Mockingjay Predictions: The Three Sure Things

Five Days to Mockingjay!

In the run-up to the release of Deathly Hallows, HogwartsProfessor featured seven days of predictions about the Harry Potter series finale. That was a lot of fun, if, of course, most of the predictions didn’t play out. One kind of prediction, though, all came in as winners: the ones that said only that we’d see the story formulas that worked in the first six books of the Hogwarts Saga in the seventh installment. Sure enough, in Hallows we got the hero’s journey, the narrative misdirection, the alchemy, the Christian symbolism, everything that made the previous books what they were.

So in the few days left to us before Mockingjay is published and all the speculation about ‘what happens’ is even more obviously comic and pointless, let me spell out from Ms. Collins’ Hunger Games formulas what pretty much has to happen unless she leaves the rails entirely.

1. Story Structure: The first books, Games and Fire, are 27 chapters long. Each book has three parts; each part has nine chapters each. The third book, Mockingjay, will have three parts, each with nine chapters, for a total of 27 chapters.

2. Story Sequence: The first books have started in District 12, from which district Katniss travels to the Capitol with Peeta and Haymitch for time in the murderous arena. The Boy with the Bread and the Girl on Fire capture the hearts of the Capitol, and, miraculously, both survive Games designed to leave only one Tribute alive. The stories end with Katniss’ trip away from the Capitol made in fear and trembling about retribution for rebellious actions.

Assuming that Gale was not lying to Katniss about the destruction of District 12, we’ll have to assume, barring a quick stop there for formula’s sake, that the ‘Point A’ of Mockingjay will differ from that of Games and Fire. It would be a mistake, though, I think, to imagine we’re going to see a new framework of the story because there is a revolution in progress Panem-wide. Set it up like a syllogism:

1. Peeta, Cinna, and President Snow are still in the Capitol.

2. Katniss has sworn that she will do anything to keep Peeta alive.

Ergo: Katniss will be returning to the Capitol to rescue Peeta.

That sounds pretty far-fetched, perhaps, because Katniss has realized that she is the Mockingjay and has been told and I think she believes that the revolution lives as long as she does. The weight of story-formula inertia, though, the difficulty of leaving a proven structural winner, ‘the horse you rode in on,’ drags her back to the Capitol for, if not a structured and broadcast Games, then a Bladerunner chase experience inside the Capitol.

I’m not a betting person because of poverty more than principle, but, like Cinna, if I were a gambler, my money would be on Katniss heading back to the Capitol in Mockingjay for a contest she endures, survives, and wins with Peeta. Maybe we won’t spend any time with Caesar Flickerman, but Cinna and President Snow will almost definitely play significant parts.

3. Character Story Arc: I’ll have to spin this out over the next few days for the various individuals, but for starters the principle should suffice. The arc or direction of character development over the last two books should continue for those players with whom we have spent significant time and know fairly well. That would mean “Katniss” and “Peeta.” Everyone else is essentially a static character about whom there will be “reveals” that surprise us but no progressive development.

What are the Peeta and Katniss story arcs as individuals? I think they share these trends we will see played out in Mockingjay:

  • Artist Speaking Truth to Power — Beginning with Peeta’s ambition on the rooftop in Games to do something in the arena that would demonstrate that he wasn’t “just a pawn,” Katniss and Peeta, like Haymitch in his Quell, have increasingly focused their efforts on getting a grip on the Hunger Games’ story parameters and boundaries in order to shift them into a different story than the Capitol designed.

Peeta works his Flickerman interviews brilliantly to write his “star-crossed lover” story into the Games and then increasingly ups the stakes with his Rue painting, pregnancy announcement, and pearl gifts to his beloved within the Quell arena.

Katniss develops from the girl who sings to Rue and bedecks her corpse with flowers to the Berry Rebel, Seneca Crane dummy assassin, and arena annihilator. Her rebellion at first is passive — the dummy over which Cinna drapes his revolutionary messages — becomes more conscious under Peeta’s influence, and finally breaks out in her recall of “who the real enemy is” and destruction of the dome in Fire.

Katniss’ story arc is of her increasing awareness that she is playing a part in a drama written by someone else. The natural end of this story arc, nicely represented by the cage-less bird on the US Mockingjay cover, is that Katniss will insist on being the Mockingay symbol of the rebellion, the Panem Joan of Arc, rather than playing the part the Capitol wants her to play or the one the Pearl Plot dramatists have written for her. Next Tuesday, expect her to “speak truth to power” both to President Snow and her rebellion handlers like Haymitch.

  • Individual Identifying with Other rather than Self — The first point about Katniss making the PoMo formula “self-actualizing choices” we see in every story of our age seems rather selfish, i.e., an individual insisting on his or her understanding of right and wrong over and before the community’s. The second trend in Katniss’ story arc is the opposite of that ‘adolescent rebel’ direction.

Both Peeta and Katniss are sacrificial characters. Katniss only goes to the Games because she throws herself in front of the bullet meant for her little sister. She puts herself in the way of great risk to her physical survival in Games by trying to protect Peeta and, in accepting the Juliet role in their “star-crossed lover” play-within-the-play, she creates an identity quite different than any she was prepared for (i.e., she essentially kills her Gale-District-12 self-understanding to save the wounded Peeta). By the time she accepts the pearl from the Boy with the Bread, she has died to self absolutely and is determined to sacrifice every aspect of herself to save Peeta.

Where Katniss winds up, of course, is very close to where Peeta starts. He lives for the Girl on Fire and is happy, even determined to die for her. I think we can safely expect more of the same along these lines in Mockingjay as a complementary and opposing trend to the “truth to power” arc.

Okay, then, today’s “sure thing” predictions about Mockingjay are that:

  1. We get the same 27 chapter, 3 part book structure in Mockingjay that we’ve read in Games and Fire.
  2. Not only that, we also get the same basic story sequence of Katniss going to the Capitol and enduring a deadly maze. They defeat the arena they’re put in and Katniss leaves the Capitol.   And —
  3. Following character story arcs, Katniss will become the playwright of the Mockingjay rebellion script to “speak truth to power,” both the rebellion leaders and the Capitol President, and she will put her life at risk, not to mention the rebellion, in order to save Peeta. Peeta will do what Christ figures do in stories of this kind.

About which, more tomorrow! I covet, as always, your comments and corrections, especially if you think my structure, sequence, and story arc ideas are closer to “risibly unlikely” than “sure things.”


  1. Regarding point the second, I might be going out on a limb, but I think the arena for MJ might *be* the Capitol.

  2. I don’t remember there being any indication of what happened with Cinna after Katniss entered the arena. I think it’s possible that Cinna is already dead. On the other hand, it seems possible that President Snow would want to keep him around for leverage against Katniss.

  3. My theory is that Cinna is still alive, because Snow wanted him to watch Katniss die in the Games before executing him. Once the breakout occurred, though, Cinna became useful as bait.

  4. Josh Petersen says

    While the idea of Katniss returning to District 12 immediately resonates with me (the reconciliation and acceptance of District 12’s annihilation,) I want to play devil’s advocate. Katniss’ original understanding was that District 13 had been bombed and no longer existed. Now that District 12 really has been bombed, and really “doesn’t exist” (according to Gale; “there is no district 12.”) Could the physical ‘status swapping’ of District 13 and District 12 indicate a symbolic swap of roles in Mockingjay? That would put District 13 as the starting point.

    Maybe District 13 could be a type of cornucopia; a place where the contestants (rebels) stock up on weapons and supplies (literally) and head out into the fray. This could also set up a progression of growing “alliances.” In HG there are 2 (Katniss/Peeta) who successfully survive, in CF there are at least 4 who survive, maybe in MJ there will be 12 (the remaining districts) who survive.

    I also wonder if the 12 sections of the clock in CF might symbolize the 12 remaining districts. [But then that begs the question: Could Gale be lying to Katniss about D12’s destruction in an effort to manipulate her (assuming Gale is in on the Pearl plot.)] Is there any easy way to divide the arena from HG into 12 sections? Cornucopia, Lake, Fields, Tree tops, Forest…

    Back to responding to the original post at hand, my final thought deals with the story arc. If Katniss is the Mockingjay and if the rebellion only lives as she does, then maybe her “identifying with the other” will come full circle. Think spiral staircase; she comes back to self preservation but at a higher level and after assimilating all of the “other-focused” steps. Essentially implying that after trying to sacrifice herself in CF she spends her time and energy on keeping herself alive in context and for the purpose of keeping the rebellion (and all it symbolizes; freedom, life, the other) alive as well.

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