Mockingjay Discussion 6: Series Continuity

In an interview posted Friday, Ms. Collins said  in answer to the question “How do you typically plot or plan your book?” that:

It helps me to work out key structural points before I begin a story: the inciting incident, act breaks, mid-story reversal, crisis, climax, those sorts of things. I know a lot of what fills in the spaces between them as well, but I leave some uncharted room for the characters to develop, and, if a door opens along the way and I’m intrigued by where it leads, I’ll definitely go through it.

I remember thinking five or six times while reading Mockingjay that I was really surprised that she went through that door. I found myself thinking about the experience of reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the first time and how different it seemed than the first four books of the series. Did anyone  out there ask yourself if you’d picked up a book by a different author at points in this series finale? Could anything in Games or Fire prepared us for the climax of violence in the Capitol (I’m thinking of street scenes like chapter 24, p. 341)?

Comments

  1. My first reaction to the final “act” of Mockingjay was that it was indeed meant to be the ending to another book. The cold, hopeless tone and increasingly (I thought) unnecessary body count seemed to me unprecedented in the first two novels. I was taken completely by surprise as each new chapter added bleakness and despair because from the book’s cover art I assumed this would be the most uplifting of the trilogy, culminating in appraisal of the unconquerable human spirit or some such. To me, Katniss’ attempted sucides and quiet resignation to life with Peeta seem dissonant with the rest of the series. Not that I am chastising Suzanne Collins for not giving her audience a cliched happy ending, but I do wonder why she made the decision to end the trilogy in this way. Her comment about The Hunger Games being primarily a war story did not make sense to me until I finished Mockingjay.

  2. StrictlyTopSecret says:

    I find myself still reeling after reading MJ.

    I, too, felt like I was reading a book written by someone else. Only in a few choice spots could I “hear” Collins’ in this book. The first event in it that felt congruent with the rest of the series was the climax of the book itself (in my opinion) – when Katniss “spoke truth to power” with a fatal arrow to its brain.

    I finished this book not two hours ago, and still I sit here shaking my head. As I read, I kept thinking that somehow there would be a Wizard-of-Oz esque turning point where we find out that it is not Peeta, but Katniss whose perceptions have been altered by trackerjacker memory hijacking. I kept waiting for the “real” story to BEGIN.

    I waited and waited and waited. Until I gave up and accepted that MJ just wasn’t going to be what I had hoped it would be. By the end, I found myself disappointed, rather than excited. And that was definitely not what I was expecting. Maybe “disappointed” isn’t the right word. The word “unsettled” may suit my feeling better. I need some time for this to “simmer” in my mind. Writing about my response here helps me to do that. Thank you, John, for asking these questions and providing the forum for it.

    What struck me most in this series involves the psychological aspects. Specifically, bona fide, the presentation of such a wide variety of diagnosable psychological disorders (or symptom clusters) described in very accurate detail. This series hit at least one of most sections of the DSM-IV diagnostic categories from depression and other mood disorders to pathological bereavement to eating disorders (far too much talk of calories, binging, purging, weights and food in general to let this one go) to sexual abuse to PTSD to personality disorders, addictions to psychosis and suicidal and homicidal ideation and behavior and even developmental disorders (Greasy Sae’s granddaughter).

    MJ, in my opinion, is probably not appropriate for some of the younger readers of the first two books – for several reasons. I suspect they will not be prepared for what they read. I’m thinking specifically here more of the description of Finnicks sexual slavery. If the age range I saw at the Books of Wonder release party last night is finishing MJ in the next few days, I suspect that some parents are going to be getting some very pointed questions about a very touchy subject. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up for debate.

  3. I completely agree. Mr. Granger, I actually had become quite attached to the hypothetical details of your pearl plot. Many times while I was reading Mockingjay, I thought, “He (you) captured what should have been the essence of the first two books better than Mockingjay did.” Now, I do love Ms. Collins and I mean no disrespect at all.

    It’s just that Book 3 felt SO drastically different from Books 1 and 2 in pacing, character development, tone, and dramatic elements. I appreciated her somewhat nhilistic portrayal of war and revolutions – her point being that often groups end up being what they despise and rebll against. However, this (somewhat heavy-handed?) moral arc, for me, did not outweigh the fact that this book lacked the beautifully crafted moments of human connection that the other books possess. Some people might say, “Well, she did that on purpose, since this book takes place during the chaos of war,” but I don’t buy it, since what we loved about Katniss, Peeta, and the other heroes of the previous books is that they could rise above the brutality of The Games and illuminate within us that which is good, holy, and divine.

    I get that eventually even the strongest people succomb to PTSD and mental instability in wartime, but I just can’t get over the detached way that Ms. Collins seemed to treat her characters this time around. These were characters that I, like all of you, had come to cherish and identify with, and as the body count piled up, they all seemed to fall flat. I am disappointed, frankly.
    P.S. – Was anyone else completely puzzled by the one page explanation to why Katniss was let off after shooting Coin???? I mean, really….

  4. STS, I am going to have to let the book sink in just like you. It was very different and bleaker than I had expected. But it was very powerful. I think in time that it will be great, just a harder read than I had expected. I need time to digest everything in the books and respond to the emotional impact it gives.

  5. StrictlyTopSecret says:

    The more I think about it, the more profound I find the differences between the first two installments and the trilogy finale.

    I wonder if there was a significant change in the editorial team involved in MJ. Or even a pivotal member who perhaps was not as involved in the finale as he/she was in the first two books.

    Is it possible that, MJ did not receive the same level of editorial scrutiny (and associated rewrites and plot overhauls) based on the overwhelming success of THG and CF? Could it have been pushed too quickly to press?

    ~STS-who-still-is-struggling-to-wrap-her-mind-around-this-one!

  6. I think that this is always the end she had set out to write, especially taking into account the interviews that have recently come to light. It has a very heavy emotional impact, though, and I think that will have to settle before it all sinks in for many people. I thought it was brilliant in its power and impact, but admittedly sad to read and difficult to bear at times. My husband’s Dad was also a career army who was in Vietnam. The impacts of that war are still felt for him and I can see how this would have influenced Suzanne Collins having had a father in that war.

  7. I finished Mockingjay less than an hour ago. I’m still in shock. It wasn’t anything like I had expected it to be; I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

    It seemed like a part of a different series to me. I spent a fair amount of time searching for the characters I had emotionally invested in, only to watch them die horrific deaths. My younger brother and sister were just as excited for MJ as I was, but I’m not sure I should let them read it. It’s so bleak.

  8. I think Collins’ point in the series was to explain the difference between actual war and what we see on TV. The war games in HG and CF were less horrific because they were considered games. Produced. Televised. She gave us stock characters to love and characters to hate just like a good TV show: Katniss the independent woman who needs no one, Peeta the love sick school boy, Haymitch the manipulative drunk, Gale the smoldering young man from the Seam, Effie the dumb blond, bad guy President Snow whose breath reeks with blood. The fact that they were actually people seems as lost on us as it is to the residents of the Capitol, and District 13. But, in MJ she gives us the real deal. The war. Not polished. Not edited. Not story-boarded. Stock characters break type. Beloved characters/people are needlessly killed or broken. It is now harder to tell who is “good” and who is “bad.” So while her style changed dramatically from the 2 original tv specials, the finale drives home her point that real war is hell and very different from what we see on TV.

    While I see her point however, I did think the book could have warranted more development around connecting Katniss and Peeta in a satisfying way. I accept them together – heck I wanted them together – but it felt forced and rushed. And I agree with the previous poster with regards to the lack of explanations at the end. She doesn’t even testify at her own war crimes trial? Huh?

  9. I’m still wrapping my head around MJ, but I have to admit it was far, far less depressing than I was expecting. I was surprised at the time by some of the ways she went (like crazy Peeta, or Finnick’s sickening backstory, or Katniss voting for the Games) but it all just sort of fits for me. Well, except for Katniss voting for the Games.

    I know this will sound kind of crazy, but I think we got the exact same characters from the previous books. I thought their different appearance was in part because Katniss has seen them so incorrectly before. Katniss misses the boat on how grown up her little sister is not in MJ but HG. (although she starts to realize it in Fire) Gale tells her killing people won’t be any different than hunting in HG. Is it really that surprising that his mind hasn’t changed, especially after everything that’s happened? Finnick’s backstory is horrible, but was it was completely different from what we already knew about him?

    Maybe Katniss had to realize that she saw so many people all wrong to finally realize she was wrong about herself, and to figure out who she really was. And she has to do it on her own, not by defining herself by everyone else in her life. I think that’s why Prim died. And Mutt Peeta losing his affection for her was essential to that, too. (Although I thought Collins tried to show that he never totally stopped fighting it. Even though Peeta is suffering and does crazy things, in many ways he’s still the same person trying not to be a pawn, trying to give his life if it will keep Katniss safe. This time she just had to be kept safe from him.)

    Having said all that, I agree that the book is still very heavy in tone and theme. I also agree about the age of readers on this one. I was really surprised to see 7-10 year olds at my library’s MJ party. At first I thought they were just there with older siblings, until I heard them talking plot points from the book. My son’s not even 2 yet, but I’m thinking this is a book best read sometime when his age ends in -teen.

  10. revgeorge says:

    I think somebody touched on it already but the most incongruent thing for me was Katniss voting to have a Hunger Games with the Capitol’s children. It came out of nowhere really & was totally against what I thought her character was becoming. Someone who saw the inherent injustice in using anybody’s children for political or vengeance purposes.

    “I vote yes–for Prim.” Uh, Katniss, you, better than anyone else, should know how revolting Prim would find the idea of a Hunger Games like this. How dead set she’d be against it.

    I also can’t imagine Peeta, as adamant & vehement as he is against this idea, being able to continue loving Katniss if this Game went ahead with her approval. It’s left somewhat ambiguous as to whether or not this Game with the Capitol’s children actually took place after Coin’s death, but again I can’t imagine if it had happened, Peeta being able to live with Katniss.

  11. I have posted in another place my response, if you are interested please see my last comments in the assassin post. No need to repeat here. I don’t think the vote is truly representative of how Katniss feels. It was a distraction from what she was planning to do.

  12. revgeorge says:

    Lynn, sorry, I forgot about the other thread on The Assassin. I’ll reply there.

  13. Jo Dale Guzman says:

    I hear all of the comments and I guess I could see how you would feel that the books weren’t congruent, but I didn’t experience that reading Mockingjay. I’m a character reader and the integrity of the characters was kept in tack. Yes, the book amp’d up the deaths, the war, the adult matter, etc. but I half expected that’s where it would go. How do you write a book about war, without it dealing with mature content? It all read seamlessly for me.

  14. While I agree that there were issues with pacing, and no matter how much I would have liked to see certain aspects play out differently, I completely see this as a natural progression from the other books.

    We have to remember that the difference is that the first two books were based around Hunger Games- situations where the characters pretty much knew what the outcome would be (everyone was going to die except 1 person) and that it would end. It’s a controlled environment where the tributes had limited resources and basically no strategy other than to survive. They also knew (in theory) that every other person in the arena would kill them.

    In Mockingjay, all of those certainties- however disturbing they are- are gone. No one really knows who’s on which side or who’s plotting against them. The presence of so many “innocent by-standers” immensely changes the natural of the situation. No one has any idea if the war will end with total nuclear annihilation.

    As others have said, this is a much more unadulterated, honest view of war. For me, it was a natural progression once the rebels showed their cards. Things were going to get very ugly and unpredictable and characters were going to have to really decide what they were personally willing to do to survive and make a difference.

    I was, however, disappointed that Katniss plays such an insignificant role in the majority of the rebellion. I had hoped to see her much more engaged, like she was in District 8 and as she tried to be in District 2. And I was disappointed that the ending was so abrupt. But it was believable… mostly.

  15. I believe the book needed a dark twist to it inorder to fully impact the readers. If the book had ended in a happy ever after were they win the rebelion and everyone lives I would have thrown it in the trash then adn there. The book would have been ruined if all the people who died didnt die, Finick and Prim and Boggs especualy. The book didnt seam as if it was writen by a differnt writer, because Collins has always had a dark tone to her writing, you just had to look at the books knowing that there was not going to be a happy ever after.
    The violence was in every book, but it was downplayed by the strong focas on the rights to servive. In the Games and the Quell the murder seamed less worse because they were fighting for life, and everyone was out to kill. In the Last book the killing and murder seams worse because most of the deaths were of inocent people, or people who were fighting for the rebellion, we never got to hear of the death of the bad guys like in the first two, so the deaths take a more personal effect on people becuase we hear of the deaths for the side we are ruting for. If the deaths we had read about had been from the Capitol side, then they wouldnt have been as impacting or emotional, and the book would seam to be a little less dark because we could justify the murders of evil, but we cant justify the murders of good.
    The whole series has been a dark series, and throughout the books Katniss has started deteriorate, and I think part of the reason the Mockinjay comes off so dark is because we really get to see the effects of the past two books on Katniss’ character.

  16. I went into this book knowing it was a war story, and perhaps having read too many dystopian trilogies (again, the Uglies series comes to mind). As much as I’m reeling over what happened, I think that I’m supposed to be. The end of the aformentioned trilogy is just as bleak, the main character more in tune with how reality isn’t wonderful and wars can’t be won easily.

    I also had a feeling that there wouldn’t be a Hunger Games in this book, that the climax had to be the real revolution, fought the way revolutions are fought: in person, gory, with a death count way too high, too many innocent lives taken (didn’t Collins say her inspiration was partially the Iraqi war?), and too many cameras capturing its brutality. In some ways, it wasn’t what I expected, but in others, I don’t think I would have been satisfied with anything appropriate for younger readers. You don’t kill dozens of people and come out of it sane. And Katniss’ count of personal kills was already very high when entering the book.

  17. There’s no question that MJ is far darker than the first two books – which, given their central theme of “underage gladiatorial combat” (thank you Alex Carpenter) is an impressive feat.

    Prim’s death was shocking. The others were just a normal part of the story development. But the abrupt shift where Katniss’ quest for much of the book becomes meaningless, and rebel medics (not just Prim) die by Coin’s hand is hard for me to believe, based solely on the words of Snow. It’s like the conspiracy theorists who say Bush blew up the WTC to get public support for his war. I need more evidence to prove it.

  18. For me, it seemed as if Katniss only voted yes so that she would have a real reason to kill President Coin- that she planned on yes, having another Hunger Games.

  19. I’ve been making critical comments about MJ and what I deemed to be Suzanne’s moral “heavy-handedness.”

    Then, last night I met a friend of a friend who recently returned from heavy combat in the Iraq war. He looked okay – was hanging out, is about to have a baby girl, etc. Later as we were talking, I noticed something else – sad eyes, a hair-trigger temper…he talked about how hard it’s been to adjust, the guilt he feels over killing innocent people (he said he’d get orders to shoot anyone he saw outside after curfew, but then later learned many of them were just farmers and civilians). He wanted to go to law school, and is trying to do it, but now he feels like the only thing he can do is go back to the war….nothing else feels right. At the end of the night, I thought, “This is what Suzanne is talking about. These young kids getting exploited, spit out, and broken….and there’s no easy answer.”

  20. I’m coming late to many of these discussions…. piecemealing them out, as it were. But this is the discussion that so far most captures my own response to MOCKINGJAY — the emotional discontinuity with the first two books, and in many ways, the shift in who Katniss is without our getting to fully experience that shift with her…

    I also wanted to point out that in Suzanne Collins’s quote with which John starts the article, referring to “structural points”: “the inciting incident, act breaks, mid-story reversal, crisis, climax,” she is speaking using screenwriting terminology, not novel writing terminology. I can’t imagine most novelists speaking in terms of act breaks, or the inciting incident, or even in terms of structure so blatantly. (This emphasis on her part may also explain why so many of her chapters, particularly in MJ, seem to end with some sort of stunner just in time for what I can only refer to as a commercial break.)

  21. I completely agree with Jessica’s post from 8/25, but I have a slightly different spin on it.

    I propose that the reason that MJ is so dark is that it is exactly the natural progression from the fake (TeeVee – as John calls it) to the real. We are cack to the Cave allegory. More specifically, removing the veneer to reveal the ugliness, or, more appropriately, pulling back the curtain to reveal the evil machinations behind the “play” that is Katniss’ life.

    HG
    As dystopian as it is, HG is fairly idealized, isn’t it? Katniss’ life is hard, for certain and people are starving, to be sure, but D12 is pretty soft by comparison, as evidenced by Prim’s life in D11…lax officials; rascally but loveable peackeepers; all of which let Katniss pretty much do whatever she wants; asexual, thoroughly devoted love interests (Two of them, damn lucky girl!)…even in the Games Katniss finds legitimate allies and shocking mercy (Thrush, anyone!?), as well as a way to manipulate an entire country to get what she wants: The life of both herself and Peeta spared and no ramifications for her family and Gale.
    (On that note, given what happened to Haymitch’s family, was anyone else left wondering why Katniss’ family wasn’t offed within two weeks as well??? I submit that Snow knew of the brewing rebellion led by the nuclear superpower of D13 and knew that they had a hand in what was going on…so I suppose I am coming out as believing that the Pearl Plot, in some form, did exist and that we don’t see it because of the extremely limted POV of the series.)
    But I digress…only at the end, when back in the capitol do we start to see the veil begin to lift. The real ugliness (Snow’s threats and Peeta’s withdrawal from Katniss) starts to peak through.

    FIRE
    Here is where we start to see more than the occasional glimpses behind the curtain of Katniss’ world, we start to see large segments of time devoted to the general wickedness of people and the evil it visits upon others.
    Did anyone notice how much less of Fire was staged in the arena? The ugliness and horror of this book is not within the violent televised “entertainment” so much as without. Peeta’s coldness, Gale’s rejection, Snow’s threats, Gale’s whipping for what he and Katniss used to easily get away with, the tightening of security and cruelty of the peacekeepers. I was actually relieved when Katniss went to the arena because she was much more “free” in the sense that her decision for suicide/sacrifice, to save Peeta, was a release from the crushing loneliness that pervades the whole beginning of the book. Then in the arena, the killing is quick and feels perfunctory…what stuck with me was the messed up, crazy, psychlogical manipulation that the gamemakers visit upon the tributes…again, it takes your mind OUT of the arena (TeeVee) and shows you that the evil is truly in the “real world.” Even at the end, the worst and most long-lasting injury done to Katniss is for a District-based script, not for the game…not to mention that the most primal, vicious behaviour we have thus far seen from Katniss, attacking Haymitch, is not in the game, it is a part of the rebellion in the real world. The now considered rather utopian D12 from the beginning of the series is destroyed. (Cuz you know, you can never go home, right?)

    MJ
    So, it only makes sense that once we take away the rest of the veneer, and just leave that curtain permanently open, this world is a brutally ugly, unkind place. Now, instead of being manipulated from afar, you are interacting with the manipulators and seeing their sins under a microscope, piling up with every new detail you notice. Gale is (And always was) a bit of a whore, not the a-sexual devotee that John noted he seemed to be presented as. Peeta is not the perfect, stalwart, forgiving (ahem, unrealistically perfect!) man that you can count on. It goes on and on, Haymitch, Finnick, Prim, the leaders taht are supposed to be the “good” guys, almost every VIP prove to be or at the very least to behave the opposite of what Katniss(We) expects. D13 living and just about every other scenario don’t go the way Katniss expects them to.

    Is SC changing things up on the reader or are we seeing veils permanently lifted for Katniss? Is she finally seeing the real dystopia that was always hiding behind her not-really-a-dystopian life in D12? Is this why she hides in small, dark places a lot, trying not to see, not to believe, not to grow up? I think Katniss is finally spending a whole book in the real world and it is depressing and disappointing and miserable and quite a pill to swallow. So, no, not especially fun to read, but a damn powerful female monomyth is playing out here with some meaningful transformations for several key characters and a rather tender, hopeful ending.

    As a parting shot, note that instead of becoming a fearless and moral leader, she retreats to her small, distant, remade not-a-dystopia and we don’t hear another word about politics. Is this because she does not want power or because she does not want the reality of dealing and living with large quantities of wicked, hurtful, imperfect human beings back in reality? It seems to me that this is the only way she could be convinced to have children and find hope in her life…and I am totally ok with that but simultaneously sad that it is true.

  22. (On that note, given what happened to Haymitch’s family, was anyone else left wondering why Katniss’ family wasn’t offed within two weeks as well???

    Danielle, possibly this is evidence of Snow recognizing that he had screwed up in his management of Haymitch, because after killing all his loved ones, Snow had no way to control him. Snow seems like a person smart enough to learn from his mistakes.

  23. 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.

  24. Ch. 25, p. 348 (First line) “Real or not real?”
    I waited the last 50 pages to read “Not real”
    Prim dying – I didn’t realize how crucial of a character she was until she died. She continually comforted Katniss, and seemed to represent Katniss’s will to fight way back since the first reaping. Reflecting right now (I know I am writing this too soon after finishing, but oh well), i would have preferred that Katniss died earlier in the series than Prim dying. Katniss’s inability to think before she acts, “nobody telling her what to do or say”, is at first a gift but later cruelly turns on her.
    Am I satisfied from reading MJ? 100% NO! I’ll reread it later to see if I appreciate it more, but i very much so doubt it. However, that is just a testimony to how incredible of an author Suzanne Collins is (Reminds me i should reread the Overlander series, which i didn’t realize she wrote until after reading HG). I don’t recall such a — depressing — ending in that series, showing she is never out to hurt the fans of the series. She was simply expressing her story and being gracious enough to let us in on it. And although reading HG 4 days ago and CF yesterday followed by MJ today made my winter break pretty unsettling — like a roller coaster, with all books amazing, yet HG and CF fueling my desire to read MJ, only to go straight downhill — I still love this series for what it is and its message

    Brandon

  25. Gotta say that I too, when first read Mockinjay, made a conection with OotP, though, finally Mockingjay is 10 times more depressing and brutal than the fifth Harry Potter book

  26. I don’t think mockingjay was too dark or anything, but I am disappointed in the ending, and not because it was not happy, but because it was so unlike the characters. I understand that Katniss wanted only to protect her family, and once her family (prim) was gone, she was broken, but I almost feel like the only reason prim was killed off was so that her and peeta would end up together.
    I just finished reading the book so I may change my mind later but I was let down.
    The entire series had this power to it and I was expecting many deaths and tragic events in the war, but granted I read this book in a day because I was so eager to know the end that I missed some details, but I also always thought Katniss was going to end up with gale. He seemed to always be in the back of her mind and the reason she hadn’t decided to be with him was because she felt like it would hurt peeta, and even though she obviously cared for peeta, for more reasons than one, I still thought that Gale was a part of the story now so they could develop their friendship and everything again.
    I found it hard to believe that gale would magically be out of the picture, and forever gone, even though she had no family for him to really care for anymore, but what about him wanting to care for her?
    peeta essentially was always saved by katniss and i understand that he was the comfort and love she needed but when did peeta magically heal?
    she is completely broken, with the obvious reasons why, but her planning suicide attempts and not ever picking the guy she wanted to be with, but ending up with the one who was around

    I was let down that this was supposed to be a war story and how the capital was made out to be the God-awful place and how horrible and immoral the hunger games were that I was expecting an intense war story that would change everyones lives in panem, of course war is bloody, dangerous, tragic, unfortunate and sad, but everything seemed to be about anti-war in the end of the book, but what were the people of panem supposed to do? continue to live their lives under theses horrible conditions?
    like I said, I was not expecting some happy ending with everything working out perfectly, but there is barely next to no information about what the future of panem will be like, not really even a hint,
    and you’re only left with two broken people who have to rely on each other to make it through their lives.. but I thought that was what it was like in the games?
    it’s almost as if peeta and katniss are only staying alive now because they have to.
    After she was the face of the rebellion, after she kills coin, she is just shut up back in district 12 with peeta to live alone while haymitch is now back doing nothing but drinking his nightmares away,
    I just think the message took away from the story, that people can be broken but still fight, and I felt like the message I got was not that, that they were only broken souls who have eliminated the hunger games but don’t seem to do much of anything else.

  27. Andrew Kelly says:

    Although I was felt disappointed with the sudden and abrupt ending, I consider MJ to be the realisation of reality, as typically experienced by people leaving the teenage years.

    Realising that good people can (often) have bad flaws, and that hidden motives are rampant in high levels of any organisation is simply the real world. I would have been more disappointed if the Katniss that I had grown fond of (character flaws and all) had suddently risen inexplicably to be a natural leader.

    I am surprised by the change in Peeta, as I expected that he would become the new leader of the rebellion given his talent for public speaking.

  28. On first reading, I wanted to throw MJ in the trash. I was hoping for a happy ending for a set of characters I had become very attached to. Then I remembered what Ms. Collins had said about her stories being, at their heart, about war. Not dystopian fiction. So after much thought and a second read-through, I changed my mind about it completely. I find it to be a tragically realistic ending. I have heard some people critique the books as being rushed or messy, especially this one. But the fact remains that war is a very human enterprise. So how can you separate war from all of the messiness that is human life? Love, friendship, family, sacrifice, manipulation, art, entertainment, power, greed, revenge, morality, betrayal, image, identity, on and on and on. As for the rushed ending of MJ, war is hell and when it’s over, the survivors are left wondering “what on earth just happened?”
    “Later, the human feelings will come.” (Ch 22, Pg 313) Our characters are left battered and broken trying to put together the pieces of their lives after a war in which NO ONE’S actions have been above reproach. Perhaps Collins is not providing a neccessarily anti-war message, but rather telling us that even a war that seems completely justifiable is very difficult , perhaps impossible, to execute in a moral and satisfactory manner because after all, war involves killing. And no one escapes unscathed from killing. For a society that generally speaking prefers happily-ever-afters, hope-filled endings, and will so frequently pull for the underdog to triumph over all, this is a truly bleak outlook.
    Katniss did more for her people and sacrificed more than any seventeen year old should ever have to. As if being a teenager isn’t hard enough, look. Just look at what she goes through! How can you possibly expect something different for her?My heart broke for Katniss and Peeta. Since the first arena, she depended on Peeta’s kindness and steadiness to give her hope through the worst times, and in MJ, he is not present until the very end, first because he is in the Capitol and then because hijacked-Peeta isn’t really Peeta, although I’d say his doubts of her were justified. True she was cold and unfeeling towards him, and I wanted to throttle her for it, but at least she is able to admit why she’s hostile. It has nothing to do with him and everything to do with her insecurities about herself. “All those months of taking it for granted that Peeta thought I was wonderful are over. Finally, he can see me for who I really am. Violent. Distrustful. Manipulative. Deadly. And I hate him for it.” (Ch 16. Pg 232) She is terrified that she is becoming a monster and the one person she could count on to see only the good in her has vanished.
    In the end, I believe that Katniss and Peeta were eventually able to find their love again. They are suffering from PTSD and depression. You don’t get over that in a day, people. Collins could have written an entire novel on the process that she neatly summed up in one sentence. “Peeta and I grow back together.” (Ch 27. Pg 388). When my husband returns home from war, we spend months readjusting, healing, growing back together, and even then, the process is not over. And I’ve never been to war. And he’s never killed anyone. His minor PTSD stems from transporting the injured and the dead bodies of young men and women home. It takes a heartless peson not to be affected by something like that. Knowing what he goes through, I can’t imagine what someone who’s lived through what these two characters would have to do to heal. But the point there is that Collins does leave room for hope. It may take twenty years, but life can go on. Sad and tragic, yes. But that is how life after war is.
    In regards to the violent climax, I know several others have already said this, so I’ll just touch briefly. I think that the feeling of disorientation is exactly what Collins was aiming for. Katniss herself is so confused about who she is and who everyone around her is at this point, and she is our narrator, our eyes and ears. It only makes sense that her voice would be muddled and confused through this experience. Then there is that centuries old maxim “the fog of war.” It’s fast and brutal and confusing, nearly impossible to tell enemy from ally, real from not real. In addition, it provides an interesting juxtaposition to the violence of the Games, which feels almost unreal in many respects. Whereas the violence in MJ is most definately real. Is it jarring? Absolutely. Did I sob uncontrollably through most of the book? Heavens, yes. But I also think it is a brilliant piece of writing, of art imitating life in times of war in all its ugliness. And sadly, I think that the reason so many have violently disliked this book reflects the alienation of this country’s military. I can’t recall the exact figure, but a shockingly large percentage of our population has no connection whatsoever to our military. Why is this shocking to me? Because we’ve been at war for over a decade, and so few of us understand what this is doing to our people. To our young men and women in arms as well as our children back home. Ms. Collins, thank you for such a timely and tragically meaningful story.

  29. Louise Freeman says:

    Thank you for your very thoughtful commentary, Tracy, and best wishes to you and your husband. If Mockingjay did nothing more than make a few people appreciate our veterans a bit more, it will have served a great purpose.

    Harry Potter left us with a magical “All was well.” In Hunger Games, all is not well, but it’s a lot better than it was before, so we are left feeling grateful for that.

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