chosen as a Tribute himself. Peeta, however, is right alongside Katniss in not only having suffered through two Hunger Games (one a Quarter Quell, no less) but of having endured them with her. He knows exactly what’s bothering her and why because he watched it happen. Not only can he heal her fractured personality, Peeta can heal Katniss’ old wounds in a way that Gale cannot (and he may even aggravate them more). And that is why I believe that Katniss and Peeta are a good match.
The reason people are dissatisfied with it, I believe, is because our culture expects happy endings where two people are so insanely in love with each other that they get married, and this is not what happens with Katniss. Peeta loves her immutably, but Katniss must grow into that feeling by making the choice to stick with him until then. That doesn’t sit well in our modern “teen love” idealism, but it’s more true than Twilight. Ugh.
So yeah. Finnick’s death upset me more than Katniss/Peeta, but that’s my personal opinion. Everyone’s entitled to their own. I would heartily recommend this series (yes, all THREE books. Mockingjay is good too, you pessimists).
Oh, and Collins. I do have one final thing to say to you. That idea about the biographical book that Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch put together? Genius. Pure, unadulterated genius. THAT is how to elicit an emotional response for a reader. Good work.