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.


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.


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!


[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…


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:


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…


  1. This is my conspiracy theory. I put it on the assassin thread but I’ll repeat it here. It’s about who was behind Coin’s assassination.

    I think there was a plot to get rid of Coin and Katniss was unwittingly used to achieve it.

    Whose idea would it have been to have the Mockingjay fire the last shot of the war? Who would most likely to have been the one to organise and design the event? Who, therefore, would have been the one to see that Coin was seated directly above Snow? Who is a master at human behavior and how to manipulate it? Who was star witness at Katniss’ trial?


    My theory is that Coin implicated Plutarch in the bomb by using parachutes – a signature of the Hunger Games. Snow told Katniss that it showed Plutarch was involved. But what if he wasn’t and Coin used the parachutes to implicate him as a way to control him? Perhaps even to blame if it became necessary. Plutarch would know how it works, having worked for Snow. Use people until they no longer have any use to you, and then dispose of them before they become a threat. That’s what Coin tried to do to Katniss.

    Paylor was also involved. It’s Paylor who allows Katniss to see Snow. It’s Paylor who becomes president. And then Plutarch gets his dream job.

    And maybe Snow had something to do with it too. Awaiting execution and eager to see his enemy dead, Plutarch would have no trouble convincing Snow to persuade Katniss that Coin was responsible for the bomb that killed her sister.

    Katniss is a logical choice as assassin. She has a motive. She is given opportunity. She’s suffering PTSD so is unaccountable. It can’t be traced to anyone. And she’s the Mockingjay so her actions would be seen in a more positive light from the populace at large – perhaps even justified.

    Katniss is treated gently for someone’s who’s assassinated a head of state. Instead of execution or a mental institution, she’s put under house arrest until further notice. She has plenty of physical freedom as long as she stays within District 12.

    That doesn’t mean that Katniss didn’t come to a decision herself about the yes vote and killing Coin instead. But she was subtly steered in directions that would lead her to make the choices she did.

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