Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 961
Before she first fought in the Hunger Games, Katniss was a loyal, loving daughter who broke the law poaching game to feed her family. However, when she and Peeta win their first Hunger Games and survive the second, she begins to realize that she is a cold, calculating killer. Mockingjay opens with Katniss recovering from a concussion, foreshadowing that much of the novel will focus on Katniss’s psychological trauma. Mockingjay is a dark coming of age story in which Katniss does not grow into a healthy adult after her experiences. Rather, because Katniss is traumatized repeatedly throughout the rebellion, her experiences shatter both her innocence and her identity.
Katniss’s initial role in the rebellion calls on her to live a public life in the propaganda campaigns. Expected to be a revolutionary leader, Katniss’s fire and passion take her deeper into the civil war, exposing her to more atrocities. By the time Katniss reaches the president’s mansion to assassinate President Snow, she has sacrificed friends, fought battles, and has killed innocent bystanders. In the Hunger Games, she was forced to do these things to survive, but her vendetta against Snow is largely unnecessary since three different columns of rebels are rapidly converging on the president’s mansion. Katniss’s ruthlessness reflects how much she has changed over the series.
By the end of the novel, Katniss is psychologically devastated. When she votes to let the Hunger Games continue, her innocence is shredded. Although Katniss goes through the motions of living, she continues to have nightmares and lives with the constant fear that everything she has can be taken away from her. Katniss’s psychological recovery from the war is at best ambiguous.
A childhood friend of Katniss, Gale has survived the firebombing of District 12. As his name suggests, he is wild and powerful. He used to hunt and trap game with Katniss when they were children, but after leading survivors of District 12 to escape the fires, he is now a respected leader in the rebellion. Although he hunts less than he used to, he helps the rebels design new snares, ones that kill Capitol soldiers using bombs. Gale has grown into a vengeful soldier of the rebellion, and like Katniss, he underscores the inhumanity of war.
As Gale’s snares and tactics become increasingly relentless, they come to mirror the strategies of the Capitol. At the start of the novel, President Snow bombs a district and then bombs it again after the survivors have gathered in a makeshift hospital. Gale begins to construct similar traps using bombs: set off one explosion, and then a second to kill whoever comes to save the initial victims.
Although passionate in his desire to defeat the Capitol, Gale is in even more passionate in his love for Katniss. Winning Katniss’s love is more important to him than revenge, and he disobeys orders to protect her. Gale approaches this pursuit in a very strategic way, arguing that he can control Katniss’s emotions by making her feel that he needs her. He also realizes that Katniss will choose a lover whom she needs in order to “survive” rather than someone she loves.
During the first two novels, Katniss spends a great deal of time protecting Peeta, perhaps in part because Peeta loves Katniss unconditionally and sees only her inner fire, her beauty, and her compassion for others. However, when Mockingjay opens, Peeta is held captive in the Capitol. When the rebels have to choose a symbol for their movement, they choose Katniss at Peeta’s expense. Consequently, Peeta is tortured, and his mind is hijacked to make him hate Katniss. When he is rescued and brought back to District 13, Peeta can only see Katniss’s vindictiveness and hatred.
Slowly, Peeta fights to regain control of his mind, struggling to distinguish between his real memories and his implanted delusions. When President Coin sends Peeta to join Katniss’s unit during the siege on the Capitol, Peeta begins to stabilize. To this end, he begins to play a game where he shares a memory with the others and then asks “real or not real?” The questions that Peeta asks reveal the tortures and brutality that he has endured at the hands of the Capitol.
By the end of the novel, Peeta overcomes his hatred of Katniss and rediscovers his love for her. When he is given the choice to allow or disallow a Hunger Games using the children of the Capitol, Peeta votes against it. Although Peeta has arguably suffered more than any other character in the novel, he is one of the few to recover after the rebellion. When Katniss chooses Peeta over Gale, she does so because he is a compassionate, warm person. After all that Katniss has been through, she feels that she needs Peeta in order to survive and heal.
Presidents Coin and Snow
Although they lead opposing movements, Presidents Coin and Snow are distressingly similar. In each exchange that Katniss has with either, the presidents prove themselves cold, calculating politicians, and this is reflected in their names. For both politicians, all the members of their movements are pawns to be mobilized, sacrificed, or destroyed. Further, neither of the presidents shows any compassion for the enemy. At the end of the novel, Snow suggests that Coin is responsible for killing his human shields with parachute bombs. Although Snow admits that he has no qualms about killing children, he hates to see waste and points out that only Coin could benefit from the massacre of children because it ended the war more quickly. The similarities between Coin and Snow suggest that the potential ideals of the rebellion—justice, equality, and humanity—are corrupted by the desire for power.
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