Some people have expressed that they don’t believe Peeta is a pacifist in response to the page I posted today. First off, thanks for taking the time to look at my work, and I love any and all discussion it may elicit. I would like to attempt to describe my intended message with today’s page:
Thank you very much for taking the time to discuss your thought process regarding your art. I am truly sorry if my comments led you to IN ANY WAY question your artistic choices because I really do like your work very much (I hope I indicated as such in the tags), and I wouldn’t have reblogged it if I didn’t! My comments were merely to place it in the context of other discussions that I have had with other fans about the themes of the work in general and Peeta’s thoughts on violence and war in particular. Because I do think I am probably just a bit sensitive to the notion of idealizing Peeta’s character in order to emphasize the perceived contrast between him and other characters (for example, and in particular, Gale). Please note that that I am NOT saying that this is something that you subscribe to; indeed, from what you wrote, I do think that we’re largely in agreement regarding that it isn’t Peeta’s **preference** to fight (although, as I wrote, to me, I think this reflects a pragmatic attitude rather than idealistic pacifism). I am linking two discussion threads that I hope convey my thoughts and gives some context as to my comments (not to say that my own comments are insightful but other people’s are!):
Generally, I do think that Peeta does represent the kinder impulses that, I think, are somewhat foreign to the culture of Panem because life is so (deliberately) hard. Starting from the fact that he was the ONLY person to help the Everdeens in their time of need without any ulterior motive to the fact that HE was the one who conceived of the utterly revolutionary notion to fight for someone else’s life in the arena during the 74th Games to his complete and unabashed disgust at the concept of a Capitol hunger games, despite all of his sufferings, the killing of his family, the genocide of his district, his torture, and the almost-successful alienation from the woman whom he loved. And yet he still repudiates the concept of revenge and bloodlust in favor of more peaceful solutions.
As you note, before the first Games, he concedes that he will kill if he has to, but, to me, it is meaningful that he never trivializes the death of people, however necessary it might be to his survival, because he understands the gravity of the act even in the abstract before his first Games and certainly after that first arena. Really, I have always wondered about his point of view when he was allied with the careers because their worldview must have been so anathema to him. And yet they describe him as handy with a knife, which, at least to me, does indicate that Katniss was right in surmising that he’d have skill in hand-to-hand combat (not to mention that I think that it is at least possible that he fought at the cornucopia, and I think that that would take some skill in fighting as well).
I really cannot express how much I appreciate the very thoughtful post that you wrote/submitted regarding your motivations, although I do think that the artwork does stand alone and was just well done. Really, I love being able to analyze things, and it’s the rare piece that really lends itself to being a springboard for discussion, which is what your work did (and, to me, that is a GOOD thing). Argh, I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself enough, but, really, I do mean absolutely no disrespect when I engaged with your work—I was just riffing on my own personal perspective on things.
I know how challenging it can be to place artwork and words out in the public for consumption, so I also want to take the time to convey my appreciation for your choice to share the work. And while you say that you’re new to tumblr, I do hope that you stick around because it seems that you have an incredible amount to contribute. And I very, very much look forward to the subsequent installments of your series. And I hope that you also post your thoughts as well, not because I think that they’re at all necessary to explain your works, but because your analysis was just wonderful.
To PostHungerGamesSyndrome: Good point. It’s so much harder not to react when provoked. Restraint can require unbelievable self-control, a lot more that matching might with might. I consider Peeta’s gentleness more of a feat of iron will than if he fought more often.
HawthornHedge: Thank you for your encouragement, analysis and the links. Your comments were VERY insightful. Phenomenal points, all. Reading it brought all sorts of things to mind that I’ve always wanted to weigh in on regarding Peeta. They wouldn’t leave my mind, so I typed them out. I’m super long-winded, so don’t feel obligated to read, but it’s here for anyone who wants to read. Most specifically, I wanted to revisit your point that Peeta is described as being handy with a knife. There’s always been a sticking point for me with the female tribute from Eight. I could never quite get my mind around what’s going on there. Is he going back because he thinks he can give her a swift and merciful deathblow, where the Careers may not? Or is he more focused on proving himself to the Careers, so they think he is as unfeeling as they are, and will not try to defend Katniss when they find her? What do you think?
There was a mention of ‘whitewashing’ peeta’s character in the links that I totally agree with. I think he’s often dumbed-down into a cuddly caricature of a teddy bear. Even though Katniss herself says there’s ‘an entire world locked away’ within Peeta, many people can’t or choose not to see it. And much of it definitely isn’t the adoring puppy-sidekick-to-Katniss persona that people assume is there.
Peeta is an expert manipulator and skilled liar, and I think that with practice he could use people as completely and cruelly as Haymitch often does. He constantly lies to an entire nation and gets away with it, even when his falsehoods could easily be exposed (like with a pregnancy test! But exposing Peeta as a liar would throw a shadow of doubt on everything he had professed in the past, and exposing the partial fabrication of the ’star-crossed lovers’ is not something Snow is likely willing to risk, a fact Peeta brilliantly gambles on).
The admirable thing about Peeta is that he chooses not to go there, not to play people like pawns as Haymitch and Snow do, even though he could, to an extent. He DOES lie and manipulate, but it’s always to further his and Katniss’ survival, or expose the Games for what the are. Katniss is at first wary of him, when she discovers his skill at being duplicitous, but she never sees him take advantage of someone with his ability. Despite this knowledge about him, he gains her trust (not an easy feat).
Peeta shrewdly utilizes self-deprecating humor and flattery to ingratiate himself to others (Caesar, Effie, Tigris). This also serves to make his opponents underestimate him – The careers write him off as a ’lover boy’ because of his interview, but he absolutely stole their spotlight, and because they look down on him for doing it without utilizing his brute strength (the only asset they recognize he has), he’s able to handily outsmart them on their Katniss-chase and thwart Cato when he’s almost got her.
Ingratiation sounds like a cowardly, sycophantic quality, but Peeta uses it to play Caesar like a fiddle, an ability which is absolutely integral to their survival and later, the revolution. His willingness to cozy up to people he might find distasteful, like Caesar and Effie, is another piece of cleverness. In Mockingjay, Peeta says, ‘never underestimate the power of a brilliant stylist‘. I love this quote because, once again, we see Peeta putting people at ease and spreading a little much-needed kindness, but it actually illustrates a very key part to Peeta’s personality: he doesn’t underestimate people, or write them off (Katniss is notorious at writing people off, several times she even chastises herself for her uncharitable thoughts regarding her prep team. She also downplays the relationships she has with everyone in District 12 but the Hawthornes: Madge, Sae, Mr. Mellark). He seems fairly nonjudgmental and accepting.
The fact that Peeta doesn’t discount people is one of the reasons I think he’s a better strategist than Gale. Gale is brilliant, and I truly, deeply respect his character. There are certain ways I think he falls short of Peeta, and this is one of them. Gale is a courageous rebel, but so is Peeta. Gale operates with the threat of strict punishment in district 12, punishment he receives in CF. Peeta rebels as well, but in a way that I feel is more subtle, but exponentially more pervasive, often from the heart of the capitol itself. Gale wants to take down the Capitol, and he’s willing to make some big collateral sacrifices on the way (The Nut, devising weapons of war). He sees the entire Capitol as either the enemy or necessary casualties of war, a view constantly expressed to Katniss.
Peeta sees the people of the Capitol as potential allies . He appeals to them. He shows them, in a non-threatening, welcoming way, that their practices are causing heartbreak (the potential loss of one of the star-crossed lovers in the games), the loss of innocent life (their unborn child), and indescribable pain. And he does it simply by opening up and sharing the contents of his heart to them. By making the people of the Capitol feel like his confidantes and friends regarding his love for Katniss, luring them into empathizing with his and her plight, Peeta helps to firmly and lastingly turn the tide of public opinion in their favor. The Capitol citizens’ love for Katniss and Peeta and resulting uncertainty when their loyalties appear divided between the Capitol and 13 in MJ, is, in my opinion, absolutely key.
Every person in the Capitol that feels for ‘the star-crossed lovers’ (and we’re led to believe there’s a lot of them), is one fewer emphatic supporter of Snow, and one more potential ally (or at least non-interfering bystander) in the conflict between Snow and 13. Public opinion is hugely important to leaders, even absolute ones. Had the people of the capitol had an ‘us vs. them’ mindset (Gale‘s mindset), I think casualties and destruction would be much greater, as Snow could have much more effectively vilified her, and taken grander steps to crush all opposition. He wouldn’t have to play to the public, his hands tied, in competition with 13 for which side can look more righteous to viewers of propos and the interviews. But Peeta clouded the issue quite nicely, got sympathy and support, and left the Capitol divided on whether The Mockingjay was a force of good or bad for them. I think this must have caused Snow many, many problems, evidenced in his efforts to clarify the issue with Peeta’s interviews under duress. Now that’s some brilliant strategy, carried out with a only a few words right from under Snow’s thumb.
The myth that Peeta is a one-dimensional ’nice guy’ who can’t be unpleasant is infuriating too. Besides the brilliantly pointed out scene in CF from your link, when he tells Haymitch and Katniss off in D11, there are some other scenes that people seem to forget. There’s the heavily-quoted scene on the rooftop in THG, when she tells him his point of view going into the Games is essentially pointless: “Peeta smiles at me, sad and mocking. “Okay. Thanks for the tip, sweetheart.” It’s like a slap in the face.” Collins spells it out for us! He is mocking the girl he loves to her face! Patronizing the person he just confessed to loving for the last eleven years! This is their first interaction since his confession, so in his eyes, the first opportunity to appeal to her in a romantic way, now that the chips are on the table. They’ve still only exchanged words about a dozen times, maybe even less, and he unhesitatingly defends his perspective and belittles hers snidely. He then goes on to coolly dismiss her from the conversation as though she couldn’t possibly have anything of worth yet to offer. Doesn’t sound like a pushover to me. I remember the first time I read it – I actually laughed aloud in surprise and delight that he had the gall to put her in her place like that.
There’s also the time in the cave when she writes him off as not being able to understand feeling indebted to someone. He pretty much sneers at her and sarcastically agrees that he ‘couldn’t possibly understand’. He’s not agreeing with her, Peeta is (gasp!) angry, and responding to her simplistic assessment of him with nastiness of his own. He also constantly subverts her wishes and plans with his own. He can see her faults(and get annoyed by them), but he loves her anyways. Yes, he is usually a ‘nice guy,’ something that should earn him more respect than scorn with fans, but I repeatedly hear his generally amiable nature listed as a flaw! I think Collins tried to make some much-needed headway in redefining ‘masculinity’ with Peeta (a subject I will delightedly post about some other time) but I fear that it’s often largely missed. Peeta can get angry. He can be mean. And there is evidence of it in the book. I think he successfully and admirably strives to rise above those responses when he can. Complaints that he’s not a complete character stem from people not reading the books carefully (Or at all. Curses, movie!)
Finally, you said something really important about Peeta, that he never trivializes life. There was a moment, when rereading the first book after finishing the trilogy for the first time, that was like an ‘aha!’ moment for me. Right after Katniss is reaped, and she’s speaking to Gale, he’s trying to convince her to look at the games like a hunt. She expresses doubt, and when comparing killing animals for food with killing children for competitive survival, he says, “how different can it be, really?” The first time I read that, it was a shocking thought, but it fit with Gales character, the world they lived in, what he’d been through, what he’d given up, what he had to do to survive. It also fit with his anger at the Capitol. It still does. The second time, however, it struck me as something I couldn’t ever see Peeta saying, even if put in similar circumstances. Katniss herself was taken aback. Paired with his orchestration of the siege at The Nut, and Katniss’ likening it to just a giant snare Gale had devised, this time with people, it seemed like a reiteration of Collins’ comment about Gale’s fire being something that would prove destructive for Katniss. To me, that response in Gale and my belief that Peeta would never share it, is reinforcement, all the way back in the beginning of the first book, of why it would’ve always been Peeta for Katniss. Your spot-on assessment reminded me of that moment.
…and I’m done! Finally! If you read this far, you’re a sweetheart (And not in the mocking, Haymitch way).
Re the District 8 tribute, it may or may not surprise you that I also have thoughts on that!
Suffice to say, my personal interpretation is that it was a mercy kill, bolstered by the fact that when Katniss visited the District 8 hospital in Mockingjay, the patients seemed to be VERY fond of Peeta and quick to rationalize his statements as being under duress (which I thought was an incredible and meaningful contrast to how the D13 people and too many of the rebels were eager to dismiss Peeta as traitorous without really considering his situation). I also find it curious that Katniss doesn’t mention that part being replayed in the recap of their Games. At the very least, I am pretty sure that Peeta was far kinder (as much as one can be under the circumstances) than any of the Careers would have been in administering the final death blow. I always kind of wonder if he “proved” himself to careers by killing the male D4 tribute in order to create an opening in the pack….
And I absolutely agree that there is a tendency (even, and maybe particularly, in CANON) to dismiss Peeta as a cuddly puppy with no bite, which is so, so, SO far from the case. I mean, I love a good “actual puppy Peeta Mellark” gif set as much as the next person (because, come on, he probably is adorable in canon), but that is really just one aspect of his personality. My personal spin on Peeta is that his skill at physical camouflage is no accident by Collins, and he is exceptionally good at controlling the parts of himself that he presents to the world (he concealed his crush on Katniss for eleven years-that takes a LOT of skill). When Katniss, Haymitch, and Finnick talk about Peeta being too good for them or not as vicious (or whatever) as the typical victor, on the one hand, I think that they think that they are praising him. But, really, the practical effect is to alienate themselves from Peeta and they never really see him as a person who is just as skilled as survival as they are even though (and to circle back to some of your original points) his preference is to try to talk his way out of a situation rather than resort to violence. Although, I always kind of chortle when Katniss thinks that Peeta would have tried to make some sort of pan-tribute alliance at the Quell cornucopia-yes, Peeta’s first instinct isn’t violence, but he also would recognize that there are limits to what talking can do!
And, oh, goodness, I absolutely adore the canonical version of Katniss and Peeta’s first rooftop scene, where he’s trying to explain his thought processes and his viewpoint, only to get pretty summarily dismissed by Katniss. And how he similarly takes issue when she assumes that he won’t understand why she and Thresh want to immediately discharge any perceived sense of owing other people. Both of these scenes show that he has bite, that he is willing to challenge Katniss when he disagrees with her, that he is willing to stand up for himself, and that he has SUCH an emotional investment in trying to make himself understood to Katniss.
And re your last points, that is absolutely a distinction between Gale and Peeta that I am fully on board with and which I think is supported by Collins’ presentation in the books. I don’t think that it is an accident that, even after all the horrible things that he has been through and WILL go through, Peeta is the most consistent vocalizer of the toll that killing takes on a person and the immorality of unnecessary death. Because he NEVER sees death as an allowable way in order to take revenge and he so, so, so fiercely advocates against the Capitol games at that last victor vote, even though he would have just as many reasons as anyone else to want to exact revenge. But that’s not what drives Peeta, and that’s one of the reasons why I really adore his character.
Oh, and I really look forward to your thoughts re masculinity in the series; to me it’s been vaguely fascinating (in a horrified sort of way) to consider how people perceive Peeta’s masculinity and the weird sort of importance that can be placed on it. One of the best essays that I’ve read touching upon it is this one:
But I’d really love to read your thoughts in general and talk about it!
(p.s.: to everyone who isn’t a THG fan, sorry for the length…I just have a lot of feelings when it comes to Peeta Mellark)