The Hunger Games: Peeta, Innocence and Cunning

In the beginning of The Hunger Games, Peeta Mellark is a puzzle to Katniss, seemingly equal parts of innocence and cunning.

He is “the boy with the bread”, the one who saved her from starving to death. He volunteered to clean up the puking-drunk, passed out Haymitch, a level of selflessness that Katniss herself could not imagine practicing.

Yet, he is the same one who knocked the drink out of Haymitch’s hand the next morning, and intentionally charmed the Capitol residents in an effort to pull future favors from them.

Dove-Serpent-frame.jpgKatniss has a hard time with this dichotomy because she only really sees two types of people: innocent doves and cunning snakes. As we follow her through the story we see her interactions with “doves” and “snakes”. Her sister Prim and her Hunger Games ally Rue are the innocent ones, the doves she goes out of her way to protect.

The “snakes” are easy to identify, also. She talks in passing about “old Cray”, the head peacekeeper who would use starving young women for his own gratification. But she reserves the epithet “snake” for President Snow himself. It is Snow’s machinations that terrify Katniss – his absolute, icy determination to have complete control.

There is no place in her black and white world for someone who walks between the two. So even as they team up to survive the games, she finds herself constantly second guessing Peeta, wondering if his goodness is too good to be true.

Katniss sees herself as a protector of the innocent, but she does not see herself as innocent or deserving of protection – not anymore. Not since her father’s death when she had to shoulder the family’s grief and step up as the sole provider. Yet, she is not a snake either. Haymitch has to teach her how to think like President Snow, to see how her innocent actions have been interpreted as malicious attacks.

Peeta, somehow, naturally walks the line between being the innocent dove and understanding how the snake thinks. It is a line Katniss can never seem to find, and when she does, almost immediately loses again.

It is a line we are called to walk.

In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus is preparing his disciples to continue his work in the world, so he send them out on a mini mission trip. He warns them that it won’t be easy, that he is sending them out like sheep to the wolves. Jesus advises his disciples to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Face it. There is evil in this world. (There has been since the beginning. If Eve had been as cunning as the serpent in the Garden of Eden she might not have fallen for his flattery.) It surrounds us with the only goal of pulling us down and preventing us from walking in peace with Christ. Pretending it doesn’t exist is a pretty lousy defense, and does nothing to help those who are suffering in its grip.

It is our job to know there is evil in the world so we can stand against it. But here is the tricky part – we are to remain innocent. Our innocence is restored the moment we ask God to forgive us our sins. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can maintain that state of communion with God.

You do not have to be a fictional character to be like Peeta. You are called to be, and therefore capable to being, both cunning and innocent, wise and pure. It is only then you will make a difference in the world

The Hunger Games: Peeta’s Bread

PeetaBlessed

 

Katniss would have never made it to the Hunger Games without Peeta’s compassionate gift of bread after her father died. His willingness to take a whipping from his mother, because he intentionally burned the bread so he could throw it out to her, left an indelible mark on Katniss. It was a kindess she felt she could never repay. It was a debt Peeta never expected to collect.