Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 633
The Costs of War
When Mockingjay begins, Panem is at war with itself. The outlying districts have all begun to launch rebellions against the Capitol and its agents; responsible for the brutality of the Hunger Games, the Capitol indeed seems to be a regime worth rebelling against. But as the civil war continues, the rebels begin to adopt the merciless tactics of their oppressors. Gale in particular appears to lose any sense of humanity as he designs weapons that exploit the compassion of his victims. Gale’s traps strongly recall President Snow’s decision to bomb a hospital because the surviving rebels are likely to be there tending to the wounded. By the end of the novel, it is clear that although Gale is loyal to Katniss, he will stop at nothing to destroy the power that firebombed his home.
Although Katniss holds out longer than Gale, she too is permanently scarred by the war. When Katniss opposes Gale’s plan to bury the District 2 soldiers in an avalanche, she does so because the plan reminds her of how her father was killed in a collapsed mine. However, at the end of the novel, Katniss is given the choice to have another Hunger Games with the children of the Capitol. Aghast, Peeta argues that this is exactly the sort of barbarism that the rebellion fought against. Katniss inexplicably argues that the games should continue. Having lost her sister, she no longer feels for the suffering of others. Although Katniss goes on to have children, she has been permanently damaged by the violence and suffering that she has witnessed and that she has caused.
Throughout the series, the brutality of war is reflected. However, in Mockingjay, additional costs are revealed. The transformations that are suffered by heroes like Gale and Katniss point to costs that scar the victor. Ultimately, Collins invites readers to consider whether wars are ever worth pursuing.
Throughout The Hunger Games trilogy, there is a strong critique of humanity and its lust to witness violence. Likened to the Romans in their Colosseum, Panem has the Hunger Games—and readers have violent stories of Katniss. In Mockingjay, Collins makes plain the permanent suffering that results from witnessing violence and brutality. When Katniss returns home, she remains psychologically unstable, constantly haunted by nightmares.
Is it human nature to yearn for this violence? After the war, the designer of the Hunger Games, Plutarch, points out the compassionate decisions being made by the survivors of the rebellion. However, he cautions that humanity has had previous chances to turn their backs on violence and war, but in the end, they have always re-created a new form of the Hunger Games.
Propaganda, Power, and Corruption
As the Mockingjay, Katniss becomes a symbol of the rebellion. When it is revealed that the rebellion has spread thanks to the Mockingjay propaganda, the power of Katniss's image has become more powerful than she is as an individual. However, because many of the campaign's claims are lies (for example, Katniss is not pregnant with Peeta’s child), readers are able to see that much of this influence is suspect. Collins highlights the fact that propaganda is often motivated by a power struggle and is therefore prone to corruption and not to be trusted.
Katniss develops an intense distrust of authority, one that is warranted by what she has witnessed and experienced. The absolute authority of the Capitol is largely based on the suffering and hunger of the districts. Even President Coin, the rebel leader, seeks absolute authority and is willing to sacrifice her followers to achieve it. The structures of authority in both Panem and District 13 lack transparency, limits, and humanitarian standards. Because of this, they are prone to corruption, which results in the manipulation and suffering of the people.
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