Mockingjay Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Blame (Motif)

One of the recurring ideas of Mockingjay is blame. Who is responsible for certain horrible events? Who must pay for the death of the innocent? Whose hands are dirty, and whose are clean? These rhetorical questions plague our characters, especially Katniss. When she visits the tattered remains of District 12 she sees the bodies of the District 12 inhabitants that could not outrun the Capitol’s bomb barrage. As she walks amongst the rumble and human remains Katniss thinks, “I killed you…and you. And you” (Collins 11). Clearly, she holds herself directly responsible for the death and suffering of her people.

Despite her self-repudiation, Katniss realizes that she is not the only culpable party in District 12’s destruction. In her words, “there’s plenty of blame to go around” (Collins 12). District 13, the orchestrator of the plot to overthrow the Capitol, is also guilty. And, of course, President Snow also has his fair share of responsibility. Still, Katniss is most critical of herself. Near the end of the novel, she has a nightmare where she is lying at the bottom of a grave, and every dead person she knows by name comes and throws a shovel of ashes on her (Collins 663). This dream is an obvious manifestation of the blame, guilt, and responsibility Katniss feels over the death of her loved ones.

Roses (Symbol)

One of President Snow’s signature moves is to “gift” Katniss with roses. For example, he leaves her a single white rose in her District 12 house. He also scatters the ground with fresh pink and red roses after the Capitol bombs District 13. Of course, these roses are not natural products of the environment, but genetically mutated creations from the Capitol’s labs. To Katniss, these artificially manipulated roses are a personal message from Snow to her. They symbolize the unfinished business the two characters have with each other. They represent Snow’s ability to find and reach Katniss no matter where she is.

Power (Motif)

Power is another major theme in the last book of the Hunger Games trilogy. Over the course of the novel we see how power transfers between entities, how it ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes. As the Mockingjay, Katniss has a fair amount of power and influence. Plutarch, President Coin, and the other leaders of the rebellion desperately need Katniss to cooperate and be the face of the revolution. This is because, amongst the people of Panem, Katniss has a deity-like standing. The reception Katniss receives at the hospital in District 8 is a testament to her power in the Districts. However, once she has filmed all the propaganda videos Plutarch and President Coin need, Katniss loses a little power. An enterprising President Coin begins to see Katniss as more useful dead than alive.

Katniss is not the only one to lose power. The tide turns rapidly for President Snow, who loses power each time one of the Districts falls to the rebels. His loss of power is indirectly correlated to President Coin’s gain of power.

Beauty Base Zero (Symbol)

Beauty Base Zero is a phrase Capitol stylists use to describe “what a person would look like if they stepped out of bed looking flawless but natural” (Collins 107). During Katniss’s first Hunger Games, Cinna requests for her prep team to “remake” her to this beauty standard. At that time, when the Capitol was at the height of its power and resources level, Beauty Base Zero was a feasible goal. In District 13, Fulvia tells Katniss’s prep team to remake her to Beauty Base Zero again for her propaganda videos. Now, with the Capitol spiraling downwards, it is almost an impossible task. The same beauty tools, the highly skilled Capitol plastic surgeons, etc. are simply not available. The inability to completely restore Katniss to Beauty Base Zero symbolizes the end of the Capitol’s era of decadence, excess, and unrealistic beauty ideals.

The Hanging Tree (Allegory)

The Hanging Tree is a song Katniss’s father taught her when she was a young girl. Shortly after Katniss learned it, the Capitol banned the song. During a video shoot Katniss “resurrects” the song when she sings it to Pollux. The story in the song is of a young man who has been hung for a crime. Though dead, he sings to his lover to come join him in death, where they will both be safe and free. This idea of death being better than a life of suffering and oppression recurs again and again in Mockingjay. For example, each of the rebel soldiers is given a pill of nightlock in case the Capitol ever captures them. This way, they can commit suicide rather than be tortured and imprisoned. Furthermore, Katniss, Peeta, and Gale all make different murder pacts amongst each other in the event one of them is captured and has no way of committing suicide. All 3 of them have internalized the main idea of the Hanging Tree: death is the ultimate freedom.