Author: Suzanne Collins
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.”
Thoughts: Warning – There will be spoilers for those who have not read any of the series.
If the discussion after the release of Mockingjay is any indication, Suzanne Collins knows how to get her audience thinking. Global warming, political collapse, sacrifice – no matter how readers felt about the story itself, they were all discussing certain aspects of it. They debated the horror behind the Hunger Games, the rage and impotence towards the Capitol and President Snow, Katniss’ behavior, and so much more. To that extent, Ms. Collins definitely succeeded.
I ended up reading Mockingjay twice in order to ensure I absorbed the lessons Ms. Collins wanted her audience to learn. I love the way the series ends. My initial thought that it is a perfect ending to an amazing series has not wavered. On this, I remain convinced. What struck me most on the re-read was the emotions of the reader. During The Hunger Games, the reader is left in shock at the games themselves and the impotence Katniss feels at being part of them. After finishing Catching Fire, the reader is filled with rage at the pawn that Katniss has become, as well as at the cliffhanger that kept people guessing for a year. With Mockingjay though, the reader is filled with a tremendous sense of despair. The people throughout Panem are damaged beyond repair, especially the Games’ previous victors. So much has happened to our beloved characters that the readers will never be the same.
Much has been made about Katniss and her behavior in Mockingjay. Is she too depressed? Why doesn’t she embrace her role as the Mockingjay more than she does? What struck me is the fact that Katniss is not as politically savvy as some readers may have thought. In fact, she is the most politically naive person in the novel. This is her largest weakness because it is the means by which everyone – from the Capitol to District 13 and back again – manipulate her and coerce her into actions she does not want to do. She never intended on being a leader, yet she was forced to become one for an entire country. This leads her to be pushed beyond her breaking point. No wonder she spends most of the novel rehashing her decisions and the impact they have had on others. All she has ever wanted, from the first moment the reader meets her, is to take care of her loved ones, but she has never been allowed to do only that. Katniss’ role as the Mockingjay is a true tragedy because it is a perversion of her original role as caretaker.
On subsequent readings of the first two novels, it becomes very apparent that Gale is never meant to be a love interest. The fact that he became one through overzealous readers does his character a disservice. He gave her the means and the will to fight for her own survival as well as for the survival of her loved ones, but for Katniss, Gale will always remain just a friend. The reader sees this in Gale’s reaction to the war. Katniss states that Gale’s message has always remained the same; he has always preached treating the Capitol the way the Capitol treated the districts. As Katniss sees the repercussions of this treatment, she was bound to pull away from Gale because he stood in direct opposition to what she hoped to achieve. In a way, he was implicit in her manipulation, and that is something she will never be able to forget. It is understandable, then, how they end up living in two different districts leading very separate lives.
As for the much-maligned epilogue, to me, it is a fitting ending. Rather than viewing her children as a cop-out, I feel it is the first time in all three novels where the reader gets an inkling of hope for mankind. Man might continue to fight for limited resources and tear each other apart for power, but as long as we have the children, there is hope. Katniss did not cave to pressure by Peeta but rather has healed to the point where she too can have hope. It is the ultimate triumph over everything both Peeta and she have been forced to experience. There is beauty and peace in her motherhood, something Katniss has never been able to experience prior to that.
Throughout the series, Ms. Collins shows the reader just how idiotic and dangerous the fascination with reality television can be, as well as the slippery slope of war. In addition, Katniss and Peeta are characters that rightly earn a position among the best literary couples thanks to their struggles, and subsequent triumph over them. Simply put, Mockingjay is a phenomenal ending to a fantastic series.