The Mockingjay is the embodiment of hope - a creature that has managed to adapt and survive despite human efforts to eradicate it. Katniss Everdeen has displayed similar resilience throughout the Hunger Games trilogy. Upon accepting the role of "Mockingjay," she embraces her role as a symbol of hope for the districts. Throughout the difficulties of her position, she depends on others to remain hopeful, as well - most notably Peeta and Prim. Even when she is close to death, Katniss imagines Prim pulling her back into the light - Prim's spirit keeps her going even when she feels like she has nothing to live for.
The Power of the Media
Suzanne Collins has spoken about both Roman gladiators and the rise of reality television as inspirations for the concept behind The Hunger Games. In the novels, both the Capitol and the rebels depend on media as a weapon - it is almost equally (if not more) important as hand-to-hand combat. During her first Hunger Games, Katniss came off as prickly and naive - resentful of the cameras until she realized that she could use the media to her own benefit. In Mockingjay, Katniss still feels like a regular civilian, but her media exposure has endowed her with a great deal of public influence. Over the course of the novel, Katniss learns how to embrace this power while still being true to herself - which is why her public trusts her so much. Concurrently, Snow tries to use the media (the Hunger Games in particular) as a way of distracting the Capitol citizens from the devastation in the Districts.
In an unexpected twist, the rebel leadership (led by President Coin) turns out to be just as despotic as President Snow's. Katniss sees the similarities emerging after the rebels win the war, and kills Coin to save Panem from a brand-new autocracy. Early in Mockingjay, Haymitch voices his doubt about building a democracy in divisive Panem, questioning the likelihood of actualizing the theory. When Katniss starts cooking up her plan to assassinate Coin, only Haymitch clicks into her line of thinking. Both of them know that it is not just the person in power but the structure of government that will bring long-term peace to Panem.
The Price of War
From the beginning of The Hunger Games series, most of Panem is still suffering from the aftermath of the Dark Days. People are living hand-to-mouth and President Snow conducts the Hunger Games in order to prevent another uprising. Suzanne Collins is never idealistic about the price of war. Major characters lose their lives, innocents die, and heroes suffer for many years long after victory. After the rebels have won and Katniss is freed from murder charges, Plutarch comments, "Now we're in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated... but collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a gift for self-destruction" (379).
Fear vs. Freedom
President Snow governed the Districts of Panem with fear. As long as people were afraid of what would happen to them, they would bow to his every desire. However, every time a character loses his/her fear of death, that person finds a kind of freedom. When Katniss and Peeta are ready to eat the nightlock in the first Hunger Games, Snow realizes that he can no longer do anything to control them. In Mockingjay, Peeta is repeatedly willing to sacrifice himself for Katniss despite the circumstances (like when he warns District 13 about the impending bombing). When Katniss makes the decision to kill Coin, she is ready to accept whatever consequences come her way. She is free to take this risk because she is willing to sacrifice her own life. Setting aside fear leads to freedom - both personal and political.
Reality vs. Fiction
Along with the powerful media element in The Hunger Games books comes the constant dance between truth and fiction. After Peeta is hijacked, the members of Squad 451 come up with a game called "real or not real" to determine the authenticity of his memories. This question has been at the core of Katniss and Peeta's relationship from the first book. He has always been in love with her, and Katniss played along for the purpose of gaining television fans. She certainly has feelings for Peeta, but she has never been certain about the nature of her love. After he is hijacked, however, Katniss is forced to face her inconsistencies for the purpose of helping Peeta determine what is real and what is not. After the conflict is over - she is finally able to sort out her true feelings for Peeta and Gale. In the last line of the book, Peeta asks Katniss if he loves her, and she says, "real."
War tests loyalties. Throughout her journey, Katniss is constantly questioning whom she can trust. She knows she can always depend on Peeta, who is steadfastly loyal to her - until the Capitol jacks his memories. Even then, once he realizes that he is a danger to Katniss, Peeta is still willing to sacrifice himself for the rebels' cause. Meanwhile, Katniss can never quite throw her loyalty fully behind President Coin. She questions Coin's motives, especially after Prim's death. Because she is willing to question Coin, she opens her mind to what Snow - of all people - has to say. After that conversation, Katniss is finally able to see the truth - and find peace, both internally and for Panem.
Mockingjay Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Mockingjay is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.