Archetypal Patterns in The Hunger Games

Archetypal Patterns in The Hunger Games

            Psychologist Carl Jung created the theory of the “collective unconscious” claiming that humans shared some innate predispositions characterized in the form of archetypes. According to Jung’s theory archetypes “are images and thoughts which have universal meanings across cultures which may show up in dreams, literature, art or religion.” The Hunger Games is such literature that harbors a variety of different archetypal patterns within the numerous characters, though more notably there is The Hero in Katniss and The Innocent in both Prim and Rue.

According to “Archetypes in Myth, Folklore, and Literature” the hero is “usually portrayed as…a man of outstanding qualities and abilities who embodies the ideal aspirations [and] consciousness of his culture and society.” It is easy to apply this definition of the archetypal hero to The Hunger Games protagonist Katniss; Katniss is a poor girl from one of the many underprivileged districts who happens to be incredibly skilled with a bow and arrow and volunteered for the games to save her younger sibling. Katniss is the embodiment of hope for theses underprivileged people: having previously navigated the same impoverished conditions she isn’t ignorant to the injustices enacted upon the districts and acts as a tender almost motherly figure, not only sacrificing herself for Prim but then taking Rue under her wing to provide her protection. Despite these things Katniss is not unflawed; she is emotionally reclusive and her lack of empathy causes her to be cruel to both her mother and Peeta. Her grandeurs legend, relatability, and ability to inspire all categorize Katniss as an archetypal hero.

Much like her sister Prim (and to more of an extent Rue) fits into the provided definition of the classic Innocent archetype. The Innocent, defined as “a child or a naïve inexperience man or woman, exposed to the menace of the evil world,” is often portrayed by young women. In a society where your children are annually rallied off to most-likely be slaughtered for the privileged’s entertainment to distract them from the deplorable poverty they inflict on their underclass, innocence is something that’s lost rather early. Prim embodies this fleeting innocence in that she’s only twelve at the cusp of her womanhood, she’s empathetic, nurturing, and an animal lover but also it is her first reaping, the first time she must open herself to these deprivable practices of society and though Katniss only allows her to enter her name into the drawing once to try to lower the odds her name is still drawn. The definition of the Innocent adds, “Sometimes Innocence is its own protection, sometimes it’s not,” this notion is evident between our two archetypal characters: with Prim her innocence causes her sister to volunteer herself to slaughter to try to keep her protected; even though Rue exhibits similar characteristics as Prim she still ends up in the games.

Rue too is a representative of the Innocent archetype and vastly parallels Prim in that she too is at twelve, nurturing, empathetic, trusting and harbors traditionally female characteristics, liking flowers, singing, etc. Rue being the oldest in her family doesn’t have anyone to volunteer in her place and unlike Prims is truly exposed to the evils of the world by being forced to partake in the games. Though through her innocence Rue is able to find protection through her alliance with Katniss, it is not enough to save her from death. Rue’s death represents the notion that innocence cannot be saved and though it seemed that Katniss could keep her safe ultimately safety and innocence is never guaranteed. The promises Katniss made to both the archetypal innocent characters, though mostly Rue’s death push Katniss to strive to her to finish her journey.

The Hunger Games tells the story of a girl trying to protect the ones she loves and survive perilous reality show she is forced to engage in. Like all works of literature (and stories in general) The Hunger Game’s characters embody varying archetypal patterns. Katniss along with her sister Prim and fellow competitor Rue embody some of these archetypal patterns as the hero and the innocents respectively.

About the Author

Sierra Beeler is a Senior at UNCC, majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Film and Women and Gender studies. Forever a daydreamer, Sierra aspires to one day monopolize an entire weeknight with her own slew of TV shows, more popular than anything Shonda Rhimes could make. On the rare occasions when Sierra is not somewhere being obnoxious, you can find her doing one of her many passions: writing, drawing, filming, screeching (also known as singing), etc.