Amy (organiser of BBAW) and I agreed to disagree on our ‘shipping allegiances in The Hunger Games trilogy. She’s a vocal proponent for the baker’s son, Peeta, and I am just as vehement for the miner’s son, Gale. We have even tweeted numerous times about holding a debate with both of us posting our defence for our boy...then life happened and we kept tweeting about it but not actually doing anything.
With Catching Fire topping many ‘Best of 2009’ YA lists, there are many people swimming into Panem’s murky romantic waters for the first time. It’s the renewed conversation about ‘ship support that prompted me to finally state my case for Gale.
When one starts brainstorming an argument you run into some immediate snags. Both are great guys with the heroine’s needs, wants and survival of prime concern. There is no bad choice here and as such Katniss still hasn’t committed to a direction. We want the best for Katniss and she has two good choices sitting on shiny platters begging to be picked.
The boys on first glance are very similar, don’t believe me...
• rubbish given names
• grew up together
• good looking
• love her
• difficult home lives
• Katniss has strong and conflicted feelings for both
• Would die to save her
• Fight to have Katniss survive
I connected with Gale straight away and this is the brilliance that is Suzanne Collins. She gave the guy with the most history with the heroine a stronger first impression but even this was far outweighed by the sheer page weight of the Peeta connection. But for those of us in Team Gale those first two chapters were enough to seal the deal. Katniss’ entire perspective of Gale is that he’s definite in everything he does (with an exception to his feelings for her because she’s less aware than we are). He hunts hard, he talks hard and he lives hard...he’s had to, his life doesn’t allow for soft edges. Like Katniss he’s a product of their environment, hard as a rock and just as uncompromising. This does not mean that he is manlier than Peeta (though some people might espouse this) but he hasn’t had the as harsh existence that Katniss and Gale have had.
Straight up Gale is depicted as a pro-active guy with protective instincts, a caring quality and an equal to Katniss. Collins’ set this all up inside of very few chapters which is insane (and also a credit to her editor David Levithan). I have become very used to reading Peeta referred to as sweet which is not a personality trait that sells a guy to me and I suspect it all lies with the bread incident. The revelation that there is a generational element to the attraction he feels for Katniss also doesn't help as it adds weight to the idea that they are fated despite them failing to speak to one another. Peeta gave Katniss bread at the expense of his wellbeing – an admirable act. Gale taught Katniss how to hunt and trap more effectively so she could feed her family. He gave her the long term gift of independence, survival and reassurance that her family would never need worry as long as she was with them. I am sorry but that knowledge and friendship over four years means a whole lot more than a singular bread incident. They are both active proponents in protecting Katniss – Peeta aligns himself with the enemy to save her in the game whereas Gale teaches her valuable skills and family support for long term survival. While both have a role in keeping Katniss alive (though I suspect she’d be fine solo), Gale empowered her to protect and serve herself.
I can hear Team Peeta followers now raving on about Gale missing his chance. The time factor seems to play a huge part of the 'shipper argument. All three points of the triangle have known one another for as long as they have lived, yet Peeta really didn’t speak to Katniss properly until the games occurred. Gale and Katniss have been close (hunting regularly in close proximity) for four years. So really is this about Gale losing his chance or Peeta gaining an opportunity? I could see Peeta not speaking to Katniss for the rest of their lives had the games not occurred. Gale is in the position of being Katniss' elder and had probably been sitting on his feelings for years, he didn’t even hint at his feelings until she was of age, which I would argue is gentlemanly. Peeta loved her before he knew her; Gale loves her because he knows her. Big distinction.
It’s very convenient for readers to forget that Gale and Katniss have four years of history prior to the events of The Hunger Games because we don’t get to experience them first hand. In contrast, we eavesdrop on every moment of Katniss and Peeta’s history from first moment until last. We know Peeta better but with familiarity the mystery dissipates. Gale is an unknown factor to the audience but interestingly, not to Katniss. It’s like their relationship (prior to HG) is a secret between the two of them. They had years to know one another completely. Whereas Peeta loved, but didn’t know Katniss before being drawn for the games. Yes, they got to know one another pretty well in the games but they had to stay hidden or quiet with one or the other unconscious a good part of the time. Yeah they bonded to a degree but their immediate survival was dependent upon it and she was playing him the whole time (and thinking about Gale). To quote Sandra Bullock in Speed "...relationships that start under intense circumstances, they never last."
I love emotionally stunted males. Though Gale knows his feelings, they are pretty obvious to all and sundry, he can’t verbalise them as much or as well as Peeta. The entire depiction of their close proximity hints at the more sexual element (or tension) to this pairing and that added to the yearning that I sympathised with. In some respects this reflects their different placement in the class structure of the District – while everyone is poor to a degree, Katniss and Gale are the children of blue collar men, and Peeta’s the son of a baker/merchant. Their hands alone tell the difference in their status within the community. Could you imagine Peeta in the The Hob? He could talk to Greasy Sae about the use of garnishes for her dog casserole maybe?
I am in no way arguing that Peeta and Katniss aren’t fated based on their class differences (Pride and Prejudice is all about that and it’s my favourite book.) But it does allow some reflection on their life experiences and an understanding of one’s roots. It also makes me sympathise with Gale more, he’s an angsty guy. He’s suffered considerably. He’s lost his father, he’s supporting numerous siblings, helped out Katniss’ family and has an unrequited love for his best friend. Both guys are in the throes of unrequited love but I think Gale has it worse.
I hearing screaming denials so I will hurry on.... Gale is required to watch the girl that he fancies trade places with her sister into a game that guarantees her death. Instead of getting upset, he sucks it up and wrestles a distressed child away from her self-sacrificing older sister. Then each night he has to wait and see how other tributes are planning on killing her while waiting to see if they’d been successful (to be fair Peeta is in the same boat here). He also has to watch as the girl he knows and loves pretend to be an empty headed flibbertigibbet and wonder what became of the girl he adored.
If it wasn’t already Sucksville, Panem then watching Peeta and Katniss play love birds where he’s in no position to intercede would make it so much worse. It’s this situation that hurts my heart. Every time I was reading a scene where Katniss was playing Peeta (as she was most of the time), my heart hurt for Gale. I love the underdog and I think with the considerably reduced story and character arc as well as the suffering this character must go through, he’s definitely it. (The fact that he’s tall, dark and handsome doesn’t really hurt either...I am kinda shallow.) Because there is so little Gale in the books, there is more to imagine. This kid has to watch a neighbour who’s had a marginally better existence successfully get HIS girl. (It wasn’t just Peeta’s feelings that were getting played when Haymitch and Katniss enacted their audience manipulation). A girl that he’s in no position to help as he had the previous four years. Instead he has to watch as another guy actively does everything he wants to do – hold her hand, kiss her, profess his love and protect her. Sigh.
I find Gale to be a more compelling character. He’s a character of restraint and passion. He’s political, he’s motivated, he’s pro-active, he’s caring, he’s opinionated and he’s strong. I would love to read a companion book detailing Gale’s journey as the events of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire went on. Peeta, a deliberate and strategic guy, has been made increasingly proactive in his pursuit of Katniss by the games, whereas Gale, a fervent, action orientated character is rendered passive by the games. It’s the ultimate role reversal despite all their similarities.
I am eagerly awaiting the release of the third title in The Hunger Games trilogy. I believe that Katniss and Peeta will end up together. I don’t have a huge problem with that, after all their relationship has been addressed more in the thousand plus pages devoted to this world. Does this bug me? A little but as long as Gale has a stronger presence in the forthcoming title then I am happy. I am particularly hoping that he’s a strong element of the rebellion. It also leads to my suspicion that Gale will end up six feet under...or with another girl. I would prefer the former but suspect the latter will occur. When a protagonist chooses between two guys that are really into her, her cast off looks less convincing in his previously held feelings when he hooks up with a rebound (I am not a Twilight fan or shipper but Jacob looked like a pansy at the end.) I don’t want Gale to sink into a depressed, lost state. Or hook up with the mayor’s daughter. I would ultimately love for his life to be a cost of the rebellion’s cause. I cannot think of a better exit for the character. (See I’ve even found a way for the Team Gale members to turn on me!)
I am sure that there is a Team Peeta supporter already jotting down their reasons why my post is rubbish. It’s sure to be twice as long as my own because they have more incidents to draw from. Good on them. While the debate about who’s better for Katniss are fun and even I’ve bought into them, there is a reason for this...the strength of Katniss. It’s easier for us to question and defend the boys because they are simpler to work out. The real strength of the book is the protagonist, she’s so complex and conflicted that it makes sense that we’d try and break down the simpler characters. So I will finish this post by saying that the real guy in this triangle is Katniss, she really hasn’t allowed herself to explore her emotions and swings between the better deal at the time.
Team Katniss – ‘cause she wears the pants!
Other debate posts worthy of checking out:
Team Gale - A Break Up Letter
Tenner's Stephanie Perkins' Team Gale Vs. Team Peeta
SophistiMOM's Team Gale or Team Peeta? A Discussion of Catching Fire
Galleysmith's Team buttons for whatever your persuasion
The Page Flipper hosted Tenner's Heidi Kling's Review: Gale versus Peeta