Mar 21 2012 6:30pm

The Hunger Games Roundtable: Gale’s a Sociopath

I Know, Katniss, I LOVE Killing Woodland CreaturesOK, by now we’ve all seen the opening salvos. There is the obviously superior Peeta Mellark, and then there is that other guy, his name escapes me at the moment and I don’t feel I should devote too much thought towards it, the name may come to me, but it may not. The important thing is that we make it clear who is the WRONG choice for Katniss. I’m pretty sure we all know who that  is.

To fully explore the inferiorities of the competition, I am going to have to warn all those that choose to go forward from this point that SPOILERS will fly, the arena clock will tick, and some folks may even die. It will all be sad, but like the Hunger Games themselves, it can only be endured.

Much like I did with Peeta, I’ll lay this out as plainly as I can. At the very worst, Gale Hawthorne is a sociopath. He cares little for human life and then feigns sincerity as much as possible. At the very best he is a naïve little man-child playing at war without fully understanding the ramifications of his decisions. Of course we all know which point I’m going to illustrate first, right?

Gale designs traps. It’s what he is good at. We aren’t talking clean kills. We are talking things designed to give the hunter the advantage. To kill at leisure or to maximize efficiency. Works great when you’re hunting rabbits in the woods with snares, works even better when you’re hunting doctors on the battlefield. In Mockingjay he describes his double-bomb trap as having the intention of causing debilitating wounds with it’s first explosion, leading to people rushing in to render aid. Then the second explosion goes off, maximizing the death toll and enemy casualties.

This isn’t “just being a soldier.” You know who tried the excuse of “just following orders”? Nazis, at the Nuremberg Trials. Didn’t work then, not going to work now, sorry, Gale.

But then what if he isn’t psychotic? I mean Katniss, is his friend, right? Gale gets so wrapped up in the romance of war that he blinds himself to what things really are. When bombs start flying and things hit the fan, the boy is no more than a coward who likes to look nice in a uniform. What’s his first instinct when Katniss gets chosen for the games? Run. What’s his first instinct when he and Katniss encounter refugees in the woods? Hide. What happens after his design kills Katniss’s sister? He is shocked that a BOMB killed LOTS OF PEOPLE. He likes stacking the enemy like cord wood but gets sticker shock when it’s time to pay the butcher’s bill? Don’t work like that, son. The kid is either stupid or willfully ignorant, neither of which are attractive qualities.

Gale is designing arenas, people. That is what he is good at. That is his skill. You wonder why he is not a good fit for Katniss? One of the only things the boy is good at is what caused her severe PTSD.  What happened when they wanted Capitol residents to go through similar Games? Did Gale rebel against them as strongly as Katniss? Nope.

The guy knows nothing but bloodlust and romanticized conflict. He wants to win medals and get the girl. He is the action hero, the image that Collins is trying to deconstruct. Peeta is the quiet survivor. He is there to support. He BAKES! Lame, I know, but at least you can eat bread… This is the fundamental reason Peeta is better. Gale refuses to see the truth of what Katniss has been through. All he sees is the Mockingjay, the girl who defied a tyrant, the woman on fire. Peeta knows what Katniss is. He’s been there in the trenches.  He has seen what Katniss will never be able to forget.

I rest my case.

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Catwoman Felisamorata
2. Catwoman
Ummmm, maybe I missed something in the trilogy regarding the society that formed Gale. Borderline - better than 80% probability. Sociopath - wouldn't go quite that far.
Christopher Morgan
3. cmorgan
Eh, at his absolute worst Gale is a sociopath. But mostly he is as caught up with the illusion of Katniss. He doesn't really love her as much as he loves the idea of her. He's niave and refusing to live in a world that is evil no matter how you slice it. Katniss knows that a well meaning tyrant is still a tyrant, it's why she kills District 13's leader instead of Snow. Gale refuses to acknowledge the simple truth that evil has a VERY human face and isn't always a creepy man obsessed with blood red roses.

To go way off the nerd deep end, Gale is the Hunger Games equivilant of The Watchman's Nite Owl, and Katniss is certainly not ok just being Silk Specter II.
Rachel Hyland
4. RachelHyland
Nite Owl? Harsh, cmorgan. Harsh. Gale is way hotter, for a start. (And what does that make Peeta? Dr. Manhattan? Actually, that kind of works, in his brainwashy phase...)

I'm with you on the quiet strength of Peeta, and don't disagree that Gale, not having been through the Games himself, is perhaps a little more an-eye-for-an-eye about the resumption of them than is Katniss. Sociopath is going way too far -- though I get it's for dramatic effect -- and I also have to question your conclusion that Gale is "either stupid or woefully ignorant."

I think it's merely that he's an idealist who has had his life torn apart over and over again (it's not only the kids in the Arena who suffered under Capitol rule, and not only Katniss who suffered when she was sent to the Games... twice), and he was just trying to do some good, to exert a little influence in a world in which he and those like him had traditionally had none. Then, when he realised the consequences of his actions to the girl he loved, he manned up and accepted that his hopes of a Happily Ever After were just one more casualty of the war he'd helped win.

Oh, I'm still Team Peeta and all. But, come on, let's give credit where it's due. (Again: thinking about this way too much...)

Also, Nazis? Really? Getting perilously close to breaking Godwin's Law there, aren't you?
Christopher Morgan
5. cmorgan
@Rachel YES! Someone called me on Godwin, I was waiting for it. But definitly Gale is an idealist. Which is exactly WHY he is willfully ignorant. Gale refuses to see that evil is going to exist no matter what. Hunger Games is a surprisingly nhilistic take on YA, something I hadn't really thought of till doing this article.

There is this fantasy series, The Black Company by Glenn Cook, that handles the themes a more clearly. But yes, Gale is made of sterner stuff than I give him credit for, but where is the fun if we can't indulge in hyperbole from time to time?
Rachel Hyland
6. RachelHyland
cmorgan, you cannot possibly be trying to draw a parallel between Peeta and Croaker and Katniss and the Lady. I like THG very much indeed, but that simply will not stand.
7. KL
"Gale refuses to see that evil is going to exist no matter what."

Oh, so that's why he rants on and on for hours in the woods about the evils of the Capitol.

And can you please find me the passage that implies "He is shocked that a BOMB killed LOTS OF PEOPLE.", because I only recall him saying "I don't know", when Katniss asked if it was his bomb that did it. Which was the only passage where he was confronted about his bomb design possibly being the one that killed Prim at the hands of President Coin. So he designed a trap that could have killed off a lot of enemy troops. I'm sure that's what he intended to do, and I don't really see how that makes him psychotic (which is not synonymous with sociopathic, by the way), but I suppose in your eyes, he's as good as a Nazi and is fully responsible for Prim's death.

I feel like if Gale wasn't compared to the perfect, selfless, bread-baking, Gary Stu-esque character that is Peeta, he wouldn't be viewed as a coward so much. Most of his actions were only human, and pretty rational if you don't hold him up to the shining example of everything that is compassionate and holy:

"What’s his first instinct when Katniss gets chosen for the games? Run."

I'm not sure which Games you're referring to here: if it was the first one, I distinctly remember him do pretty much the only thing he can, which was to pull Prim off Katniss so she could make her way to the stage. And I don't know what else he could have done, since being the opposite gender he can't really volunteer for her. I'm not sure you can volunteer for a volunteer, anyway.

Second Games, when Katniss was reaped due to the fact that she is a victor, yeah, he suggested that running seemed like a good idea to him then, but is that so bad? It's selfish, yes, but I think it's understandable, wanting to run away with your loved ones when things seem kinda dangerous for them.

"What’s his first instinct when he and Katniss encounter refugees in the woods? Hide."

Given the same circumstances, what would you have done? I sure as hell would have hidden. Maybe perfect, perfect Peeta would have risked his life and Katniss's by blowing their cover and rushing out to try and reason with the Capitol pursuers, maybe block a spear or two for the boy and spared his life, but my guess is any regular person would flee for their life at the sight of a Capitol hovercraft that is pursuing two teens. Even the Avox girl acknowledged that there was pretty much nothing they could have done, and any attempt to save them would have most likely gotten them killed or captured as well.

"What happened when they wanted Capitol residents to go through similar Games? Did Gale rebel against them as strongly as Katniss?"

Not quite sure what you mean here, but if you're saying what I think you're saying, do you mean Peeta instead of Katniss? Because Katniss voted yes for the Capitol children Hunger Games, while Peeta voted no, because he's the compassionate and perfect guy that doesn't believe in "an eye for an eye", and doesn't feel the human desire for vengeance the rest of the victors did (and might I add, the only other person that voted no for the Capitol Games was Annie, the mad girl -- not saying it wouldn't still be wrong to force Capitol kids to fight to the death, but I understand why Katniss and the rest would feel like this was a proper resolution to the Games) Also, Gale wasn't even part of the meeting, only the victors, Coin and her colleagues got to vote on that one.

I mean, I know nothing about psychology, I don't know what Godwin's Law is and I'm not much of a history person either, so I can't really comprehend most of the parallels you drew here (Nazis are and the Nuremburg Trials, that much I know, but it is a far stretch -- since you admitted it was a hyperbole, I'm just going to go ahead and disregard that) so maybe I'm missing a bigger picture here, but this is just a teen girl incoherently rambing about her thoughts on the books. I've spent half the night trying to figure out why so many people hate Gale after reading Mockingjay -- reading the other two books and random comments on the internet, I was always convinced that he must have done something so unforgivably bad that turned the entire fanbase against him, since I quite liked him during the other books, but I've yet to see any arguments that really make me see why he's such a despicable character. Anyways, it's late, and I'm sorry for this jumbled mess of thoughts on Gale and stuff.
Monserrat Chairez
8. mchall
I'm with RachelHyland.
I think Gale is idealistic and hasn't had enough time to think about the consequences of killing, or should I say of killing innocent people, which is basically what Peeta and Katniss had to do during the games (since almost every tribute entered the games against their own will). Gale is reactive, he responds to all the abuse suffered by trying to kill the enemy, the aggressor, not realizing that there will be many innocent people who could also die, people that "never leave you" as Katniss said. I like to think that he understands that feeling by the end of the mockingjay.
All in all I don't think he is a sociopath, he's just unaware of the full impact of his actions, and maybe he is a little bit blinded by revenge on occasions (pretty much like Katniss at some point).
Still, I don't think he is the right choice for katniss, with him she could never stop being angry, revengeful and bitter. I like the way Katniss and Peeta complement each other, he brings peace and hope for her, and by the end of the third book she deserves just that.
@ KL, actually there was other Victor who voted against the capitol games besides Annie and Peeta, it was Beetee.
9. Ari
Mchall, I completely agree. Gale is most certainly NOT psycotic at all. He was angry and vengeful because of the capitol. If you haven't noticed, the capitol built his hatred in the first place. It's not his fault that he wasnt thinking that time. Oh, and yeah lets just forget about how Gale fed Katniss' family when she got sent to her first games. Lets just forget about how he saved his family, Katniss' family, and 800 other people from disrict 12 during the bombing . Lets not even think about how he was the first person to sign up for Peeta's rescue team. He may have been jealous of Peeta but he still risked his damn life for him. AND for katniss.
Besides, Peeta is an annoying Gary Stu that always gets injured. i am definitely not team peeta. You wanna know why? Its because he fell in love with her at age 5. That is so dumb. So unreal. Not only that, though. He also fell in love with her at first sight. Which basically means he only liked her for her looks and her voice and stalked her ever since. Whereas Gale, developed his feelings for katniss after FOUR years. Now that's real. Peeta/Katniss is honestly cliche. But i have to admit, i do like how he calms her down. she needs that.

I really DON'T want katniss and gale to date. I like them better off as friends.
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