Mockingjay Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Describe the forces that come together in order for Katniss to accept her place as the Mockingjay. What does this say about her character and what's important to her?

    Katniss is at her best when she is honest; therefore, it is important for her to believe in her message if she is going to serve as the mouthpiece for the rebellion. She is also extremely protective of those she loves. At first, she worries, "Could any good I do [as the Mockingjay] outweigh the damage?" (13). However, when she sees Peeta sacrificing his own safety on television, she realizes she has to do whatever she can to save him. Then, she realizes that those she trusts have believed in her all along. Cinna designed her Mockingjay outfit before he died, and Primrose reassures her, "Katniss, I don't think you understand how important you are to the cause" (34). Ultimately, Katniss accepts her role as the Mockingjay as long as she does it on her own terms, and provided she can keep her loved ones safe.

  2. 2

    Describe the significance of "The Hanging Tree" and how it is a reflection on Katniss's life since the Hunger Games.

    "The Hanging Tree" is a song that Katniss's father used to sing to her. At first, it appears to tell the story of a man telling his lover to meet him at "the hanging tree," but as Katniss gets older, she starts to question the meaning of the lyrics. It seems as though the man is the one hanging from the tree and is asking his lover to hang alongside him. In death, they will both be free. Similarly, many of the characters in Mockingjay find freedom in death or self-sacrifice. All rebels keep a "nightlock" (suicide) pill in case of capture; indicating that they would rather die than turn themselves over to the Capitol. Peeta would rather die than let Katniss suffer and becomes a hero as a result, warning District 13 about the impending attack. Katniss kills President Coin and accepts that she could very likely be punished by death; which is what gives her the freedom and power to carry out her deadly task.

  3. 3

    What is Collins's message about war in Mockingjay? How does she convey it?

    Suzanne Collins classifies the Hunger Games books as "war stories." As a child from a military family, Collins feels that it is important for children to have an understanding about the realities of war and conflict. None of her characters are free from blame and/or brutality, as is the nature of war. Katniss is the protagonist and the reader sympathizes with her, but she has killed innocents (like the woman in the Capitol home that Squad 451 breaks into). Gale is Katniss's best friend and saved many from District 12 when the Capitol destroyed it, but he also designed the bombs that kill Prim. Also, Collins shows that different characters fighting on the same side can have different motives. In terms of the rebels, President Coin is out for power, Gale is out for revenge, and Peeta just wants to save Katniss's life at all costs. In Collins's war, everybody's hands get dirty and the effects (both emotional and physical) last for a long time after peace comes.

  4. 4

    Describe the importance of the line "Real or Not Real" in Peeta and Katniss's relationship.

    At the end of the first Hunger Games book, Peeta is heartbroken to discover that Katniss had only pretended to love him for the sake of the cameras. Meanwhile, Katniss starts to feel genuine affection for Peeta during her charade. Throughout the trilogy, Peeta and Katniss's relationship has always played out against the backdrop of the Hunger Games. It's not just about them and their feelings, and is instead dictated by politics and shrewd marketing. At least for Katniss, their relationship often feels more like a strategic alliance rather than a matter of the heart. However, after Peeta is hijacked, Katniss is forced to revisit all her old memories and relate their story through the lens of nostalgia. Ultimately, Katniss is able to put her motives aside and help Peeta survive the war (even after Boggs and other trusted companions have warned her to kill him). Then, when the complications and survival tactics are gone and peace comes to Panem, Katniss can discern her true feelings for Peeta, realizing that her love for him is real.

  5. 5

    How does the concept of Panem et Circenses relate to President Snow's governance over Panem?

    The Latin term Panem et Circenses (bread and circuses) comes from Ancient Rome. It was the Roman governments' system of keeping their citizens happy - and distracted. As long as the populace had entertainment, food, wine, and general publicly sanctioned merriment, they would not bother much with politics. This is how Snow has structured the Capitol and the Districts in the aptly-named Panem. As Katniss realizes, "that's what the districts are for. To provide the bread and circuses" (224). However, the problem with Snow's plan is that the Capitol cannot keep up the bread and circuses system without the Districts. Once the districts rebel, the Capitol citizens no longer have a distraction from the ills of their government - and they are inclined to turn against Snow.

  6. 6

    What does Katniss learn about the nature of power and oppression after her conversation with no-longer-President Snow in the rose room?

    For most of the Hunger Games series (and especially Mockingjay, Katniss puts all her energy towards killing President Snow. However, when she finally has the opportunity, she decides not to take it. She learns that without his power, President Snow does not pose a threat to Katniss anymore. He can't bomb her home or torture her loved ones. He's just an old man chained to a wall. However, he does offer her a tidbit of knowledge that shows her who the real enemy is: President Coin. Once in power, Coin behaves similarly to Snow, even electing to have a Hunger Games with Capitol children. Katniss learns that it is not possible for a single person to perpetrate such a vast level of oppression without a following. Therefore, it is not the person but the system of power that poses the problem.

  7. 7

    Describe the clues that could potentially foreshadow Katniss's decision to kill President Coin. Do you think her action is in line with her character? Why or why not?

    Katniss does not trust Coin from the beginning - she and Coin do not think the same way. Coin is coldly strategic; while Katniss acts from the heart. Coin makes sure to assert her power over Katniss from her arrival in District 13 - she has Katniss's prep team tortured over some bread, and she publicly labels Katniss a threat when announcing her as the Mockingjay. Unlike Boggs, Plutarch, and Haymitch, Coin has no personal attachment to Katniss - she just sees her as a pawn to help win the rebellion. Predictably, then, Coin is ready to dispose of Katniss once the rebellion is over. Losing her sister nearly breaks Katniss, but Coin sets her off by suggesting holding a new Hunger Games. By igniting Katniss's passion and protective tendencies, Coin becomes her unsuspecting target.

  8. 8

    Describe the function of addiction in Mockingjay - how do substances allow Johanna and Haymitch (for example) to cope? What is Suzanne Collins's tone in her portrayal of substance addiction?

    As far as the reader knows, neither Haymitch Abernathy nor Johanna Mason ever recover from their addictions (to alcohol and morphling, respectively). They have both suffered so much trauma at Snow's hands that they need to self-medicate simply to survive. The horror in their lives far outweighs the good, and their vices allow them to get through the day. Collins's characters all survive in different ways - everyone has his or her own cross to bear. Even Katniss slips into a morphling-induced stupor after killing Coin. In a way, the substances that are slowly killing these people are also keeping them alive - by numbing the pain of their memories.

  9. 9

    Describe the role of physical appearance in Katniss taking on the role of Mockingjay. How does her 'look' affect the way others see her - and the way she sees herself?

    Part of the Hunger Games tradition is for all the tributes to be made up in the Capitol style - heavy makeup, styled hair, and outrageous costumes. They look almost cartoonish - they become characters for the television audience. However, after the Captiol falls, there is no need to pretend anymore. In Mockingjay, Katniss fails to perform when she is wearing Capitol-style makeup. She wants her flaws to show, and her followers want to see them. The flaws are what make Katniss real, and are why the people of Panem trust her as opposed to Snow and his government, hidden behind "Capitol masks." In fact, the Capitol style is very much in line with Snow's power structure - he hides all the flaws behind entertainment and fun. Once the fun is over, though, the cracks are impossible to ignore.

  10. 10

    Why does Boggs instruct Katniss to kill Peeta before he dies? What does this say about Boggs and his perspective on the war?

    Strategically, Peeta becomes a liability after his capture. He cannot control himself around her - he could try to kill her at any time. Boggs wants Katniss to live and he knows that she is the one who will be able to take down Snow (and possibly Coin). This is why he turns the Holo over to Katniss instead of Jackson, as rank would dictate. By going against Boggs's orders, though, Katniss achieves one of Boggs's goals: to keep her alive. He says to her before he dies: "Soldier Everdeen... I'm planning for you to have a long life...Because you've earned it" (266). While Katniss has chosen the rebellion over Peeta earlier in Mockingjay, this time, she's not willing to let him give up. She decides to be a torch of hope for Peeta just as he has always been for her. In return, Peeta refuses to let Katniss eat her nightlock pill after she kills President Coin. Ultimately, Peeta and Katniss' affection for one is stronger than strategy - but nevertheless allows Katniss to control the outcome of the rebellion.