Since the first government, there have been uprisings. They have been bloody, tumultuous, revolutionary, and full of expectations. The expectations have been especially high; and in literature and film, they have been even higher. The difference is that in entertainment, the expectations are more often than not fulfilled. The rebels of Star Wars were virtuous, peace-loving people. V in V for Vendetta was an intelligent and diligent, although eccentric, man. You’d expect a series driving towards a civil war with the pedal on the floor would be the same.
Then again, maybe not.
Mockingjay spends a pretty hefty majority of the book with her locked up in District 13 – the impossible district that rebelled against the authority of the Capitol and formed their own nation. They had been allowed to exist as long as they didn’t bother Panem and Panem could officially deny their existence, but now they are working with the rebels in Panem to unseat the Capitol and form their own republic.
It all sounds very romantic, very heroic, and very familiar. Except this isn’t your typical rebel safe haven.
Every morning, each and every citizen has their schedule tattooed on their arm. Their food portions are allotted based on age and body weight. No one gets more than they are allotted, and “playing hookey” is a crime.
Katniss soon becomes familiar with the politics in District 13, which are nearly as dangerous and elusive as politics in the Capitol. Even with people present who have been inside the Capitol, such as Plutarch, there seems to be no recognition of what they have become. No acknowledgement that they are simply Panem without The Hunger Games. No one notices that they are more restrictive on their citizens. But after all, they don’t make their kids kill each other so they must be pretty good, right?
This unorthodox portrayal of District 13 continues. Katniss agrees (nearly without choice) to be their “mockingjay,” their symbol of hope, in return for some conditions, which include keeping the victors still alive from the previous Hunger Games immune. All the while, the politics abound, and there’s a clear indication that President Coin doesn’t like Katniss, even though she’s necessary for their plan to succeed.
As part of their master plan, they make a series of videos, “propos” as they call them, featuring Katniss. In one of them, they visit District 13, which has been practically blown away by The Capitol. While there, they are attacked, and The Capitol blows up the hospital. This leads to possible the most bone-chilling moment in the entire series, when Katniss delivers a speech on camera, infuriated at The Capitol. It closes with “If we burn, then you burn with us!”
That’s only half of the story, however.
You see earlier, she finds her old beauty team, being tortured by District 13. Who are the good guys again? As time continues, the lines between the good and the evil good more and more blurred, until you wonder if there are any good guys at all in the story, save perhaps Katniss.
Peeta is rescued, but they find something horrible in him. His mind has been altered by The Capitol, causing him to see her as a villain (as you can imagine, this makes the boy drama even more unbearable). They make slow progress with him, but when he’s assigned to the same squadron as Katniss, it’s clear what the intention is: President Coin wants Katniss dead.
Now there’s an interesting twist.
Thankfully, Peeta recovers enough that he doesn’t. Katniss develops a plan to assassinate President Snow, but when it doesn’t work out due to The Capitol being torn apart in war, and Katniss being injured…right after she sees Prim die.
Katniss and Prim’s connection has always been a special one. Unlike most relationships in the book, which are somewhat superficial due to a brevity of description, Katniss and Prim’s relationship is one that is extremely emotional, realistic, and believable. Katniss and Peeta’s relationship in the end is the only thing that comes close, and I don’t think it even quite matches it. As a result, her death leaves Katniss speechless for a while. District 13 did capture Snow, and Katniss is going to be allowed to be the one to execute him, as she had asked.
When the moment comes, however, the unexpected happens.
She shoots President Coin instead.
President Snow, left ill from poison he had endured in order to kill off his opponents, dies mere seconds after.
You see, it turns out that Coin had been responsible for Prim’s death. Although it is never stated that this is the reason that Katniss kills her, it is inferred.
Although I’m not quite so sure that’s all there is to it.
You see, throughout the book the remarkable similarities between President Snow and President Coin grow immensely. For starters, they both want to control Panem. President Coin may talk about a republic, but she envisions one where she is at the helm. While it comes out, thanks to Finnick, that President Snow poisoned his enemies to hasten his rise to political power, Coin shows that she is willing to do the same when she sends Peeta, hoping he will kill Katniss. Snow used the tributes as toys, even forcing Finnick to be a ladies man at the threat of his true love’s life. While not in the same fashion, Coin used Katniss as her toy to get the districts riled up. Earlier I said District 13 was basically the same (or worse) than Panem, except that they don’t have The Hunger Games. That gets thrown out the window too. Although put to a vote in the end, President Coin supports one last Hunger Games to punish The Capitol for what they did. Because not enough children have been slaughtered. It’s a despicable notion, but one that gains the vote even of Katniss, as the motion passes.
Remind me again who’s supposed to be on the good side?
There’s another point in the story. I have mentioned in my reviews of these books the boy drama. It was quite unbearable at times, but it comes to a very satisfying end. She chooses Peeta, who has fought long and hard to overcome the brainwashing of the Capitol. Gale in the meantime has become increasingly obsessed with bloodshed and destroying the Capitol. He’s become so violent that even Katniss, the reluctant but seasoned killer from The Hunger Games is shocked and repulsed by him. Peeta on the other hand fights himself to be good again, and becomes the very person that Katniss needs. Fast forward a while and they are married with two kids. There’s a message in that. The one worthy of a girl’s affection is not the sword-wielding conqueror who goes out to be a great victor; it is the one who accomplishes the more difficult task: controlling himself. There’s more to Peeta even than that, but that alone is a very powerful message.
In the end, the book had two primary messages. The rebels are not so different from the dictators. Self-control is more virtuous than valor.
I say amen to both.