Q&A on “Who is the MockingJay?” Part 3 Corrections and Comments from Hunger GamesTrilogy.com and MockingJay.net

Back into the mailbag! The feedback to “Who is Mockingjay?” we’ll be looking at today, though, wasn’t sent to HogwartsProfessor (except for the opener that came in after I posted Part 2). It’s almost all from the two threads on this theory posted at HungerGamesTrilogy.com and MockingJay.net, two of the busier Hunger Games fandom sites with large forums. You have your SPOILER WArning and my advice to read the Hunger Games, Catching Fire, the Pearl Theory thread, and my responses, Part 1 and Part 2, before entering here. Good? Great.

First, though, this note from the HogPro comment boxes after the Pearl Theory post:

I admire your ability to analyse a book in so much detail but i was wondering whether maybe you make too much out of nothing? Or, perhaps, overlook the obvious in favour of the hidden?

See my explanation in the previous email. It is much more likely, frankly, that you favor the surface over the greater meaning. Though certainly I have been known to miss the obvious (see the top of this post!)

You say Prim and Peeta were meant to be called. If Katniss were the ultimate object, why not cut the middle part out and place her name in the bowl? I understand that volunteering for her sister gave her some extra attention, but not enough to justify this, i think.

Let’s assume you’re right and Mrs. Undersee is the eyes of D12. There’s still only a possibility that she’s noticed the depth of feeling Peeta holds for Katniss – it’s possible he hid it well anyway. Besides, there are enough people wandering District 12 that i doubt she had enough time to analyse it all. And anyway, surely the Reaping bowls would be checked? By other Capitolians? Would Effie get away with rigging it? I doubt it.The Peeta/Prim dream pairing – because it is a book perhaps? Surely having Katniss volunteer for her sister and then discover a secret love is far more gripping than Katniss being called alongside a random guy who gets killed 1 minute into the Games.

This scene, if read as a set-up rather than a tragedy-of-chance goes just perfectly. Even for juvenile fantasy fiction, perfection in respect to pieces falling into place should make a reader pause. But how could it have been choreopgraphed in advance?

Madge and Haymitch have told Mrs. Undersee everything they need to know: Katniss is the only young woman with a prayer of surviving the Games, she is devoted to the protection of her younger sister, and Peeta loves Katniss (no doubt Madge has caught him looking longingly in her direction over the years — and knows this City boy can talk and play a part). Gale will not volunteer for Peeta because the puppet master understands he will choose to stay to provide for Katniss’ family. Effie is told by Mrs. Undersee in an offhand way that Effie’s only hope of having a winning pair is picking Peeta and Prim. She conforms to type and obliges by just saying those names, whatever ball she pulls. Haymitch does his supposedly drunken nosedive (think “Foster Brooks”) to supply the necessary distraction so Katniss can pull herself together.

It’s choreographed based on knowledge of all the players, which I doubt was as difficult or risky for someone to figure out if we assume, as we must, I think, that this someone is looking for such things as you suggest. The crowd throughout Panem gets a great show on the teevee and immediately identifies and sympathizes with Katniss. First objective in the counter-narrative to the Games has been accomplished.

Of course, if you want to believe it happened just as Katniss, the crowd, and we readers experienced, fine. Your option!

You argue that Rue and Thresh were picked on purpose. Rue is 12, with a loving family. I just don’t see her family consenting to it. Rue would be too young to want to agree as such. Would you let your 12 year old daughter give up her life on the slim chance that she might be able to help a Rebellion, assuming everything else works as planned? Why would their deaths spark rebellion? They are but 2 members of District 11. Their deaths would be tragic, end of. The district is so large that they probably weren’t known before-hand.

I certainly didn’t argue that Rue and Thresh were chosen by their parents! I suspect they were chosen by the Victors of District 11, close friends of Haymitch, because, like the Tributes of District 12, they are the ones most likely to survive and and the ones most likely to win viewer identification and sympathy. Haymitch tells Rue or her mentor to look for the Mockingjay pin, which she loves for obvious reasons. Think of how winsome this alliance is — and in a Hunger Games that is being staged as a play or several plays within the play to show how love is greater than power and Games programming, it is these set-up relationships that deliver the message.

As someone has said, Mrs Undersee probably couldn’t get to the Capitol. If she was there, i doubt the Capitol would let her talk to Gamemakers and other influential figures – she’d be getting her medicine.

See the first response to part 2, where I discuss that at some length.

I’m not saying your overall idea is wrong – for all i know, she IS the mockingjay. And you have some interesting ideas with excellent research. But, perhaps you should step back from the minute detail occasionally to consider the ‘goes-without-saying’ aspects?

Geth Trefoto

Here’s the deal, Geth, I’ll spend a little more time at the surface of the story, if you’ll give the ideas of narrative misdirection and symbolism that are the substance of the Pearl theory a chance. Next time you post, you tell me what you found and I’ll tell you what I found at the surface (Dante and Shakespeare and Rollerball, I’m guesssing, with a little bit of Athenian youth traveling to Crete…).

Okay, folks, now we enter the fandom forum threads — thank you, Phyllis and Arabella, for the head’s up about their existence! — on which, as you might guess or know very well, the conversations, as a rule, tend to be dismissive and patronizing about whatever the board is talking about that day. The Hunger Games fandom conformed to type in having crowds of enthusiastic readers who just expressed their delight and wonder mixed in with the cynical trolls found everywhere in hyper-space.

Neither group expects me to read or respond to their notes, many of which are about how brilliant and/or stone-hard stupid I am. Let’s start with ‘Effie’ something of an Alpha Male commenter at HungerGamesTrilogy.com:

Maybe it’s because i am disinclined to believe anyone who thinks he’s a teacher in a made-up school but i think this guy is just … eh, his theory isn’t particularly good. I suppose Maysilee Donner could be the mockingjay leader person – it’s obvious Haymitch isn’t. But his explanations just don’t hold much water.

For example, putting Peeta and Katniss together in the Reaping; sure, great theory. Except
a) Effie is told which name to pull from the bowl. Then why on earth didn’t she pull Katniss’? Same effect, right? Katniss ends up in the Games. The love Peeta has for Katniss may not have been noticeable; why would this woman know about it?

Actually, Effie, anything but the same effect. See the discussion immediately above this one. Katniss just being chosen has almost zippo engaging effect on the viewing audience. Katniss’ sacrificial decision to save her 12 year old sister is a show-stopper the crowd won’t forget, especially when she appears as the charismatic beauty, the Girl on Fire.

b) Mrs Undersee’s trips to the Capitol – who’s to say the medicine wasn’t sent to D12? Besides, i was under the impression her medicine put the symptoms at bay, going to the Capitol would cure them completely.

Good point, and I explained the two ways this can be read in answer to the first question at Q&A Part 2. There’s the surface way and the narrative misdirection way. I chose the harder way to illustrate the principle involved, about which please see Q&A Part 1.


c) Madge being Haymitch’s daughter just sounds like this bloke wants more ‘WOW’ factor than anything.

Which, if you were being nice, Effie, you would note I said myself in the post…

I dunno, i’m not saying this guy is obviously wrong – he may well be right – but i don’t think much of his reasoning… Which fails where exactly?

To be honest, that was one part of the theory which made me think “This is a guy with far too much time on his hands.” He doesn’t seem to have considered:

– Who on earth would send a 12-year-old to her death, for a rebellion? With the parent’s permission? And hers? Thresh, i could maybe see. Rue? I highly doubt Rue, her siblings and her parents all agreed to send her to her death. No one volunteered for Rue because volunteers in thos districts are rare. Katniss says what she did was the extreme thing; had Katniss not existed, i doubt anyone would have volunteered for Prim.

Forgive me, but it’s just daffy that two people have written that I think Rue and Thresh were volunteered by their parents. Here is what I wrote in the thread: Rue and Thresh were selected because of their strengths but also also because of their places in the District 11 community (i.e., that their deaths would incite rebellion). Rue was told about the Mockingjay token. Go ahead and bash me all you like, but at least get the theory straight before dismissing me.


– Come to think of it, the Reaping bowls are probably checked a few times to make sure it’s fair or rigged (by the Capitol). I doubt they’d get away with the rep rigging the bowls.

As above, Effie is desperate to get out of District 12 service and needs a winning pair. She picks a ball and says the name she’s been told will be a set of winners. We know the selections can be and are rigged.

I’m sorry, but the more i think about this guy’s article, the more convinced i am that he is someone who likes to think he’s amazing at predicting books and overlooks the more obvious points in favour of ‘the Big Theory’.

And I am confident (a) you are not sorry and (b) you are a big player at HungerGamesTrilogy.com’s forums – who lives to dismiss what she doesn’t want to think about, as in say, narrative misdirection and story symbolism? See either of those points in this dismissal? Anything but surface objections? See Q&A Part 1 for critical nominalism.

HoppingInTrees writes:

I actually agree with Geth more. He mentioned something about Madge Undersee’s name being very significant. Madge = Pearl, Undersee = “under the ocean”, as in hidden away. However, elsewhere, on a different thread, someone once thought her last name was Undersee because it was more focused on the mayor. Mayor Undersee. Instead of OVERseeing the general population, the mayor is much more relaxed and lenient about punishment, and whatnot. Therefore, he does the opposite of oversee, which SC may haev just made as Undersee.

Did Geth explain the pearl symbolism? And what does ‘Pearl Undersee’ mean if Undersee is a pointer to the mayor’s being a weak over-seer? Again, corrections or improvements to just the plot points in my theory, not to mention the symbolism of pearls and the cryptonyms, really have to be better not to seem snarky. No?

Oh, and as Geth said, why didn’t Effie just pull Katniss’s name out of the bowl? There is no absolute way to know if Katniss would volunteer or not, and, honestly, does Effie look like the kind of person who would be involved in the rebellion? She seems so dimwitted at times, that I find it hard to believe.

Dim-witted and sufficiently transparent in her desires to be easily manipulated? Why would her being dim-witted make it less likely that she does what she needs to do to get some decent talent as Tributes for District 12. This dodo is dead tired of fronting losers. This is a weak point, Geth and Hopping.

Quote:

Even more of a ‘wow’ finish than having Mrs. Undersee just step out from behind the curtain as author-in-hiding would be learning that Maysilee’s surviving mirror reflection fell in love with Haymitch years ago — but that she married Mayor Undersee to insure that her child would not be made a District 12 tribute.

This does not guarantee her child’s name would not be pulled, js. It just makes the chance considerably less.

Um, right. And wouldn’t that be sufficient reason? We’re told of several people who are chosen more often than you’d have reason to expect (implying the selection is easily manipulated for a better Games story-line or more suffering in the Districts), most notably the children of Victors. We’re never told of a Mayor’s child being chosen. I’m confident these regime servants are immune from the Hunger Games.

All in all, his entire theory is way too complicated for me to actually believe it as plausible. I do think he ight be getting somewhere with the pearl theory, but I don’t exactly get his point.

Honesty in the end. Refreshing.

WindowChild:

Yeah, I agree with Geth and Elly as well. While I love and appreciate John Granger’s dedication, both to this and HP, it’s a little…. well, in all honesty, I think he gives both JKR and SC more credit than they deserve. They’re both great writers, sure, but they did not weave in teeny tiny hints of this dramatic, terrific unveiling yet to come. It just doesn’t seem realistic (and in JKR’s case, he made all these guesses about stuff she purposely referenced earlier, which I don’t think he did). In fact, I would love it if an author I liked did that, but it isn’t their primary job; they’re responsible for telling a good story, not making an elaborate reveal. But anyway.

“I think he gives both JKR and SC more credit than they deserve.” One is the author of the Shared Text of our generation which has sold more than 700 million books. Ms. Rowling is famous among serious and casual readers for her accomplished use of Austen’s third person limited omniscient voice to keep the reader from noticoing the key detail on which each story turns. The other author has an MFA, the arts equivalent of a PhD, from NYU. And yet in assuming they craft their stories carefully, even obsessively, I’m giving them “more credit than they deserve.” No, I’m not. I’m just noting the artistry with which these professional story tellers put together their tales.

He makes some good points, and some ridiculous ones. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was half correct. Like, I wouldn’t be shocked if maybe Mayor Undersee’s wife was in charge of the rebellion or something – I think attention is drawn to her for a reason – but the rest of it might be a bit much. I actually like the pearl theory, though. I think they’re constantly referenced for a reason. Well… I guess we’ll see. I’ve been convinced since the scene between Maysilee and Haymitch that there would be more about her, but we’ll see. Ugh, this just makes me want the third book more!

Well, she gives me a thumb’s up on Donner-Undersee and likes the Pearl theory, but says I make “ridiculous” points (all unnamed) and I might be “half-correct.” Gotta keep your self-respect as a critical reader, right? Pardon the sarcasm. I am with you in being excited about Mockingjay!

swimminggeek272

[Retrospect time!] Alright, I still think the guy makes interesting points. I mean, I don’t completely agree with him but I have to give him credit. I rushed through the article the first time so my mind went along the track of, “Oh cool! Some pearl theory. Good points. Alright, not a link to some porn site.” And that was that. I reread it again (just now…>.>) and I got a bit confused on some of his points. For instance, the fact that Madge might be Haymitch’s kid is kinda…disturbing me. Really. Also, I think the whole Undersee thing was discussed and I really have to go with the opinion on how it reflects the mayor’s attitude and Madge just got stuck with that last name. It’s a great theory to look at but…when you’re worried about time, you have no idea how the heck he had the books analyzed like that.

It’s the last line that is the keeper. Can you say, “Get a Life”? There must be something wrong with me…

ILikeAres

I pretty much completely disagree with everything that this guy said. I really agree with Geth here :3
-But I’m pretty sure Maysilee is dead and that Madge is not Haymitch’s kid. How could she be? He didn’t want to get close to anybody after winning the Games, and I don’t feel like going into anything else about that…

So we’ll just take your word this is a counter-argument and refutation wrapped in a simple, end-all statement. Gotcha.

-And then…yeah. As already said, they could have just pulled Katniss’s name originally. And Effie…she’s Capitol-born. Of course, she’s going to be air-headed. Doesn’t mean much more.

Again, your proof or argument here beyond “I think so” and “I know better”?

-The Madge thing is interesting, and SC often does go into names (TUC, for example…).

There’s a bunch else, but I’m lazy and have an iPod to play with.

Wonderfully honest ending and revealing closer. “You’re not worth the time it would take to write something cogent because I have an e-toy that plays music I like.” Ouch!

Forgive me for choosing a disproportionate number of comments from the skeptical crowd; there were a lot of readers at the HungerGamesTrilogy.com forum that loved “Who is the Mockingjay?” and who wrote kind, appreciative comments. They just weren’t very funny, and, forgive me again, I thought these “know better” assertions-without-arguments were good for a laugh the first and second times I read them.

On to the forum posts at The MockingJay.net:

likesunset

I have my reservations on this, but mostly because such elaborate theories I never trust. Little bits of info I can take, but someone pretty much writing the plot I just always can’t believe them.

That’s reasonable, right? But why are details to be preferred to the larger picture? Isn’t it more likely that the broad view will be clearer when speculating about a series finale than its details? Mark this as a “take me seriously, I’m not gullible” place holder that doesn’t make sense.

I don’t buy the Haymitch is Madge’s father idea. I don’t see how it would be prevalent, but since John Granger admitted he’s not positive on that, I guess it doesn’t matter.

I don’t think she means “prevalent” (“possible”?) but why isn’t she “buying” it?

I didn’t see the connection between Haymitch knowing the way around D11’s building and Mrs. Undersee travelling with the mayor. Why would he know if she was the one going there? Even if she told him and they were working together, I don’t see the connection. And I don’t think that if she were sick/pretending to be sick she would go anywhere but the Capitol. And I don’t think the Mayors go to other Districts, because the Capitol wants people to think that the way their life is the way it is. But I could be wrong, maybe there was one little line there that said they visit one another.

So, okay, Mrs. Undersee could have met Capitol gamemakers and designers but if she were going there for treatment, why would she meet all of these people? And if she couldn’t be out in public, who would she know who to trust? And being treated under such close quarters in the Capitol, where I doubt that they would leave the room of any District member (especially one who had lost her twin sister to the Games!) unbugged and unsupervised with other people. So how could she have initiated anything there?

A note of humility there at the end pf the first paragraph that was refreshing. Please see the Q&A Part 2 opening question for my answer to those thoughtful objections to Mrs. Undersee’s ability to get around, all of which rhetorical questions insist that the simplest, surface reading must be the best one — Occam’s guide to incredulous reading… For these questions to have the persuasive force she believes they have, the suppositions have to be credible and few of these are. She assumes the surviving sister of a Tribute will be monitored closely in every step she takes at the Capitol. A very sick woman and a Mayor’s wife? Given the attitude of Capitol citizens we’ve met in Katniss’ changing room, I doubt Mrs. Undersee would merit more than a patronizing glance. But if this straw man kind of refutation rows your boat, pull on those oars.

And people always bring up the conspiracy theories about the reaping being planned. OK, so first, how would they have known Peeta was in love with Katniss? No one knew until they were both already picked that he loved her. And Katniss said during the reaping that what she did for Prim was unheard of. No one had done it before. You might point out his theory that the twin Donner girls switched. Okay, so why wouldn’t they have done it as Katniss had? Why be secret about it? Back to the point that they could not have known that Katniss would replace her sister. Because I’m sure there were plenty of other girls who loved their sister, or boys who loved their brother, as much as Katniss did or appeared to love them as much as Katniss loved Prim, but they did not take their place. So why, if they somehow did know Peeta loved Katniss, would they jeopardize the chance that Katniss didn’t take Prim’s place? Why not just pull Katniss’ name out right away?.

Again, each question assumes the answer. Who could have known Peeta loved Katniss? An observant young woman like Madge who spends a lot of time in the City and with Katniss at school. Who could know Katniss would die rather than let Prim be reaped? Well, anybody that had seen Katniss take over for her father in caring for her sister after the mine explosion, say, everyone in the Seam, the Hob, and at school. And the question about why not just choose Katniss ignores the effect of the sacrificial love shown by Katniss on teevee viewers across Panem. If you don’t get that, there is no way you can grasp the story-writer theory.

He also brings up Madge’s name. I think this points more to Madge’s importance than her mother. Madge is the pearl. While her mother may have named her, do you think that they have baby name books with name meanings in HG times? And if she did mean that, why not just name her Pearl? But Suzanne Collins has access to baby name books and the internet, so her choice for a character’s name is important, and in this instance I would say it was the author completely, rather than the mother through the author. And he brings up that Mrs. Undersee’s last name could imply “out of sight”. But it is also Madge’s last name. For the most part, I think she has been out of sight. She is there enough, but she isn’t involved with Katniss planning her survival or anything. I don’t think Madge is in on anything, but she may somehow join them and have important information, from her father or something. Anyway.

“Anyway.” I actually think there may be something here; maybe Madge, as her name implies, is the pearl of the theory. But the scatter gun argument is bizarre. The name thing strikes me again as reasoning trying to catch up with assertions and never quite getting there. I’m suggesting that Mrs. Undersee is smart and cagey enough to pretty much inspire, if not plan and orchestrate a rebellion across all Districts via a redeeming-play-within-the-vicious-metanarrative of the Hunger Games — but you are struggling to believe that woman would know the meaning of her child’s name? I’m willing to bet that Ms. Collins chose all the names in these books, but here obviously she had a mother choose a name that has special symbolic significance in the story.

I do agree that SC will try and “wow” us all with a surprise. But with the evidence he has provided, I wouldn’t bet my life saving’s on this theory, or even twenty dollars.

But like I said at the beginning, I just always doubt people when they think they have all the answers before a book comes out. Maybe he’s right on some stuff, but my feeling reading this is…he’s not.

If you read Q&A Part 1, I explained that I’m not especially attached to any theory or speculative plot point. It’s the literary hook they illustrate I’m interested in. So I guess we agree here at the end, except she missed both hooks and stayed right at the skeptical surface, not Buying” anything, or even “betting $20.”

Miss Jessica:

I like the concept behind his theory, the idea that the story is about writing our own narratives within a world that is constantly telling us what to think. I agree that Katniss is going to come into her own in the next book.

I think the theory of Haymitch as Madge’s father is a beautiful idea. I can definitely see Haymitch insisting that Madge’s mother marry the mayor in order to protect his daughter. Then, after suffering the loss he was driven to drinking. Although, that kind of undermines everything we have thought about Haymitch. I don’t like it when authors do that.

I love the fact that Miss Jessica starts right out with the most important point of the theory that all other readers here missed and that she has mixed feelings about Haymitch as daddy.

I didn’t see the connection between Haymitch knowing his way around and Madge’s mother traveling to those places either. I think it’s a better bet to assume he has been going to that place over the years in an effort to speak to people about controversial and dangerous topics in private.

As I wrote in Q&A Part 2, I agree.

I find it hard to believe there is any one person orchestrating the rebellion and I never thought Haymitch was pulling the strings. I’ve always imagined it as a effort of a larger community. I think there is something to Madge and her family, at the very least they are involved in the rebellion. I don’t think Collins gives any information without some kind of intent. She wouldn’t offer the whole twin sister story without some eventual pay off.

I like the community idea contrary to the Puppet-master theory, but where is the evidence for anything like this in District 12?

As a final comment I love this line: “‘Gale,’ the Wind, nature, and Spirit with ‘Peeta,’ the bread of communion, art, culture”.

And with this note, Miss Jessica stole my heart. She is referring to the back and forth between Travis Prinzi and myself in the comment boxes of the Pearl Theory post. We discussed the allegorical meanings of Peeta and Gale, which was the exchange in which I dropped the line Miss Jessica liked.. I’ll definitely be getting back to those ideas and I hope readers like Miss Jessica who do not struggle to think of story as more than superficial diversion or occasion for a Society of Skeptics meeting.

More tomorrow, this time on story structure! Thank you, everyone that commented, and, please forgive me if I descended deeper into the snark than any of the negative reviewers of my theory. Your comments and corrections are welcome, as always.

This just in: really good commentary on the MockingJay.net Front Page post about the Pearl Theory. Sorry to have missed this…

Comments

  1. I agree that the bowls for the Reapings were probably rigged — at least in Districts 11 and 12. I don’t know about the others (since the rebellion seemed mostly focused, at this point, in the more impoverished districts).

    The only snag I’m finding in my theorizing is: Why THIS specific Hunger Games, the 74th year? What was the significance of the rebellion beginning to stir in this year? Did it have to do with the Quarter Quell the following year? Whoever the “puppet master” is (I like to think it is Mayor Undersee’s wife), did he/she know that the Quarter Quell would be an accumulation of victors past? If so, then it also stands to reason that those bowls of names were probably rigged. (Isn’t it funny that at least a few of the Districts’ victors for the Quarter Quell were all basically part of the rebellion? I don’t think it is a coincidence with who was chosen then either.)

    Also, there may be a reason we do not know the name of Mayor Undersee’s wife. Possibly her first name may have given something away about her character (as was the case with JKR’s characters in HP). (That may be my just looking for more than there actually is, but the really talented authors usually do everything for a reason. There’s a reason Suzanne Collins has dropped hints and tidbits about Mayor Undersee’s wife without actually INTRODUCING her to the audience, i.e. us readers. She wouldn’t have been mentioned with more than a passing sentence in both books. But the Donner-Undersee story seems CRUCIAL in these books since hints were dropped in both THG and CF.)

    Either way, I believe it’s safe to say that Katniss will feel even more betrayed in MJ once she realizes that everyone else (Mayor Undersee’s wife, Madge, Haymitch) has had a hand in her story without her knowledge. Expect major drama in MJ (but that goes without saying).

    On a side note — I was curious what your theories are on District 13 itself. (I expect it to be a major setting in MJ since it was Katniss’s destination at the end of CF.) The Lost District is very much shrouded in mystery. Do you believe we’ll be in for some surprising reveals in regard to District 13 and who may be living there now? (I bring this up because fans have been speculating as to whether Katniss’s father or Gale’s father will turn up alive in District 13. I have mixed feelings on such a theory — though it did come to mind while I was reading — but is it plausible for the story as a whole?)

    Looking forward to what else you have to share on The Hunger Games in the days to come.

  2. I think the 74th Quell was chosen largely because Katniss and Peeta were finally of age to play the parts of Romeo and Juliet convincingly. The boat of rebellion doesn’t launch without their counter-narrative to the Hunger Games. The puppet-masters, I have to believe, have been waiting for this to come together for a long time.

    Which raises the question about Gale. Was he part of her prep? That would explain their strangely Platonic relationship. He’s already a rebel at arms training the Girl on Fire, the Mockingjay.

    Agreed on Mrs. Donner-Undersee’s name. Could it be ‘Mockingjay’? Agreed on Katniss’ opening ‘act-out’ and insistence on making plans. Perhaps the biggest act-out will be on learning that Gale was part of the rebellion for years and knew about the Tribute selection set-up?

    District 13 will have to wait for its own post, eh?

  3. John-
    First I would like to say that I am completely intrigued by the different possibilities/theories you have presented! Whether they are correct or not, I appreciate it when different ideas are presented that are thought provoking no matter the stance. I think that digging deeper into stories such as HG and CF make them all the more interesting and I can’t wait to re-read the books to pick up on things I missed and so forth (unfortunatly both my books are on loan to friends right now so it will be a while before I can do that…:()
    Also, I have a question about your response to JSavant as well as some others about the deliberatly choosing Peeta and Katniss as the D12 tributes. Do you think it is possible that whoever is arranging all of this was aware of fact that Katniss had been keeping track of Peeta (despite her being aware of this herself until she speaks to Haymitch of his strenghth) as well? If I were arranging all of this, I would want to pick a male tribute to pair her with that I knew she would have some sort of awarness of and/or connection to in addition to his attatchment to her. I would think that would make the whole star crossed lovers thing play out a lot smoother than pairing her with some guy she never even heard of. Perhaps Madge (or Gale if he really was part of her prep) had noticed Katniss silently watching Peeta at school or around the bakery and shared these observations with the orchastrators of the rebellion?

  4. Imagine for a second that Gale and Madge are both agents of the rebellion and Katniss’ handlers in school and forest. Would Madge be able to pick up on Peeta’s attentiveness to Katniss from an early age — and on his remarkable talents as speaker and artist? Might Peeta, per his talk on the roof before the Games which all but tips the hand of the Girl-on-Fire counter narrative that they are there to act out, also be on the rebellion’s list of undercover agents?

    Yes, it sounds over-wrought to have every key character in Katniss’ life a secret agent guiding her to her role as Hunger Games heroine and symbol of everything anti-Capitol. But how else do we explain the remarkable restraint and Platonic relationships these boys with girls’ names have with our Kat?

    All that to say only “yes” I too think Madge is the one who identifies Peeta as the match for Katniss, the only District 12 woman who could survive and thrive in the Games. The Pearl!

  5. Agreed on the “Romeo and Juliet” angle with Peeta and Katniss needing to be of a believable age for the star-crossed lover act that caused such a stir among the Districts and in the Capitol. More planning from our “puppet master” — that makes sense.

    I don’t know if I could believe that Peeta was part of the rebellion. He COULD have been. I would be more inclined to believe that Gale was a part of it — though even that would be a hard pill for me to swallow because, if I were Katniss, I would never trust anyone again (even if the secrecy was for “the greater good”). She has overcome high obstacles before, yes, but this would be the crowning one of all to overcome.

    So I’m mixed on that theory. It’s a good one, but I don’t know if I like it for the story as a reader. (As a writer, though, I love the idea of all these twists and turns!)

  6. How do you read the Madge-medicine-delivery-moment in Catching Fire? As I wrote in the post on the Pearl Theory, two of the guys think Madge has something going for Gale. And could it be reciprocated? That would fit the Ma and Pa Everdeen City and Seam resolution-of-contraries relationship model.

    And that would mean, if we’re foing this far out on a limb, that Gale and Madge — as rebellion agents and Katniss handlers — have to deal with the fact that they are prepping her for death and sending her off to it on the hope she’ll figure out her lines in the play the alchemical dramatist has written…

    Yes, this could turn ugly during the big reveal in Mockingjay — if true…

  7. What an interesting theory! Whether or not Gale is part of the rebellion (and I think it would be very interesting if he were), he has undoubtedly played the role of Katniss’ trainer over the years. And I think there’s merit to the idea that he and Madge were in the know. Even from the first chapter in HG it seemed there was more than met the eye with his conversation with Madge. He gets so mad at her, maybe for the reasons Katniss cites, maybe because they both know who will really be reaped. And why have Madge talk about wearing something pretty in case she went to the Capitol, and then have Gale instruct Katniss to wear something pretty for the reaping? It just seemed like a strange thing for a guy like Gale to say. Foreshadowing, perhaps? (But maybe I just see that because I want to) 🙂
    There are a couple of things I’m still trying to reconcile with this theory, though – why would Gale talk about running away right before the reaping if he knew what was going to/needed to happen? And why come out with his “feelings” for Katniss in CF? If the Peeta/Katniss relationship was so valuable for the rebellion, why complicate it? How would that further the rebellion?

    I’ll have to read the books again with these ideas in mind. And, for what it’s worth, I don’t really see Peeta as quite the captain restraint that some make him out to be. If he were, maybe that whole beach scene in CF would have played out a little differently? And even if he and Gale are more platonic than some would expect, it’s a post-Edward world, right? Maybe we’re supposed to more readily accept the ultra-chaste teenage boy.

  8. I have enjoyed reading your theories and ideas. I picked up on the many layers of Suzanne Collins’ writing on my first read through the two books and agree that there is a lot going on beneath the surface. I had caught some of it, like the bread symbolism and the references to Peeta being a Christ like character. I hadn’t thought about some of your other points specifically such as the possible rigging of the games by the rebellion.

    I think some of the people commenting are missing the forest for the trees. They are getting so hung up on the specifics of whether small points of your theories are correct that they are missing the forest that you are trying to show them. There are layers hidden under the story that are fascinating to uncover and think about. It seems that this is what you are pointing out and trying to get the casual reader of these stories to consider. Personally, I am looking forward to your later posts and love to dig deeper!

  9. Am I in a more suited place to post? 😉

    “A question for you, though, to answer here or elsewhere: do you think it credible that Gale has been part of the rebellion for years and that he has been training Katniss for the Hunger Games? His androgynous name and Platonic relationship with Katniss all these years — and his taking that one kiss in front of the cameras, deliberately? — make me wonder, however much he loved her, if his higher allegiance isn’t to the Mockingjay revolt. Hence his torment at the house by the lake.

    Just thinkin.’”

    Interesting …

    My immediate (almost reflexive) reaction is to say that it’s not credible. It certainly would be a twist I’m not expecting. So far I’d considered Gale to be one of the most upfront characters in the entire series. I think he is very transparent, for the good and the bad.

    That said, and if it were to be this way, I can see how it will tied into the theme of narrative misdirection, and even serve the Madge/Gale pairing under the Mrs. Undersee “true mockingjay” theory.

    I guess my troubles are with what “higher alliance” may entail.

    I really don’t think Gale would intentionally train Katniss for the Games. For one, that also would imply the 1st Games being set up, and I’m still wrestling with the notion. Mrs. Undersee may outshine Dumbledore after all this is done. 😉 If it was set up, as you wrote in this thread, if the idea was to evoke an emotional pull from the audience, why not pick one of Gale’s little brothers, and have him take their place? I think that would’ve evoke the same emotional effect on the audience. Was Peeta that necessary? There could only be one winner anyways, and there had been heart wrenching stories in previous Games. No matter who had gone in, what sparked the spirit of the people of Panem was the moment Katniss held out those grapes. How could that be foreseen? (The remaining weakling I see is Effie, but just because it’s Effie. :D)

    On the other hand, Gale has made no secret of his pro-revolt leanings since the beginning. He is very vocal about it. Even to Katniss. The last could be argued both to ways. Though I find believable that, given the opportunity, he would’ve been part of the rebellion for years, I fail to think he would knowingly agree to put her right in the middle of it, and unbeknown to her.

    @Kathy“and then have Gale instruct Katniss to wear something pretty for the reaping? It just seemed like a strange thing for a guy like Gale to say. Foreshadowing, perhaps? (But maybe I just see that because I want to.)

    I call it sarcasm, dark humor … but maybe I took it that way because I love it. 😆

    Imagine for a second that Gale and Madge are both agents of the rebellion and Katniss’ handlers in school and forest. My heart just skipped …

    I hate to bring it back to Peeta, but I will nonetheless.
    Do you think that his characterization, his complete selflessness in regards to Katniss, aids to put everybody else’s under the microscope, especially Gale’s? Do you think that, to an extent, it may amplify what otherwise could be very natural actions and reactions from the people living in Panem?

    I do love the Pearl theory and the idea of the Undersees as puppetmasters (or at least them being closer to the revolts than we have been led to think). I think I’ll keep myself in denial for a while regarding Gale and the 74th Games set-up. 😆 As I said yesterday, the discussion leaves you with an itch for a re-read. I reckon I need it to get further into it.

  10. The Madge/medicine scene in CF seemed more along the lines of “Madge may have feelings for Gale” on the surface — but, below the surface, Madge could have been instructed by her mother to give him the medicine because MJ-Donner-Undersee knew that Gale would be a key player in the rebellion to come (if he wasn’t already). (Also, it would might have injured Katniss’s resolve had Gale perished at that moment in time. It could have had the reverse effect, true, that she would have been more resolved in her fight against the rebellion. However, the plot didn’t veer in that direction, so it’s safe to assume that Suzanne Collins has more in store for Gale than just being a martyr for the rebellion’s cause).

    I agree with Kathy about Gale’s repeated attempts to have Katniss run away; it doesn’t mesh with the “Gale may have been part of the rebellion from the start” scenario. Perhaps it was simply him having doubts about the rebellion (if he knew about it) — or his personal feelings warring with what he knew had to be done? The temptation of running away simply could have been a test to measure whether Katniss was really suited to the “seen as the mockingjay” rule. The truth could be in any of those directions.

    (I also agree that, unwittingly or not, Gale “groomed” Katniss for the Games. So did Katniss’s “deceased” father with the archery. Perhaps her father could have been involved in the rebellion plotting at one time — or still may be if it turns out he is alive and well in District 13? That’s another theory to be thought through.)

  11. I find your theory fascinating and, honestly, unsettling in what it means for the ultimate moral of this story. If you are correct, the “good guys” in our story are either pawns (a futile ending) or every bit as manipulative and, in their own way, insidious as the Capitol. We like your Mockingjay’s story, because it is nicer than the current default, but it is as much puppeteering as the capitol’s — the story is engineered and the actors are unwillingly and unknowingly manipulated. The Mockingjay likely did not care, ultimately, about Katniss’s true feelings, because the freedom of Panem was presumed, perhaps justly, more important. But the chilling reality is that this manipulation, this artifice, has generated genuine, if confusing, love. This is not to step into the Peeta v. Gale fray but only to recognize that Katniss does, in some way, love both Gale and Peeta, and that the line between artifice and reality is extremely thin. The Mockingjay needed a symbolic pearl in the form of a love story, but that required creating a real one. And if, as you suggest, Gale has been her handler, that love, too, is but a byproduct of the Mockingjay’s designs.

    True, the Mockingjay’s goal of manufacturing love and freedom through her play (the 74th Games) within a play (the narrative of revolution) is — at least on the surface more noble than the Capitol’s manufacture of fear, poverty, misery, and subservience. But isn’t Katniss’s rage at the end of Fire justified? Not only by the immediate betrayal by her friends (at least Haymitch and if Haymitch, she must be thinking, who else?), but also by her nascent realization that she is always being manipulated. The Capitol rests on meticulous deceptions and misdirections, and now it turns out that the Rebellion, which is supposed to be the Capitol’s opposite, not just its opposition, runs on the same. Katniss realizes that she, herself, the great symbol of resistance and free choice is nothing more than a puppet, a pawn, a victim. And the men she loves, Peeta and Gale, are either using and controlling her, or they are as trapped and pathetic at she is. It is not enough that she, as a reluctant and naive symbol, has been consciously constructed by others. Everything genuine she’s had in an affected world — her love for Peeta, Gale, and Prim — has actually either been designed or exploited to advance another’s story.

    So what, then, is the moral? How can Katniss now reclaim dignity, reality, and identity without undermining the revolution? How can she rebel against the Rebel puppetmasters without playing into the hands of the Capitol ones?

    I think you err, though, in naming your theory the “Pearl Theory,” at least until you’ve expanded (as you intend to) your unpacking of the pearl symbolism. To me, the pearl is the weakest of your five points (again, acknowledging that you noted that your summary here was quite abridged), and focusing on it distracts from the larger points — the centrality of a puppetmaster and the fact that the impact of one is enhanced the less that particular person is anticipated or even recognized, the implied significance of the scraps of Donner backstory we’ve received, and the need to harmonize the odd Madge moments, from her urgency over getting someone who is barely a friend to don a piece of jewelry to her generous and timely gift to Gale.

    As to why I, so far, find the pearl component weaker: I do not yet see how the instances fit together, which makes me wonder if the pearl is more of a general symbol (perhaps for beauty, for something made organically and naturally, as opposed to artificially, etc) than a narrative key (though I believe that multiple layers of symbols, including such keys, are valid interpretive and storytelling tools). The symbol is first introduced by Effie, and I see two plausible explanations for her use of it. Either she is codetalking or the relevance of her statement is unintentional. As I understand your theory, and as I think myself, Effie is highly unlikely to be an intentional rebel — she is from the Capitol and she seems unlikely, even if she had been sympathetic, to be bright or trustworthy enough to be a part of a plan. Instead, her transparent desires were played to the Mockingjay’s/Rebellion’s advantage. That means her statement is nothing more significant than it seemed at the time: flighty, inaccurate, and only incidentally related to other references to pearls. Of course, the bit in Fire when the pearl is discovered ties back the Katniss’s and Peeta’s shared memory of Effie’s gaffe, thus acquiring private meaning to them (note that Finnick’s dismissal highlights the privacy of the pearl’s significance), and it goes on to garner meaning as a symbol of Peeta’s and Katniss’s relationship (whatever that is), as Katniss carries it with her and hopes that her family will return it to Peeta. So to that extent, I wholeheartedly agree that the pearl is a symbol of at least one central, fundamentally human part of the story.

    My issue, however, is how this connects to a greater pearl narrative and eventually to the storymaker themes. First, Effie’s gaffe prospectively acquires great meaning for our Victors, but that cannot tie it, retroactively, to whatever was in Donner-Undersee’s head when she named her daughter Madge. Crediting three important premises — that the name was selected by Collins because of its meaning (which is plausible in light of Peeta (bread/rock of Christ’s church), Gale (wind/nature), Rue, Prim, etc.), that it was selected by Madge’s mother for the same reason, and that Madge’s mother is an extremely skilled story maker — I still fail to connect D-U’s decision to Effie’s comments 16 years later. And Effie’s comment seems, to me, a key link in making the physical pearl in Fire meaningful. Without that remark, Peeta’s find would have been curious and perhaps even a charming gift, but it would lack the significance it has in the books as written. I suppose that our Mockingjay could have seeded the coal-to-pearl anecdote, if she knew enough about Effie to plant it in such a way that Effie would use it as her initial salespitch to sponsors. It does seem to me more of a stretch than anticipating that Katniss would sacrifice herself for Prim or that Peeta would do the same for Katniss, but I suppose it is possible.

    Perhaps the pearl isn’t the rebellion-igniting love between Katniss and Peeta or even the national freedom that may result, because both of those are still in some ways artificial. They are hybrids between real and fake, using the machinery of artifice in an attempt to cast of its yoke. Co-opting manipulation for freedom. And isn’t that exactly what a mockingjay is? The hybrid between the grotesquely artificial — a jabberjay — and the natural — a mockingbird? On its surface, it is a sign that the Capitol can fail and lose control of its stories, but in it’s core, in it’s DNA, it will always be a bastard child of the Capitol, never fully free of it.

    So perhaps the mockingjay, whether that is defined as Katniss, the puppetmaster, or the rebellion, is the means, and the pearl is the end. The pearl could be Peeta, the real, noble human. It could be Madge, as her name suggests, in yet-to-be-revealed ways. It could simply be that D-U named her daughter — so precious to her, especially if, as you suggest, she married a man she didn’t love to protect her — Pearl as a constant reminder of why she became a puppetmaster and a constant warning to let go of the strings at the appropriate time. Perhaps the true pearl is something else entirely — the genuine self-actualization that Katniss may achieve in the third installment (pearls of wisdom, perhaps?). Perhaps the Rebellion will create a more conducive environment for such pearls, or perhaps the puppetmaster, having set the chaos in motion and cracked the Capitol’s armor, will now relinquish the reins (to mix metaphors), allowing something organic, human, flawed, and ultimately triumphant to flow forth.

  12. Arabella wrote in italic (my plainface notes inline):

    John, these are great posts and I’ve enjoyed all the comments. While some may disagree with John, and he may get some surface plot points wrong, for those who want to understand just why a good book has such a hold on them to the extent they’ll participate at a fan site, John is your man. He will take you on a literary adventure that will help you love your favorite stories even more. Thanks to him, I recognized the literary alchemy structure and meaning and more in the HG books.

    As always, Arabella, you are too kind.

    I believe Prim was deliberately chosen knowing Katniss would volunteer for her. She is known to be the sacrificial provider for her fatherless family. Of course she’ll volunteer. This sacrificial volunteering immediately boosts Katniss’ profile; as they say, you can’t buy that kind of publicity (but you can maneuver it). Now add the daring costumes and Peeta’s profession of love. Kapow, you’ve got dynamite “celebrity.” And celebrity’s what it’s all about, right? These kids are artificially-created celebrities, created for the most literal consumption by a jaded Capitol culture which loves them to death while snacking on grapes.

    Agreed. If you buy the ‘Pearl Puppeteer’ theory, then Prim was chosen because the alchemical dramatist writing the counter-narrative knew that Katniss would volunteer — and win the hearts and sympathy of viewers, an esential engagement if her death is going to undermine the Games in people’s minds and incite a Rebellion. I think the former was all the Pearl could count on, unless she knew more about the Districts than we are led to believe.

    I totally buy the Pearl/Donner-Undersee theory. Mrs. Undersee is so deliberately invisible that there is something definitely there. I believe that Madge has told Gale everything, too, and I suspect that he also is withholding or will withhold critical information from Katniss in Mockingjay.

    There seems to be growing traction on the ‘Pearl Puppeteer’ theory and its ancillary bit about Kale and Madge being part of the dramatic conspiracy.

    Effie Trinket is given a ridiculous name and manner, one bound to make us dismiss her as a fool and that’s narrative misdirection right there. Two points about the Dist. 11 Justice Building: 1) Katniss says that as far as she knows, Haymitch hasn’t been there since his Victory Tour (CF 64) and 2) Effie, in Dist. 11, says she is “something of an expert in architectural design” (CF 69). My theory is that Effie sussed out the Dist. 11 J.Bldg. design and then passed it on to Haymitch. But I like the same design theory, too.

    Wow. I thought I was reaching way out there to make Madge and Gale co-conspirators. Effie Trinket, too? That will be a stunning unveiling if it does happen — but I love your grasp of narrative misdirection. Everything Katniss tells us about Effie, from what she says to the clothes she wears, says “idiot.” But she does get the importance of symbolism (remember her wanting to have everyone wear Team Mockingjay accessories?), her hair is an alchemically correct gold in Catching Fire, and it is her bracelet (via Haymitch) that Finnick uses to show Katniss he is on her side at the Cornucopia. Maybe there’s something to this… Again, “wow.” Effie as Pearl or just on Team Pearl is a mind-bender.

    I am so looking forward to further discussion here!

    Well, here not over there, but jump right in again, please!

  13. Elly wrote in italic (my plainface notes inline):

    I would just like to address a few points, but before I do, you should probably keep in mind that I am not looking nearly as deep in to the meanings of certain texts. I am merely skimming the surface, and believing what Katniss believes.

    So… this is a “I deny narrative misdirection, though the text clearly includes narrative misdirection” conversation. Got it. Thank you for being up-front, Elly!

    While I think it possible that Thresh may have been chosen as most likely to survive (though most likely to win viewer sympathy? He was much too cold; he merely won the viewers’ respect), Rue certainly couldn’t have been though of as a possible winner. She definitely had skills in certain things, but why not choose someone older, more in control, and more dependable? The only reason she was able to win the viewers’ sympathy is because of her bond with Katniss, most certainly not her age, since I doubt that bothered Capitolians (?) in the past.

    Rue was chosen because (a) she was beloved by the field workers and likely rebels of District 11 (as I suspect Thresh must have been, too, big-hearted oaf that he was), (b) the likelihood of her bonding with Katniss via the Mockingjay pin (Rue is the Mockingjay girl of District 11, after all), and, yes, (c) because she was remarkably adept in the trees so her skills marked her as a possible survivor. If Katniss died in the Games (and it was a very close thing at the start, no?), I think Rue was Plan B for the Pearl-Puppeteer and her Mockingjay drama.

    About Prim/Peeta being pulled out of the bowl… Why would they choose Prim in the first place? There is absolutely no guarantee that Katniss would have volunteered, as what she did was the “radical thing”. They would be taking a chance to put Prim in the Games, because despite some arguments I’ve heard that she is strong, she would fall apart in the Games. Putting her in there would be a waste. Pulling Katniss straight out of the bowl would be much easier, and Peeta could still confess his love.

    You either get this or you don’t. See Arabella’s thoughts about celebrity in the comment just above this one.

    Also, while Effie could easily be hiding a facade of a silly, dimwitted woman, I kind of believe that that really is who she is. I don’t believe her devious enough to agree to rig the reaping, but that is purely opinion.

    Gotcha. For a mind-bender narrative misdirection head-shaker, though, check out Arabella’s theory that Effie is on Team Pearl. Scary thought, no? The woman deserves an Oscar.

    A few things from your last post I never addressed:

    I believe Madge’s last name (Undersee) has more relation to the mayor rather than Madge herself. As mayor, he is supposed to oversee the district and make sure everything runs smoothly with strict punishments. Instead, the mayor is lenient and kind. Instead of overseeing, he undersees.

    I don’t think Madge is Haymitch’s daughter. I don’t have any evidence to back it up, but I just find it completely creepy, to be honest. Lol. Sorry, but it just freaks me out, the idea of Haymitch being her daughter…

    Thanks for actually reading this incredibly long post. I’ll be interested to read your next post! Though, admittably, I have a feeling we’ll disagree in the long run.

    If you read Part 1 of this series of responses to the Pearl Puppeteer theory, you’ll see I’m really not married to any of my plot-point guesses, as fun as they are as conversation starters. I do hope you will be won over to narrative misdirection, literary alchemy, and political allegory ideas, though, however resistant you may be to the goofier speculation about Mockingjay.

    Thank you for the thoughtful comment!

  14. In response to Kathy’s comments above:

    Great notes, Kathy, about Gale and Madge possibly being Katniss’ handlers from Team Pearl, especially on their meeting in chapter one of Hunger Games. The right place to look for critical perumbration…

    You wrote:
    There are a couple of things I’m still trying to reconcile with this theory, though – why would Gale talk about running away right before the reaping if he knew what was going to/needed to happen? And why come out with his “feelings” for Katniss in CF? If the Peeta/Katniss relationship was so valuable for the rebellion, why complicate it? How would that further the rebellion?

    It wouldn’t, of course, but if Gale is a Team Pearl agent and knows Katniss is about to be baited with her kid sister to jump into the Hunger Games, if he has any feelings at all for the girl, feelings he has had to suppress (or vent via rants against the Capitol to remind himself why he isn’t grabbing this girl and showing what he feels…), they would surface then. He’s trying to save her life, the life of the woman he loves, revolution be damned!

    You wrote:
    I’ll have to read the books again with these ideas in mind. And, for what it’s worth, I don’t really see Peeta as quite the captain restraint that some make him out to be. If he were, maybe that whole beach scene in CF would have played out a little differently? And even if he and Gale are more platonic than some would expect, it’s a post-Edward world, right? Maybe we’re supposed to more readily accept the ultra-chaste teenage boy.

    Seriously, Peeta as the Boy with the Bread Christ figure (folks, ‘Panem’ is the Latin word for ‘Bread;’ Peeta is the World Creator and Shaper qua baker, not to mention the Communion link) has to be a Christ figure. When he is loving Katniss, even physically, it is her Mockingjay-Phoenix Pure Girl on Fire that he loves — and he does so almost dispassionately, certainly sacrificially. “Captain Restraint”? No. Allegorical Christ? Almost certainly.

  15. In response to what Lynn wrote:

    Lynn, I hereby make you a Charter Member of ‘Team Pearl,’ HogPro Post #1! Welcome aboard! Your team shoulder patch and button will be mailed out tomorrow… Thank you for the kind comments.

  16. Joan and I started a conversation at another thread which she picked up above with these notes:

    Joan, I get your reservations about Gale being on Team Pearl, vis a vis his being the straight guy we think of as a transparency, Mr. Outdoors-Provider, good guy. Dudley DoRight with a Rebel Streak. I’m thinking, though, and the trend of your notes reflect you are leaning in this direction, too, that he had to be in on it.

    I wrote:

    Imagine for a second that Gale and Madge are both agents of the rebellion and Katniss’ handlers in school and forest.

    Joan responded:

    My heart just skipped … I hate to bring it back to Peeta, but I will nonetheless.

    Do you think that his characterization, his complete selflessness in regards to Katniss, aids to put everybody else’s [character] under the microscope, especially Gale’s? Do you think that, to an extent, it may amplify what otherwise could be very natural actions and reactions from the people living in Panem?

    I like that. Injecting a Christ figure into the Games is the surest way to win people’s hearts. Nobody hates the person who sacrifices him or herself in love for another — and it is the sure short-cut to undermine the brutal, deadly metanarrative of Power and hopeless Selfishness that are the take-away meaning of every Hunger Games. Anyone want to bet that Peeta is on Team Pearl, too? How does that shape the Gale and Peeta relationship with Katniss and with each other, if both young men are really revolutionaries who may or may not have any real feelings for this girl and both are committed to the cause of using her to create a Rebellion Icon or standard the mases can rally around? Whew…

    I do love the Pearl theory and the idea of the Undersees as puppetmasters (or at least them being closer to the revolts than we have been led to think). I think I’ll keep myself in denial for a while regarding Gale and the 74th Games set-up. 😆 As I said yesterday, the discussion leaves you with an itch for a re-read. I reckon I need it to get further into it.

    Saying that the conversation here took you back into the books for another read is the grandest compliment I can hope for. Thank you very much, Joan!

  17. In response to JSavant’s comments above:

    Great observations about the Madge-Medicine-Delivery monent, JSavant, from Catching Fire. I think you have pinned the Team Pearl explanation of what happened there.

    I answered Kathy’s question about why Gale would want Katniss to run away if he were Team Pearl here.

    About District 13, again, another day! Thank you for your thoughts on Gale’s importance in the Mockingjay Team Pearl story-line.

  18. I will respond to Ally’s wonderful essay above in its own post, “Contra the ‘Pearl Puppeteer’ Theory: Q&A, Part 4.”

  19. I LOVE your Pearl theory!!

    One other thing I have noticed throughout these books, though, is that they seem to be majorly pushing the advancedness of the Capitol’s medicine. If this is possible, and they are able to create things such as muttations out of dead tributes, is it possible, or even that far fetched, that spies inside the Capitol (such as Plutarch Heavensbee) have been saving tributes as the years pass and hiding them in District 13? For some tributes, such as the first girl Katniss killed with the wasp nest, it would not be possible, but for other tributes, such as Maysilee Donner and Rue, who “died” by bleeding out (Maysilee) and from internal damage and blood loss (Rue), to be saved by these spies. Before being sent into the arena the tributes are injected with god knows what, including the tracker, so it wouldn’t be very hard to give them medicines that could preserve them in an almost dead state for a period of time and allow the spies to heal them before sending a fake body (no one would) know the difference, or ashes back to the family.

    Since you are obviously very good at reading deeper into these novels, do you think this theory would be at all possible?

    Also, the very ending of Fire, where Gale says “there is no District 12” confused me for a while. I might have been over thinking it, but is there a possibilty that District 12 could have been a front for District 13? Since District 13 went into hiding, most likely underground, the most easily accessible entrance to District 13 would probably be through the mines of District 12…

    I don’t know if I posted this in the right forum, but if you see this a reply would be much appreciated.

  20. “I’m thinking, though, and the trend of your notes reflect you are leaning in this direction, too, that he [Gale] had to be in on it.

    In all honesty, I don’t think he was (still in denial, see?), not to the extent the Pearl theory may suggests. The whole conspiracy theory is turning too big. I’m receptive to the core of it, though, and I did purposely made my arguments from that stance. I struggle with the notion, not of someone pulling the strings, but of someone pulling the strings right from the very start of Book 1.

    Suzanne Collins was asked if The Hunger Games was planned as a trilogy:

    ” A: Not necessarily. But once I’d thought through to the end of the first book, I realized that there was no way that the story was concluded. Katniss does something that would never go unpunished in her world. There would definitely be repercussions. And so the question of whether or not to continue with a series was answered for me. ( Scholastic Press, 2009)

    If the repercussions of Katniss’ actions at the end of Book 1 was what triggered the continuation of a series, how does this tie up to the idea of the 74th Games being a set-up, as part of a bigger conspiracy of Team Pearl (that may or not include Gale, Peeta, Effie, and a whole lot of others characters?)

    Every time someones mentions District 13, I get excited. A lot of secrets and answers lie there. So I can’t wait for that. 🙂

  21. Maysilee’s points above are fascinating — that all we have come to know about the Games’ system on the surface may not be what is really the truth. That would really be “WOW factor” for me if, in the last book, Suzanne Collins revealed that people from the Games have survived in years past (due to the Capitol’s advancements in medicine — I like that, their own technology could potentially have been used against them) and have been transported to District Thirteen. (I could see that very easily since Heavensbee seems to have been a part of the rebellion for a while. What if other Gamekeepers were not so “pro-Capitol” as we have been led to believe?)

    The line from Gale, “There is no District Twelve,” seemed funny to me too. If he meant that District Twelve was bombed by the Capitol or that District Twelve simply rebelled and paid for it, why wouldn’t he simply say, “District Twelve no longer exists?” Instead, we get the cryptic line as mentioned above. So does that stand to reason that District Twelve as a WHOLE was key to the rebellion? (I could understand that, what with the district-wide gesture that was made for Katniss after she had just sacrificed herself for Prim. A similar scene was repeated in District Eleven during the Victory Tour — so surely District Eleven was a key point of the rebellion too, what with “mockingjay” Rue.)

    (And it would make sense that the way to get to District Thirteen is through the mines — that easily sets up the theory that people who “have died” in the mines could have survived by finding their way through the mines to the entrance that leads to District Thirteen . . .) (I will probably have more to add along these lines of thought at another time. I’m thinking I need to read the books again and take notes as I read . . . )

    (There are so many possibilities with these theories — but maybe we’re just digging too deep for treasure that may not be there in the end.)

  22. The only other odd thing I noticed in the book is (and I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this) was: the last time I reread THG and CF together I noticed a startling similarity between the deaths of Rue and Maysilee Donner. They both died from blood loss as a result of being speared by something. They were both killed only minutes after separating from their allies. They were both allied with tributes who went on to win the Games. They both had a connection to the Mockingjay. They gave both of their allies reasons to win the games. They both died in the company of their ally.

    Is this just a REALLY WEIRD coincidence, or is there deeper reasoning behind this?

  23. Arabella Figg says:

    I’d like to clarify a point above. I don’t believe Gale has been part of the Pearl Plot from the beginning; he was brought in by Madge after his whipping. His involvement with Katniss was organic from the beginning, with no ulterior motives. I don’t think Peeta was in the know, either, at least during the 74th Games, in which he strategized with Haymitch to keep Katniss alive and his own integrity intact. During the second games, I’m not so sure.

    I’m in agreement with those who say it’s too much of a stretch to have everyone know but Katniss.

    We need to remember that Katniss was training Madge in survivalism before the Quarter Quell.

    Perhpas Katniss’ and Gale’s fathers joined the resistence. But it’s hard to imagine any dad leaving his kids to struggle like they did, knowing how hard life would be for them.

    Effie is of the Capitol and has represented District 12 for years, so she’s had ample opportunity to be linked with both Heavensbee (and other Gamemakers/Victors). Effie, the shortened version of Euphemia, means “well spoken” (from euphemia comes the word “euphemism”). Her ditziness makes her seem a “trinket,” a useless bauble, but I feel that’s a cover for a shrewd and underestimated woman, of whom we get better glimpses in CF.

    Collins is aiming her arrows with considerable precision at the “bread and circuses” millieu of reality TV, at the cult of created celebrities and celebrity-worship which causes people to be meat for the masses, and at sending young people to manufactured wars that leave them with emotional injury, including PTSD, from which they’ll suffer their entire lives.

    JSavant, are we digging too deep? The treasures we find may not be the ones we expect, but we will get treasure, even if it’s “just” in learning how to treasure-hunt through literature. And the hunting is both fun and educational. I write this as a veteran of all the Harry Potter treasure-hunting here. And treasures were found!

  24. Just a thought on the idea of digging too deep… I think there’s a difference between theories that are plausible and theories that are likely to come to fruition in the third book. The thought of Gale and Madge being involved from the start is interesting and (at least somewhat) plausible, but do I think it is that likely to be part of the plot in Mockingjay? Not really. (It is a YA book, after all. What kind of message would it send having nearly everyone Katniss knew and trusted use her for their own ends, for so long, with her being completely unaware? yikes. Although I think one of the central messages of the book is that we have to pick which, if any, of the roles people expect or impose on us we want to fill, having so many people trying to use her just seems like overkill to me)
    But I like what Arabella said above; this has been fun to dig around in the books and see what else is there. I wish I had known about the site when the Harry Potter books were in their heyday.
    And about my earlier Peeta comments – I completely agree that he is a Christ figure in the books. My comments were more in response to some earlier comments that Peeta was too perfect for some people’s taste. My point was just that I didn’t read him quite like that.

  25. John,

    From HungerGamesTrilogy.com, it’s ILikeAres. I feel like defending myself because hey, I finally figured out how my new iPod worked.

    I didn’t know you’d be reading our comments, for one thing. Otherwise, I would have elaborated. So you want my opinion (well, you probably don’t, but I’ll give it anyway). I’ll go on about one of the points I disagree with here, then, in a big way.

    But first: I think some of your theories are interesting. You can’t say I didn’t. (Although you definitely only picked out the stuff that you thought was insulting to you.) I happen to have thought Madge Undersee’s name, by your evaluation, was interesting enough.

    I guess I’ll talk about how you seem to think Madge was told by someone or such that Katniss had to wear the pin.

    And right here I have my copy of The Hunger Games, which I’ve had since about the day it came out, and it says on page 38:

    “She is not weepy of evasive, instead there’s an urgenc about her tone that surprises me. ‘They let you wear one thing from your district in the arena. One thing to remind you of home. Will you wear this?’ She holds out the circular gold pin that was on her dress earlier. I hadn’t paid much attention to it before, but now I see it’s a small bird in flight.”

    There are tons of reasons as to why she’d be giving this to Katniss.

    Referring to page 12, where Gale shows his anger at Madge, you first notice the pin. It says that “his eyes land on a small, circular pin that adorns her dress.” She’s probably following his gaze, since he’s sort of verbally attacking her. She easily could have noticed that Katniss was looking at it, too.

    And then, when they meet in all their urgency, say all that Madge wants to do is say goodbye to her friend. The book mentions on page 12 also that they end up together a lot at school, implying that they’re basically each other’s only friends. So in all fairness, Madge’s best friend is going off to die. She wants to see her, obviously.

    Maybe Madge’s first thought was, “Katniss is going into the arena, and she’s going to die, and it’s not me,” and then maybe she thought, “it’s because she’s poor and her friend pointed it out, how I’d never have a chance,” and maybe she thought it was unfair for the first time in her life.

    She didn’t have to be urgent just because someone had told her to ensure that Katniss wear it. She very well could be urgent that because her best friend’s just been sent to what would have been assumed as Katniss’s death. And because she noticed Katniss eyeing her pin, and because Gale took a dig at her about it, maybe she’s trying to prove something to Katniss (Gale said something rude to her, Katniss didn’t really say anything to defend her at the time — “That’s not her fault” doesn’t really mean anything).

    When Madge goes to see Katniss, she’s urgent because her best friend is going to die, and she feels guilty and very well believes that Katniss has some sort of resentment, even in the slightest, because Madge has money and only has a few slips in the reaping bowl.

    Was that in-depth enough?

    (And I don’t mean to be rude. It just didn’t seem right that you took our personal posts from HungerGamesTrilogy and used them here; we posted them for ourselves to see, and they were our own opinions. And I didn’t know you’d take a dig at me. I could’ve gone into a superlaunch about why I felt the way I did. I hope this justified it enough.)

    –Allie

  26. Thanks for your input, Allie! I like Ares, too, as well as your argument. If you check out Part 1 of this series, you’ll find out why I argue the way I do, and, on the first question I answer in Part 2, I discuss the Madge-Katniss discussion.

    You offer the surface reading of the story and you do it well. Thank you, again, for that!

  27. @Maysilee

    That’s something I found interesting too. It seems TOO coincidental, doesn’t it, that two people would die in such similar ways and circumstances along the same scenario? Almost as if their deaths were staged and that “the death scenes” were not what we believed them to be . . . (But that seems to point out that the rebellion was already partially in motion way back in Haymitch’s time. Could that be possible? And, if so, it begs the question: why didn’t these people attempt to start a motion sooner? Twenty-five years is a LONG time with a lot of suffering for these people in the Districts. The rebellion could have been brewing for that long, yes, but the moral part of me says, “Then why wasn’t this atrocity stopped?” Perhaps, though, in previous years the rebellion attempts in the Games — along the lines of what Katniss achieved in her bouts with the Games — failed early one before they could really spark “a movement.”

    Anyway, I’m sure Suzanne Collins made the scenes similar for a reason (if only to have Katniss and Haymitch identify with each other in that one respect).

    @Arabella Figg

    The “Gale in the rebellion plot” makes much better sense post-whipping. As for Peeta, I’m still on the fence with that one too. (I see him as an honest character — despite the story he spun about Katniss and a pregnancy before the Quarter Quell, though he had good reasons for that — so I don’t think the rebellion plot. In this instance, I think we should remember that — in book one — he was left in the dark about the “love as an act” portion of the Games, the unspoken-of plan that Haymitch cooked up and Katniss followed. Thus, I think it’s safe to assume — probably 80% — that he wasn’t part of the rebellion plot.)

    The only reason I can think of for Gale’s father and Katniss’s father being part of the rebellion is due to one thing: the greater good. I’m certain Haymitch has been working along these lines too since — even though he cares for Katniss and Peeta — he has basically helped to assure that their lives were locked in the chains of the Capitol AND the rebellion plot. He has had a hand in damaging their spirits in order to save their lives — and, in that respect, he’s just as bad as the Capitol even if he is working for “the greater good.” (Yes, I’m being hard on Haymitch. Yes, I’m being hard on the rebellion despite the struggles they must have gone through. I will say the same of Donner-Undersee too when/if she’s revealed as the true mockingjay. It just always seems there must be a better way than the options that are available, I suppose.)

    Effie — I won’t be surprised if she does have some hand in this plot. (I knew the word euphemia was Greek for “well-spoken,” but I didn’t know it could be shortened to Effie. But couldn’t that simply mean that she knows how to get in the right circles in the Capitol for her own benefit? I suppose I’m being cynical, but Effie hasn’t proven herself to be the most — er — astute. There’s always that possibility, though.)

    And, yes, we are digging for treasure here. J I’m thinking we’ll come up with gold, if not platinum, when Mockingjay comes out. (Wish I had been part of the HP speculation back then. Sigh. Those were the best books for “treasure hunting.”)

    (And this IS all very educational to me as a reader and a writer. J)

    Also, Kathy makes a good point above: this is a YA book. While I could see how a message of “watch who you trust in this world” would work, it doesn’t seem one that Suzanne Collins would intentionally interlace into every section of the plot. (It would be perfect for an adult book, I think, but it may be a bit too deep for young adult. Also, that would make Katniss seem naïve and clueless if it was revealed that everyone knew but her — and that would make us fans pretty ticked too. J ) SOME of these characters ARE in on the secret (we already know the Victor tributes for the Quarter Quell had more than enough intel on the rebellion and its plans), but not ALL of them can be. It’s just a matter of needling out the who’s who in this complex plot.

    (If District Twelve is a front for District Thirteen, they likely bided their time for when the moment was just right — when a girl on fire stole the hearts of the Capitol and all the Districts.)

  28. I love how there are many layers of these books to look and think about. I am enjoying the talk and speculation here and love to look and think about ALL the layers. I have been thinking about everything said and also about a couple of minor points. The talk about the books being YA have got me to think about a few things Suzanne Collins might want to convey in her story.

    I noticed a reoccuring theme of compassion and its benefits. There are many times when a person shows compassion and it has benefitted that person in various ways. From the first page it is revealed that Katniss spared the cat and it ends up playing a role in their life in a stange and uexpected way. Katniss shows commpassion with Rue and it plays into her survival. That got me to think about redemption. You can write your own story and you can make up for past failings. I am not sure if redemtion is a point she is trying to directly make but maybe indirectly?

    Mrs. Undersee may be trying to redeem herself by her actions in honor of her sister. Wether she does or ends up betraying the image of her sister by becoming what she has despised will be interesting if the Pearl theory including her as the Mockingjay is correct. Perhaps she has been desensitized to the horror of having that level of control of another and has picked up that habit for herself for a self justified greater good. What will her consequences be in the end? Loosing Madge as she eventually rebels from her mother? Or will it be in some other way?

    Haymitch seems to have some atoning to do and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was one to die in the next book. He has been as manipulative as Mrs. Undersee, but he has developed a relationship with Peeta and Katniss. His drinking expresses that he has some qualms about his life. I don’t think manipulating these two will help his conscious any and am not sure if he could live with it long term. Will his end choices serve as a foil to Mrs. Undersee? It will be interesting to see if Mrs. Undersee sees herself as one who has become a self justified version of the captiol’s manipulating and how she reacts to that. How will Madge react as she comes of age and has to make her own decisions?

    Peeta, being a Christ like character, would likely sacrifice himself in book three if following to character. I have been thinking about this. I have wondered if he will actually die and if his sacrifices have already occurred. Many times, especially it seems in YA (admittedly I have not read this genre extensively so my statistics could be skewed due to a small sample size), that character sacrifices themself but then comes back stronger or empowered to be a key in the overthrow of evil. It depends on which part of the Christ story we are most closely following in the book. Peeta has been in full sacrifice mode through the first two books. He actually does die and is revived in the second book. He is the one who is captured and has been in hell (in the games) and is now descending into its very depths (in the capitol’s boughs). Will he bring others out with him? Is there something that occurs there that will empower him? Obviously Aslan in the Narnia chronicles is directly analogous to Christ, but in Harry Potter where he played an analogous role there was a supernatural magic element that was pulled into play. There is no supernatural here so is this possible? What could empower him if things go this route? There is some mystery to the capitol and what goes on there.

    Anyway, my thoughts were not overly helpful to the points brought up by John Granger, but my mind has been throwing these thoughts around. So I thought I would kick them out to see if they could tie into some of the discussion in any way.

  29. Dee Liou wrote on another thread here where, unfortunately, no one would see it (so I moved it):

    I don’t know if my email went through the last time I contacted you so I’ve decided to reply. All of what I say was said in mentioned email.

    I did not receive your email. My apologies for the delay in responding.

    “Hi. My name is Dee Liou and I am an administrator from the HungerGamesTrilogy.com. I noticed that you had replied to our posts through your response section. Not that that is a bad thing. As a matter of fact, I’m glad that you did. What irks my pickle is the fact that you took these posts without our permission. Just as we did not expect you to reply to our posts through this Q&A session, you probably did not expect us to pick up on the Q&A session as well. While I most certainly do not mind you taking my post and replying to it, I do have an issue with you taking the other members posts. The members on our forums come to the forums to post their thoughts; not publish them to the world. Perhaps if you asked for permission, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Also, I’m not sure how you meant it but I felt like we were being directly insulted because we’re skeptics. Is it so horrible of us to question some theories? Theories are based on personal points of view and if you can back it up with good evidence, congratulations. That still won’t stop the number of those who question your theory. You also addressed us when we made a comment about the amount of time you seem to have spent on the theory. Please make note that most of us are students and do not have the time to look into the books so greatly. We know that you are an adult and that you probably find a joy in looking into books, but the concept of free time is lost on so many of us. We are not insulting you; we are just merely amazed that free time exists. I am happy that you bring to light such theories as this and I can assure you that the community at the HungerGamesTrilogy.com is more than willing to respond to them. I just ask that the next time you take our posts, that you ask for permission and to also honor our opinions.”

    When I lived in Japan, the best selling English language book on learning Japanese was titled, Japanese for Busy People. The title worked so well because everyone imagines they are uniquely busy and strapped for time, hence the title had universal appeal while seeming to restrict itself to a small audience. I appreciate, Dee Liou, that you and the forum members at HungerGamesTrilogy.com (HGT) think you are more burdened with responsibilities and tasks to perform than other human beings (I was Student Gov’t President at my college and often worked 20 hours a week “work study” while carrying a full class load — and I remember thinking much the same). I can only tell you as a daddy of and provider for seven children, “enjoy your time in school.”

    To the point of this note: I have no defense for my copy-and-paste commentary on the HGT forum about my post here except ignorance. I had no idea — and I confess I am still startled by your assertion — that internet forum comments are private property and require either a legal release or some kind of permission from the writers to quote. I think you exaggerate both my failing in courtesy in not asking permission and the injury your writers have received in having their comments answered here. Forgive me for putting on the Gilderoy hat, but I think it not unlikely that I gave them much more attention than most deserved.

    I promise you, however, that I will never do this again. HGT is an excellent fan site and I am delighted that busy students spend the little free time they have on a site like this discussing books they love with friends. If my responding to their opinions was tactless or rude — of it caused them any embarrassment — I am very sorry. I certainly did not respond to discourage them from participating on internet forums.

    I noticed how I did not actually address your issues with our replies but do realize, this was from an email.

    Now on to the criticism. I think the Madge being Haymitch’s daughter went a bit too far. But if you could tell me how that was the case with examples and/or detail, I’ll consider it. I suppose the Maysilee and Madge’s mother switching thing could be plausible but considering the Capitol’s technology, it should not be difficult to know who is who. So if they did indeed switch, the Capitol would be able to spot and make any according changes.

    I would love to elaborate more but…I just don’t have the time. (:P)

    I will be elaborating on this and other topics in a new post on The Pearl Plot (v 2.0). Stay tuned — and thank you for writing and for the great work you do at HGT!

  30. (I promise this will be my final “comment” until your next HG-themed entry — though these comments seem to be turning rather quickly into makeshift essays.)

    I was rereading portions of CF (haven’t gotten around yet to just sitting down to enjoy the two books again) and found two points that I’d like to bring up in the “this rebellion has more secrets than Katniss is aware of at this point, and it goes deeper than we probably want to consider since it boggles our minds” (for the most of us) scheme of things. (For one instance, District Thirteen and the possible hideaway it has been to Hunger Games tributes of years past. For another, the range and scale of the rebellion we will learn more about in MJ.)

    From chapter 24 of CF, Katniss relates: “As I drift off, I try to imagine that world, somewhere in the future, with no Games, no Capitol. A place like the meadow in the song to Rue as she died. Where Peeta’s child could be safe. (CF, pg. 354)”

    Now, I may be reading too much into this, but there seems to be a lot more to this paragraph that ends the chapter than mere foreshadowing for what may be to come in Katniss’s future with the rebellion and with Peeta. There may actually be HINTS here for the nature of District Thirteen.

    (Point 1) The wishful thinking part of me thinks that it’s interesting how the idea of a peaceful place (i.e. most likely District 13 of Panem post-rebellion) and Rue are tied together. This could be another “Rue is simply another mockingjay who has become a martyr” prodding from SC, but I think it runs even deeper than that. I find it hard to believe that’s a coincidence that SC put this paragraph in the book tying Rue, District 13, and peace together. Here’s where the wishful thinking part comes in: I want to believe that this is evidence that, somewhere out there, Rue and other tributes may be alive to end up in the battle royale against the Capitol in the MJ finaled. (Yes, it sounds much like those who wished Dumbledore had faked his death after they had read HPB, but I wanted that to be true too — no matter how I thought on how it would retract from Dumbledore’s sacrifice and its meaning in HPB. More with the “wow factor,” I guess.)

    (Also, wouldn’t that be the most stunning transformation of the mockingjays of the rebellion — to show up like dazzling phoenixes rising from the ashes of the Games, ready to wage war against the hellish Capitol and the antichrist-appearing Snow? That’s just me with fanciful imagery, but I like the idea. It’s already been noted that the phoenix imagery is key to Katniss and that Peeta may end up being the Christlike sacrifice who ends up resurrected — but could this “appears to die but actually ends up alive” idea come to apply to the tributes who may or may not have escaped the Games with faked deaths? Just a theory I expanded upon based on what Maysilee had brought up earlier.

    (Yes, I’m running long with this, and I’m sure I’ve lost some of you. It’s hard for me to keep track of all of it too even as I write it.)

    (Point 2) Could the “lullaby” Katniss sung to Rue have hidden some clues to the whereabouts of District Thirteen? It’s claimed to have originated “over the hills/mountains” of District Twelve (I forget the exact wording; it is something along those lines) and has been a song passed down from the District’s ancestors. Could the mountain passes (if not the coal mines UNDER the passes) prove to be the way to District Thirteen? (It’s not too much of a stretch if you think of the song as not just a heartbreaking tribute but also a clue for things later to come in the books.)

    (On to my second half of this comment — which will be shorter, I promise.)

    From the last chapter of CF, Katniss relates: “Plutarch Heavensbee has been, for several years, part of an undercover group aiming to overthrow the Capitol. (CF, Pg. 385)”

    Not the words “several years” (i.e. A LONG TIME since you never know how these Capitol people age; so this rebellion has likely been planned again and again for each Games ever year, if not actually secretly enacted to smuggle tributes out of the Games by faking deaths) and “undercover group” (meaning that this group has a following, otherwise it would never have gotten off the ground as it has, and there are people “in the know” within the Capitol — Gameskeepers, likely some designers, some of the tributes themselves, possibly even some of the mayors in the Districts; this rebellion wasn’t just planned yesterday; it has taken time and effort even if we are not related the history of hits-and-misses). It stands to reason that the rebellion had to have been doing SOMETHING other than cooking up schemes and manipulations for so many generations. What could they have been doing? Well — perhaps building a new utopia from the ashes of District Thirteen? The Capitol, after all, doesn’t seem to want the Districts to know what D13 looks like in the present (Why else continue to use the same footage over and over? But then there’s the tell-tale mockingjay in the corner of the video — a sign for the rebels to follow if they were so inclined? Could Heavensbee or someone else in the rebellion have made the D13 footage on permanent replay to hide what was REALLY going on in D13 for all those years?) — and, at the end of CF, District Thirteen sounds pretty formidable for a District that was supposedly defunct for over seventy-five years.

    Anyway, I’m just throwing out all those thoughts and questions to mull over for the really serious fans. (Phew.) I know this doesn’t prove much of anything (I raised more questions than answers), but it was interesting enough for me to sort through in my head. I hope I raised some good questions, if not some theories of my own!

  31. John…
    Wow…I have devoured both HG and CF in a three-day span! I took time to follow these discussons before deciding to read the stories; a decision that has enhanced my experience, not detracted from it. I am curious about Cinna and wonder if I’ve perchance overlooked discussions inclusive of his role in the Games as they pertain to the simmering rebellion or might I be opening a new line of thought?

    Firstly, his name, “Cinna”. Reference to his overall appearance? Katniss is certainly surprised by his “normal-ness” of his apparently natural hair color, subdued clothing, and the subtle acquiescence to identification with the Capitol per the “metalic gold eyeliner that has been applied with a light hand.”(HG 63). I thought the gold eyeliner also pointed to a different identification; a reminder of the gold mockingjay pin and impending uprisings. And what could we do with the alchemal symbolism of the gold flecks in his green eyes? Surely he sees the possibilities of future victory for Katniss and a subsequent victory for the rebellion? Hmmmmm.

    We know Cinna is a first-year stylist for District 12…a coincidence or careful planning? (I believe he is an agent of the rebellion; Portia, I’m not so sure. She takes her cue from Cinna and follows his directions) Cinna asked for District 12. Why? D12 has to be a challenge for any stylist…what can be done with coal? We certainly find out: the costumes are breathtaking, defiant, overall communicative.

    Definately communicative…he tells Katniss that “…we both [he and Portia] see it as our job to make the District Twelve tributes unforgettable.” Unforgettable in what way? The drama and exececution of the costumes’ special effects excite the Capitols and satisfy their thirst for artificialism and vanity at its best. The underlying symbolism of flame/inner fire/strength would not be lost on the growing members of the rebellion! Here we see the defiance in the designs, the non-conformity to Capitol expectations.

    In CF, Cinna’s redesign of Katniss’ silk/pearl wedding dress for the Quell interviews is genius, a blatant act of in-your-face defiance protesting the use of victors in particular and the Games overall. Katniss is aware of the power of this dress to manipulate the crowd (CF 249); she is oblivious to the defiant message of rebellion Cinna has incorporated into it. President Snow got the message, yes? Why else would Katniss’ entrance into the Arena be delayed in order that she could witness the attack on Cinna? Is he dead? Is he now an Avox? Will we see him or Portia in Mockingjay?

    I look forward to your comments..
    PJ (long out of the loop and now jumping in with both feet!)

  32. I also meant to say that I’ve decided “Cinna” is a derivative of “cynic”…he is not impressed by the politics of the Capitol and its destructive hold on the citizens of Panem.

  33. jennifer says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for posting your thoughts. I find it interesting that we both picked up on the bread motiff, but interpreted it in two very different ways. Instead of viewing it from a Christian/sacrificial perspective, I am tempted to consider this motiff in a pagan/elemental light.

    As you must be aware, bread is also sacred to pagans because it is thought to be one of the rare foods that combines water, earth (flour and salt), air (yeast) and fire/heat. I also picked up on the idea that each character represents an element.

    Katniss is obviously fire. She’s passionate, she invokes passion, she can not be overtly controlled, she’s fey, she burns brightly for everyone to see, both metaphorically and literally.

    Gale, as you’ve said, is air. In the woods and in the story, he is a silent and invisible, but powerful force. His main function is to stoke and feed Katniss’s passion for rebellion. Katniss burns wildly when she is with Gale. Yeast, like Gale, is making this thing rise.

    The “kids” (Prim, Mrs. Everdeen, Hazelle Hawthorne, Rory, Vick, Posy and later Rue) represent earth. These are the people that keep Katniss grounded. They keep her from running away, from allowing herself to die of starvation and later, it’s Rue that restores Katniss’s humanity. All of these people are somewhat passive forces, but they all depend on plants and food gathered by Katniss, their sun. They are sort of like wheat in the field or the salt of the earth.

    I believe that Haymitch is the character that represents water. He’s a drunk, or not dry. A few days into the 74th game, Katniss begs Haymitch for water and does so again in the 75th game. His gifts fall from the sky. He and Katniss naturally rub each other the wrong way and he has a habit of extinguishing her passion for rebellion, for Peeta, for scowling, whatever. And like water in bread, Haymitch is the force that combines and activates the ingredients. He helps with gluten formation, yeast development, crumb texture (good bread bakes best in a moist enviornment like a brick oven.)

    The bread that is being baked is the eventual formation of a new society, hopefully, a new free society without human atrocities like the Hunger Games or the Quarter Quells. But you never know because . . .

    I think that Peeta is the baker. This is because A) he literally is a baker and B) he’s a really dangerous character. Like Katniss, I can’t bring myself to any sort of moral certainty about this charater. Is he a genius? Is he a fool? Is he being sincere or is he playing a game? If so, what are the stakes and desired outcomes? Does he need to live or does he need to die? I have no idea. He has a natural talent camoflauge which I think is a metaphor for his ability to hide the truth. He even tells Katniss that she’s a really bad liar. He also tells her that she’s very ‘pure’ (so suspicious). Combine that with his charm and his pursuasive power and this is a very dangerous character. And what makes him even more dangerous is the fact that he didn’t start out that way. Like the pearl, he was polished through pain and adversity and about 437972 near death experiences. He’s merely an accident of the oppression he lives in. (BTW, I think tributes are chosen through a system of selective randomness. I don’t think District 12 was significant enough to bother with because they have so little hope to begin with, only one living champion, and their children have no real skills to speak of before heading into the games. Also, they had the laxest peacekeepers until Katniss and Peeta returned and inspired some level of hope. But more rebellious and heavily guarded districts like 11, 8, or 4? Probably not random.)

    But look at what he’s accomplished: He inspired Katniss to hunt and gather. He won the heart of Panem singlehandedly by confessing his crush and later lying about Katniss’s pregnancy. He somehow charmed his way into the Career crowd in HG with no explaination. He got Haymitch to stop drinking in CF. He’s showing himself to me a master of the elements.

    So, I think Peeta is the master baker who is combining all of the elements before him to create a new society. I think that, in some form, this was Katniss’s intention. In CF, she wanted him to live so that he could use his talents to inspire a true rebellion. But I don’t think that she ever considered that he might already be doing just this without her overt knowledge. If you consider the elements that came together at the end of CF: Katniss destroying the arena in an attempt to draw the assassins away from Peeta, the way Haymitch’s hovercraft came in metaphorically shut Katniss down with drugs and later grief (which I’m guessing is going to be part of the resolution revolving around the fake pregnancy . . . artificial insemination or faked miscarriage . . . because there’s no way that anyone is just going to forget about that and the rebellion can’t afford to admit that the pregnancy is a lie . . . I’m thinking it will be the artificial insemination because A) Peeta told her that she would be a good mother and B) if the stylists of Panem would consider giving Katniss non-consensual breast enlargement surgery after the last HG, then I wouldn’t put it beyond a group of desperate rebels to put Peeta’s bun in the oven), Katniss’s being woken up by Gale, and the news that her family is safe, though her home has been destroyed. If consider these things, the manipulation of elements around Katniss is pretty obvious and Peeta seems pretty central to all of these things.

    But the thing is, I have my doubts about whether Peeta is going to be the most benevolent master manipulator because I’m skeptical about this bread thing in general. In CF, Katniss experience this physical hunger for Peeta. But we have already been told that if she could find herself, she would never go hungry. And that makes sense. In her purest form, Katniss is self-reliant, asexual and solitary. What’s more, is that all examples of heteronormal relationships in the trilogy have been tragic including, but not limited to, her parents’ relationship, the Hawthornes, the Undersees, and Finnick and Annie. We don’t know of any happy couples. Clearly this dystopian North America is not a place where romantic love thrives so it doesn’t make sense for her to hunger for Peeta and Katniss knows this because she’s pretty firm about not getting married or having kids. We also learn that Peeta has spent most of his life subsisting on stale bread and fried squirrel. To Katniss, though bread is a luxury, Peeta’s diet is a recipe for malnutrition. Bread made from refined white flour is not a whole food. It’s so far removed from the real nourishing fruits, vegitables, nuts and wild game that she brings to her own family’s table. And the third thing that makes me suspect the notion of bread=life is that the only time that Katniss knew hunger in HG was when she was with Peeta. They almost starved to death in that cave. And then, when they went to gather food, instead of gathering sustenence, Peeta gathered death in the form of poison berries. The boy gathered DEATH!!!

    Any thoughts?

  34. Elizabeth says:

    Really interesting thoughts, Jennifer. I really like the elemental connections. What do you make of the fact that the burned loaves Peeta first gives Katniss on that fateful day are not the white fluffy bread but stuffed full of nuts and raisins? To me, there is almost a blending there of town (yeast bread) and forest(nuts) but Peeta really is, for the most part, a town boy, hence the poison berries. The berries may also indicate his ability to succeed, even by accident, an ability he shares with Katniss who also has great skills, but also some real strokes of providence.

  35. Hey Elizabeth. Strangely, my first impression of the loaves that Peeta burnt in order to give to Katniss was that they curiously resembled bread eaten by medieval peasants. Wierd, huh? I guess I’m sort of a nutrition geek. Something like 75% of peasant diets consisted of coarse high protien and high calorie bread fortified with nuts, seeds and fruit as well as flours made from ground acorns, roots and beans. Though this bread was filling, it never seemed very nutritious or interesting to me, just a rudimentary source of calories. I thought that maybe Peeta believed that she needed this dense peasant bread in order to survive. In contrast, the people in the capital gorged themselves on rich, but equally imbalanced foods similiarly to medieval nobility. Like medieval nobility, the people of the capital purged in order to keep binging at the expense of the peasant class.

    As a further contrast, one of the first things that Katniss gathered from the woods were dandelion greens. Unlike bread or the rich dishes of the capital, dandelion greens are low in calories but have a very high nutrient value; they contain more vitamins and minerals per serving than spinach. Dandelion flowers are high in antioxidants and roasted dandelion roots are a powerful detoxification agent. The plant has been used medicinally for centuries.

    A steady diet of dandelion greens, lean wild-caught protien, berries, nuts, roots, goat cheese and what not probably made for a ridicously healthy, but not very satisfying diet, especially considering that Katniss’s caloric needs had to be approaching 3500 calories a day or about that of a medieval peasant. So I can see how she’d long for this calorie-dense bread even though most of her nutrients came from the stuff she actually gathered in the woods. I also like to think that her illegal hunting, gathering and subsequent trading was helping to fight off things like anemia, edema, rickets, scurvy and other diseases cause by acute nutritional difficiencies in town. So perhaps, she and Gale were already heros in a small way for introducing much needed variety to the diets of D12.

    I had another thought concerning bread in general. In real life, the biggest difference between an artisan bread of one local vs. one of another local is the character of wild yeasts in the starter dough. Breads made near the ocean should retain some of the character of the ocean and breads made on mountains or near factories should retain some of those characteristics as well. In HG, Peeta identified the bread from various locals by what was in it– he pointed to things like seaweed–rather than its smell or flavor profile (which would have been a product of the yeast). Another thing that struck me was how universal bread was in Panem. Every district had their own type of additive ladden bread. It didn’t matter how wealthy the district was, there was no defaulting to potatoes or rice or kashi or whatever as a source of carbohydrates. If you think about it, that’s pretty unusual because any and all bread would require a healthy and clean water supply in order to foster the right enviornment for yeast. It makes me wonder about the sort of mutant bread they are baking in District 13 with their nuclear irradiated water.

    Any thoughts?

  36. The berries . . . that whole incident gave me this creepy Adam and Eve vibe. Part of it was the way that Peeta went to collect them in private and the way he wouldn’t respond to Katniss when she was whistling for him. It’s almost like death itself tempted Peeta to wander off. And then, they were ingested in a fake suicidal pact by the last man and woman in this garden to sort of ‘orchestrate the fall’ of Panem. The fact that it originally sprung from Peeta’s naivete is just really, really dark.

  37. Elizabeth says:

    Jennifer,
    Great bread food for thought! Thanks!
    I really love food in books (well, in general, too, honestly), and the food in this series just fascinates me, partly because I am an Appalachian woman who has eaten most of the stuff Katniss lives on (because I want to, not becaue we’re starving or don’t have a Piggly Wiggly! Several people in my family love fried squirell. It’s nice with gravy.) My family in the not-too-distant-past, though, did have to live on it. Part of the year, it would be very healthy, but in the winter months, it would be less than ideal without a large garden and means to preserve vegetables. In the 19th and early 20th century, Appalachian people had pork (usually smoked, of course) at EVERY meal! Interestingly, in the early 20th century, most of the game as hunted out of well-populated areas of Appalachia because so many people were hunting for survival, but most of our game has resurged nicely! Turkey, anyone?

  38. Red Rocker says:

    Hi John,

    I’m a late-comer to the Hunger Games, but having been turned on, was looking around for insightful commentary. WHich his how I landed here.

    Read the first of the three posts devoted to the identity of the author of the conspiracy. Then jumped to the end of the third. My apologies to all the people whose comments I skipped.

    I wanted to go back to your initial theory: rejecting Haymitch as the lead conspirator in favour of Madge’s mum, the invisble Mrs. Undersee

    Agree about Haymlitch – way too much drinking to be very useful, although his name (sounds so similar to Heimlich) suggests strong potential for heroism.

    I never thought much about Mrs. Undersee. But I have been thinking about that pin. The symbol has so much power in the story that it’s hard to believe that it came to the lead character by chance (which is what I believe you were saying rignt at the start)

    Madge gives Katniss the pin – and otherwise doesn’t play much of a role in the narrative. So I have to ask: why does the pin come to Katniss through this route? I would agree that Mrs. Undersee (who used to be Ms. Donner) is a likely suspect. I’m not sure I’d go as far as casting her as lead conspirator though.

    And what happens to the pin? From what I recall, people (or maybe it’s always Cinna) are repeatedly pinning it to Katniss’ dress. I say, look to whoever does that, and you’ll have your consipirators.

    The role of the pearl is puzzling. It seems almost certain that Collins will return to it. And here’s a thought. Peeta finds fhe pearl and gives it to Katniss to keep. For Katniss, the pearl symbolizes beauty rising out of pain. Peeta’s last gift.

    I think your theory that Mrs. Undersee is the true mockingjay is interesting. But I have one of my own. I think that the true mockingjay will be Katniss’ baby. Born out of terror and death to symbolize hope and a new beginning. Conceived, by my calculations, at the top of page 353. Just after: “I thought I was something of an expert on hunger, but this is an entirely different kind.”

  39. I don’t think he’s the mockingjay. However, I think that there is more to Peeta than the story suggests. His biggest skill in the game is camouflage. It seems to me that this might be a signal that he is something other than he appears to be. I wonder if he has been involved in the mockingjay plot from the beginning.

  40. Please do read the more recent Hunger Games posts at this site, posts reflecting the current thinking of myself and Profs Hardy and Freeman, rather than these ideas from February!

  41. Red Rocker says:

    Went and read about the Pearl Plot as suggested.

    Entirely possible.

    So you don’t agree that the real mockingjay might be the baby Katniss and Peeta possibly conceived back on page 353?

  42. I’m of the opinion that Ms. Collins is Catholic — but I think if we had an Annunciation like conception it would have been more explicit than the “hunger” you cite. That is a eucharistic, spiritual hunger after her love exchange with the Christ figure of the series, the “boy with the bread.”

  43. Arabella Figg says:

    Also, Katniss is always keenly aware of the camera, even during moments of physical passion. I can’t see her allowing passion’s ultimate expression to be a public spectacle for the Capitol, and fodder for entertainment and wagering.

  44. Red Rocker says:

    I don’t think that hunger was very spiritual. Also, given that the original audience is young adults, Collins is unlikely to get more explict than this.

    And they do share the rolls (bread) with their friends ahead of time. Which is what their culture demands to make it legal.

    Can you see in how many ways a baby conceived in love in the arena while both parents await their death would fulfill the symbolism of the mockingjay?

  45. Certainly the likely part of your idea is just that it satisfies the alchemical wedding and birth of the Philosophical Orphan and androgyn that is necessary in Collins’ alchemical scheme — and the marriage should come at the end of the white book or albedo, which Catching Fire is.

    I’m pretty sure, though, that this wedding between Katniss the Soul and Petta the Christ/Spirit has happened metaphorically — the pearls, the rolls, their Passion sans copulation — and her conception is of the Pauline New Man we will meet in Mockingjay.

    Katniss is the Mockingjay, and the new Katniss is the spiritual child of the Old Man and Peeta’s loving sacrifices as Christ.

    Yes, I think the Christian freight of the series is that heavy and that straight forward. See the Pearl discussion in the other posts. Katniss has been given the Kingdom of Heaven, not a baby.

  46. Hi. Let me start by saying that I am not at all normally a conspiracy theory person about anything, but I have a way out there one about The Hunger Games. I think Suzanne Collins could see the future and The Hunger Games will actually be real in the 2100’s. I read it one time on a web page with six Hunger Games conspiracy theories, but I can’t find the web page anymore. Someone said that Suzanne Collins is actually Madge Undersee and she traveled back to this time period to tell the story in Katniss’ point of view to try to stop the Hunger Games from ever occurring, or something like that. I don’t know about that specifically, but I do know that I’ve had this funny feeling that the whole thing is going to be real even before I came across that web page.

    There are two characters whom I am CONVINCED are direct descendants of two people I know. I am convinced that Katniss Everdeen is the great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of a friend of mine! This gal is an absolute masterful hunter, especially with a bow & arrow!! And I’m not just talking about those crossbows that are sold at Cabela’s or Dick’s Sporting Goods. This girl is a master hunter with regular (old-fashioned) bows and arrows as well! And, just like Katniss, she has such phenomenal aim that she almost always shoots the animal right through the eye!! Like Katniss, she is tough yet has a vulnerable side to her. She has loved climbing trees since childhood and can climb trees exceptionally well. This woman can be sarcastic like Katniss can be. She fiercely loves and cares deeply about her loved ones and would do anything to protect them. She is very brave and she works in law enforcement. She has the total District 12 coloring too (the olive skin, the dark hair)…and Katniss definitely kind of looks like her and even the picture of Katniss’ father in the first movie looks like her! She even sort of talks like her. I had a dream back in the summer of 2012 that I was talking to Katniss and she asked me how I know her g-g-g-g-g-grandmother, and proceeded to tell me — and I’ll never forget it — “She’s the one who took us to District 12.” (By “us” I knew she was referring to her family albeit a few generations before hers). And she said it very reverently. She also had a scrapbook with old pictures of my friend. It was so real!!!!

    The other character is Finnick Odair. I am actually convinced that Finnick is the great-great-great-great-grandson of one of my guy friends!! Same looks, same personality, same complexity! He is tall with naturally fair skin but it bronzes (tans) extremely easily, and he has strawberry blond hair and eyes that are definitely the color of the sea (although his are a piercing blue and Finnick’s are a sea-blue/green). This fellow comes across as preening, proud, and flirtatious (he knows the effect he has on women)…yet he is soooo much deeper than that! He is very direct & says what he means and he is a really good leader. He’s compassionate and cares deeply. He is very protective of those he loves, just like Finnick was with Annie and particularly with Mags. He’s Irish-American and Finnick is clearly of Irish origin (it can’t be denied with that name). He is honorable and noble including professionally (he works in law enforcement). Has great combat skills. Even the excellent swimming is there as well as — you’re not going to believe this — one of the great loves of his life before he married his wife is an Italian-American woman with long dark hair, just like Annie Cresta (Cresta is clearly a name of Italian origin)!! But he left her; he broke their engagement. And here’s the kicker: it’s the same gal I mentioned above (the one I believe is Katniss’ five-greats grandmother)! Think of the early interactions between Katniss and Finnick, and even Katniss’ initial reactions to him. It makes total sense that there’s a subconscious ancestral conflict between the two of them (at least at first)!!

    So that’s my main conspiracy theory about The Hunger Games trilogy and I know it’s kind of out there. Lol! Please don’t think I’m crazy. The similarities are uncanny all the way around!! I swear those are the only two people out of all the possible people I know or have heard of from whom Katniss and Finnick could have descended. But I mainly just think it’s fun to think that. Can’t really explain.

    Do you have any Hunger Games conspiracy theories? (Either out there like mine lol or more just about characters, plot, theme, or setting in the books)?? For example, anything like “Maysilee Donner is still alive” or “Foxface committed suicide”? Please share! This is the only place I could get mine out (lol) and I would really love to hear yours!!

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