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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #58: Haymitch Abernathy

Knows his way around a bar, too.

I'm not a huge fan of the Hunger Games books or movies. Katniss is a bit too Mary Sue for me, and Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal a bit too alternatively wooden and manic. The story tries too hard to be complex, and gets lost in its own meandering political narrative. There are some moments of good storytelling, but on the whole it is an edgier Twilight, an episode of The OC with a body count. I'm mildly curious about the praxis of the District system, but instead of worldbuilding I get a thousand pages about a dull and repetitive Katniss-Gale-Peeta love triangle.

What I do enjoy is Haymitch Abernathy, particularly as played by Woody Harrelson at his dyspeptic, dissolute best. Here's a man in his early forties who once held great promise, who was handsome and smart and charming, and despite all odds was a champion as a young man. The cost of that triumph was his entire family, his future, and his sobriety. For the next half of his life, Haymitch drank, trained doomed tributes from 12, and drank some more, embracing his role as a sodden, prematurely ancient Yoda. He is wracked by the price of his own survival, and by the knowledge that the pain will never stop, and nothing will ever get better. Where most drunken has-beens can revel in past glories, his legacy is all one of death, revisited every year. He screams in the night, drinks in the day, and waits for a time when he can fight back.

When the rebellion gets under way, Haymitch is the northern star for both Katniss and the oppressed people of the Districts, a constant light that neither waxes nor wanes. He never loses sight of the true goal: to survive, and to win. What he has to endure over four decades to see that come to pass is enough to make anyone drink.

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