Who Does Katniss Choose? Why Katniss Does Not Choose Gale or Peeta
When I first read Mockingjay, I was frustrated and disappointed with the story. I have not yet re-read the trilogy and I will not be able to get to it until later this year but as time has passed I have been able to think back to the story without the cloud of frustration and disappointment that I was left with after reading the book.
I am not here to discuss all of the things that I was frustrated and disappointed with in Mockingjay, but one of the things that bothered me about the ending of Mockingjay was how Gale was conveniently and easily removed from the ending and how Katniss never chose Peeta but rather accepted him in her life.
After all that lead up and conflict, I thought what the heck is this? Gale is removed from the story, Katniss goes back home, Peeta follows her, and they have a questionable ever after.
This is your spoiler alert.
"Katniss will pick whoever she thinks she can't survive without.
A chill runs through me. Am I really that cold and calculating?
Gale didn’t say, “Katniss will pick whoever it will break her heart to give up,” or even “whoever she can’t live without.”
Those would have implied I was motivated by a kind of passion. But my best friend predicts I will choose the person who I think I “can’t survive without.”
There’s not the least indication that love, or desire, or even compatibility will sway me. I’ll just conduct an unfeeling assessment of what my potential mates can offer me.
As if in the end, it will be the question of whether a baker or a hunter will extend my longevity the most. It’s a horrible thing for Gale to say, for Peeta not to refute. Especially when every emotion I have has been taken and exploited by the Capitol or the rebels.
At the moment, the choice would be simple. I can survive just fine without either of them."-Mockingjay, Chapter 23
This ending is the outcome of an earlier writing choice.
When I read the scene where Gale and Peeta are discussing who Katniss will choose, I felt the flow of continuous reading stop. The scene felt out of place; it did not belong in the story.
This scene could be argued to "belong" in the story because it shows that as much as Gale and Peeta care for Katniss and "see" Katniss, they still do not truly see her for who she is. It also shows how no one really knows Katniss as she is, even those in her life who know her better than others; which is a painful realization for Katniss.This scene highlights how despite their strengths, compatibilities, feelings for, and relationships with Katniss, Peeta and Gale are both self-absorbed and focused on their own wants with respect to Katniss, without taking Katniss into account. But these things are not built upon later in the story.
But while the scene can be argued to belong it simultaneously does not belong.The way in which Gale and Peeta discuss who Katniss will choose did not fit. They were discussing her choice as if they were discussing the weather or what Katniss was going to choose for dinner the next day, and they did this while in the middle of a war and while Katniss was in the same room. The way they felt entitled to this discussion and the manner in which they had it was bizarre, especially given the time and place of their discussion, and also that this discussion was coming from two people who were supposed to care about Katniss. In the significance of all that was supposed to be going on in Mockingjay, Peeta and Gale stay up at night not talking about war, if they will survive, what it will mean if they die, what they fear of losing, what life might be in the future, or if to follow the "love triangle" theme, how they are upset that Katniss has feelings for both of them but how they recognize that that cannot be dealt with now, they instead stay up at night talking about who Katniss will choose as if they know or as if it matters.
In addition, this scene reduces Katniss to someone who is unfeeling and focused on her own survival, no matter what costs.
Talking like he knows, Gale says that Katniss will choose the person she "can't survive without" and he says this as truth. Peeta's lack of refute of Gale's statement is an acceptance of Gale's statement as truth.
With romantic choices like that, who can refuse? And if you guessed Katniss, you guessed right. She mentally tells them to go fly a kite by asserting to herself that she can survive without either of them and this is the closest we get to her making a choice between Peeta and Gale.
More on why Katniss does not choose
Katniss is meant to end up with Peeta, and even though I make the argument that he is manipulative and that there is more to him than meets the eye, even I can recognize that Katniss was meant to end up with him or at least that she was written to. But this becomes a problem for Collins at the end of Mockingjay.
By the rules of writing, character development, and overall themes, and by the lead-up through the trilogy, Katniss should make a choice. Katniss should make one choice that she has full say in and has control over and that leads to something other than heartache, manipulation, exploitation, and tragedy and what other area or what better area than for her to have it in her personal life? After everything she has been through, after spending most of the trilogy as a pawn, and after everything the trilogy builds on between her and Peeta, why should she not have a say in who she gets to share the rest of her life with and who she gets to grow, heal, learn, cope, and hope with? Why does she not get a say even if her choice is not Peeta?
But because Collins wrote that scene between Gale and Peeta, Katniss can never choose Peeta even though that would be who she would have chosen based on how the story was written. Because if Katniss chooses Peeta, then what Gale said is true and Katniss is the cold, calculating, unfeeling, and survival-focused person that Gale made her out to be and the person she chose to be with would be the person that she thought she could not survive without (regardless of whether she chose Peeta or Gale). And if Collins had Katniss make a choice between Peeta and Gale after the conversation that Gale and Peeta had had, then she too would have been confirming that that was indeed who Katniss was and that would be the Katniss that she would be closing the trilogy with. Since ultimately that is not who Katniss is and that is not who Collins made Katniss to be, and since Collins felt that the scene between Gale and Peeta discussing Katniss' choice was necessary to the story, Katniss can never choose between Gale and Peeta. (Katniss can also never choose between Gale and Peeta based upon what I have written here.)
So then what? Gale is indirectly involved in the killing of Prim and Katniss and him part ways. No anger, no development. Just conveniently and easily out of the story because he was not the one Katniss was supposed to end up with. And Peeta comes back to Katniss. No growth, no development, no journey. Just something close to a flatline ending that can be argued to be varying levels of hopeful, realistic, and bleak.
Is Katniss' lack of a choice between Peeta and Gale a choice?
Her lack of a choice can be argued to be a choice.
I still have mixed feelings about how the trilogy ended but these new thoughts that are coming to me make me look forward to re-reading the trilogy later this year. I was frustrated that Katniss never made a choice between Peeta and Gale, the way she seemingly just accepted Peeta into her life, and with the way the ending with respect to this/them was thrown together; and while I am not sold on it and do not necessarily like it, I like understanding why it was there. I do not think this understanding justifies a hurried and thrown together ending or justifies Katniss not making a choice, but it does help to understand why it was written that way (understanding why it was written that way is also related to this).
Katniss' lack of a choice can be argued to be a passive choice, which may or may not be a choice.
But for it to have been more recognizable, Gale would have had to stay in the picture somehow and some development had to occur before he was removed. Making Gale dispensable, having Katniss end up with Peeta without her actually choosing him, and taking into account the life they share afterwards, sends a conflicting message about Katniss' and Peeta's relationship and about the overall themes in the trilogy; which may or may not have been the messages Collins wanted to send.
By not having Katniss choose between Gale and Peeta, Collins saves Katniss from validating the "truth" of her character that Gale asserted and that Peeta accepted, but in doing this Collins sends ambiguous and somewhat ambivalent messages about the nature of Katniss' and Peeta's relationship at the close of the trilogy.