A while back, I was pondering Peeta’s parents, which led to me more fully imagining Peeta’s mother’s personality. This is just my headcanon, but I thought I’d share it.
Peeta’s mom is pretty terrible, so I started wondering what Peeta’s dad could have possibly seen in her. Surely there had to be something, right? Some redeeming value.
I asked myself, What qualities cause people to overlook horrible character flaws in others? The first answer I came up with was good looks. Maybe it was just that simple; the great beauty Peeta’s dad had wanted to marry chose someone else, so he found the next prettiest girl. But that idea bored me.
The next idea I had was humor, and this idea instantly grabbed me. So many times we hear (or say) something like “Yeah, he can be a total jerk, but he is really funny.” We’re willing to forgive a lot when it comes to people who can make us laugh.
I also like the idea that Peeta could have gotten an important piece of his personality from his mom, awful as she could be. Her example helped Peeta develop his humor, skill with words, and ability to read people. Peeta tried to use these skills in kind ways, though, while his mother had far less of a problem putting someone down to get a laugh.
I imagine Mrs. Mellark was often a lot of fun, and Peeta enjoyed making jokes with her. Other times, however, something would set off her temper and she’d be cruel, either verbally or physically. If she was just mean all time, Peeta would become desensitized to it. It would be more hurtful if she shifted unpredictably between fun and mean. Then there would be those common moments when she would be funny and mean at the same time. I can see her making a cutting joke about someone and Peeta having to choose between laughing along to avoid her turning onto him, defending the target of the joke, or using humor himself to redirect the conversation.
This headcanon helps me make sense of Peeta’s statement that his mother told him Katniss might win the Hunger Games “as if to cheer [him] up.” I always wondered how in the world she could think that might cheer him up, or else how she could be so rude to her own son whom she would probably never see again. Maybe she said it as a joke, and that’s why Peeta said it was supposed to cheer him up. She was in this super uncomfortable emotional situation, and tried to lighten the mood with an incredibly inappropriate and insensitive wisecrack. Jokesters often make this mistake, though rarely to this degree of wrongness, fortunately.