The Hunger Games trilogy is a fantastic ride, filled with
heartfelt emotion and heart-pumping excitement, but it’s also
a journey of moral development. Along with Katniss, we grow
into a deeper understanding of the complexity of morality and
moral reasoning. Experiencing Katniss’s trials, we come to
recognize that sometimes the answers to ethical questions are
more complicated than the one-size-fits-all answers offered by
the impartial morality of the justice perspective. Above all, we
must follow Katniss’s example of cherishing our memories of
natural caring and letting them instill in us the ideal of ethical
caring. In that way, we prepare ourselves to answer the cry of
a world that’s hungry for people who care.
Averill, Lindsey Issow.“Sometimes the World Is Hungry for People Who Care: Katniss and the Feminist Care Ethic.” The Hunger Games and Philosophy. Ed. Dunn, George A. and Nicolas Michaud. 175-6.
In addition to having read this chapter in The Hunger Games and Philosophy, which discusses Katniss and the ethics of care, I also recently applied the ethics of care to Daenerys Targaryen of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Because both series are wonderful, and Katniss and Daenerys are some of my favorite fictional heroines, I thought I would take some time to discuss my thoughts on them here–in relation to the ethics of care.
What is it about Katniss and Dany that make them both such marvelous heroines? My theory is that one of the reasons why readers find these ladies irresistible not to root for, is because they are deeply caring, humanistic characters who adhere to the ethics of care.
Yes, Katniss may be a bit rough around the edges and have a difficult time expressing her emotions and understanding her own feelings. Yes, Daenerys might occasionally breathe fire. But at their core, they truly care about the people that inhabit their world, most especially the people they consider their family. Averill argues that Katniss moves from the act of natural caring (caring for our family and people who are very close to us) to ethical caring, which is applying that natural care to people who are perhaps tangential in our lives, people on the periphery, or people who are suffering that we have never met before. It is very obvious that Dany makes this sort of progress as well. She begins not just to care for her family (her dragons and her khalasar), but also for the Unsullied soldiers who follow her, and ultimately for the masses of slaves that she frees.
Katniss and Dany are both protectors–both mothers, in their own way. Katniss continually grows to extend her care to all the people of Panem–even people of the Capitol (once considered wasteful, frivolous, and overly privelaged) as Dany extends her care to all slaves (even though a slave women was the original cause of losing her husband and unborn child). Both Katniss and Dany are fierce in their caring–and we love them all the more for being so. There is a lot more the ethics of care that I’m not covering here.
For more reading on the ethics of care, see the very helpful article below:
Held, V. (2008). Gender identity and the ethics of care in globalized society. In R. Whisnant & P. DesAutels (Eds.), Global Feminist Ethics (pp. 43-57). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Also see my thoughts on Daenerys’ care ethics and the privacy of minors (for my Information Ethics course last semester):