26 April 2012

+JMJ+

Character Connection 33


This post is dedicated to my youngest brother, Cue-card Boy, who loved the novel from which I take today's featured character.

Since the book is the second in a trilogy, it spoils the first book a little. But only a little.

Annie Cresta
Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins

"Who did they use against Finnick?" he asks.

"Somebody named Annie," I say.

"Must be Annie Cresta," he says . . . "She won about five years ago."

. . . "Was that the earthquake year?"

"Yeah. Annie's the one who went mad when her district partner got beheaded. Ran off by herself and hid. But an earthquake broke a dam and most of the arena got flooded. She won because she was the best swimmer."

. . .
So that's who Finnick loves, I think. Not his string of fancy lovers in the Capitol. But a poor, mad girl back home.

Something all readers of The Hunger Games take for granted (at least while our disbelief remains blissfully suspended) is that heroine and narrator Katniss Everdeen is the standard by which all other tributes and victors are to be judged. Everyone else is either too villainous (because he goes in wanting to kill) or too weak (because he gets killed). But Katniss is the perfect blend of heroism and strength, virtue and skill, innocence and cunning, mockingbird and jabberjay . . . or so Suzanne Collins tells us.

Then there is Annie Cresta, who very likely became a victor without killing anybody--not even by accident. The best possible outcome in the worst possible situation. And Collins could have left it at that. Her decision to make Annie go mad in the middle of the Games has less to do with organic character development than with a personal statement about "Girls and Adventures".

Some may argue that Annie simply lucked out because of the flood. Being from District 4, which specialises in fishing, of course she'd be one of the strongest swimmers there. But that's like saying Katniss lucks out because she has spent years honing her archery and hunting skills without ever guessing how handy they would be in the arena of her own Games. Diminish one tribute's ability to dodge death and you diminish everyone else's.

Others may insist that Annie had it easy because someone else "took care of" the only other competitor who could have out-swum her, District 4's male tribute. The implication is that she never would have been able to deal with him herself. But this is as unfair as saying that Katniss doesn't have to deal with Thresh because Cato does the job for her. Each year's twenty-four tributes walk into the same arena, and the last one standing (or swimming) is stronger than everyone else. The source of that strength shouldn't matter at all.

Except, that is, in the sense of the moral high ground.

And this is why a sane Annie would have been a threat not just to Katniss's character, but also to Collins's story. Her victory is the only contradiction to the "Kill or be killed" mentality that is at first the most inhuman thing about the Games . . . and ultimately the most practical thing about the rebels. (So it's bad when the villains do it but good when the heroes do it, Miss Collins? Really?) It was necessary for Collins to turn Annie into a "poor, mad girl"--to show that she is weak enough to be changed by the Capitol, as Katniss and Peeta vowed they never would be.

Indeed, if Collins hadn't done this, it would have been too obvious who the real Mockingjay should have been. Not the girl who killed, but the girl who lived.

Image Source: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

6 comments:

Jenny said...

Wow! I might have highlighted Finnick but I hadn't even considered Annie.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I write about whichever character sticks in my craw. =) And sometimes I surprise myself, too!

momto8 said...

I am on page 50 of the first book. I wrote a post about it yesterday and got flooded with comments...I think in the end it will be like every book I have ever read if I think about it...a pro life book...showing the value of all humans, as long s we keep in mind people are humans.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

It's interesting that you say every book you've read has been "pro-life." Now, I use quotation marks not because I'm against it but because it seems like too much of a shibboleth to apply in literary criticism on a universal scale.

My thoughts on the morality of The Hunger Games have become more complex since I finished the trilogy. I'm not sure when they will coalesce into a post, though.

Introverted Jen said...

I think I completely overlooked Annie. I can see myself eventually getting to Finnick, because he seriously surprised me, but I thought of Annie more as the girl who made him more human. I will have to chew on this a little.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I was inspired to write about Annie after listening to a friend's very critical appraisal of Katniss's character. He's the only one I know who can't (or won't?--LOL) find a single redeeming thing about the Hunger Games that isn't negated by its more serious shortcomings--namely, the amorality of its universe and the low quality of its prose. So I've been trying to come up with an "Alternate Universe" story that would, had it been what came to pass, at least take care of the former. And one significant difference in that story is that Annie doesn't go mad.