Mockingjay Discussion 14: Hunger Games Formula

There are howls coming from Hunger Games fandom that Ms. Collins left the rails of her story in the series finale and wrote something of a treatise about war rather than the heart-warming Young Adult romance we got in Games and Fire.

I understand that response. But Ms. Collins did not leave her story formula when writing Mockingjay. In fact, the critical things that happen before and in the Games and Quell arenas happen in Mockingjay‘s story line as well. She is telling us that this “real world” slaughter of innocents and the “artificial world” nightmare of children dying in the Capitol’s Hunger Games don’t differ except in our seeing one as acceptable and the other as unacceptable.

Here are the formula story points of Games and Fire that are hidden but echoed in Mockingjay:

Katniss starts out in District 12 —

Mockingjay opens in the devastated coal district, which Katniss has insisted on visiting to regain her bearings. She returns with family tokens, to include a pet cat.

She is taken against her will to the artificial world of the Games’ sponsor —

Katniss is only in District 12 by special permission and for a brief period of time. She is air-lifted back to District 13, the Mockingjay host of the war starring Katniss that it broadcasts for its political purposes to all of Panem. This war is the Mockingjay equivalent of the Capitol’s Games.

She observes the cruelty of the power holders to those who will not conform

In Games and Fire, Katniss is horrified to meet the Capitol’s slaves, the Avox (Latin for “voiceless”), who are former citizens who have been mutilated and muted for daring to speak out against the regime. In Mockingjay, Katniss discovers that District 13 has their own torture facilities on level 39. Her prep team are being held and cruelly mistreated there for the crime of eating more bread than their allotted allowance.

She makes her choice to resist those in power

In Games, it comes at Rue’s death. In Fire, her decision to stay and fight, not to run away, is a consequence of Gale’s beating. In Mockingjay, she decides to play the role District wants her to after Peeta’s call for a cease-fire. but that is to protect him and the other Victors as much as to fight the Capitol. Her choice to do the right, sacrificial thing comes in District 2, when it response to Haymitch’s prompt, she tells rebels and Capitol members that “These people are not your enemies!” She is, of course, promptly shot (chapter 15, pp. 216-217) for her advocating a cease fire of sorts on her own.

She is prepped by her stylist’s prep team —

Check! The three stooges, sobered by torture, keep the Mockingjay looking good for her close-ups.

She is cloaked by Cinna in a coal costume that is illumined for her anti-Capitol “girl on fire” message —

Cinna is, sadly and unexpectedly, absent from Mockingjay. His place in the story formula, however is book-marked if not satisfied, by her Mockingjay super-hero action-figure battle-costume having been designed by Cinna before his repose. It is, like his costumes in Games and Fire, jet-black.

Katniss  is paraded before all of Panem in her pony-show chariot. She gives an unforgettable performance as the the Girl on Fire

Cinna’s costume in Mockingjay doesn’t come with flames but in this novel’s equivalence of the chariot entrance, the staged exhibition in District 8 for propo filming, Katniss opens fire on the planes that have set the hospital warehouse on fire. In case we missed the fire-on-black connection, she gives her “Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!” philippic.

She takes part in training sessions —

I think her time hunting with Gale above ground are Mockingjay’s equivalents of her training sessions with Peeta in Games and Fire. She gets official commando training alongside Johanna before she goes to the Capitol for the last battle which is the Games replacement in the series finale.

She makes an “I’m not your pawn” statement in her private sessions with the Games Makers —

Her list of terms to President Coin in exchange for her signing on as the rebellion’s Mockingjay is the anti-team player message she sends with arrows into the pig’s mouth and the Seneca Crane dummy.

She goes into the arena with Peeta — and realizes there that she loves him —

In Games Katniss enters the arena with the expectation that she may have to kill Peeta to survive. Peeta is determined to save her and, in this resistance, to demonstrate he is not a Capitol slave. In Fire she and Peeta are allies and committed to the other’s survival. In Mockingjay, Peeta enters the arena convinced he will kill Katniss and she must several times resist the call to kill him. She decides to protect him (chapter 21, p. 302) and gives him a kiss, less out of affection than to achieve an effect (chapter 22, p. 314). Sound familiar?

The Games arena is a nightmare of murderous monsters, machines, and poisons —

Katniss and Finnick joke during their briefings about the pod defenses in the Capitol that they are just going in for their third Hunger Games. In case, the parallel between the fight for the Capitol and the Hunger Games is not that obvious with all its Meat Gringers, Mutt-ations, and serial booby Pod traps, Katniss repeatedly refers to her feelings inside the place as echoes of how she felt in the arena.

She defeats the Games with bow and arrow and by attacking the story parameters —

In Games, Katniss walks away a Victor by sending an arrow into the Career tribute’s face and by her Berry Rebellion. The suicide attempt forced the chief Gamesmaker to choose between losing face because the children died on their own terms rather than those of the Hunger Games or because more than one tribute survived.

In Fire, Katniss uses her bow and arrow to destroy the literal and figurative story boundaries by exploding the arena force field and escaping.

In Mockingjay, Katniss sends a lethal shaft into President Coin, the District 13 Gamesmaker-President, for killing Prim and for proposing a Capitol-children Hunger Games to replace the tributes version. She destroys in one shot the woman who was responsible for turning the rebellion into her own Hunger Games and, flushed with success, who was determined to continue their use as a political tool.

She winds up her story by exiting the Capitol miraculously

In Games, she exits under a cloud consequent to the Berry Rebellion, and, in Fire, it’s in a rebel hovercraft. After the assassination in Mockingjay, she leaves the Capitol as a mentally unstable PTSD veteran who was let off on the murder charge through an insanity defense.

So, if Mockingjay really is the third Hunger Games novel and conforms to the story formula in its key points, why does it feel so different?

Three things.

(1) Catty Katniss: In the first two books, Katniss is an innocent girl just fighting to survive and protect her family. In a nutshell, she is a “gothic heroine” and de facto story orphan, for whom the reader sympathizes because of her situation and with whom he identifies because of her being the narrator. We see the story from her perspective and eventually join her because of her likability and our shared experience.

In Mockingjay, her family is safe (we think!) and she volunteers for her entry to the Games/fight in the Capitol. She is as likable as a Career tribute might be. The reader, consequently, does not enter into the story as profoundly in Mockingjay as s/he does in the first two books.

(2) No romance! Peeta is a prince and a saint in Fire and in Games, and, as we identify with Katniss and she falls in love with him despite herself, so do we. President Snow turns Peeta into a mean Mutt-ation of himself, however, in Mockingjay and it isn’t until the very end of the book that we get any of the Katniss-Peeta in love energy back. The story line, consequently, doesn’t engage us as it did in the set-up books.

(3) Good Guy and Bad Guy confusion. In the first books we don’t have to think hard to “remember who the enemy is.” President Snow and the Capitol power holders are the black hats and there is very little about them that we need to understand. Capitol, bad; rebels and tributes, good.

President Snow and the Capitol are still folks we can love to hate in Mockingjay but the saviors of the finish in Fire, namely, District 13, not only don’t seem so good, a lot of the time they look and act like the Gamesmakers in Fire. Geez, the District even has a Capitol Gamesmaker producing their audio-visual spots and master minding the war as a made-for-broadcast studio production.

Games and Fire worked on the surface level because the story points, narrative voice and narrator, and clarity of pro and antagonists worked together to draw us into the surface, to suspend disbelief, and experience the story on the inside. Mockingjay, not so much. Which is a real shame, because I think it has a load of edifying meaning in its allegorical levels (moral, allegorical, and anagogical, about which, more tomorrow) but without that immersion or full entry into the book’s surface story, the reader does not experience these other levels or walk way much changed by that experience.

Your comments and corrections, please.

Comments

  1. Have you read the other books?

    The Capitol kills children every year. How is that “heartwarming”?

  2. @ GoldStarz: I had to scan back through the replies and the original post to find where you got the “heartwarming” bit. I don’t think most of us saw the books in that way, if you had read the responses. John very often puts out several ideas and points of views to start the discussion.

    I tend to agree with you that this was not a heartwarming teen romance series. But for some reason, there are teens and adults who look for just that element in whatever they read – just go back and look at all the discussions of Harry Potter that focused on shipping, when, imo, that was never Rowling’s intent. Collins and Rowling both have bigger stories to tell than teen romance.

    And by the way, the general rule around here is to moderate your own language and to not shout – please take off the caps lock when you post. We will all listen to your comments without you shouting at us.

  3. Weird. I thought there was too much of the romance in this book. I was so damn tired of Katniss going on and on and on about both the guys.

    Actually, I just got tired of Katniss period. I think the first person point of view really hurt the book.

  4. I find it funny how teenagers don’t like this book simply because there wasn’t much romance in it. I didn’t like the first book simply because of the lenghty romance scene in the middle of it, and I’m fifteen. I was far more interested in the overall plot, and to me, Mockingjay was a great conclusion to a wonderful series.

    For me, the parts which made the most impact were the ones where Prim and the other children are burned to death, and the part where Coin suggests that they hold another Hunger Games featuring Capitol children. At that point, I was actually chanting some sort of mantra in hopes that she was kidding. Overall, I think Mockingjay was the best book in the series.

  5. anyone else try to make sense of Bogg’s last words to Katniss? I mean, he was trying to tell her not to trust Coin, but why did he want her to kill Peeta?

  6. Rebecca S. says:

    Because he believes that Coin sent Peeta to their Squad with the intent that Peeta would kill Katniss, thereby creating a martyr for the cause and getting rid of her Katniss problem. He does not think that the assassination mission can proceed with Peeta along as a loose cannon. And, of course, he does not think that Peeta can pull it together.

  7. Scarlett says:

    I love love LOVED not only Mockingjay but the entire Hunger Games series. The first two really held my attention and got me rooting for each of the characters. And I think Mockingjay was a wonderful wrap-up. While I do love a good cheesy nothing-but-romance love story (i.e. Nicholas Sparks), I kind of liked that the last book wasn’t filled with JUST THAT, because there really is too much of that in the book world these days for young adults.

    One thing that did unnerve me a bit was how much gore was in this book. Not to say the other two weren’t violent, what with it actually being set inside the Hunger Games themselves. But I guess because the ENTIRE book was a war…the number of deaths was too much for my taste. Guess I wouldn’t do very well in a war.

    I was really upset about two deaths in particular: Finnick and Prim. Prim’s I understand, made Katniss retreat inside herself, then motivate her to kill Coin, then finally be what brings her out of the shell. Got it. It was still horribly tragic though, and I wish it hadn’t happened. Made Katniss going into the Hunger Games in the first place seem like a waste. But I guess that’s the way these books go. Finnick’s death though…that just seemed unnecessary and cruel. At the hands (teeth) of mutts too! I think he should have been allowed to live. He was really growing on me, poor thing, everything he’d been through and then now FINALLY getting to be with Annie. It was awful. Killing Finnick, to me, was a bad move.

    I loved the ending though. I cried. I teared up with the primroses Peeta planted for Prim, but the real tears started with Buttercup reappearing and Katniss finally accepting and crying over Prim’s death, and that followed through basically to the end of the book. The book for the ones who died. Annie and Finnick’s baby (that one really got me!). Peeta and Katniss growing back together.

    I especially loved that it all returned to 12, which was rebuilt, and that Peeta and Katniss developed a life together, had kids (yay!). Just the right amount of romance to tie up the books. I had a feeling that Katniss was going to end up with Peeta, especially from this book in particular. It was just setting up for it. Gale’s changed view towards her, them always fighting and angry at each other. Katniss holding onto Peeta’s pearl, always wishing he was with her, and then when he was rescued, always wishing for the old, kind Peeta back. Missing him. Caring about him. And it being her to finally break through his hijacking. Yea, I could totally see it coming. And I totally loved it. Gale and Katniss wouldn’t have been happy together. Although part of me wishes he was at least in the end of the book, although I can see how it wouldn’t really have made sense for him to be in 12 with Katniss and Peeta.

    Overall, as you can see, I loved the book, the series, and I would highly recommend this to anyone.

  8. Someone says:

    I was personally very dissipointed by mocking jay. I finished the first two books in two days, and I loved them. It was the sort of book that I could really enjoy, even if it was somewhat depressing. I felt like the good and the bad balanced out. When I got to mocking jay however, I felt like it was poorly written, and choppy. Then there were the deaths. While I was reading it, I did not register Finnicks death. It was barely touched on. Then Prim, this left me throwing the book at the wall crying my eyes out. I was upset and mad, her death to me seemed like it made the other two books pointless. Why even bother trying to save Prim if she was just going to get blown up anyways? I really did not process what happened in the rear of the book. I didn’t see the point any more.
    As for the romance aspect, I was quite okay with the amount. My complaint was that there was no love triangle. From the beginning it felt like Katniss had no choice but to be with Peeta. Gale was just there. There was no real need to give that paragraph where Katniss remembered kissing him. It was never spoken of agian.
    The thing I really hated was the voting for having the last games. Katniss voted yes for Prim. This really made me mad. Prim is a very sweet caring girl (I refrain from calling her little. She’s very mature) I can’t imagine her wanting annother hunger games.
    These are just my options.

  9. Degnance says:

    The two guys Katniss loves, because she loves them both though she is not “in love” with either of them initially, represent the two sides of herself. Gayle is the hunter who understands her “fire” and her fierce love for family and home. He sees the Capitol and its people as the unforgivable other; he cannot know until Prim’s death how the consequences of making the choice to kill a human being can impact that vision. Peeta is an artist. A baker, painter, and orator who understands before he is even in the arena that the Games and the Capitol want to take his “self” or his “soul” for him to survive. He is not willing to let them do this.
    Katniss enters the first game with the skills she learned from both Gayle and her father, which keep her alive for the majority of the game. While Katniss spends most of her time alone, it is her alliance with Rue, and her song and actions at Rue’s death, that show Katniss’ soft side. Peeta’s love for Katniss is the thing that saves them both at the end, and it isn’t simply acting on Katniss’ part. By the end of the Games, she knows the consequence of being a pawn in a game with rules you can’t do much about, where your life is on the line and killing other human beings is a horrible choice for survival. She is not blood-thirsty, though she will kill when necessary. Initially, Katniss goes along to stay alive for family and for Gayle, but she ends up falling for Peeta because of his “soft” skills: loving, speaking, painting, baking, . While Gayle loves and has compassion for those he loves too, he does not understand the consequences of the hateful speech toward the Capitol that he throws around to make himself feel better. He says ironically at one point in Mockingjay how he hated Katniss during the Games when she was kissing Peeta, but he knew he wasn’t being fair. He goes on to say that Peeta is hating Katniss without that sense of balance. That is what Gayle does when it comes to the Capitol and the way he views fighting them with whatever weapons he can come up with. Katniss senses this in him as the thing that keeps her from being happy with him. He is not balanced in the way Peeta is, so she doesn’t feel complete with Gayle the way she does with Peeta. In the end, that’s why Gayle says all he had was taking care of Katniss’ family. He knew that was huge for her, but Peeta had other things he could bring to Katniss that Gayle simply didn’t have to offer.

  10. Degnance says:

    Sorry! Misspelled Gale’s name every time above!

  11. Mockingjay was my favourite of the series, for the simple fact that it made me cry, something I never expected. The scene with Buttercup was it. Collins got something deeply right in that scene. And it was not simply that Sad Things Had Happened, it was something about the chemistry of the scene itself, what was happening between the girl and the cat. It moved me.

    Unfortunately, I read the kindle version of the book on my laptop screen, and I found I didn’t retain it as well as I would had I had the physical book (or perhaps the less shiny screen of a proper e-reader). So I don’t remember all the ins and outs of the plot, but I do remember thinking the book had one big flaw in its… technical structure (here’s the creative writing major talking), because it cut short its own climax by having its point of view character pass out at a critical moment (AGAIN!) and then stay out of the action for the rest of it. Or almost the rest of it. Something like that, anyway; that’s what I remember.

    It’s weird, because it’s a book that’s written like an action movie, but which is really about character development and introspection in the end. I never knew which kind of book it was going to be, so I got all geared up for the plot-action, and then felt the wind go out of my sails when I was asked to suddenly (!) slow down and deal with her inner trauma, and find that the entire conflict had changed once again! She kept throwing me for a loop with what the book would be about!
    I think part of the problem for me (and this was a problem in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, too) was that Collins has issues with pacing. She does in my reading, anyway. I wonder if it has to do with her past as a TV writer and the different mediums. The books alternate between moving through time in leaps and bounds, and stopping for extreme close-ups. That’s exactly how things work on-screen, but for me it didn’t work so well in the books.

    I’m actually extremely excited to see how the Hunger Games translates into film, because I think the things I found jarring in print would work excellently in film. In film you can show a whole Victory Tour in a montage, and the audience won’t feel cheated. I felt cheated or at least very surprised when that entire tour took so little book-time. Same when I spent whole chapters towards the end of Catching Fire in confusion and ignorance with Katniss, when a far more interesting drama was being enacted in the secret plan all around her. If only Collins had let Katniss be in on at least part of the secret plans, I remember thinking! That would have been fascinating. But no, Katniss is to stay ignorant. Well, maybe that’s part of the point. But having your narrator pass out or be concussed just when things get interesting, and then cut to safety –it didn’t work for me so well.

    However, I forgive absolutely everything for the Buttercup scene! 😉
    I do like the books, and these thoughts ARE from someone who hasn’t re-read the entire trilogy (bits and pieces only). Should do so soon.

  12. I just loved MockingJay. I think it’s my favorite book in the series. I didn’t think it could’ve ended any better, given the circumstances. I thought the book was beautiful because of how truthfull it was. All three books focused on three main topics. Power. Entertainment. Violence. Delivering a much deeper meaning.
    Collins gives us an extremely strong character in Katniss. Someone who is almost mentally, and physically destroyed by the end of the series(Thank god). I loved Katniss, and in no way wanted anything bad to happen to her. She deserved nothing but happiness. But luckly Collins is a realist. . . You can’t expect to be valued if you kill the citizens you rule over. Entertain ourselves with murder and death without becoming numb and unsympathiac to the value of human life. And understanding that true pain,and true violence can come in many forms. Whether it’s complete fear, torture and dispair, or a loss that will never be mended.
    I also know that many people hate the fact that prim died. and figured what was the point, and how could Collins do that! What was the point of Katiness entering the games to save her sister if she was to die anyway. . . I understand that. But i feel like Collins wanted to reach us at a higher level. And make us understand that you can try your hardest to save the ones you love, from the hellish world that may sorround you. But unless that world can change, than no matter who you are, everything can still be taken from you. and the true test is if you can live a life after all the pain. . . . I love the last sentence in the book because i feel like that’s what she was trying to get across. “But there are much worse games to play”. . . and in the real world, there always will be.

  13. I finished Mockingjay last night and am still trying to cope with the ending. I cried off and on throughout the last two chapters and I think that the ending is wonderfully tragic, what with the death of Prim and the mental decline of the main character as the full realization of war and life hit home. But I think what irks me is the final romance between Katniss and Peeta. I think because I find it hard to really consider it a romance. I might be the only one in the universe, but still, I’m not at all crazy about Peeta. He was annoyingly nice and I think he was out of touch with the reality of the situation. The only thing he cared about was Katniss, to the point where I was kind of glad he was hijacked just so he could start to see her without being blinded by love. Of course that whole episode messes him up so bad that I wonder if at the end he doesn’t just love her because everyone indicates that he should. And I’m not convinced that Katniss was in love with anyone. She used which ever man was available for her own comfort, knowing full well how they felt about her, and didn’t give anything in return emotionally. Throughout the series she leads both Peeta and Gale on without once really trying to come to terms with how she feels about them. She was not a girl in love. She was a selfish, distraught teenager caught in a rebellion. And I feel like she didn’t so much as choose Peeta as she chose sanity. The war took its toll on her and so she finally stopped struggling and Peeta was the only one there. Personally I have more respect for Gale because he had respect for himself. He knew Katniss didn’t really love him and so he wouldn’t accept her empty kisses and had a cause outside of loving her. At the same time he protected her with his life and respected the deep friendship that they shared.
    While throughout most of the series I was mainly rooting for Gale, by the end of the third book I was hoping that Katniss would not end up with either of the men. She doesn’t deserve either one and the relationship with Peeta at the end somehow feels like a cop-out. A too-happy ending to a very tragic story about war, suffering and humanity.
    It would have been terribly sad and angsty, but considering everything that she went through, I think it would have been more fitting if Katniss had ended up alone.

  14. Mockingjay was my favourite of the series, for the simple fact that it made me cry, something I never expected. The scene with Buttercup was it. Collins got something deeply right in that scene. And it was not simply that Sad Things Had Happened, it was something about the chemistry of the scene itself, what was happening between the girl and the cat. It moved me.

    Unfortunately, I read the kindle version of the book on my laptop screen, and I found I didn’t retain it as well as I would had I had the physical book (or perhaps the less shiny screen of a proper e-reader). So I don’t remember all the ins and outs of the plot, but I do remember thinking the book had one big flaw in its… technical structure (here’s the creative writing major talking), because it cut short its own climax by having its point of view character pass out at a critical moment (AGAIN!) and then stay out of the action for the rest of it. Or almost the rest of it. Something like that, anyway; that’s what I remember.

    It’s weird, because it’s a book that’s written like an action movie, but which is really about character development and introspection in the end. I never knew which kind of book it was going to be, so I got all geared up for the plot-action, and then felt the wind go out of my sails when I was asked to suddenly (!) slow down and deal with her inner trauma, and find that the entire conflict had changed once again! She kept throwing me for a loop with what the book would be about!
    I think part of the problem for me (and this was a problem in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, too) was that Collins has issues with pacing. She does in my reading, anyway. I wonder if it has to do with her past as a TV writer and the different mediums. The books alternate between moving through time in leaps and bounds, and stopping for extreme close-ups. That’s exactly how things work on-screen, but for me it didn’t work so well in the books.

    I’m actually extremely excited to see how the Hunger Games translates into film, because I think the things I found jarring in print would work excellently in film. In film you can show a whole Victory Tour in a montage, and the audience won’t feel cheated. I felt cheated or at least very surprised when that entire tour took so little book-time. Same when I spent whole chapters towards the end of Catching Fire in confusion and ignorance with Katniss, when a far more interesting drama was being enacted in the secret plan all around her. If only Collins had let Katniss be in on at least part of the secret plans, I remember thinking! That would have been fascinating. But no, Katniss is to stay ignorant. Well, maybe that’s part of the point. But having your narrator pass out or be concussed just when things get interesting, and then cut to safety –it didn’t work for me so well.

    However, I forgive absolutely everything for the Buttercup scene!
    I do like the books, and these thoughts ARE from someone who hasn’t re-read the entire trilogy (bits and pieces only). Should do so soon.
    . Harriet August 31, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I just loved MockingJay. I think it’s my favorite book in the series. I didn’t think it could’ve ended any better, given the circumstances. I thought the book was beautiful because of how truthfull it was. All three books focused on three main topics. Power. Entertainment. Violence. Delivering a much deeper meaning.
    Collins gives us an extremely strong character in Katniss. Someone who is almost mentally, and physically destroyed by the end of the series(Thank god). I loved Katniss, and in no way wanted anything bad to happen to her. She deserved nothing but happiness. But luckly Collins is a realist. . . You can’t expect to be valued if you kill the citizens you rule over. Entertain ourselves with murder and death without becoming numb and unsympathiac to the value of human life. And understanding that true pain,and true violence can come in many forms. Whether it’s complete fear, torture and dispair, or a loss that will never be mended.
    I also know that many people hate the fact that prim died. and figured what was the point, and how could Collins do that! What was the point of Katiness entering the games to save her sister if she was to die anyway. . . I understand that. But i feel like Collins wanted to reach us at a higher level. And make us understand that you can try your hardest to save the ones you love, from the hellish world that may sorround you. But unless that world can change, than no matter who you are, everything can still be taken from you. and the true test is if you can live a life after all the pain. . . . I love the last sentence in the book because i feel like that’s what she was trying to get across. “But there are much worse games to play”. . . and in the real world, there always will be.
    . Daishar October 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    I finished Mockingjay last night and am still trying to cope with the ending. I cried off and on throughout the last two chapters and I think that the ending is wonderfully tragic, what with the death of Prim and the mental decline of the main character as the full realization of war and life hit home. But I think what irks me is the final romance between Katniss and Peeta. I think because I find it hard to really consider it a romance. I might be the only one in the universe, but still, I’m not at all crazy about Peeta. He was annoyingly nice and I think he was out of touch with the reality of the situation. The only thing he cared about was Katniss, to the point where I was kind of glad he was hijacked just so he could start to see her without being blinded by love. Of course that whole episode messes him up so bad that I wonder if at the end he doesn’t just love her because everyone indicates that he should. And I’m not convinced that Katniss was in love with anyone. She used which ever man was available for her own comfort, knowing full well how they felt about her, and didn’t give anything in return emotionally. Throughout the series she leads both Peeta and Gale on without once really trying to come to terms with how she feels about them. She was not a girl in love. She was a selfish, distraught teenager caught in a rebellion. And I feel like she didn’t so much as choose Peeta as she chose sanity. The war took its toll on her and so she finally stopped struggling and Peeta was the only one there. Personally I have more respect for Gale because he had respect for himself. He knew Katniss didn’t really love him and so he wouldn’t accept her empty kisses and had a cause outside of loving her. At the same time he protected her with his life and respected the deep friendship that they shared.
    While throughout most of the series I was mainly rooting for Gale, by the end of the third book I was hoping that Katniss would not end up with either of the men. She doesn’t deserve either one and the relationship with Peeta at the end somehow feels like a cop-out. A too-happy ending to a very tragic story about war, suffering and humanity.
    It would have been terribly sad and angsty, but considering everything that she went through, I think it would have been more fitting if Katniss had ended up alone

  15. It annoys me tremendously that many of you refer to the end of Mockingjay as the “cliche happy ending.” I strongly believe that the ending is rather tragic. Katniss loses all of her fire, all of her passion. She is an empty shell, and I think that she has also lost much of her sanity. She will never again have adventure, but instead, will merely go through the actions for the rest of her life. This is not what she wanted.

    Peeta too, suffers a sad fate. He always wanted Katniss, wanted nothing else but to be together with her in a cloud of blissful love. In the end, he does win the girl, but she isn’t the same Katniss that he has loved and admired. She is a broken, worn victim of extreme trauma. I think that for the rest of their lives, Peeta will take care of semi-senile Katniss and desperately seek for the happiness, of which he has been cruelly robbed, through his children.

    It’s all very sad, but I’m glad that Collins ended the series on this note.

  16. Please read the “Mockingjay Round-up” of the three big posts I wrote (in addition to 27 others!) before suggesting we dismissed the ending as somehow cliche. Of course, in the thread about story formulas, I was obliged to point out the ending’s formulaic quality…

  17. Just finished M.J. and I’m slightly disappointed. It felt like Collins had 101 different ideas with this one and never really settled on one. It got the most disconnected after Coins death. I have a hard time buying that everyone still alive (as small a number it may be) would let katniss be alone in 12 right after all those huge events (ESP. Her mom and Gale) I also feel like the payoff for some of these survivors were a let down. I mean after all of that, some characters were summed up in less then a sentence (the director, the avox, gale,) and what happened to Johanna? Her arch of being an actual person was demolished when she voted to have another hunger games. She would have voted no. Plus the entire series was focused around who would make katniss complete. We all knew peeta was the ying to her yang but the way she wrote seemed like an afterthought. I get that she became this empty shell but if that’s what she was truly going for, then based off if who katniss us, she would have picked neither guy and lived out her life alone, I just didn’t buy a lot of it, boo.

  18. Jason,

    As to your last point, ” I get that she became this empty shell but if that’s what she was truly going for, then based off if who katniss us, she would have picked neither guy and lived out her life alone,” I have to disagree.

    Katniss’ prime direction through the entire arc or the story is self preservation. She cultivates the despair and anger she feels after her father’s death and her mother’s de facto abandonment. It becomes her motivating force to keep her from giving in to death. It is her passion, and what truly sets her on fire.

    Her need to protect Prim is the only time that selflessness clearly overwhelms her desire for self-preservation. Once in the arena and afterwards, she is able to order her feelings for the two love interests, and rationalize her actions at various points with respect to Gale and Peeta, based on her survival needs at the time. As with most rationalizations, she is not conscious of doing it at the time–she merely gives into those feelings that are most advantageous to her current predicament.

    As Gale tells Peeta in MJ, knowing her and observing her as he has, she will pick between them based on who she needs to survive.

    By the end of the story, being alone would have been suicide at that point. And other than after seeing Prim, blown up, she was never suicidal. Even when she thought she was, she couldn’t do it, and “seemed to be waiting for something.”

    Her day to to day actions begin to take on meaning as she slowly heals, and being with Peeta (her dandelion) gives her a glimmer of hope, a reminder of who she was in the eyes of someone who adored her unquestioningly. Gale and Katniss had a relationship of respect and mutual reliance, not unfettered adoration. She needs to be around Peeta’s optimistic vision of her (and the world) to find a reason to go on. It fits with her previously established needs, virtues, and shortcomings.

  19. carrenm says:

    Thanks for such a helpful summary of the consistencies and things that were “off” with Mockingjay. It helps explain why I was simultaneously compelled and repulsed by the story. During my first read, I read it rapidly, trying to get through it and hoping to get to the “good parts,” only to be disappointed that this third installment is so much more bleak than the previous two. Upon a second reading and more reflection, I have come to terms with Mockingjay as an important part of the whole story, though it still leaves me pretty broken up.

    With regards to why Mockingjay “felt different,” I think that even more than missing the “romance” specifically, I mainly felt the lack of a partner for Katniss. Throughout all three books, I think that Katniss is at her best when she has a partner: hunting with Gale, plotting with Rue and trying to survive with Peeta through HG and CF. In Mockingjay, she seems largely alone as the potential for partnership with Gale is clearly unraveling due to their differing motivations, and no one else seems close enough to her to fulfill that role. The absence of Peeta’s steady, solid presence is felt acutely not just as a romantic partner, but as a friend.

    One the third point about good guy/bad guy confusion, this was actually one of my favorite parts of Mockingjay. I really like how the first two books built up to the revolution, and then the rug was pulled out, almost immediately in the third book, when you realize that the rebels are in some ways no better than the oppressors.

  20. I was totally and utterly destroyed by the books. I found them to be completely tragic and disheartening. Maybe as an author that’s a desired reaction: to use your words to cause tears and real emotion. However, I am appalled at the amount of death, gore and sickeningly twisted means of torture used in the plot. The psychological trauma caused to each character is overwhelming. What’s missing in the third book? Some hope, some light hearted-ness, some youth and vitality. Instead we are presented with nothing but loss and heaviness. I also did not find the end to be cliche happily ever after. I think all the characters face a tragic ending. The ONLY redeeming conclusion of the book was that it was recognized that Coin was ready and willing to step into the exact same role of power and abuse. I’m glad that was at least considered. But the possibility for remedying that fully seemed glossed over. Prim’s death was a grim and ugly irony. Finnick’s death was cruel and wasted character development, hardly a good ending for such a vital person in the book! Oh, I’m just disappointed all around. I’m sure as an author of a book like this, every page can become political and controversial to the readers. But it creates such a sense of hopelessness that I haven’t ever encountered in a book before: and it’s supposed to be for YOUNG ADULTS. Sad.

  21. I read about Collins. Was it her father who was a war veteran? And she actually interviewed colleagues of his who went through war in reseaeching how she’d write the Hunger Games?

    Throughout the series I was so impressed, that I’d think she was a veteran herself. The whole concept was genius. (Biblical almost. When people in the old testament would sacrifice anything for appeasing “peace”, down to the children of their slaves and their own children).

    In war people can die in an instant, when you least expect it (Boggs, Finnick and Prim), they use your loves and strengths against you (warping Peeta and pitting him against Katniss). Your resolve can dissolve in the next two steps you take watching those around you fall. Your motivation needed to be worth it, not just training that naturally kicks into gear when the situation calls for it. This was beautifullu highlighted. The phycolohical aspect – far more explored than anything. It stripped the characters bare showing their true selves and what they grappled with to remain themselves, like Peeta said, “the Capitol will not have me, will not have my soul.”

    In war too missions can seem pointless and bear no results like Katniss advanceing on Snow’s mansion and never reaching him! Paid for with lives of her team and friends. Did everyone miss this? As oppossed to thinking it was a giant technical flaw, I chose to accept it as motivation that gave Katniss to see clearly. The experiences to which she was exposed, bared Coin and Snow before her eyes. And her choice became inevitabe. Otherwise all really would have been lost. As the Hunger Games would have continues as the revolution continues to divide people.

    People say that Prim’s death was not warranted. But Prim had become who she was, on the frontlines in her own way with her sister, starting out as the little sister who was protected when Katniss volunteered. Prim also matured to motivate Katniss to being a better Mockingjay. She died true to herself. As did Finnick who would not pass up creating a better world for his now-wife and unborn child. Also dying true to himself as a survivor and warrior.

    Plus Prim’s death and the death of the penned Capitol children made Katniss realize as Haymitch said, “who the real enemy is”. That truthfully Snow had no need to do that and would not do that as it would do nothing for him to remain in power, he said, “the last of his guards turned against him”. Bringing home the point that children are innocent.

    It was majorly about protecting Prim but Katniss did change whether she realized it or not. It was when she sang with Rue. That she looked at her and said that this was all bigger than simply surviving and protecting her family. Hence the sign Rue’s district gave as honour became the sign all of Panem gave to the Mockingjay and for their revolution. Rue being the youngest and most innocent, was not a coincidence. Rue’s father starting the revolt in his district, also not a coincidence.

    Gale as Coin’s soldier, vengefully hunted people like animals black and white as if they were not rebeles, they were with the Capitol. This moved him permanently from Katniss. Who, killed Coin. Didn’t want a repeat of turrany, this kind ld attitude to enslave people again.

    What I adored about Katniss was how she let people be who they were. Her family, Peeta and Gale. Especially, Snow and Coin. Then she took her actions.

    There was no pleading, no negotiation – simply processing and action. She, though mentally broken, acted as a true soldier and revolutionist.

    She was going to committ suicide after offing Coin. Peeta saved her from seallowing the nightlock pill (or in the books did she lose it in the crowd?) and had to live day by day picking up he pieces of her life. This kind of acceptance she has, kept her sanity as she compiled her memories with Peeta of all her fallen friends. The “good” that lives on with them. And that is what surviving is about. Though haunted by nightmares, the present (her Peeta and her two children) she holds in her hands is more important. And the fact that they were building a new world rising from the ashes of the old like a Phoenix. She did go into more light-hearted and jouful things for her career as the books said in the resolution. Thankfully. As she has had enough war for two lifetimes. And that I’m sure would make you appreciate things far more, especially given who she is.

    Heavensbee’s note to her, “Perhaps we (as a human race) will learn after this,” rings out hope enough for me.

Speak Your Mind

*