Literary Criticism and Significance
Mockingjay is the third novel in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy. Because the first two books, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, garnered a great deal of commercial success and critical acclaim, Mockingjay was one of the most anticipated novels—young adult or otherwise—of 2010.
In Mockingjay, Collins has again artfully modified adult themes of war and conflict to appeal to younger readers, but the work's overall emphasis has shifted the tone of the entire series. The plot structure of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, for example, is very similar: Katniss is in District 12, there is a proclamation that Katniss will fight in the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta tour the Capitol to attract support before the deadly tournament, and both works conclude in an explicitly violent battle. Mockingjay largely breaks this structure. The Hunger Games are on hold, District 12 has been destroyed, and a rebellion is now the focus of Katniss’s adventures. Although there is still a great deal of action in Mockingjay, and the final assault on the Capitol, with its traps and deadly “mutations,” is meant to recall the games that made up the climax of the previous two novels, Collins’s true focus in Mockingjay is on the inescapable psychological trauma of warfare.
Collins is thus required to explore a deeper level of her first-person narrator. Whereas Katniss once pined about her feelings for Peeta, she is now forced to ask herself what kind of person she is. Whereas some fictional heroes are temporarily haunted by a violent past, Katniss is consistently traumatized and is unable to recover fully. By choosing to depict the internalized costs of war and violence in Mockingjay, Collins has produced a more mature, thoughtful, and nuanced work that still manages to entice younger readers with scenes of action.