Guest Post: The Symbolic Identity of Alma Coin

As John Granger and I get our brooms polished up to race down to Orlando and Leaky-Con, we’re delighted to showcase this lovely guest post from Nicole Olson, who wanted to share her fascinating insights on the chracter of Alma Coin in the Hunger Games. Thanks, Nicole!

First of all, I’d like to thank John Granger for giving me the opportunity to share this theory with you on Hogwarts Professor. It is largely an extension of the very insightful work articulated by John in his articles Unlocking Mockingjay, but with a narrower focus on the symbolic role of President Coin in Katniss’s apotheosis. I am not a professor, but merely another interested reader captivated by The Hunger Games and craving a deeper discussion of the ensuing symbolism. In the spirit of Hogwarts Professor, I offer this theory for your consideration and look forward to your comments and corrections.    The assassination of Alma Coin is one of the most jarring scenes in Mockingjay. It seems fairly straightforward to argue that Katniss would assassinate Coin to both avenge her sister’s death and to prevent further suffering under Coin’s rule. However, for Katniss, I believe there is a much greater significance. After all, the shooting of Coin was the final cathartic event in her spiritual journey. It is also worth noting that in the moment before releasing the arrow, her mind did not dwell on Coin’s suggestion of a Capitol Hunger Games, or the fire-bombing in the Capitol, but rather was drawn back into the allegorical Garden of Eden with President Snow. I believe Snow, Katniss, and Coin are all connected on a deeper level and Eden holds the key.

 We know through the many snake-like descriptions of President Snow that he represents the snake in the garden. Katniss is our Adam/Eve. But who is President Coin? Her full name, Alma Coin, is rather interesting. Alma usually means nourishing, but the name is also significant because the Battle of Alma marked the beginning of the Crimean War. (The Crimean War has other interesting ties to the The Hunger Games in that it gave rise to both the first war correspondent and Florence Nightingale.) In Crimean-Tatar, Alma actually means apple. Since we know that Ms. Collins, through her father, is interested in war and history, it is not a terrible stretch to suggest that she would know the significance of the Crimean War.

 So then Alma is our apple, and she is a specific apple. She is an Apple Coin, or a two-sided apple. What do we call a two-sided apple in the Garden of Eden? Genesis 2:17 tells us that it is the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Snow, Katniss, and Coin have a spiritual past that shapes their relationships throughout the series. Consider Snow and Katniss in light of Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” The antagonistic relationship between our story snake and the people and children of Panem is unmistakable. There is also the recurring theme of Katniss having anxiety about childbearing. Genesis 3:16 tells us that as a result of consuming the forbidden fruit childbearing will be “severe” and “painful”. The fact that she considers not having children suggests that she is searching for a way to end this cyclic existence.

Now consider Coin and her home, District 13. The rebellion that led to the “Dark Days” is credited to District 13. The “Dark Days” are synonymous with “the fall” in Genesis. The result of the “Dark Days” is enmity between the snake and human offspring; in Panem this is known as the Hunger Games. We also know that District 13 is impotent. Without “new breeding stock” from the other districts, they cannot flourish. Without rebels, District 13 cannot come to power. And without the Mockingjay, District 13 will be unable to continue their war.

Likewise, the fruit of the tree is not powerful in and of itself; it needs people to choose and consume it. In this context, then, Katniss’s assassination of Alma Coin becomes a symbolic rejection of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A foreshadowing of this event happened in The Hunger Games when Katniss skewered the apple in the pig’s mouth. It is this rejection that finally opens the door to restoring her relationship with the Father. It also brings about an unraveling of the duality experienced by Katniss and an end to the bastardized Mockinjay persona proffered by Coin. The way is now paved for a non-dual, pre-fall existence back in the Meadow. With the end of the Katniss/Mockingjay duality, the original symbol embodied in the mockingjay’s song, that of hope, is not only restored, but realized. “Hope” is the thing with feathers /That perches in the soul,/And sings the tune without the words/ And never stops at all … -Emily Dickinson


  1. So that is an interesting take stemming from one of the origins of “Alma”. Something else to ponder about the origins of “Alma” as they may relate to Mockingjay is that the Book of Alma is one of the books that make up the Book of Mormon. I am not Mormon so I’m getting my background of this book pretty much from Wikipedia. What is interesting to note about the Alma in the Book of Alma, although not a female, is that he lead an army against followers who backed a monarchy in which priests were given a separate social status and were paid for their ministry instead of a dominant lay ministry. In looking at this context, putting Alma as a first name with Coin as a last name is actually brilliant for a two-faced character.

  2. Thanks for this fascinating and insightful analysis, Nicole. It delves deep and well.

  3. Interesting interpretation, but personally I found it a bit of a stretch. Notice that it was actually Snow, the ‘snake’, who ultimately convinced Katniss to reject Coin as a leader. I personally see the whole book as a journey of Byronic redemption. In the beginning of the Hunter games, Katniss was, all things considered, ‘free’, a characteristic trait which culminated in her decision to sacrifice herself for Prim. From there, her actions though the first and second slowly take away her personal will and freedom, resulting in a slave-like existence for her, first to the Capitol, and then to District 13 (notice as the books go on, she seems to do everything out of ‘obligation’ and ‘duty’ instead of choice). Like the cover of the third book shows, the story of MockingJay revolves around her ultimate decision, shooting Coin, an act which meant sacrificing everything she had left in order to ‘die as herself’ and break free from the lies which surrounded her.

  4. Another consideration for the origin of Alma:

    In Spanish, “alma” is the word for soul. Could be a consideration that “Soul Coin” foreshadows Alma Coin’s penchant for sacrificing the souls of others for personal gain. Trading on the value of souls to further her own ends.

    I wonder about Collins’ choice to juxtapose Snow and Coin (two very dissimilar nouns). In physical description, they carry characteristics of the other: Snow is meticulously dressed in expensive suits (coins/material wealth) while Alma Coin’s very eyes are described by Katniss as, “slush you wish would melt away.” In “Mockingjay” the scene of Coin’s assassination is written in a very chaotic manner. Coin and Snow almost become interchangeable personas blurred together by the speed of the narrative action. Symbolic then that both cease to exist almost simultaneously; as if Coin’s continued existence requires the existence of Snow.

    Just a few thoughts on a trilogy that still elicits visceral reactions from me.

  5. YES! clever ones.

  6. [“Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”]

    I think my problem with this is that I cannot see anything wrong with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

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