What Does Peeta See in Katniss Anyway? (Part Mockingjay)

Guest post Tuesday strikes again! Hunger Games Book Club is here to finish off her series “What Does Peeta See in Katniss Anyway?” and she’s doing it fanfic style, telling everything from Peeta’s POV!

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My name is Peeta Mellark. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games with Katniss Everdeen. My plan was to sacrifice myself in the arena so that Katniss could survive. But other people had plans as well. I was taken prisoner by the Capitol. I was tortured. I thought I was going to die. Maybe it would be better if I had.

Let me tell you my story in the way that I remember it… Before I was reaped into the Hunger Games, Katniss was a fantasy to me. The first time I heard her sing, I was a goner. I would watch her from afar but never approached her. One time, I even took a beating from my mother to give Katniss bread, but I could never work up the nerve to speak to her. I couldn’t meet her gaze… I would always look away.

Katniss Everdeen Peeta Mellark The Hunger Games still

Peeta doesn’t want them to turn him into some kind of monster

After I was reaped into the Hunger Games, I wanted to find a way to still be myself. I might not be able to win the Games, but I could refuse to let them change me or turn me into some kind of a monster that I’m not. I was determined to sacrifice myself for Katniss, to protect her long enough for her to win the Games. Yes, it’s true that I had a crush on her but it was more than that. I admired her. It was clear that her family was everything to her and even as a young girl, she shouldered the burden of caring for them. How could I not admire that? My own mother was abusive, controlling, and angry. If I could protect someone who was pure and innocent, it would keep me from being just a piece in the Capitol’s games. In this way, Katniss and I were alike: self-sacrificing… she for Prim, and I for her.

After we won the Hunger Games, Katniss and I had a period of coldness. I didn’t want that to continue on our Victory Tour so I made the first move to forgive, to let go of my hurt that she had acted in love with me during the Hunger Games. I knew that Katniss felt something for me but she hadn’t really figured it out yet. Gale was in the picture too and she was not sure about her feelings for him either. But there was something real between us underneath the act we played for the Capitol. For example, we worked on the Everdeen family plant book: Katniss wrote plant descriptions and I painted them. It was our first time doing something normal together. Just being friends.

When Gale was whipped by a fanatical Peacekeeper, every thing normal fell apart. Then we were reaped into the Quarter Quell. It stole away from us any chance of normal and any hope of mine that Katniss would make up her mind about me in a romantic sense. Besides having to face the arena again and knowing that even our best odds meant that only one of us was coming home, it was devastating to feel forced into asking her to marry me in front of the cameras. I wanted it to be real. But I turned my pain into a weapon by dropping a “bomb” on the Quarter Quell audience that we were already married and that Katniss was pregnant.

The marriage and pregnancy wasn’t real, but we had a few real moments: the day on the roof, that time on the beach. In the Quarter Quell arena, I gave Katniss this pearl. She accepted my gift. But with the giving of the pearl, came my realization that she was determined to save me this time, to sacrifice herself for me. I didn’t know what to do to convince her otherwise… my best efforts to persuade her to save herself backfired. All her stubborn will and self-sacrificing nature was directed at me this time, not Prim.

But she didn’t save me. District 13 rescued her and I was left in the clutches of President Snow, who began to hijack my mind. Maybe he believed I could give him information about the rebellion, maybe not. Mostly, he just wanted to break Katniss, and his best chance of doing that was by breaking me. My mind was something that I’d always been proud of: my objectivity, my right words at the right time, my charm. But the hijacking stole my mind. I couldn’t tell what was real and what was not. I held onto reality long enough to warn her about a bombing of District 13 but it was interspersed with doubt.

The Simplest Things Katniss Knows to be True

Eventually, though, I was worn down by the torture and hijacking techniques. When I saw Katniss again after District 13 finally rescued me, I thought she was threatening my life. She didn’t feel like a real person to me, more like a mutt that must be put down. I remembered that I had previously loved her but everything was so distorted. I couldn’t tell anymore what was an act and what wasn’t on her part. I couldn’t figure her out.

It seemed like everyone was moving me around in this elaborate mind-game: Katniss, Snow, Coin… everyone. Eventually, I recuperated enough for Coin to send me with Katniss’ team to infiltrate the Capitol. Her team created this game—“Real or Not Real”—to help me figure out what had really happened. Most of my questions were about Katniss. Sometimes she answered them. Sometimes I couldn’t even bear to ask.

But I began to remember more and more what was real. I began to feel and act like my old self, at moments between madness. Katniss responded to me with a plethora of emotions, but when it counted, she was still trying to protect me. And when Katniss assassinated President Coin and tried to take her nightlock to end it all, I couldn’t let her. I was still trying to protect her too.

After Panem fell and I recovered from my burns, I returned to Victor’s Village. Honestly, I didn’t have anywhere else to go. My family was gone. Katniss and Haymitch were the closest thing to family that I had. Despite all the betrayals and disappointments of the last year, they knew me better than anyone else. So I waited for Katniss to heal and I waited for myself to heal.

Mellark family The Hunger Games fan art

Mellark family album?

When I asked her if she loved me, real or not real, she said, “Real.” And I knew that she did love me. Katniss saw me at my worst, but she’s also saw me at my best. She admired how I could articulate right and wrong. My voice reached her when no one else’s could. We protected each other. That’s who we were; that’s what we did. Katniss appreciated my kindness, my steadiness, my warmth, my unconditional love. Perhaps she had taken those things for granted before, but now we went through too much for her not to appreciate them, to appreciate me. This is what we did together: we wrote a book of remembrance for the loved ones we’d lost and we sealed it with our tears. We promised each other that we would live well and make their lives count. We wanted a new beginning.

That was then; this is now. Some people will hear our story and it will move them toward hope. Some will hear and it will move them toward anger. We will be misunderstood. But know this, I believe that no matter how bad the losses may be, life can go on and it can be good again. My life has gone on. My life is good again. This is my greatest gift to Katniss. And now she is ready to receive it. Like a necklace of pearls, each real moment is strung together until there is wholeness and beauty again.

My name is Peeta Mellark. I am almost forty years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games with Katniss Everdeen. We fought Panem and won. We still bear scars but we survived. Now Katniss and I have our own family in a world without Games. All these things I longed for… now they are real.

Hunger Games Bookclub

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Posted on November 27, 2012, in Books, Characters and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. This is amazing.

  2. I loved it, too – many thanks!

  3. Wow HGBC, this is a magnum opus! :D

    I’m sure I’ll post more later, but let me discuss a few points that stood out on first read:

    1. The idea that Peeta sees Katniss as “pure and innocent”, not just because of her squeamishness about nudity and sex. This is quite different from how Katniss sees herself, yet it makes sense. I also wonder if Peeta felt inspired by Katniss’s act of sacrifice in volunteering for Prim, much as Katniss as later inspired by Peeta’s self-sacrificial acts?

    I agree that being self-sacrificial IS a common personality trait for them. Unlike Gale, who certainly does risk his life in the Capitol mission and earlier, but always in the context of doing something active to fight the enemy. Which is quite different from the frank martyrdom that both Peeta and Katniss are willing to accept.

    2. That you don’t portray Peeta as actually hating Katniss after being hijacked, even though this seems to be a very popular interpretation, and point out that he did see her as a mutt that was endangering him; even in the disastrous conversation after the Finnick-Annie wedding, Katniss has some flashes of insight about that, such as when she thinks he’s looking at her as if she could transform into a wolf-mutt any moment.

    BTW, I am pretty sure that by the time they have this conversation, Peeta DID remember loving Katniss, as you state. Though that makes me wonder: Peeta recalls the bread incident AND the “morning after” about the dandelions, and concludes that “I must have really loved you”. And yet, from both your THG post and this one, you seem to think that he didn’t really love the real Katniss, as opposed to the fantasy, until he really got to know her in THG and CF. So what do you make of Peeta’s comments about the bread?

    3. How you show Peeta to have regained most of his memories, not just by having him state, “I began to remember more and more what was real”, but by framing his POV in this piece as that of the Peeta who’s almost 40 years old, with a reflective quality similar to Katniss POV in the Epilogue. Whereas in your Caesar interview, he sounded like the 17 year old he is in CF. Makes me wonder, do you write fiction in real life?

    I liked this, because some people seem to see post-hijacking Peeta, even after his return to D12, as an amnesia victim who doesn’t remember any details about his history with Katniss, but loves her anyway. Even though this is clearly contradicted by canon, in which Peeta remembers verbatim whole snippets of prior dialogue, such as the comment about knowing what blood poisoning is, and of course the “she has no idea, the effect she can have” comment that he echoes back to her. Which, of course, reaches her when no one else, not even Gale, could, in terms of alleviating her guilt about lying about the mission to kill Snow.

    Finally, here’s the K-P parallel I thought up from MJ that I mentioned earlier. It’s about how Peeta’s decision to warn D13, and how he manages to pull it off despite his compromised psychological state at the times, seems to have a parallel with Katniss’s decision to kill Coin.

    I used to think Peeta’s outburst was spontaneous, but timetravelingbunny, who posts as Ivana on other sites, has suggested that he fooled Snow and others into thinking they’d broken him, but planned all along to expose their plans on national TV. He knew, of course, that this would lead to more torture and/or death, and yet he does it, not just for Katniss, but for others as well. This actually makes sense, because why would they be stupid enough to divulge their plans to Peeta at all, if they didn’t think he’d been so broken that he’d go along with them?

    And if this is true…then what Peeta does seems not that different from what Katniss does in the end. Katniss fooled Coin into thinking she’d broken her into going along with Coin’s evil plans, only to disrupt them later. Much like Peeta was likely motivated to protect Katniss but also wanted to save others in D13, I think that while Katniss was strongly motivated to avenge Prim, she also saw killing Coin as a way to protect OTHER innocents, and make Prim’s death count for something. And while she isn’t tortured or executed, she thought she would be.

    Now, much like their CF private sessions, the parallel is not absolute, in that while they both act to protect others expecting to pay a heavy price, Peeta does so by sounding the alarm about a threat, while Katniss does so with the more aggressive action of actually eliminating the threat. I think that while Katniss isn’t quite “Gale with tatas”, she is a bit more like Gale in that regard. (Just that, Gale eventually let his aggressive, destructive side win over his protective side, while Katniss manages to merge them into one decisive action.)

    And obviously, the fact that Peeta realized instantly that Katniss would try to kill herself after killing Coin, and acted to prevent it, while Gale was nowhere to be found, shows that by then, it was Peeta, not Gale, who really understood Katniss.

    • @Satsuma, thank you for the compliment about “magnum opus”! That made me smile all day :)

      I write in other genres, but I haven’t written any fiction since college. I didn’t really think of this as fan fiction, but after Victor’s Village introduced it as such, I realized that it actually is a form of fiction and so is another project I’ve been working on for months… I just didn’t call it by that name in my mind.

      Re: your point #2, I guess this is based on one of my own interpretations of what seems unrealistic to me. How can you really love someone if you don’t really know them? I don’t think that you can. I think you could have a crush on someone. I think you could really admire them. But I don’t call it love if you’ve never talked to them. Therefore, even if Peeta “believed” that he loved Katniss while he was growing up, I personally wouldn’t call that love. Therefore, since I don’t call that love, I’m calling it “fantasy” because I feel like that is a more accurate representation of Peeta’s observations of Katniss from afar. Some previous cyber conversations with timetravelingbunny convinced me further on that point. However, I believe that Peeta’s admiration/fantasy/crush grew into real love for a real person over the course of the books. He had months of interaction with Katniss, being at her house, being in her world, being a genuine friend, having these very intimate nights with her on the train even if they weren’t sexual, and the intensity of sharing the Victory Tour and arena together. Most people will say that they grew much closer to another person during a short intense period than they do with people they’ve known all their lives. So I think the intensity of being in those situations as each other’s only ally (or primary ally) gave them a sense of each other that Katniss and Gale never had when they were growing up.

      BTW, do you know what page Peeta’s comment is on? I can’t find it.

      Well, I’ve got a big, big, big, big day – I mean busy – so I’m going to have to finish my comments later…

      • HGBC: Oops, I was going off memory, and wound up misquoting Peeta! This is how the scene actually flows (on page 230):

        “I think you picked a dandelion.” I nod. He does remember. I have never spoken about that moment aloud. “I must have loved you a lot.”

        “You did.” My voice catches and I pretend to cough.

        “And did you love me?” he asks.

        I keep my eyes on the tiled floor. “Everyone says I did. Everyone says that’s why Snow had you tortured. To break me.”

        This scene certainly has potential to be a tearjerker in the MJ movie. Until the Capitol scenes, it’s pretty much the only moment of connection between P and K during MJ. (And then, of course, Peeta is ticked off by Katniss not giving him a straight answer, and the conversation goes WAY south from there…)

        It’s interesting though, that not only does Peeta “believe” he loved Katniss at the time of the bread incident, Katniss herself seems to do so as well. Although I share your, and TTBs, skepticism about how Peeta could have truly loved Katniss when he didn’t really know her. Be attracted to, and admire, sure. But love? It’s also interesting how we never hear Peeta actually say “I love you”. Though Katniss does mention that he “goes on about how he loves me, what life would be without me” during THG when he’s trying to convince Katniss to let him die.

        I also noticed the emphasis on “real” in your piece, and it occurs to me that Peeta likely struggled with the question of how much of what he had with Katniss was real and what was an act, even before the hijacking.

    • Satsuma, back to your thought #3, yes, in Catching Fire, Peeta is 16-17 so I wrote his interview with Caesar as a 17 year old. In Mockingjay, it begins with Katniss (and I’m assuming Peeta) being 17. I wasn’t sure how to shape this Mockinjay post until I realized that Katniss is two different ages in Mockingjay. She gives us her first “simplest things I know to be true” list on page 4 and spends most of the book being 17, but in the epilogue she says her little game of listing every act of goodness is something she’s been playing for more than twenty years, which would make her more than 37 years old. So I thought it would be interesting to give Peeta a chance to “speak” to the readers from those two age vantage points as well. Hence, the above MJ post.

      Yes, it did strike me in reading MJ this go-around that Peeta regains more and more of his memories and gains his ability to interpret them throughout MJ from his rescue to point of being returned to Victor’s Village. This is NOT static. He doesn’t go from totally normal Peeta, flipping to hijacked Peeta, then flipping back to normal Peeta. The hijacking of his memories took time, and the healing takes time… indeed the epilogue makes it clear that he doesn’t ever get complete healing. But IMHO it felt clear that Peeta’s action of grabbing Katniss’ shoulder and refusing to let her take the nightlock was him being enough of his old self to have a grasp on reality. I think of it like this: when he is first rescued, he is mostly in hijacked unreality with a few moments of reality (enough that he was able to warn Katniss/District 13 about invasion). As we travel through the story of MJ and Katniss’ team invades Capitol, things begin to shift for Peeta until he is eventually in reality most of the time, with only breaks of unreality/hijacking memories.

      I think that your parallel of Peeta and Katniss is brilliant. And I absolutely agree that it makes sense that Snow believed he had completely broken Peeta to the point where they shared their plans or let him overhear about the invasion. We can’t “prove” that from the canon, but I think it is the theory that makes the most sense, knowing Peeta and Snow.

      I 100% agree with how you’ve interpreted Katniss’ action: “I think that while Katniss was strongly motivated to avenge Prim, she also saw killing Coin as a way to protect OTHER innocents, and make Prim’s death count for something.” To me, that is the only way I can make sense of Katniss’ vote “for Prim”.

      And agree that both Peeta and Katniss knew that they would be greatly punished or even killed for their actions… but did it anyway. That self-sacrificing parallel we’ve been discussing. But I guess I hadn’t played out that scenario in my mind to the full implication, so I appreciate you pointing this out, which makes me admire Peeta even more :) : “And obviously, the fact that Peeta realized instantly that Katniss would try to kill herself after killing Coin, and acted to prevent it, while Gale was nowhere to be found, shows that by then, it was Peeta, not Gale, who really understood Katniss.”

      • In regard to your other comment where you quote page 230, yes, I guess Katniss and Peeta both believe that he must have really loved her at that point. Or maybe Peeta’s love comes more as a package deal… the whole thing from 5 years old to 17 is just a progression for him rather than distinct stages of “falling in love”.

        In regard to your statement: “I also noticed the emphasis on “real” in your piece, and it occurs to me that Peeta likely struggled with the question of how much of what he had with Katniss was real and what was an act, even before the hijacking.” Obviously, the whole real vs. not real thing is the guts of the Mockingjay story on all different levels.

        I completely agree that Peeta struggled with knowing what was real with Katniss and was wasn’t long before he was hijacked. I mean, Katniss is not very helpful with that at any of the points when she might have clarified it for him: when they are on train returning to District 12 after 74th HG, in those “cold” months before Victory Tour, or when they have the apology conversation at start of Victory Tour. Katniss states several times that SHE doesn’t know what was real or what she was acting in 74th HG either. But I do think she could have thrown Peeta a bone and at least tried to
        clarify SOMETHING for him that was real or an act. But she leaves it completely ambiguous, which I think set him up for the hijacking.

  4. Great!!! I love to read how peeta thought about this <3

  5. HGBC:
    “…it felt clear that Peeta’s action of grabbing Katniss’ shoulder and refusing to let her take the nightlock was him being enough of his old self to have a grasp on reality.” Certainly, especially as Katniss shooting Coin could easily have triggered a “shiny memory” of Katniss as a monstrous killer.

    I think in terms of overall recovery, while SC refers to him still having flashbacks, she also has Katniss realize that the cloudy, tortured look is gone from his eyes when she sees him in D12 for the first time. So I think that by the end of MJ, he does spend the vast majority of time grounded in reality. I assume that when you had him say “we still bear scars but we survived”, you are referring not just to the physical scars, but mental ones as well. But a scar is quite different from an open, bleeding wound. And I can definitely see Peeta seeing his life as having gone on and become good again.

    One problem I have with some of the extremely negative takes on the end of MJ, is that it’s basically saying that if you have a traumatic experience at age 16-17, your life will be ruined forever and can never be good again. Which I’m sure many teenagers actually do believe, I just don’t think that was SC’s message. Even Haymitch seems to gain some measure of peace. even though he is still a drunkard, at least he becomes functional enough to raise geese.

    I think I’m more lenient on Katniss than you are; that is, if you’re suggesting that she should blame herself for contributing to the hijacking’s success by keeping things ambiguous. (She already blames herself for getting separated from him, and providing Snow with a motive to torture him.) How could she have “thrown Peeta a bone” when SHE doesn’t know what was real?

    I also think that the CF beach scene was certainly as real as real could be, even though Katniss says “I need you” instead of “I love you”, I think Peeta at the time realized what happened wasn’t just about a Games strategy or raging teenage hormones, but a real sign of her love. Hence why he later says “the locket didn’t work…not the way I wanted it to”. And how even when he’s later talking to Gale and tries to dismiss her kissing him on the beach as “just for show”, there is an element of doubt in his voice. However, I think that because K and P are split up shortly after this, the memory by itself couldn’t compete with others that supported the “she doesn’t really love me” interpretation reinforced by the hijacking.

    Now, I agree that Katniss did take Peeta’s love for granted, and for much of the story, seems to assume that he will wait for her to figure things out. I think one reason she is so much more open with her feelings during the QQ and just before, is because she knows their time together is limited. I also suspect the hijacking would have been far less effective if Katniss had made it unequivocal to Peeta that she DID love him. It would likely have taken longer to accomplish, or been easier to reverse. But I don’t think this means Katniss shares any blame for what happened.

    I am also more lenient as to her treatment of him in MJ, when she herself is struggling with real and not real, and spends much of the time drugged with morphling, which we know also has hallucinatory effects. Note that she blames herself for the D12 bombing long before Peeta accuses her of it. I also find it fascinating, in terms of parallels, that SC later has Peeta also wondering if he himself is to blame, when he asks “The fire was my fault, real or not real?” Both K and P seem to have a tendency to bear the weight of the world on their shoulders, and hold themselves responsible for things most people wouldn’t.

    I also am curious; many people have suggested that post-hijacking, Peeta realizes that Katniss isn’t perfect, and recognizes flaws that he’d overlooked before. Some even think Katniss’s monologue about how he finds her to be “violent, manipulative, deadly”, aren’t meant to be the rantings of a person who was already suffering from PTSD and depression, but the truth about how horrible she is. While I think that’s going way too far, I do wonder, do you think that Peeta being able to “grow back together” with Katniss was based simply on his remembering that he loved her before? Or does it represent a deeper love based on a more realistic appreciation of Katniss as a person with deep flaws as well as great strengths?

    • @Satsuma, I love a good literature debate. Feel free to come on over to my Hunger Games Bookclub facebook page and throw down the gauntlet any time!

      I actually hadn’t thought about the fact that if Peeta didn’t have more of a grip on reality, Katniss’ assassination of Pres Coin would have triggered a shiny memory, but you are absolutely right.

      Same with my comment on “we still bear scars but we survived”… I was referring to the emotional scars: Katniss being more of depression, nightmares, and PTSD and Peeta’s being more of the hijacking memories and nightmares, which he had before being hijacked. Also, Suzanne Collins doesn’t really go into this much, but she does have Katniss make a brief comment once about how she can’t forget the people she killed. It was separate comment from the times she talks about how guilty she feels, this was more of a reference that a soldier might make but I can’t remember the exact way she describes it.

      Anywho… in regards to “And I can definitely see Peeta seeing his life as having gone on and become good again.” Although Katniss is not quoting Peeta, she is saying that statement directly followed by “And only Peeta can give me that.” So it made sense to me that this is either something that Peeta has said to her or the way she feels about life when she is with him.

      I think for Katniss to “blame” herself for Peeta’s hijacking is way too strong a word. I think he would have been messed up no matter what she had said or done. And I agree that Katniss didn’t understand her own mind, so how could she be blamed for not communicating that to Peeta? However, the only concrete time that she uses words with Peeta is when she says “I need you”. I think if she had been able to verbalize more to him, even if it was “I care about you but I’m not sure what that means” then it might have made it easier on Peeta during recovery because he could have had some real memories to to distinguish from shiny ones. But most of the “real” memories with Katniss are special but also ambiguous and without words (which is Peeta’s main love language if you will)… Katniss’ actions are able to be taken many different ways. So while I don’t blame Katniss, I just wish she would have been able to get to that more vulnerable part of herself and verbalize with Peeta to his face instead of to the camera at the point when she says something like how she finally opens up the way Haymitch wanted her to all along.

      Agree: “if Katniss had made it unequivocal to Peeta that she DID love him. It would likely have taken longer to accomplish, or been easier to reverse.”

      Yes, I agree there’s another parallel between K/P that they tend to bear more responsibility and weight than deserved. Katniss shot the arrow into the force-field but she didn’t start a war with that, the Capitol bombed. To me, that is the same type of argument that a rapist would use to justify his actions because a woman was wearing heels and a short skirt. The one action does not justify or demand the second. It’s a crap argument.

      I do not agree with Katniss when she thinks Peeta thinks she is “violent, manipulative, deadly”. I think she is beating herself up almost worse than what Peeta says to her. Almost a martyrdom complex and a “I’m so bad, all this is my fault”. Goodness, who wouldn’t be depressed with thoughts like that?! Let alone all the “reality” of having someone you love being tortured and everything else that happened.

      At the end of my post, I had Peeta say something like Katniss has seen the worst of him and decided to love him anyway. I can say the same thing in reverse roles. I think Peeta has seen the worst of Katniss, now not a fantasy, and decides to love her anyway… which is much more real. Indeed “a deeper love based on a more realistic appreciation of Katniss as a person with deep flaws as well as great strengths.” And that is exactly why I see MJ as ending on a victorious note, not tragedy!!!!!

  6. TheGirlwiththeBread

    *Le Crying*

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