The Latin virtus literally means “manliness” (vir = man) and, by extension, the positive qualities that a man should have. During the transition from Latin to French to English, “virtue” lost its gender specificity, but retained its reference to positive qualities. Thus, by the Enlightenment period, separate standards of virtue had emerged for women and men. Suzanne Collins disrupts this gendered virtue dichotomy in her Hunger Games trilogy. Peeta Mellark is a natural diplomat and peacemaker, a gentle soul who fits the feminine model of virtue better than the masculine model. Although Peeta engages in violence when necessary, he is philosophically closer to Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi. Peeta is the complement of Katniss Everdeen, who echoes classical male heroes like Odysseus in her combination of martial prowess and trickster wiles. Other significant characters in the series, such as Primrose Everdeen and Gale Hawthorne, reflect the traditional virtues assigned to their gender. Thus Collins depicts various masculinities and femininities: masculine virtus, feminine virtus, masculine virtue, and feminine virtue. By having Katniss choose Peeta over Gale, Collins portrays Peeta’s gentle masculinity as a fully legitimate alternative to Gale’s martial heroism.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.