This is the spoiler-free (or spoiler-light) one-page tribute version. For more detail or if you are already a fan of the books, I am also working on a longer tribute which will be paired with this site shortly.
I would just like to say as a disclaimer that anything below in no way compares to actually reading the novels. As sad as it would make me, I would highly recommend skipping the rest of the website and reading the series. If I can get one other person to read The Hunger Games series by piquing their interest with this site, then my work here is done. I cannot recommend these novels enough.
The world we live in
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and soon-to-be released Mockingjay are a series of young adult books by author Suzanne Collins. They are set in the world of Panem, a dystopian future society built on the ruins of a disaster torn North America. The world consists of the rich ruling Capitol and twelve surrounding districts, each responsible for the output of a specific industry, such as fishing or electronics.
Each year, as punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the twelve districts are chosen as ‘Tributes’ during the reaping and are forced to take part in the Hunger Games, a battle arena event where the last person left alive wins. The story is told from the point of view of Katniss Everdeen, a girl from the poor, coal-mining District 12, who volunteers to take her sister’s place in the Games.
This year’s tribute
Peeta Mellark is the male Tribute from District 12. Described as having “medium height, stocky build, and ashy blond hair that falls in waves over his forehead”, he is the district baker’s son. He is introduced to us as “the boy with the bread”, a nickname he obtained through an act of kindness Katniss remembers many years ago where he saved her life.
To this day, I can never shake the connection between this boy, Peeta Mellark, and the bread that gave me hope.
A gentle boy by nature, Peeta felt very unqualified for the games. His only skills were some strength due to lifting heavy bags of flour, and the ability to decorate cakes with frosting. He had always lived a relatively comfortable existence in the nicer part of District 12; due to his family-owned bakery he has never really had to go hungry (although we later find out from him that this may not have been such a luxury, living your life on stale bread). He lacked Katniss’ survival instinct and training and he didn’t have very many connections back at home to give him the determination to win.
What he didn’t lack was his skill to mesmerize. This previously unknown talent for charm and public speaking was brought out during the preparation for the Games. It started when he was first paraded out to the Capitol audience and he would immediately smile and wave and try to win affection. It was further discovered during an interview on a Capitol talk show, and what came was quite a pleasant shock—Peeta had a wonderful ability to absolutely play the audience to his advantage and make them believe what he wants them to, “…people embrace everything he says.” He is a natural born actor and politician. He earned everyone’s respect, awe and sympathy for himself and indeed the hardest thing of all—he made a surly and charmless Katniss desirable.
We learn that Peeta is also a very talented artist and loves to paint—a luxury skill he cultivates later on in the series. We also learn that when he has a sense of purpose that he can be quite bossy, acting with focus and a one-track mind, determined to get things done his way. However, throughout all this, he exudes a kindness and self-righteous conviction, because his purpose is never for his benefit, but for the benefit of someone else. Peeta’s most defining characteristic is that he is a boy in love.
This following excerpt is one of my favourites in the book and for me defines and made me love Peeta. The feeling I got when reading it for the first time is unparalleled. I have put the section below under a spoiler cut to give you the choice. I do want to encourage everyone to read it for the first time the way it was meant to be read, however, if you don’t mind being spoiled, click here.
Everyone adores a confession of love, and it was indeed in this moment that Peeta was at his absolute best. After being asked if he had anyone special in his life, Peeta gave probably one of the most inevitable yet still shocking confessions I’ve ever read.
I’m coming back into focus when Ceasar asks him if he has a girlfriend back home.
Peeta hesitates and gives an unconvincing shake of his head.
“Handsome lad like you. There must be some special girl. Come on, what’s her name?” says Caesar.
Peeta sighs. “Well, there is this one girl. I’ve had a crush on her ever since I can remember. But I’m pretty sure she didn’t know I was alive until the reaping.”
Sounds of sympathy from the Crowd. Unrequited love they can relate to.
“She have another fellow?” asks Caesar.
“I don’t know, but a lot of boys like her,” says Peeta.
“So, here’s what you do. You win, you go home. She can’t turn you down then, eh?” says Caesar encouragingly.
“I don’t think it’s going to work out. Winning…won’t help in my case,” says Peeta.
“Why ever not?” says Caesar, mystified.
Peeta blushes beet red and stammers out, “Because…because…she came here with me.”
You get hints of this throughout the first part of the book, and you can see the possible romance a mile away. However, it was written to perfect effect because it was from Katniss’ clueless point of view. The actual shock I felt, I felt as Katniss, because she truly didn’t see it coming at all. All at once, my feelings of astonishment, pride, sympathy, and affection just come rushing in for Peeta. I think the most heartbreaking thing about the confession is that in that moment, you realise they will never happen. He did, however, win the Capitol audience’s heart, which really helps them later in the Games.
Step into the Arena
Peeta was determined more than anything to get Katniss out of the Games alive. He made an unlikely alliance during the beginning, which allowed him to keep track of the pack of Tributes whose mission it was to kill Katniss—the girl ranked the highest during the pre-Game screening. Making the alliance also kept him alive, as he sold his usefulness and connection to Katniss to the pack. Later on, he continued to surround himself with the right people in order accomplish his goals.
Throughout the Games you see Peeta’s determination shine through. He didn’t necessarily want to survive the Games, yet he really worked hard to for Katniss’ sake—even putting those frosting skills to good use to camouflage himself after being injured. He was able to kill when he needed to further his plan in the Games. You may also say that he was extremely lucky, because he escaped death several times. Even his naïveté managed to be deadly and was the eventual ticket to winning the Games.
Most of all, Peeta is extremely intuitive throughout and I think he knew exactly the ripple effect that his winning declaration would cause in the Games. It’s true that Katniss and Peeta needed to play the part of ‘star-crossed’ lovers in order to get the Capitol audience on their side—after all, popularity wins sponsors who buy gifts that help in the Games, however that wasn’t the sole reason he did it. Ultimately, Peeta’s natural charisma caused the very rules of the Games to change, which set in motion events that would cause repercussions throughout the rest of the series.
The girl on fire
Undoubtedly the most important person in his life is Katniss Everdeen. We learn early on that Peeta has been harbouring a crush on Katniss since he was five. His father took him to the first day of school and pointed out Katniss. He was supposed to marry Katniss’ mother, but instead she fell in love with a coal-miner because he had a voice that could make even the birds stop to listen. When Peeta heard Katniss sing, “Right when your song ended, I knew—just like your mother—I was a goner.”
Despite his affection, the only interaction he had with her before the Hunger Games has been when he handed her those two burnt loaves of bread that one stormy night. During a rain-soaked evening after days of hunger and not being able earn any money for food, Katniss was rooting through the garbage of the bakery for scraps. Looking outside, Peeta deliberately burnt two loaves of bread at the price of a beating from his mother. In an act of throwing them out, he instead threw the bread Katniss’ way, saving her life and giving her hope in the process.
Peeta has clearly always felt something there, and in this respect I felt really sorry for him throughout the Games. Katniss initially only thought of him as competition, even considering his initial kindness as a tactic to distract her from killing him. Due to being in a pain-induced almost-coma for most of it, the kisses and affection that Katniss was showering him with during the Games must have felt real to him. Peeta is not an unflappable guy, and although he is willing to admit many times over that he would be happy just to see her happy, it still hurt him a lot when he discovered that Katniss was acting on Haymitch’s prompts throughout the Games.
It’s hard to tell whether or not Katniss has any real feelings for Peeta in the first book, since most of their shared time and affection was to play up to cameras and win the Capitol audience’s sympathy (and perhaps a few sponsors’ in Game gifts in the process). However, she tried very hard to keep him alive even though she could’ve probably won on her own, and risked her own life in the process to enable him to get better.
Did she simply want to repay the debt she owed from so long ago, or did it turn into more than that during the time they spent together? I always found it kind of poetic that Peeta was drawn to Katniss in the same way her mother was drawn to her father. I think this parallel helped Katniss understand Peeta’s feelings for her, and she drew on her mother’s experience to help her pretend affection.
Later on they do share some genuine, unforced moments together. Katniss does have some affection for Peeta. She struggled with guilt at not being able to determine her feelings. She felt ashamed and unworthy of Peeta’s unselfishness and unconditional love, because while all she thinks about is herself, he is only thinking of her and her safety. It may not have been love, but she began to rely on him to sleep with to take her nightmares away, and she did admit that his death would affect her and only her.
“No one really needs me,” he says, and there’s no self-pity in his voice. It’s true his family doesn’t need him. They will mourn him, as will a handful of friends. But they will get on. Even Haymitch, with the help of a lot of liquor, will get on. I realise only one person will be damaged beyond repair if Peeta dies. Me.
With the cliff-hanger that we were left with at the end of Catching Fire, I’m really excited to see where their relationship goes, because I’m Team Peeta all the way. This section may have read more like a relationship shrine instead of the relationship section of the shrine. It was hard to avoid, as the books are narrated by Katniss. Essentially I, and everyone else that likes his character, fell for the Peeta shown through Katniss’ eyes. It’s hard to distinguish the ‘real Peeta’ if you will, because all we truly know about him comes from Katniss’ experiences, thoughts and conversations with him. But I think I like it that way.
The other players
The other member of their little District 12 trio is former Hunger Games winner, and Katniss and Peeta's mentor, Haymitch Abernathy. Peeta’s opinion of Haymitch was initially low, and I don’t blame him as he’s undisciplined, rude, pessimistic and a drunk. Peeta did come to rely on Haymitch, and with their common goal of keeping Katniss alive, they started to work together. Peeta learned how to communicate with Haymitch—mainly by having a firm hand and taking away his alcohol supply. Haymitch didn’t think much of Peeta at first either, regarding him as just another soft mentee destined to die. However, after getting to know Peeta and his character, he describes him to Katniss in my favourite quote of the books. Already immortalised in the header, it's so good it deserves a second mention: “You could live a thousand lifetimes and not deserve him, you know?”
Gale Hawthorne, even though they don't interact much, is probably Peeta’s biggest rival. Gale is Katniss’ best friend, her hunting partner and the one she shared her experiences and secrets with before the Hunger Games. Gale would have been extremely hurt about watching the entire ‘lovers charade’ that Katniss and Peeta put on, since he openly admits to having feelings for Katniss. However, even Gale thinks highly of Peeta, admitting that “it'd be better if he were easier to hate.” Peeta, showing what a truly good person he is, was always willing to sacrifice himself in order to let Katniss be happy with Gale.
Throughout the books, we don't really see much of Peeta’s interaction with Portia his costume designer, and the rest of his prep team. I think, just like he is towards the audience, he can be absolutely charming and mesmerising with whoever he thinks can help him in the Games. The other tributes thought he was too weak and kind to be a formidable competitor, but were probably daunted by his situation and how he’s managed to gain the interest of the Capitol audience. We also don't know too much of his home life back in District 12. The one scene of his family life we have to go on is when his mom beat him for burning a few loaves of bread. I think he struggled with a tough mother, but had a kinder father, who I can imagine him confiding in about his feelings for Katniss. He kept to himself at home it seemed, because we never find out much of anything about Peeta’s other siblings.
May the odds be ever in your favor
When I first read the books, I couldn't believe how much I loved them. I read them both over a weekend and truly what kept eagerly flipping through the pages was Peeta. I felt a little rush of excitement every time he said something. His self-deprecating humour, his soft blonde hair, and the fact that he can simply dazzle you (the good way, not just when he steps out into the sun), were all attributes that attracted me to his character. He was also sweet, honest, strong-willed and kind.
Most of all, I just found him to be extremely refreshing. Most characters I encounter struggle with admitting to love or being subject to it. Peeta embraced it with his whole being, so much so that it became his purpose and his motivation. Best of all, it was pure and unconditional. You may think that it’s immature to fall in love with someone you hardly know, but with Peeta I truly believe that all he feels is completely real. That’s why the boy with the bread is, to me, everything good, topped with frosting.
I decided to call the site Bright Eyes, because I think it reflects not only Peeta's beautiful blue eyes, but it also evokes a kindness and innocence that's true of his nature. The images used are courtesy of Hunter Parrish Daily and Mellowmint, and uses my fan choice casting for his role in the upcoming movie. This site was made in July 2010 using Adobe Photoshop and ImageReady CS2 and Taco HTML, with the fonts Thonburi, Quicksand, Pea Jenny Script, Delicious, Times, and Arial. Best viewed in Firefox.
If you would like to link the site and spread the word about The Hunger Games series, please feel free to use the buttons below.