It was my arrow, aimed at the chink in the force field surrounding the arena, that brought on this firestorm of retribution. That sent the whole country of Panem into chaos.
At the beginning of Mockingjay, Katniss wanders around the ruins of her past, trying to put together the pieces and understand her place in this new, dark, time. She has survivor's guilt, wondering why she is still alive when so many have lost their lives. However, over the course of the novel, Katniss grows from simply a survivor to a real leader and hero. Instead of resenting her power, she is able to embrace it and truly do what is best for the citizens of Panem. She can never forget the past, of course, but she chooses to start acting to benefit the future.
"It costs your life," says Caesar.
"Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people?" says Peeta. "It costs everything you are."
Suzanne Collins calls The Hunger Games novels "war stories." She is careful to depict the ramifications of conflict on both the winning and losing sides. To this end, all of the Hunger Games victors who appear in the three novels are deeply broken - Haymitch, Johanna Mason, and Annie Cresta, among them. Peeta's quote highlights the reality of war - even the winning side pays a price. "Winning," if one can even call it that, can be just as demoralizing as losing because of what it takes to get there. Even after peace, both Katniss and Peeta suffer from nightmares and flashbacks for decades.
As a stricken man clutches my face between his hands, I send a silent thank-you to Dalton for suggesting I wash off the makeup. How ridiculous, how perverse I would feel presenting that painted Capitol mask to these people. The damage, the fatigue, the imperfections. That's how they recognize me, why I belong to them.
This quote represents the moment when Katniss is starting to internalize her power and embrace her role as the Mockingjay. She starts to define the role on her own terms. By referring to "that painted Capitol mask," Katniss calls back to the days when she was a participant in the Hunger Games, trying to become the kind of onscreen personality that Capitol viewers wanted to support. However, Haymitch has led the rebels to see that people love and trust Katniss because she is flawed and unfiltered - this makes her appear human.
It's impossible to be the Mockingjay. Impossible to even complete this one sentence. Because now I know that everything I say will be directly taken out on Peeta. Result in his torture. But not his death, no, nothing so merciful as that.
Unlike many of the other rebels, Katniss suffers from a great deal of personal guilt as a result of her power. She cannot stand by and watch Peeta become collateral damage - it just does not feel right in her heart. Coin is the embodiment of the opposite, though. She lacks the humanity that cripples Katniss in the above quote. Katniss wants to take down Snow and the Capitol, but she has limits when it comes to how much she is willing to sacrifice to do so. Coin, meanwhile, is only the leader of this rebellion because she was building up District 13's strength while allowing the Capitol to oppress and starve the other 12 Districts. In this way, Coin's motivation is the same as Snow's - they both want power at any cost. Katniss, however, wants peace.
"Katniss, I know this whole thing with Peeta is terrible for you. But remember, Snow worked on him for weeks, and we've only had him for a few days. There's a chance that the old Peeta, the one who loves you, is still inside. Trying to get back to you. Don't give up on him."
Katniss has the tendency to see everything as hopeless - possibly because she has witnessed so much pain in her life. Prim and Peeta are both characters who purvey hope - one of the main themes of Mockingjay. Hope is what keeps the rebels moving forward when it seems like all is lost. Katniss only realizes this when she visits the hospital in District 8 and the patients collect around her - the Mockingjay is the embodiment of hope for all these suffering people in Panem. But even the Mockingjay needs support when the times are tough, and thankfully she has people like Prim to remind her to keep her faith.
"I'm not their slave," the man mutters.
"I am," I say. "That's why I killed Cato... and he killed Thresh... and he killed Clove... and she tried to kill me. It just goes around and around, and who wins? Not us. Not the districts. Always the Capitol. But I'm tired of being a piece in their games."
Katniss must continuously revise her interpretations of freedom and justice throughout the events that unfold during Mockingjay. In this moment, the rebels have killed many District 2 miners in order to take down the Capitol's arsenal of weaponry. Katniss, as the Mockingjay, must somehow present this to the rest of Panem as a rallying cry - even though she did not support the action. However, she makes a decision - and she speaks her own truth (which is always what makes her so relatable to her viewers and supporters). Essentially, Katniss is saying that this action was necessary in order to stop the cycle of violence that the Capitol perpetrates.
"You're going to be as useful to the war effort as possible," Plutarch says. "And it's just been decided that you are of most value on television. Just look at the effect Katniss had running around in that Mockingjay suit. Turned the whole rebellion around. Do you notice how she's the only one not complaining? It's because she understands the power of that screen."
The running theme throughout the entire Hunger Games trilogy is the power of the media. In the first book, television makes the Capitol citizens feel distant from the violence, allowing them to watch the Hunger Games as spectators and ignore the fact that the children killing each other on screen are actual human beings. In Mockingjay, though, the media is more often used to incite people to action. Katniss's onscreen persona makes her relatable; people trust her and want to rally around her. She speaks from her heart - and on camera, viewers feel as though they are witnessing an intimate, personal reflection. The resistance uses the media, so long a tool of division and oppression, against the Capitol.
"Dead or alive, Katniss Everdeen will remain the face of this rebellion. If you ever waver in your resolve, think of the Mockingjay, and in her you will find the strength you need to rid Panem of its oppressors."
At this point in Mockingjay, Katniss has made enough of an impact on the rebellion that her death could even be beneficial to the rebels as they move forward to take down the Capitol. President Coin has never liked Katniss, merely tolerated her for the sake of the rebellion. Now that the rebels are about to take down President Snow's administration once and for all, Coin just needs Katniss's image (not even Katniss herself) to keep up the people's faith until the end. In addition, Coin fears that Katniss may challenge her presidency. This statement is also ironic because as soon as Snow falls, Coin will take his place as the most powerful oppressor in Panem.
"My failure," says Snow, "was being so slow to grasp Coin's plan. To let the Capitol and districts destroy one another, and then step in to take power with Thirteen barely scratched. Make no mistake, she was intending to take my place right from the beginning. I shouldn't be surprised. After all, it was Thirteen that started the rebellion that led to the Dark Days, and then abandoned the rest of the districts when the tide turned against it. But I wasn't watching Coin. I was watching you, Mockingjay. And you were watching me. I'm afraid we have both been played for fools."
This conversation embodies the most unexpected plot twist in Mockingjay. Katniss has spent the previous two novels with a singular goal - to decimate President Snow. She has the opportunity to do exactly that - and reconsiders. She realizes that without his power, Snow is no longer a threat to her. For the first time, she can look beyond the immediate safety of herself and her loved ones and think about the future. Stepping back, Katniss is able to see that Coin's style of governance is not too far from Snow's. Coin's main priority is ascending to power with minimal destruction to her support system - and staying there by any means necessary, even those decried by the resistance. By suggesting resurrecting the Hunger Games, Coin shows her intention to maintain her power by using fear and oppression against her enemies - just like Snow did.
What I needed to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.
Throughout the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss is torn between Gale and Peeta. It is clear that she cares deeply for both of them. During the ongoing conflict, her affections tend to sway according to her more practical needs. In conflict, people are pushed to extremes - but Peeta never gave up on his loyalty to Katniss. Gale, however, let vengeance drive him and revealed the depths of his brutality when his double-exploding bombs cost Katniss the one person she cared about most - Prim. After peace comes to Panem, Katniss can finally listen to her desires. She realizes that her and Peeta's complementary energies are vital to their survival.
Mockingjay Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Mockingjay is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.