In my opinion Katniss is an amazing and complex character. I loved reading the Hunger Games Trilogy because of her. Following along as she volunteers to take the place of her sister, fights in the games, and the roller-coaster of the after effects. The life in the districts is not pretty to begin with. Many people end up dying of starvation, cold, or worse depending on the industry they work in and how desperate they get. The book does a good job of painting the dire picture that the citizens in the district live in and contrast it with the decadence of the Capital. We see this world through the eyes and thoughts of Katniss Everdeen.
Katniss is a girl who at a young age had to figure out how to help her family survive. Her father had taught her to hunt, but when he died her mother went catatonic for a time leaving Katniss to take care of her and Prim. She is someone who only has time to think about the survival of her family. As the various games are played out around her various aspects of her personality and we find that even with her harsh exterior she has a soft spot. She is a survivor, but she is also a protector she cannot stand for others to suffer especially when she is the cause. Unless it is to protect other people and is a necessary action to do so. (Spoilers for the Hunger Games Trilogy to follow).
The survivor bit seems obvious, but it still needs to be pointed out about Katniss. She was so young when her father died and her mother went catatonic. She was not even old enough to enter her name to get more food yet. She was watching her family starving around with not much she could do about it. At the time she had only ever gone hunting with her father and did not trust to go so far in to the woods. She tried everything she could to keep her family alive. There was a moment where she thought it was done, where she had run out, and that is when she gets the bread from Peeta and finds hope again.
After that moment she never let herself give up again. She ventured further and further in to the woods hunting more and more. Even with the hunting she has to turn in her name every opportunity she can to get more food and oil. Even as the story goes on and she is in the arena she is a survivor. She does not just give in to the fear and she can almost seem cold and calculating about her need to survive.
She may seem cold and calculating because there is some measure of self-defense mechanism happening. This comes because in every fiber of her being Katniss is a guardian, a protector. Part of this comes from not being able to watch others suffer. She talks many times about not being able to be in the room with the sick and dying while her mother and sister work. She cannot hold back in giving the medicine that could relieve their pain because she wants to end their suffering. This is not to say she cannot kill, but she does not kill randomly or without purpose.
Part of what we see as Katniss is turned in to the Mockingjay is how guilty she feels whenever anything she does causes someone else to be harmed. She acts and speaks from the heart and others end up getting punished for her actions. Even though it is not entirely true she blames herself for people getting harmed in the riots and how many are getting killed in the war in general. She eventually can think about the fact that this is necessary because of how the Capital will throw these peoples lives away, but it does not entirely curb her guilt. She is the guardian and protector, but when everyone is getting harmed and dying protecting her it starts to be too much.
This may sound like an odd attribute, but it was the only way I could think of describing it. She is so focused on one thing, saving her family, or protecting an individual she misses seeing anything else. She decides that she is never getting married or having kids early on, so she focuses on making sure her mom and sister are taken care of. Never noticing Gale or Peeta or understanding what their attentions might mean. She also becomes so focused that she does not notice how she is being used by President Snow or by District 13. She has a simple focus, but it means that she often misses anything else going on.
She is described as cold and unfriendly, but she it is because she becomes so focused she drowns anything else out. There is so much happening that she does not notice or think about it. Some of it is her dealing with the fact that she is broken after having to go in to the games again and especially after Peeta is taken by the Capital. She is so focused on the fact that he could be tortured and trying to figure out was is going on with her family she doesn’t notice when Finnick clues her in to the fact that Peeta will be used to hurt her. When she finally figures it out it paralyzes her. Everyone else had come to this realization and no one had bothered to tell her because they knew it would break her. She drowns out the noise, but it is what made her such an easy piece in the games of the political leaders.
Girl on Fire
She goes in to the first Hunger Games to protect her sister. The second Hunger Games she is sent to because the President realizes that she is a potential threat and her act of defiance in the first games. The entire time she is trying to survive, but she is just trying to protect everyone she cares about. It is interesting when people make the books about a love triangle because that is never how I saw it. Katniss was too worried about everything else going on to ever think about being in love with anyone. Then she is too broken to think about it.
The more interesting part of Katniss while she is strong, many of her decisions are reactionary to other circumstances. She is held up as a symbol of defiance, but she is still not entirely sure what her motives were for taking out the berries. I think she just could not really bring herself to kill Peeta or simply watch him die. It was not in her nature. This is the fire that sparked a revolution and is what slowly breaks Katniss down as more and more people end up dying around and for her. Many of the decisions are not her own, but she does what she thinks she needs to to help everyone.