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In the film of Catching Fire at about 2:00:45 when Peeta explains to Katniss why she has to be the one to survive, he says:

If you die and I live, I'd have nothing. Nobody else that I care about.

Screenshot from Catching Fire film

However, earlier in the film at about 0:21:33 when yelling at Katniss for not telling him about the situation with President Snow, Peeta says:

Well, I have family too. Okay? People that I need to protect.

Screenshot from Catching Fire film

Sure sounds like he cares about them.

How are we to reconcile Peeta's apparently conflicting statements about his family?

In the parallel passages in the book, the contradiction is perhaps less pronounced.

In Chapter Five Peeta more explicitly says that he cares about his family:

“It's exactly like that!” he yells at me. “I have people I care about, too, Katniss! Family and friends back in District Twelve who will be just as dead as yours if we don't pull this thing off. So, after all we went through in the arena, don't I even rate the truth from you?”

But in Chapter Twenty-Four he doesn't quite say that he doesn't care about them. What he says is:

“Because I don't want you forgetting how different our circumstances are. If you die, and I live, there's no life for me at all back in District Twelve. You're my whole life,” he says. “I would never be happy again.” I start to object but he puts a finger to my lips. “It's different for you. I'm not saying it wouldn't be hard. But there are other people who'd make your life worth living.”

This could be understood as even though he cares about his family, Katniss is so important to him that his life would be not worth living without her.

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  • It sounds like you've answered your own question. – DavidW Oct 1 '20 at 2:26
  • @DavidW In the book, perhaps. But in the movie he explicitly says that he doesn’t care about them. – Alex Oct 1 '20 at 2:27
  • Assumption: maybe his actual family doesn’t care about him either. Hence why he feels he has no life back in Twelve. Otherwise, it’s probably a writer’s mistake. – MissouriSpartan Oct 1 '20 at 3:35
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    Perhaps since the character is an angsty teen, he can't make up his mind whether he cares about his family or not, and/or he is prone to making melodramatic and hyperbolic statements about "having no life without her" to the girl he is in love with? – tbrookside Oct 1 '20 at 20:30
  • To be fair, that line about having "no one else he cares about" could be a lie. He's actively trying to convince Katniss to leave him behind and go back to her family, so he's using hyperbole to do so. – Sophie the Jedi Knight May 17 at 21:08
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“Nobody else that I care about”... romantically.

When viewed through this lens, it makes more sense. Yes, they both have families that they don’t want to see killed and care about. However, only Katniss has another romantic love — the “other people who'd make [her] life worth living” — Gale.

You may say that of course the plural “people” here must refer to “[Her] family. [Her] mother. [Her] sister”. To that I say that “But Peeta's intension is clear. That Gale really is [her] family, or will be one day, if [she lives]. That [she’ll] marry him.”

Refer to the longer quote from Chapter 24.

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  • What's with the usage of square brackets in this answer? – Anthony Grist Oct 1 '20 at 8:34
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    @AnthonyGrist That’s the standard way to indicate that the word inside the brackets is different in the original quote (in this case it’s due to changing the pronouns from first person to third). – Laurel Oct 1 '20 at 10:38
  • Ah ok, I know that's what they're used for, but it wasn't clear when I first read this that you were actually quoting from something there. I'm still not entirely sure that's as clear as it could be; might be worth using the actual blockquote markdown there if you're quoting a section of the book. – Anthony Grist Oct 1 '20 at 14:37
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Peeta does care that his family is safe, but he doesn’t think they need him alive, and doesn’t care to stay alive without Katniss.

Peeta does care to protect his family from harm - he doesn’t want the Capitol to hurt them because of his actions. He wanted to know what the Capitol expects of him so he could act in a way that wouldn’t cause anyone else to die.

“I know you had to choose one of us. And I’d have wanted it to be her. But this is something different. People are dead out there. More will follow unless we’re very good. We all know I’m better than Katniss in front of the cameras. No one needs to coach me on what to say. But I have to know what I’m walking into,” says Peeta.”
- Catching Fire (Chapter 5)

However, Peeta does not believe that his family need him alive, so while he cares about them, he does not see it as necessary to keep himself alive for them.

“No one really needs me,” he says, and there’s no self-pity in his voice. It’s true his family doesn’t need him. They will mourn him, as will a handful of friends. But they will get on. Even Haymitch, with the help of a lot of white liquor, will get on.”
- Catching Fire (Chapter 24)

Additionally, he is so smitten with Katniss that he does not consider that there could be anything else worth living for if she was dead. Haymitch even chose Katniss over Peeta in the first Hunger Games because he knew Peeta would be protecting her over himself.

“But remember, until they changed the rules, I could only hope to get one of you out of there alive,” he says. “I thought since he was determined to protect you, well, between the three of us, we might be able to bring you home.”
- Catching Fire (Chapter 5)

So while he may care about his family, Peeta is very willing to die in order to save Katniss, and since he does not see this as having a sufficiently negative effect on his family, he does not consider them an obstacle to this.

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In Chapter 24 (or that film clip) they're in the arena, with cameras on them.

The Capitol viewers will be glued to their sets so they don't miss one wretched word.
Chapter 24, Catching Fire

In Chapter 5, Haymitch has taken them to a room where they can't be overheard, and Peeta's just found out that their actions are at risk of causing uprisings and three people have been killed because of what they've just done. He's worried that his gift to Rue and Thresh's families will lead to their deaths. He's telling Katniss that he doesn't want his family and friends (or anybody else) to die because of their actions.

That isn't something he can talk about in the arena.

He can love his family enough to want to protect them (Chapter 5) whilst still thinking his life would be nothing without Katniss (Chapter 24).

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In my opinion he does care about his family on a basic level (because they are his family). But he cares about Katniss more than anything in the world. What he means is that Katniss is his everything but in situations where his family would/could be in danger, he cares.

On the other hand, Katniss has people she cares about so so much. She cares about her family more than Peeta does with his and on top of that, Katniss cares about Gale very much too. She can sacrifice everything she has for them. And Peeta would sacrifice everything for Katniss.

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