The Hunger Games ‘Pearl Plot,’ version 2.0

[Nota Bene: This post was written before Mockingjay was published! Please enjoy it as the speculative exercise it was, if you like, and then read the many posts that were written about the artistry and meaning of the series after we had the finale in hand. Writing comments on this thread that do not reflect those later posts, especially those questioning the author’s intelligence (!) because of what we know now but did not know then, is an exercise in self-important vanity and will be deleted.]

I will be writing about Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy in this post, and, specifically, I will be talking about the first two books in that series as well as speculating about the finale. Fair warning: if you choose to read this before reading Hunger Games and Catching Fire, if you read a book for the first time (at least) preferring to experience the story without knowing the details of story events or how it turns out, proceeding with this post will almost certainly “spoil” your first reading of those books. For those who have read Hunger Games and Catching Fire, though, this should be a lot of fun.

Two Sundays ago, in a post called ‘Who is the Mockingjay?‘, I put forward a theory that the wife of the District 12 mayor, Mrs. Donner-Undersee was the mastermind-puppeteer behind the Mockingjay story being written within the Capitol’s Hunger Games. Many readers have embraced the idea, at least as many have objected to the theory, and I have spent most of the past two weeks answering questions about and objections to it (see here and here and here and here). [Thank you to Arabella, JSavant, Ellie, gethsemane342, Ally, Dee, all my friends at HungerGamesTrilogy.com, and everyone else who checked in with ideas, comments, and corrections.]

Last Sunday I wrote a long post called Unlocking ‘The Hunger Games’: The Surface, Moral, Allegorical, and Sublime Meanings in which I offered the traditional ‘four senses’ or iconological approach to get at Ms. Collins’ artistry and meaning. I wrote as much as I did there to explain the premises of my speculation before rolling out the 2.0 version of what I believe Arabella first called the “Pearl Plot.”

That was important because, while the Pearl Plot may make perfect sense without understanding the guts and gears of Ms. Collins’ craft, the only reason besides grins and giggles that I bother with speculation like this is to illustrate the principles or “keys” to understanding the best writing. Let’s have this out front right from the gate: the Pearl Plot, however credible or logical or just internally consistent (or not), is certainly wrong. The value of the exercise, then, outside of time spent with serious readers discussing a favorite book (no small thing that) is in gaining familiarity and facility with the tools that make reading more enjoyable, even exciting.

I promised in the Unlocking post that I would begin my next Hunger Games philippic with an updated version of the Pearl Plot theory, then explain (briefly!) how it helps us grasp the four senses of The Hunger Games Trilogy, and, time allowing, maybe even throw in a few SWAGs about what may happen in Mockingjay based on what we have discussed. If you’ve read the original post, ‘Who is the Mockingjay?‘, and last week’s Unlocking ‘The Hunger Games’, we’re ready to go.

The Pearl Plot, v. 2.0: The Back Story of District 12 Resistance

Let’s start at the beginning with a note about the obvious that the beginning of the story, like most tales, isn’t the beginning of the story. Like Homer’s Odyssey, we start out in medias res, in the middle of things, and it is part of the author’s challenge to use her artistry and expositional skills to bring us up to speed on what’s gone before while introducing characters and the drama’s core conflict. We start out in Katniss’ home on the day of the Reaping for that year’s Hunger Games, but what is the real beginning of the story?

I’d suggest the story origin, its time before time, is in “the old, very old” lullaby that Katniss sings to Rue to honor her last request.

Sing. My throat is tight with tears, hoarse from smoke and fatigue. But if this is Prim’s, I mean, Rue’s last request, I have to at least try. the song that comes to me is a simple lullaby, one we sing fretful, hungry babies to sleep with. It’s old, very old I think. Made up long ago in our hillls. What my music teacher calls a mountain air. But the words are easy and soothing, promising tomorrow will be more hopeful than this awful piece of time we call today.

I give a small cough, swallow hard, and begin:

Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And when again they open, the sun will rise.
Here it’s safe, here it’s warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Rue’s eyes have fluttered shut. Her chest moves but only slightly. My throat releases the tears and they slide down my cheeks. But I have to finish the song for her.

Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when again it’s morning, they’ll wash away.
Here it’s safe, here it’s warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm

The final lines are barely audible.

Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Everything’s still and quiet. Then, almost eerily, the mockingjays take up my song. (Games, 234-5)

Rue’s death and Katniss’ bedecking her corpse with flowers are scenes that echo throughout the rest of Hunger Games and Catching Fire — think of the District 11 salute she receives on the Victory tour, Peeta’s confronting the Games Makers with Rue’s icon, and its prequel echo in Haymitch’s farewell to Maysilee Donner in his Quell — but this song, a lullaby that infants trust as truth, is, because of its age and meaning, the primordial aspect of life transcending Panem that Katniss taps into as her core strength and surety. She returns to this forgotten meadow paradise in her Quell when she commits herself to serving Peeta even at the cost of her life:

Peeta won’t let [Finnick stand watch], though. “It’s too dangerous,” he says. “I’m not tired. You lie down, Katniss.” I don’t object because I do need to sleep if I’m to be of any use keeping him alive. I let him lead me over to where the others are. He puts the chain with the locket around my neck, then rests his hand over the spot where our baby would be. “You’re going to make a great mother, you know,” he says. He kisses me one last time and goes back to Finnick.

His reference to the baby signals that our time-out from the Games is over. That he knows the audience will be wondering why he hasn’t used the most persuasive argument in his arsenal. That sponsors must be manipulated.

But as I stretch out on the sand I wonder, could it be more? Like a reminder to me that I could still one day have kids with Gale? Well, if that was it, it was a mistake. Because for one thing, that’s never been part of my plan. And for another, if only one of us can be a parent, anyone can see it should be Peeta.

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 I sang to Rue as she died. Where Peeta’s child could be safe.

When I wake, I have a brief, delicious feeling of happiness that is somehow connected with Peeta. (Fire, 353-5) pages

This happiness associated with Peeta and the meadow where his baby lives, I think, is the unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial love Katniss has just experienced in his kiss, a love that extends to the “tips of [her] being” (page 352). Peeta’s Christ-like love is this absolute and transcendent point that is the center or origin of the Hunger Games trilogy circle.

Setting that primordial, atemporal paradise as our story “beginning” or principle, what are the first historical events Katniss relays to us within her story? Well, we don’t get dates, but the three events defining the Capitol’s metanarrative are:

  1. the District Rebellion at least 74 years before Hunger Games’ opening,
  2. the Capitol victory over the Districts and the Treaty of Treason, and
  3. the establishment of the annual Hunger Games and occasional Quarter Quells to dramatically demonstrate each year the continued subjection of the Districts.

Katniss is largely unaware of what life was like even in District 12 before she was born and we don’t learn any of the history she learned in school. The few bits of the past we do pick up during the course of Hunger Games and Catching Fire are very personal or vague pieces.

Here are a couple that strike me as notes suggestive of a history hidden from our narrator:

Haymitch tells Katniss after Gale’s whipping, “Don’t worry… Used to be a lot of whippings before Cray. She’s the one we took them to” (Fire, page 112). This aside is meant to restore in Katniss some confidence in her mother’s healing abilities (which it does) but it also causes her to reflect that “I can’t remember a time before Cray, when there was a Head Peacekeeper who used the whip freely. But my mother must have been around my age and still working in the apothecary shop with her parents.”

I think there is more here than Haymitch meant to share — and something which suggests at least one reason that he was chosen for the second Quarter Quell

[Quick aside: if you still think the Reaping is a straight up and down lottery, please forgive me for thinking you have missed the point of the Games as well as the several points in the narrative where it is all but said that the Capitol or its minions choose the District Tributes in advance. They choose sacrifices whose death will especially discourage any spirit of identity or rebellion in the Districts. End aside.]

Haymitch’s reassuring comment to Katniss says three things in addition to “Your mom is really good at this sort of thing.” He says, most obviously, that District 12 wasn’t always the quiet backwater that it is now. There “used to be a lot of whippings” means that, at some point before Katniss was born, the District had subversive elements that the Peacekeepers had to punish — and they chose to do it publicly and brutally to discourage others from joining them.

His next sentence is loaded on both ends. “She’s the one we took them to.” Starting at the back, Haymitch in saying “we” is identifying himself either with the crowd that picked up rebel bodies out of Christian charity or with the rebels taking care of their own. I think his being chosen for the Quell, the evident disdain he has for the Capitol and the Games that we see in his interview tape (Fire, page 197), and his brilliant strategy of attacking the framing story which wins the Quell marks him as a revolutionary and a leader, not part of anyone’s ambulance squad.

By saying “She’s the one we took them to” he also introduces a whole new dimension to Katniss’ back story. Her mother and by necessity her family, by treating the punished criminals whipped by the Peace Keepers to repress the locals, were relatively open sympathizers with the rebels. The resistance in District 12 crossed Seam and City boundaries — and Katniss’ mother, because of her gifts as a healer, was an important person known to all the rebels. Katniss’ mother has told her that she met her father because he brought foraged herbs to their shop. Haymitch’s comment suggests dad had other reasons for choosing that apothecary as the place to sell his goods.

As Peeta’s father explains to him, Katniss’ mother and father’s marriage was a reflection of that inner-District border crossing and unusual familiarity;

“[My father] said, ‘See that little girl? I wanted to marry her mother, but she ran off with a coal miner,'” Peeta says.

“What? You’re making that up!” I exclaim.

“No, true story,” Peeta says. “And I said, ‘A coal miner? Why did she want a coal miner when she could have had you?’ and he said, ‘Because when he sings… even the birds stop to listen.” (Games, page 300)

I confess to wondering how Mrs. Mellark, not the most forgiving or charitable of characters, or Katniss’ mother received this revelation from the Cave about the Baker’s feelings. Regardless, we are given a deliberate note about the unusual character of the Everdeen marriage beyond it being echoed in Baker Peeta’s love for Katniss, coal-miner’s daughter.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that Katniss’ father was a leader in the District 12 resistance to the Capitol and a friend of both Haymitch and of Gale’s father.

There isn’t anything that can be offered as definitive proof of such an assertion but there are two or three facts that we do have that suggest it as a possibility.

First, Mr. Everdeen was a man of nature and the traditional ways (hence his ‘Family Book’ of plant lore) who risked his life to trap and hunt despite the laws against it. As remarkably, he took his oldest daughter on his foraging and hunting expeditions to teach her the skills she would need to survive. This remarkable risk-taking makes more sense if the coal miner and daddy in question understands that he might be killed at any time and that his family will perish in his absence if someone doesn’t have survival training.

Second, Mr. Everdeen dies in a mine explosion with Gale’s father. We know from Gale’s whipping and the care his friends give him that mining teams are very close; their lives depend on the skills, strengths, and reliability of their teammates. It seems reasonable to assume that fathers Hawthorne and Everdeen, members of the same team in the mines and sharing skills in the forest, shared other interests as well.

We learn from the District 8 refugees, Bonnie and Twill, that the Peace Keepers blew up an entire factory full of workers because “Someone must have told the Capitol that the idea for the uprising had started there” (Fire, page 146). I suspect that the Everdeen and Hawthorne men trained their oldest children to be able to live off the land because each man knew their revolutionary activities or just sufficiently seditious sentiments would be enough to cause a fatal “accident” in the mines.

I think if they did not know Haymitch as a resistance man it was only because he would have distanced himself from careless firebrands to play “the long game” he was forced into as a Victor. But, again, it seems reasonable that Haymitch, with his connections in the Hob and relative freedom of movement, knew about them — and their children.

That Katniss’ father died in a mine explosion — one set by the Capitol to “send a message” — perhaps explains the catatonic depression of Mrs. Everdeen at his death and her willingness to let her children die of starvation. Their future, as she imagined it as a member of the resistance and the wife of a martyred leader, could only be one of continued punishment, even a trip for at least one of them into the Hunger Games to remind District 12 what happens to hotheads and their children.

The District 12 salute to Katniss when she volunteers for her sister Prim (Games, page 12) is a remarkable gesture that perhaps only really makes sense if her father had been some one they knew and loved and still miss. They understood why her family was marked for Reaping Day. That Katniss doesn’t get this speaks to her mother’s care, which Katniss picks up, not to speak against the Capitol publicly or privately. The daughter of District 12 Patrick Henry is already marked for death, so it is best to keep her family’s past a secret — a prudence her fellow citizens observe, as well, until the Reaping almost brings them to revolt in remembrance and sympathy Katniss does not understand

Another glimpse into the past we get quite unexpectedly is a view of Haymitch’s Reaping Day in the Second Quarter Quell. Peeta and Katniss decide to look at the tape of his Quell while waiting in the Capitol for theirs to begin. They see a remarkable scene:

By the time we get to [the Quell Reaping Day in] District 12, I’m completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of kids going to certain death. There’s a woman, not Effie, calling the names in 12, but she still begins with “Ladies first!” She calls out the name of a girl who’s from the Seam, you can tell by the look of her, and then I hear the name “Maysilee Donner.”

“Oh!” I say. “She was my mother’s friend.” The camera finds her in the crowd, clinging to two other girls. All blond. All definitely merchants’ kids.

“I think that’s your mother hugging her,” says Peeta quietly. And he’s right. As Maysilee Donner bravely disengages herself and heads for the stage, I catch a glimpse of my mother at my age, and no one has exaggerated her beauty. Holding her hand and weeping is another girl who looks jut ike Maysilee. But a lot like someone else I know, too.

“Madge,” I say.

“That’s her mother. She and Maysilee were twins or something,” Peeta says. “My dad mentioned it once.”

I think of Madge’s other, Mayor Undersee’s wife. Who spends half her life in bed immobilized with terrible pain, shutting out the world. I think of how I never realized that she and my mother shared this connection. Of Madge showing up in that snowstorm to bring the painkiller for Gale. Of my mockingjay pin and how it means something completely different now that I know that its former owner was Madge’s aunt, Maysilee Donner, a tribute who was murdered in the arena.

Haymitch’s name is called last of all. It’s more of a shock to see him than my mother. Young. Strong. Hard to admit, but he was something of a looker. His hair dark and curly, those gray Seam eyes bright and, even then, dangerous. (Fire, pages 196-197)

We see three children of District 12 chosen: an anonymous girl from the Seam who is never mentioned again, Maysilee Donner, a City girl, and Haymitch Abernathy. I think I’ve already said that Haymitch might have been chosen because he was “dangerous,” not only in the looks of his bright “gray Seam eyes” but in the eyes of the regime as well. What do we learn of Maysilee Donner?

She is embraced by two friends, who, like her, are blonde City girls. The first is her twin sister, the someday-to-be Mayor’s wife and Madge’s mother. The other is Katniss’ mother, nurse to the resistance fighters. As Katniss notes, we have a “connection” in this between Mrs. Donner-Undersee and Mrs. Everdeen in their relationship with “Maysilee Donner, a tribute who was murdered in the arena.”

The third Quell at the 75th Anniversary of the Treaty of Treason was evidently designed to send an especially punishing message to the Districts by killing their Hunger Games Victors. Is it unreasonable to consider the possibility that the second Quell at the 50th Anniversary was similarly designed — and that this spectacle was not just in the quantity of Tributes taken on Reaping Day but also in specific qualities these young men and women had? Might Haymitch and Maysilee both have been chosen because of their relationships with, even their participation in the District 12 underground resistance?

I think that’s a reasonable possibility. It sets up the alliance Haymitch and Maysilee have in the Quell — and his agony when he holds her hand as she dies, his Rue moment of revelation, unable to save the woman who saved him, a woman he allowed to walk away from him without offering “to shake her hand or even look at her” (Fire, page 200). He has broken the code of the Hunger Games arena by discovering its edge but he wasn’t quick enough to think of a counter-narrative to the rules of the Games that could have saved Maysilee. And I think in that moment the outline of the Peeta-Katniss ‘Romeo and Juliet’ play, the ‘Pearl Plot’ was written in his heart.

Not to mention “in the heart of Maysilee’s twin sister” (assuming, of course, without any evidence more substantial than Katniss’ understanding from the Quell video that Maysilee’s unnamed sister didn’t go at the Reaping when her sister’s name was called because Maysilee had gifts the resistance fighters needed more than her skills). Which brings us at last to the players and details of the ‘Pearl Plot.’

Dramatis Personae: The Pearl Plot

Hunger Games opens with Katniss rushing to meet Gale on the other side of the fence for hunting and foraging before the Reaping in the Public Square. Curiously, he has a fresh loaf of bread, real Bakery bread, that Katniss observes is reserved in the Seam “for special occasions” (page 7). They eat a lot of berries that Katniss picks in a bit of aggressive foreshadowing of the Games’ finish, but it is the bread I confess that distracts me.

I used to be a baker, believe it or not (Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic, Massachusetts), so there’s nothing unusual in the Baker being up early or in his being willing to trade a loaf of bread for a squirrel, except perhaps for Gale’s having a leftover squirrel in his game bag; Katniss and Peeta we see later usually trade what they kill and find the day of their hunts to move the evidence of their adventures promptly. Maybe this vignette of Gale as the Boy with the Bread eating berries is just, again, Ms. Collins giving us a decent picture of the end at the beginning.

Except that in the next chapter, when Peeta Mellark the Baker’s son is chosen as a Tribute, Katniss shares via flashback her first meeting with him. She was only 11 years old and she was quite literally starving. Peeta explains to her later how he fell in love with her years before that when she sang the traditional Valley song and “I swear, every bird outside the window fell silent” (Games, page 301), but in Katniss’ memory they are essentially strangers. The boy, inexplicably to her, gives her two burned loaves of bread out by the pig sty, bread she realizes later he had burned intentionally, insuring his being beaten, to get her food.

This bread — and seeing the eyes of Peeta — causes Katniss to see the world differently and realize how she and her family will survive:

We ate slices of bread for breakfast and headed for school. It was as if spring had come early. Warm sweet air, Fluffy clouds. At school, I passed the boy in the hall, his cheek had swelled up and his eye was blackened. He was with his friends and didn’t acknowledge me in any way. But as I collected Prim and started for home that afternoon, I found him staring at me from across the school yard. Our eyes met for only a second, then he turned his head away. I dropped my gaze, embarrassed, and that’s when I saw it. The first dandelion of the year. A bell went off in my head. I thought of the hours spent in the woods with my father and I knew how we were going to survive.

To this day, I can never shake the connection between this boy, Peeta Mellark, and the breat that gave me hope, and the dandelion that reminded me that I was not doomed. (Games, page 32)

She goes into the forest under the influence of this inspiration and soon thereafter meets Gale, orphaned son of her father’s friend and fellow hunter, the young man who helps her keep her family alive.

Much, perhaps all of this epiphanal flashback in the Public Square, I think, is the critical introduction of Peeta as sacrificial Christ (see Luke 24: 13-35 about the eye-opening effect of sacramental bread). But there is also a note here, something like a red flag, that Peeta would have been at the bakery the morning Gale says he traded a squirrel for a special loaf. Could it have been Peeta that persuaded Gale that morning to urge Katniss to run away with him? Could they both have known that she was being set up that day, that, in fact, she had been groomed her whole young life for a trip to the Hunger Games?

It’s not that big of a stretch. Peeta marvels later at Katniss’ “purity” but might he not mean by that her “innocence” or “naivety”? She narrates the story with wonderful observations and with significant clarity about her own thinking and feeling — but with remarkably little penetration into the reality beneath the surface of events. She offers us little in the way of clues that there is a rebellion afoot in District 12, even after President Snow comes for a visit, he tells her flat-out that she has been the cause of uprisings, he replaces the Head Peace Keeper with a barbarian, the Hob is burned to the ground, and her world goes into lock-down. She tells Haymitch she wants to start a rebellion oblivious to the reality that she is is in the midst of one and is its inspiration and guiding symbol.

Given that her perception is accurate but not penetrating or revealing, we’re left to make our best guesses after the surprise finale to Catching Fire about how the Panem-wide Mockingjay rebellion was planned and executed out of District 12. Here are my best speculative shots:

I think, as explained above, that Katniss’ and Gale’s fathers were leaders in the District 12 resistance to the Capitol and that they were betrayed by spies in the mines. Both men knew that their seditious work undermining (sic) the regime would probably end this way, so they did what they could to prepare their children to help provide for their families at their deaths. Mrs. Everdeen and her fellow citizens, to protect Katniss and Prim, never speak to them about Papa Everdeen’s secret life and the cause of his death.

I’m guessing, though, that Gale’s and Katniss’ meeting in the forest and their consequent partnership was only as accidental as the mine explosion that killed their daddies. The survivors of the Capitol’s attempt to extinguish any kind of uprising probably realized their approach in resisting the regime’s power was not working. Whippings were common, mine explosions were a real threat, and all the power remained in the Capitol’s hands. With no way to communicate between Districts, the regime was able to focus its strengths on any one rowdy District without fear of unrest spreading. The surviving leaders had to find a new tactic.

I suggest they decided to play “the long game” instead of pursuing local, short-term, Pyrrhic victories the Capitol would respond to with only more crushing force. What they needed was a way to communicate their message effectively to every corner of every District and to create events that could serve as rally points for resistance fighters across the country. The obvious means to those goals — obvious at least to Haymitch Abernathy and the sister of Maysilee Donner — would be to use the annual Hunger Games broadcasts to send a message that was clearly contrary to the Capitol’s punitive and spirit-crushing meaning.

For that artistic high-risk hijacking, they would need to groom at least two Tributes for the Hunger Games who would be able to perform guilelessly and convincingly this subversive play-within-a-play. Then they’d have to recruit a support crew of undercover revolutionaries to work the stage pieces.

I offer for your consideration these possible players for ‘Team Pearl‘ the playwrights of the Mockingjay Rebellion:

Haymitch Abernathy: Haymitch was probably already a rebel before his time in the Quarter Quell. As explored above, I think he might have been chosen because the regime in power had already identified him as being somehow “dangerous.” He certainly demonstrated in the Quell that they were right. Alone among Victors, Haymitch understands how to defeat the story tellers and Games Makers at their own game.

But why is he interested?

His experience in the Capitol and in their Quarter Quell would have done nothing but confirm and inflame his hatred for the regime. I suspect, though, that the death of Maysilee Donner (or her sister) filled him with regret that, in his youth and inexperience, he had only been thinking about how to save himself. He did just that, of course, by forcing the narrative parameters of the Arena, but he missed the chance to attack the Hunger Games metanarrative of individualism, every-man-for-himself competition, and naked power by writing a story within it of the love he felt for Maysilee. He let her go when she left because he believed, just as the Capitol taught him, that if he didn’t he would have to kill her himself.

At her death, he realized just how wrong he had been. And this remorse, this rue, left him determined to write the play and organize the cast of stage hands and players to act out that drama he and Maysilee should have starred in, a work to destroy the Hunger Games and its soul-destroying message that power is reality.

His first recruit to Team Pearl, if it wasn’t her that recruited him, was the twin Donner sister. Forgive me, but I like the idea that it was Maysilee who stayed behind because she was already a leading light in the underground resistance movement, or, perhaps, engaged to be married. That would make the Mockingjay pin hers not her sister’s, which, while not necessary, I think is a nice touch (not to mention creating still another echo — the sacrificial sister stepping forward — between the second Quarter Quell and the 74th Hunger Games Reaping Day that she orchestrates).

We don’t know Madge’s mother’s first name. Because ‘Madge’ is short for ‘Margaret’ which derives from the Greek word for ‘Pearl,’ I will call her ‘Pearl’ from now on rather than Mrs. Donner-Undersee, Maysilee’s sister, Madge’s mother, or the Mayor’s wife. I believe the Mockingjay Rebellion is largely her invention, that she is the playwright of the drama that Haymitch produces. Her motivation is simply revenge for the life taken from her, her own reflected, better self lost in the Games.

Team Pearl, after its two principals, includes, at a minimum, the rebellious Victors from other Districts that Haymitch recruits on his annual trips to the Capitol (and on their trips through District 12), Cinna, and Plutarch Heavensbee. Arabella believes Effie Trinket is a team member, which makes even my narrative-misdirection-happy head spin.

I think it very likely, though, that Peeta Mellark and his father, Madge Undersee, and Gale Hawthorne are on board as well, perhaps only as “Friends of Katniss,” her District 12 team of handlers who have been preparing her for years to play the Mockingjay part in the Capitol and Games Arena.

Why would these players sign on as stage hands for the Pearl Plot drama in three acts?

Gale Hawthorne would have been the easiest recruit. Not knowing Katniss at the time but perceiving the genius of the plan, he would have signed on to protect and train her to take his revenge on the Capitol through her for his father’s death — and Katniss’ father’s death as well. Gale keeps his hands off her in the forest, not because he is an Edward Cullen wanna be, but because her innocence and purity, her ability to fall in love with Peeta, are as essential as her archery skills to her victory in the Arena.

Peeta Mellark, the artist, actor, and Boy with the Bread (TM), is probably recruited by his own father, a resistance man from before the second Quell, who recognizes in this son the exact gifts the thespian conspiracy needs. In addition to being able to persuade anyone of almost anything, Peeta loves Katniss-the-Mockingjay/Phoenix with all his heart and is willing to die in his role to insure her victory.

Madge? Except that Katniss has the perfect skill set and innocence for the Mockingjay lead role, I imagine (we’re guessing here, right?) that Pearl named her daughter what she did either as a reminder of the ‘coal into pearls,” light-in-the-darkness resurrection theme of her life’s work or because she expected Madge to play this part. Madge grew up as part of this conspiracy within the Mayor’s house.

Team Pearl, remember, is like the pearl, about creating value hidden away deep in the water (Undersee). They are purposely avoiding direct confrontation with the regime and doing all they can to become invisible or comically visible. Hence, Pearl Donner marrying the Mayor of the District and Haymitch becoming the alcoholic Foster Brooks of the Victor Village and Hunger Games community. (Please notice that each of his off-the-platform pratfalls and barfing episodes serves a strategic purpose for Team Pearl.) They know they cannot defeat the Capitol by force; they choose stealth and art instead.

The Pearl Plot is simply this. Defeat the Capitol at its own game.

The Hunger Games are designed to communicate clearly and graphically the pointlessness of the Districts resisting the Capitol. Their Tributes are just actors in a puppet-show world in which the Capitol pulls all the strings and they are condemned to lives that are nasty, brutish, and short. Their only hope of survival is to play the Capitol’s game by its rule, guiding principle, and central message: power is its own justification and excuse. Murder or be murdered for the Capitol’s entertainment and distraction because, consequent to the treason of your ancestors, they are your rightful masters.

The Pearl Plot’s aim is to usurp the Hunger Games’ stage and to use this metanarrative of power against itself through a story-within-the story, a counter-narrative of love’s victory over force and falsehood, of art’s triumph over the lifeless machine.

It worked like this.

After the mine explosion, Haymitch and the Pearl draft their script for the Mockingjay Rebellion that should begin with the 74th Hunger Games five years away. They assign Gale to groom Katniss’ survival skills and to be sure she is eating enough (while keeping his hands off her!). Peeta is brought into the conspiracy nearer the Games’ Reaping Day but with enough time that he and Gale could have had a heart-to-heart about getting her out of District 12 and saving her from the Games (though they know this will mean her sister’s death and the end of any hope for a Games inspired rebellion in other Districts). Gale’s suggestion to Katniss goes nowhere — and he acts out his two minds about sending Katniss to her probable death by launching into Madge when he sees the Mockingjay pin, the symbol of the Rebellion and Pearl Plot (Games, page 12).

The actual Reaping Day in the Public Square is staged for maximum effect and works so well that it almost backfires with an unplanned popular uprising off-the-cuff. When Prim is selected and Katniss predictably volunteers herself sacrificially, “to the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps” when told to give their volunteer tribute “a big round of applause” (Games, page 23).

Then something unexpected happens. At least, I don’t expect it because I don’t think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. Ay first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love. (Games, page 24)

As mentioned above, this out-of-the-blue response may be a token that the crowd recognizes the Everdeen children as the daughters of a resistance martyr who died for them. This is a moment threatening to become something Team Pearl hoped would play out over the whole Hunger Games. If Katniss begins to cry, what might happen?

Enter Haymitch. He taunts the Capitol audience through the cameras (and perhaps us as readers) — and falls off the stage, a dive that breaks the crowd’s swelling sentiment and gives Katniss time to pull herself together.

Team Pearl (except for Pearl herself) show up at the Justice Building, of course, to play their parts. The Baker pays his respects. Madge delivers the all-important Aunt Maysilee Mockingjay pin accessory, the sine qua non, really, of the whole plot. Mom and sister are given their marching orders by Katniss. Gale discusses strategy but is forced out of the room before being able to tell her what to remember —

Was Team Pearl able to pre-determine who was chosen in the Reaping? Yes, and, given the good possibility that Katniss’ father was a rebel leader dispatched in a mine explosion, it probably was easy to convince an apparatchik to set it up. They chose Prim rather than Katniss because they knew the volunteering of an older sister would mean immediate identification and audience engagement with her as a tribute. They chose Peeta because he was the only man for the job.

There was a decent chance, of course, that this might not have worked. Katniss has no idea this is a scripted event in which she is playing a part. I think, this being the case, that Rue and Thresh were chosen (via the District 11 Victors Haymitch trusted) for much the same reason that Katniss and Peeta were drafted by Team Pearl. Each had good survival skills and both were beloved by their district (Rue, especially, because of her singing from the tree tops role, must have been an easy selection to fix. Who else if selected could have equalled the punch to the heart that Rue’s pick meant?). They are only shadows of the Katniss-Peeta pairing, with Rue a clearer Mockingjay perhaps than Katniss, but their role in the Games serves a parallel function in the drama.

Cinna, whose name I think is meant to suggest both “sinner” as in “out-caste” rather than “bad guy” and “heat” as in “incinerator” (or “cynic“?), chooses to design the clothing for District 12 because he knows about the Pearl Plot. He reveals his hand to Katniss, whom he assumes must be aware to some degree of the Mockingjay symbolism, when he tells her “you must despise us.” He is a truly revolutionary artist, whose anti-regime message is not just or principally contrarian but transformative. The symbolism of Katniss and Peeta’s clothing and how Cinna stages their entrances as light from coal marks this couple as a pair whose lives and allegorical meaning are greater than that of the Games. The Mockingjay wedding dress, though it may have resulted in his death, in its ascendant Phoenix beauty almost caused a revolution in the Capitol in conjunction with Peeta’s revelations about their secret marriage and Katniss’ pregnancy.

Because Katniss is our narrator and Ms. Collins wants us to experience the Games and Quell both alongside Katniss, even as Katniss does, and as members of the voyeuristic Capitol television audience (hence our never seeing cameras), we miss all the behind the scenes machinations Haymitch works before, during, and after the time in the Arena. We are left to assume, after the revelations of Panem wide uprisings at the end of Catching Fire, that he, Plutarch, and the Team Pearl Victors from other districts Haymitch has recruited have all been working with great stealth and to greater effect. They certainly do yeoman’s work in Fire within the Arena keeping Peeta and Katniss alive.

I understand that the thought of Gale and Peeta both being in on this plan to use Katniss as the symbolic accelerant to inspire the Mockingjay Rebellion really bothers a lot of readers. As much as we readers identify with Katniss because we experience the story through her, this feeling of betrayal and abuse is in one sense inevitable. I’d only note that both men are heroically loving, protective, and, while seeming to adore her, simultaneously respectful of her desires not to be forced into a relationship.

Peter and Gale play the intentional parts of contraries, whose retraint and attractiveness, their selfless love, keeps Katniss pure, maybe even purifying her spirit, while protecting her heart from the shattering blow it would take if she committed to either young man and then learned about the Pearl Plot. And could there have ever been any doubt, if she survived to the point of the Pearl Plot’s success, that she would have to learn about it?

But use her Peeta and Gale do, no doubt about that, if only in not telling her what they know (which would, of course, end the Team Pearl game on the spot). I’d go so far as to say that Gale loves Katniss as a sister, and, though he is torn up about sending her into the Games, he understands she is the only woman from District 12 with a prayer of surviving and that her victory could change the world, avenging their fathers’ deaths.

I’m guessing his stolen kiss with Katniss on the Seam side of the fence, too, the kiss that President Snow’s goons caught on film was staged by Team Pearl just so President Snow would see it. I think they wanted the Third Quell to be a Victor’s recall and had to bait President Snow into over-playing his hand, which, of course, he does. Unknowingly, the man with blood on his breath fills the Quell Arena with Team Pearl players prepared to die to save Katniss (and Peeta, to keep her around) and with a plan to break out of the Arena a la Haymitch.

The 75th Quell was designed by Heavensbee with escape in mind, the breakout plan engineered by Volts. Haymitch recruited the necessary Victors, the Capitol obliging him by selecting a crew of popular previous winners whose sympathies were suspect, to protect Katniss inside the Arena as a living symbol of love. Within Peeta’s narrative of marriage and pregnancy, she becomes in the popular mind the Bride of the Immaculate Conception giving birth Phoenix-like as the Mockingjay to a Panem-wide rebellion.

Katniss’ understanding, though, like ours, until confronted with the truths beneath the surfaces she observes, is about only the shadows on the wall. She doesn’t question the parameters of her story, incredibly, even when she meets them as people, by which I mean the District 8 refugees who signal to her with a Mockingjay symbol pressed into bread much like a communion wafer’s seal that they are “on her side.” Only Katniss’ innocence and humility explain her not understanding the depth of the Rebellion and her part in it after this.

She succeeds against alll odds and without direct instruction in throwing off the Capitol’s metanarrative and in taking Peeta’s roof-top plan to heart “to speak truth to power.” Katniss remembers Peeta’s goal through the fog of war and, as Haymitch told her, that the Capitol is her real enemy, both at Rue’s death and in destroying the Quell arena Force Field. She is so self-preoccupied, though, and whelmed by the story into which she has been written that, once she has thrown off the regime’s mythic blinders, she cannot imagine that there is another deeper narrative into which her closest friends have written her without her knowledge or assent.

Mockingjay will be the story of the Pearl Plot revelation and Katniss’ response, which I’m pretty sure will ultimately be to embrace consciously the part given her by the Pearl playwright and to make the self-actualizing choices to speak truth to power, bringing down the Capitol.

Well, this has already run way long (as if you needed me to tell you that). I’ll close this off here and pick up the thread again soon with a discussion of how the Pearl Plot throws light on the Four Senses of the Hunger Games trilogy we discussed here last week. I’ll also make the obligatory SWAGs about what we can expect to see in the series finale.

Your comments and corrections, of course, are coveted. Fire away.

Comments

  1. Wow–I had my kids look up the definition of ermine, but had NOT even considered all the symbolism there! That is truly amazing. The Emblem 75 really is the kicker, too. Very cool–thanks for sharing!

    What do you think of Enobaria’s role? At the end, Finnick could have easily killed her as they were standing there looking for Katniss right before she shoots the chink in the force-field. But he doesn’t. And at the Cornucopia, he takes a knife in his thigh thrown by her (supposedly targeted at Peeta). It seems like a woman who could shred you with her fanged teeth would have a more vicious throw. Even Katniss comments that it wasn’t much of a wound. That seemed to hint at perhaps Enobaria’s involvement, maybe, with Team Pearl. What do you think? (Sorry, I left my book at school, so I can’t quote page numbers, but it has to be in chapter 24 or 25, I think. The end part must be chapter 26.)

  2. I just read that the Greek word for ermine is “galèe.” That seems too coincidental, doesn’t it?

  3. Wow. First thought after I finished reading all of your theories and explanations. The “Pearl Plot” (very aptly named), sent my mind off on a train ride of possibilities and, I’ll admit, a humbling experience. I THOUGHT I knew the Hunger Games but alas I did not know a thing. I love the details you have outlined here and would like to throw in my two cents and a question.
    First, I would like to recognize a quote from an entirely different novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
    “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…but sing their hearts out for us, that’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
    If you have not read the novel, the title of To Kill a Mockingbird has very little literal connection to the actual plot, but carries a great deal of symbolic weight in the book. In the story of innocents destroyed by evil, the “mockingbird” comes to represent the idea of innocence. Thus, to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence. Maybe it is not a connection but it carries symbolic meaning in my own mind and it first occurred to me when you discussed Katniss’ innocence and I wondered about the actual creature ‘mockingjay’ which led to thoughts that ran along the lines of: “A mockingjay? More specifically why a mockingbird?” I mainly wondered about why she choose that bird to mix as a mutt and to be the symbol of hope, they discuss the origin of a mockingjay in the novels. But, does it have more meaning?
    As a final comment, excellent skills analyzing the artistry involved in literature and for the humbling adventure. And wonderful comments and engaging discussions from the audience–combined with the theory, the points outlined here had me thinking for days and I can’t look at the saga the same way I did a week ago. Thank you.

  4. Arabella Figg says:

    Along with Katniss being unaware, she, like our friend Harry Potter, is also rather incurious. We don’t see her seeking out elderly people who were alive during the first rebellion to learn details about it. Anyone over 83 or so would have a pretty good recollection. Even their children would have some handed down details. Mags is 80; she’d have memories (although this couldn’t have been discussed in the Arena itself). Still, there are people with direct or close secondhand memories to tap, but we get nothing from Katniss but very bare facts. This makes me suspect some kind of big reveal to come.

  5. You are so right, Arabella! Sometimes Katniss just drives me crazy with her lack of curiosity.

    And I agree, Kate, that the connection between the mockingbird from To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely there. In addition, I have always thought that Peeta (like Rue) also symbolized the mockingjay. Pair Katniss & Peeta together and their relationship is a mockingjay: partially manufactured by the Capitol (like the JabberJay), but full of hope and beauty (the mockingbird). Same with Katniss and Rue’s relationship: caused by the Capitol, but beautiful and innocent.

  6. Although Maysilee/or Madge’s mom are possibly the “mockingjay.” I believe, in a sense, that Katniss is like unto a mockingjay in the way that although the jabberjay was made to be used against the districts–like the Games. It failed. The games are what were the setting for the rebellion to “spark” in the first place. The innocence that Katniss embodies is tainted by the games–the Jabberjay–and hope thrives from how she performed and lived. She is a symbol of hope just like the Mockingjay is because although it isn’t supposed to exist the beast thrived without the Capitol and will always represent their mistake.
    Whew! Sorry I rushed in my writing–I hope my writing isn’t too jumbled. I am on a time limit with school ending–have to beat the bell. And exactly Tracee! I am glad I am not the only one who saw the connection.
    Thanks for tolerating me again 😀

  7. I apologize if someone already mentioned this, but as I was reading CF again I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Peacekeeper Darius is part of Team Pearl, as well. It seems perfect (especially if Thread & Gale were part of it) to fake an act of deviance so he is sent to the Capitol to be part of the rebellion’s infiltration. Heck, maybe the red-headed Avox girl was a District 13 survivor-offspring and meant to get picked up by the Capitol to be part of the infiltration, as well. They would have perfect access to district mentors, as well as Capitol information.

  8. H — Hawthorne

    U — Undersee

    M — Mellark

    E — Everdeen

    HUME (David).

    If the “Pearl Plot” is on the mark, it seems the above surnames represent the major players. Taking the first letter of the last name of each results in “Hume”.

    A stretch? Possibly (maybe even probably!). Interesting, though, that this particular philosopher wrote extensively in the areas of religion, politics, and free will/determinism.

  9. Are the boys in on it?

    From the beginning it seemed to me that Gale was to be chosen for the arena with Katniss. If he was in on the plan, his knowing their fate explains why he doesn’t teach Katniss all his tricks; he assumed he (and his skills) would be in the arena along side her. (Although what bugs me about this scenario is his absolute refusal to allow his sibs to take the tessarae – if he knew it was rigged all along, why not take the extra grain?) So what changed? Why didn’t Effie pick him? And did he know of the switch to Peeta in advance or not? I think he did, which explains his last ditch effort to get her to run away with him (and it also explains the truce offering of bread that morning). He knows Katniss is headed to the arena, and he wants to save her – especially since he will no longer be the one to protect her and he is doubtful that Peeta the baker can. Her refusing him is particularly hurtful given that he has conflicting/developing/confusing feelings for her.

    So what changed the Pearl Plotters mind in sending Gale? Maybe his feelings weren’t strong enough, in their minds (clearly there is no sexual chemistry between Katniss and Gale, even if he thinks he loves her). Maybe Madge’s feelings for him behind the scenes threw a wrench in her mother’s plan and she may have persuaded her mother to change her mind on sending Gale to his death. Gale’s verbal attack on Madge is even more poignant considering he knows of her intervention in sparing him (and thereby sending Katniss to her presumable doom in the arena being protected by a less qualified man). The Madge/Gale love story (requited or not) makes the suggested alternate plan in sending them to the HG intriguing, but I just cannot see a mother (or even aunt, as the case may be) intentionally sacrificing her daughter (or niece) for the cause – especially in a story about love. It does however explain Madge’s quick (and risky) gift of the painkillers for Gale in CF.

    Is Peeta in on it? I really have a hard time with that one. The conversation on the roof the night before the games is somewhat illuminating. “” his worry of losing himself in the arena, his trying to think of a way to “show the Capitol they don’t own [him]. [That he is] more than a piece in their Games.” Him clearly wanting to be master of his own fate does not jibe with him being an accomplice to the Pearl Plotters by allowing them to manipulate his own love story. Would Peeta allow any taint on his pure love for Katniss by betraying her and allowing them to control her freedom of choice? I think not. But I think he is smart enough to see what is going on: Cinna’s costume choices and advise, Haymitch’s counsel and his own realization, “I’ve never been a contender in these Games anyway.” I think perhaps his father (somehow connected on the inside), in seeing himself as a youth all over again offered up Peeta, giving him his chance with Katniss, fully knowing his son would die either way. The bread came from the father, a peace offering to Gale, perhaps? More likely a token of appreciation for Katniss’ bravery, love and honor for he knows she will volunteer to save her sister just as he has volunteered his son.

    While it is clear both boys love her, their romantic love never really rings true. Gale is too much like a brother, Peeta (at least in the beginning) is nursing an unrequited crush, too innocent, and he is too much a wuss to do anything but sit around and watch Gale move in, unchallenged. Katniss, in developing her feminine side needs a man, not androgynous boys. (Or perhaps Johanna is a better match for her and Katniss can fully embrace her male side, speaking of quarrelling couples). So if both boys have had a hand in the plan, I don’t see how a self-actualized Katniss can choose either of them in the end. If Peeta is truly innocent, however, he has the edge here and as he grows from lovesick boy, to man and realized artist, he will win her heart. In book 3, she will truly become a Mockingjay – a hybrid of the two camps using her – with a self-actualized cause all her own. Katniss will stop at nothing to save Peeta in book 3. I am guessing Gale will become a man and help her go rogue while he stays behind to lead the rebellion, alongside the lovely Madge.

    Phew. Thanks for this forum. That was fun.

  10. Jessica says:

    Amendment: If Peter is in on it, I don’t see how he gets to live. For if he has been in on the plot since the beginning, he would be sacrificing himself for all of District 12 and the cause, not for Katniss. His character would become a true Christ figure and serve its purpose. Either way, Katniss still goes rogue, breaks the bonds that hold her – a la the cover art, and helps/leads the rebellion on her own terms.

  11. I just finished reading HG and CF for the 3rd time and was just wanting more…and stumbled upon this website and theories. I’m very much behind the rest of you, but I still wanted to comment. I must say I like most of what you outline in the Pearl 2.0 article.

    Forgive me if someone has already stated this, but I want to mention it anyway. I know Peeta is the Christ figure in this scenario and that you believe he knew about the plan before the reaping. I don’t know if I completely agree with that.

    If he is a true Christ figure, I think a major point has been forgotten here. The most quoted Bible verse of all time, John 3:16a, says “For GOD so love the world, he SENT his only son….” (emphasis mine). I think Peeta was sent–by his father as the sacrificial lamb. He was sent because the Baker wanted Panem to have freedom and was willing to let his son play a part. Peeta went willingly because he loved Katniss and he was the one called. I don’t know if he knew much more than that. The Baker in a player in the plot, but I am not so sure Peeta knew all along.

    It’s not much, but I thought it worth throwing into the mix.

  12. I feel like you have not mentioned someone (or two people) who might easily be involved… Katniss’ father, and for that matter Gale’s. No trace of their bodies were ever found. Much like the two women Katniss comes upon in the woods, who were believed to have died in an explosion, but had actually escaped.

    Something delayed those two women to the factory and they lived but knew the Capitol was behind it, and so they escaped without telling anyone of their survival. Could Katniss’ father have a similar situation and be orchestrating some of these events from another place (District 13)? Could he have known something was coming and thus taught Katniss survival skills, so he knew she could keep the family going in the short term, while he was fighting from a different location to make a better future in the long term?

    If Katniss’ mom and the Maysilee were friends, it seems like Katniss’ dad would have access to this circle as well. But his Seam status would also give him access to the people who were more likely to be interested in a rebellion (also hinted at, when the two runaways mentioned the rebellion started in their factory). The shop owners/etc had more to lose in a rebellion than the people working in the mines who had starving children at home. Katniss’ dad, as a mine worker courting a girl from the town, would have access to both groups; those with some influence and those with nothing to lose. In addition he would know the rebels well (and perhaps was one), as they were being treated in Katniss’ mom’s house. In the end, whether by design (he knew the explosion was coming and got out of dodge) or happy coincidence (late to work due to something and missed it by moments), he would have been prepared for life outside the district (hunting and survival skills), would know his family was taken care of (taught Katniss), would have motivation (defeat Capitol, make life better for Prim and Katniss, hopefully get them back), and he would have had valuable knowledge of what was going on in District 12.

    I don’t think Katniss’ father would ever have wanted her in the Games. However if anyone else (Haymitch, Katniss’s mothers friends who were involved) knew or suspected he was on the outside and was possibly in District 13 with other rebels waiting for the right time to move forward with a full scale rebellion, getting Katniss in the games would be an incredibly strong motivating factor to get him moving.

    In the end, something tells me not to count Katniss’ dad out. Maybe having him still be alive would be to much. But I suspect even if he is dead, there is more to the story than a mine explosion.

  13. StrictlyTopSecret says:

    Hi, Rachel.

    There’s a discussion on this very topic which you might find interesting. Here’s a link:
    http://www.hungergamestrilogy.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=6038

    ~STS~

  14. revgeorge says:

    I don’t know, if Katniss’ father is alive & has been all this time, I would suspect that when they meet, Katniss will have some serious anger & abandonment issues with him. Is there really enough space & time in Mockingjay for all that to play out with everything else going on as well?

  15. I admit it would be somewhat (or even terribly) cliche, and it would bring up a whole set of other issues. This isn’t the direction I hope Collins chooses, but in my opinion, it is at least as plausible as other theories presented here, and there are things you can look back to in both THG and CF that set the stage for it to happen.

  16. it is actually hard to master archery, it took me 2 long years to be a master of archery .

  17. Dang, now that I think about Rue, maybe there IS significance in Rue telling Katniss “You have to win” as she was dying.

    I still feel the idea that the whole thing was set up five years in advance is a bit farfetched. Too many people need to be in on the conspiracy, and there’s too much uncertainty about the results. Looking at an 11-year old Katniss, it’s hard to predict exactly how a 16-year-old Katniss would think and react. Mrs. Undersee would have to be borderline prophetic. Other stories of this genre have dipped into the mystical to deal with prophecies and Chosen Ones, but so far this series has tried to stay pure scifi.

    Is there a puppet master? Of course. Her name is Suzanne Collins. But I’m not sure it would make for a satisfactory resolution for the reader if it is revealed in MJ that the first two books involved action that was mostly scripted.

    One other thing that does lend credence to your theory is the arena for HG74. A forest of indeterminate size, you could argue that it was tailor-made for Katniss.

  18. Oh, one more thing. I think as I read through these threads an argument was made that all reapings were fixed. The evidence presented to “confirm” this theory was the disproportionate selection of Victor’s offspring. I think the problem with the argument is that it presents only two extreme possibilities:
    1) Reapings are lotteries in accordance with the rules described by Katniss
    2) The tributes are always predetermined beforehand, and Reapings are a complete fraud.
    Therefore, by presenting a counterexample to #1, this confirms #2.

    I propose that there are a number of more moderate theories that could also explain your counterexample. Here are two:
    3) Reapings are generally random lotteries, but every once in a while one is fixed to bring a specific tribute into the game, just to make things more interesting.
    4) Reapings are random lotteries, but certain “preferred candidates” secretly have their names entered more times than they are supposed to, therefore increasing their likelihood of being drawn.

  19. PK9

    I’m not sure that anyone has argued that each and every drawing is fixed and predetermined. It’s possible but unlikely. After all, the only purpose of fixing the drawing in one of the “career” districts would be to keep someone out of the arena. Since these districts always have voluteer substitutes, a fix could keep someone out of the arena by drawing his or her name. However, the system of resolving tributes with multiple volunteers determines the actual participant.

    I also don’t see your option 4 as a real possibility. Why would someone go the to trouble of partially fixing a drawing? If they went to the trouble of fixing a drawing, they wouldn’t take a chance of getting someone other than who they wanted.

  20. Regarding option 4, my perspective would be that in this case the Gamemakers don’t specifically want someone in a specific game, they just think it would be more interesting to see (for example) children of victors selected, so the odds are loaded in their favor. If or when it happens, it makes for interesting storylines, but it’s not a huge deal to the powers that be if it doesn’t happen, either. Option #4 does not require the Capitol representative to be in on the conspiracy – if all the names were the same, the person doing the drawing might see and get suspicious (if of course he/she wasn’t already in the know).

  21. ” This remarkable risk-taking makes more sense if the coal miner and daddy in question understands that he might be killed at any time and that his family will perish in his absence if someone doesn’t have survival training.”

    That’s absolutely true, but it is not necessary for Mr. Everdeen to be in any sort of organized rebellion for him to believe “that he might be killed at any time.” He’s a coal miner, which is an inherently dangerous profession, and he also regularly commits executable offenses by hunting in the forest. Those two facts alone can account for his belief that Katniss needs survival training. In addition, I think it is difficult to assume that he could forsee his wife becoming an invalid upon his death. If she had been stronger emotionally, she could have been the primary breadwinner, sparing Katniss the need to risk her own life by hunting (or hunting as much).

  22. Very interesting points. I can see this being the case, but I’m also a little skeptical. This is just so complex, I have a hard time believing that it could have all been so organized/planned/thought out.

    But I do believe Katniss is going to get a lot of stuff revealed to her. So maybe it is a ultra-big rebel conspiracy.

    Gah, I just wanna read the dang book!

  23. I find this interesting and I agree with there being a plot with Haymitch and other revolutionaries but don’t find the idea of Gale or Peeta being involved in the games plausible for a number of reasons. I’m not sure, perhaps I need to re-read the series or am just being naive but if they had been involved in a conspiracy to prepare Katniss for the games their reactions to certain events throughout the series make little sense. These are in no particular order, just the order in which they come to mind:

    1) If Gale was involved in the conspiracy plot why would he be so deeply hurt in Catching Fire by the fact that Katniss had seemingly chosen Peeta? The idea that Gale had no feelings for Katniss whatsoever and was only a good actor seems far-fetched to me especially him staging the kiss by the fence. There was no way of knowing how President Snow would react to that kiss, in fact wouldn’t a quick way to snub the rebellion be to show the footage of that kiss to the public, making Katniss seem less like a martyr and show she is capable of duplicity.

    2) Peeta’s idea of rebellion and showing that he is more than a pawn. His speech on the rooftop showed his deep set hatred of manipulation and his desire to show the Capitol that he is more than just a player in his games. Why would he submit to a plot as carefully crafted as this?

    3) Peeta’s ignorance of Haymitch’s plotting during the first games he and Katniss are in and the Quell. Peeta had no idea of Haymitch and Katniss’s silent communication for Katniss to make her performance of a girl in love more convincing and was hurt to find out that Katniss was acting. If he was in on the pearl plot he would not have been so naiive. Peeta also had no idea of the escape being planned at the end of Catching Fire, if he had he probably wouldn’t have let himself be left behind. (I forget what happened that caused him and Joanna to be captured) Why would they leave Peeta out of their plotting if he was in on it from the beginning.

    Those are just some ideas I have, when I was reading I wasn’t exactly reading with a fine toothed cone so I can’t really offer more than that

  24. comb* that error was bothering me haha

  25. What? NO.

    The central symbol of the series is the mockingjay bird — a bird of unintended consequences.

    Thinking back to the first arena, there are a million contingencies where Katniss could have been killed. What if she had gone into the bloodbath? What if she had fallen out of the tree when she discovered that Peeta was with the Careers? What if she didn’t dodge the fireballs fast enough? What if the tracker jackers had woken up a few minutes earlier? She got 3 stings, and 6 or 7 would have done her in.

    None of the rebel plans involving Katniss could have started until after the first arena.

  26. frozenfeather says:

    the third from bottom paragraph says “She succeeds against alll odds” it should be all

    and the eighth from the bottom paragraph says “Peter and Gale” should be Peeta

  27. I’m still not sure if I like the idea of Peeta and Gale knowing about it all- but if it’s correct then obviously that changes everything

  28. also-how do you come up with this

  29. [Nota Bene: This post was written before Mockingjay was published! Please enjoy it as the speculative exercise it was, if you like, and then read the many posts that were written about the artistry and meaning of the series after we had the finale in hand. Writing comments on this thread that do not reflect those later posts, especially those questioning the author’s intelligence (!) because of what we know now but did not know then, is an exercise in self-important vanity and will be deleted.]

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