Favorites February: Mockingjay

Welcome to Favorites February! This month I am re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in a long time, and then taking some time to discuss and celebrate each book when I’m done. This is the final week, and I’m of course going to discuss Mockingjay.

I feel like I should start by saying I actively disliked the final book the first time I read it. I think the plot is objectively less strong than the firsts two books, and I still hate how the last third played out. It all seemed so pointless and unnecessary. However, every time I read this book I enjoy it a little bit more. This is also probably the most thought-provoking book in the series, so there should be plenty to discuss!

As always, spoilers ahead.

Summary

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans—except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay—no matter what the personal cost.

Why I Love This Book

  • Katniss’s PTSD is extremely intense and compelling, and I think important for young people to read in this bloody series.
  • Man, Snow is EVIL.
  • When they play “crazy cat” with Buttercup ❤
  • The ethical and moral questions brought up by the war.
  • What happens to Peeta is so terrible, but for some reason so unputdownable?

Songs From District 12: The Hanging Tree

In past weeks I’ve talked about songs that were in the movie soundtracks, not featured in the film but inspired by the books and movies. Mockingjay Part 1 and 2 both had soundtracks, but by the time those movies came out I was not as into the fandom, and I never listened to them. However, Mockingjay had something neither of the other movies did, a song from the book make it on screen. I am, of course, referring to The Hanging Tree.

As an adaptation this song is very good. The lyrics are almost transcribed, but the changes made actually make more sense to me. I follows a 8-bar verse, rather than 12, which is more standard, especially for a folk tune. The melody is simple and catchy, easy to sing. It’s also well-written to match Jennifer Lawrence’s voice, who we have no reason to believe is an especially good singer.

It’s meant to be sung acapella based on the book, but the movie adds orchestration so we don’t just have to sit and listen to Katniss sing for three minutes. Instead its woven in to a montage about the war. Changes like this in the movies, things we know happened but never see because Katniss wasn’t there, are a big part of what make these movies so interesting. I love this scene and really enjoy what they did with the song.

Are you, are you, coming to the tree?
They strung up a man, they say he murdered three.
Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be
If we met at midnight in the hanging tree.

Discussion

Discussion questions taken from Scholastic. Feel free to play along in the comments. 🙂

1. Discuss the feelings between Katniss and Coin. Why do they distrust each other from the beginning? How does Coin treat the conditions that Katniss demands for being the Mockingjay? Is Katniss really a threat to Coin’s power?

The reader is slow to understand what Katniss understands right away. Coin isn’t here because she wants a better life for the districts, she’s here because she wants power. Katniss doesn’t trust her because in many ways she is just as bad as Snow. Coin doesn’t trust Katniss because she knows that Katniss could easily take power away from her. That’s why Coin turns Katniss’s demands into a power play. She gives in because she has to, but she also makes sure Katniss and everyone else knows who is really in charge.

And yes, Katniss is absolutely a threat to Coin. Not just for the obvious reason (she does assassinate Coin at the end…) but for the reasons Boggs points out. Katniss is incredibly charismatic, and the people will care what she thinks. If she were to oppose Coin, the masses would follow her lead.

2. Why is it so hard for Katniss to accept Gale’s idea for trapping the workers inside the Nut (“I can’t condemn someone to the death he’s suggesting”)? What does she mean when she says to the wounded man in the square, “I’m tired of being a piece in their Games”?

Katniss is a reluctant revolutionary, but what finally pushes her over the edge is her disgust for the deaths the Capitol subjects its citizens to. Not just death in The Hunger Games, but starvation, coal accidents, and punishments. Between that and the experience of taking a life, Katniss is reluctant to cause any death. But the death in the Nut is especially bad because it hits close to home. Katniss is afraid of underground because that’s how her father died. She can’t imagine anything more horrific.

So when Gale suggests this, it plants seeds of doubt in Katniss about the revolution. How are they any better than the Capitol, than Snow, if they will kill in horrific ways? She starts to relate the revolution to the Games. People die, people who shouldn’t have. Innocents. All in the quest for power. When she says she’s tired of being a piece in their Games, she is refusing to kill without reason. Just like she refused to kill Peeta and Finnick.

3. Do you believe it was the rebels who killed the children with the exploding parachutes? If so, how does that make you feel about whether this was justified as a means of winning the war?

That’s the question of the book, isn’t it? I don’t know that it matters, Katniss knows that even if they didn’t do it, they’re capable of doing it.

At the end of World War II after Germany surrendered, Japan vowed to keep fighting down to the last man. President Truman was told that the war would cost 10 years and 10 million lives, or something to that effect. Yes, the nuclear bombs would kill many, but not as many as the war would. In the end, even though he knew it was horrific, he chose to drop the bombs.

Was this a justified means of winning the war? Boy, am I glad I’m not the person making those decisions. Were the rebels justified killing children if it meant ending the war? It’s so easy to say no, to just condemn them. But the book is from Katniss’s point-of-view, and she doesn’t know why that decision was made. Maybe they were worried that the pods would kill many more children than the bombs would. Again, I’m glad I’m not the person making those decisions.

4. Why did Katniss vote for another Hunger Games? To save the lives of more people? Or did she secretly anticipate sabotaging the plan?

Katniss is so mentally unstable at this point, I honestly believe she shouldn’t have been allowed to participate in the conversation. She doesn’t even know why she votes yes. It probably has something to do with the sick rose she’s holding in her hands.

I don’t think she had plans to sabotage the Games, but I think that in a moment of clarity she saw them for what they really were. She felt sick when the Capitol (or the rebels) killed the children in the Presidential square. Katniss was ready for children to stop dying. She finally had a clear moment, and she changed her mind.

5. Why does Katniss assassinate Coin? Does she do it to avenge Prim, or because she believes it is for the greater good of the country, or both? How does Katniss escape retribution for Coin’s death?

Both. For sure. When Coin suggests the final Hunger Games I think Katniss finally realizes that she is no better than Snow. And she is so sick over Prim’s death. Plus she’s just super mentally unstable and not making rational choices. Which is, of course, why she doesn’t get in any real trouble. They should never have put the bow in her hands, and they knew it.

6. Gale tells Peeta, when they are hiding out in the Capitol, that Katniss will pick whichever one of them she can’t survive without. In the end, why is that one Peeta and not Gale?

First of all, this is a complete lack of understanding about Katniss on Gale’s behalf. It just goes to show that he has never really understood her, which is why they spend so much of this book clashing with each other. Katniss was never going to pick the person she couldn’t survive without. She was either going to pick no one, or the person willing to wait for her. Which, in the end, is Peeta.

However, it’s worth saying that Katniss can’t survive without Peeta. He is the only one with even an inkling of what she is going through. Except maybe Johanna. He’s also the only one who loves her unconditionally. Between those two things, that means she needs him to bring her comfort and stability.

While I think the epilogue is utter garbage, I love watching Katniss and Peeta’s relationship play out in the last chapter. It feels so inevitable.

2 thoughts on “Favorites February: Mockingjay

  1. Great post! I also disliked Mockingjay the first time around, which has been my only read so far and thus I’m happy to see it’s grown on you. Maybe it will improve with time for me as well. As an adult reader I think I am more willing to explore difficult themes and overlook a lacking plot, whereas I didn’t always have that patience as a younger reader.
    I also liked your comments about why Katniss ultimately chose Peeta over Gale. I was firmly Team Gale back in the day and hated that Collins used Gale’s characterization in this book to push Katniss farther away from him. I saw that as the writer’s choice at the time, in a situation that could have gone either way, though the more I see people talking about Katniss and Peeta’s relationship the more I believe that it was the right choice for Katniss even if it didn’t make for as exciting an ending! I think I’ve just got a bad habit of developing reader’s loyalty toward the first love interest that appears in the book (unless they’re obviously an asshole) rather than the one that actually makes the most sense for the protagonist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have definitely enjoyed Mockingjay a little bit more each time I’ve read it. I’ll never like it as much as the first two books, mostly because I think the whole thing with Katniss killing everyone she cares for because she wants to assassinate Snow to be ridiculous and pointless. That’s still where I just can’t suspend my disbelief.

      Liked by 1 person

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