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(Spoilers for all three Hunger Games books are below).
The Hunger Games is one of popular fiction’s greatest contributions to the general public’s awareness of the corruption of government and the lies of media. These are serious, and still relevant issues, that are explored in Suzanne Collins’s young adult series. They’re the issues that make this series relevant for everyone that reads these books, and not just the teenagers they were marketed for.
While the exploration of these issues may contribute to the Hunger Games’ greatest merits, the series also has its flaws, and no flaw is greater in this trilogy than the Peeta, Gale, and Katniss love triangle. Sadly this is something that should have been avoided all together as it undermines all the serious issues mentioned above. Unfortunately the teenybopper love saga still made its way into a prominent part of the side story. Here are the reasons why it should have never have been, and what could have been done in its place.
What Is A Love Triangle and What Is Its Role in The Hunger Games?
A love triangle is romantic relationship that involves three people. In the Hunger Games this takes place between Katniss and Gale, and Katniss and Peeta – as at various points throughout the story she engages each of these characters in a romantic way – which is what makes it a love triangle. I’m emphasizing -this is a love triangle – because a number of sites seem to suggest that there is no love triangle in the Hunger Games, and that by simply removing the association of the term from the Hunger Games, it removes one of the series’ biggest blemishes. Well, it doesn’t. Just to be clear, a love triangle is not bad thing, it just needs to be handled with care.
What can love triangles provide to a story?
Love triangles can provide romantic tension, a serious moral conflict that is easily relatable to the audience, and a device that can thematically complicate love – which like in real life, is very messy. The Hunger Games receives all of these aspects from its triangle, but the thing is, it doesn’t need them. Why? Because it already has these great storytelling devices covered by other aspects of its plot.
A serious moral conflict is provided by all the choices the major characters have to make in regards to playing the Hunger Games or bringing down the government. Romantic tension could still be provided by the Katniss and Peeta relationship – cutting Gale out could allow those two to continue their story unabated. Love between Peeta and Katniss is complicated by their desire to survive the Hunger Games. They have to go on public tours stating they love each other when they haven’t reached that stage in their relationship.
With all of these things covered by the love triangle, why have it?
The most likely reason for it would be to make the Katniss and Peeta relationship feel genuine. If Gale is not part of the romantic equation, what does that say about the Katniss and Peeta relationship? Without Gale there, Katniss would never have to chose to fall in love with Peeta. Basically it suggests that their romantic relationship only formed out of the necessity of surviving a horrific series of events. Not very romantic is it?
Should Gale not even be a character then? No. Gale provides value to the Hunger Games via his pragmatic views on violence. With Gale’s actions in Mockingjay, he fully embraces an ends justify the means mentality. Suzanne Collins uses this character to warn audiences about the dangers of Machiavellian thought. This is an important thematic aspect of the story, that could have had more of an emotional impact were Gale given more time to develop as a character. It would have made him a lot less problematic.
As for the romantic storyline between Katniss and Peeta, there love wouldn’t have necessarily been inauthentic with Katniss not having to make a choice. It would have been ambiguous as to whether or not their love was genuine (Kind of like Daenerys and Drogo in A Song of Ice and Fire). They are after all sharing a unique life experience that had a huge impact on their lives. As Mockingjay closes, it’s implied, but not thoroughly stated, that the Hunger Games world is an explicitly better place to live. Keeping that in mind, an ambiguous ending with Katniss and Peeta’s romantic relationship would have tied in nicely in with that.