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, 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.


  1. Okay — forget Team Peeta or Team Gale. I’m for TEAM PEARL!

    Wow, that was a good read. These entries keep getting better and better. The wheels were spinning in my head, thinking of how much we have to look forward to in Mockingjay’s 400 pages of plot . . .

    Anyway, comments. I really like the Pearl Plot version 2.0. It’s . . . so wide-scale. (I like how almost all the main players we have come to know from District 12 have a role — and none of it seems beyond the realm of possibility. I agree with how everyone seems to link together. It seems a bit too convenient otherwise, doesn’t it?)

    As to Pearl herself . . . I want to believe that the sacrificial love theme runs deeper where Pearl will actually turn out to be MAYSILEE (and the unnamed sister will be the one to have been slain in the second Quell — if she was actually slain at all and not simply given a “mock death”).

    I don’t find it too out-of-the-realm-of-possibility that Peeta and Gale could have been working in tandem with the rebellion’s agenda in mind from the start of the book — and that seems the most opportune time for them to have made “the pact” (right before the Reaping, early in the morning when Gale goes to get the bread). I wouldn’t put it past Peeta, in desperation, to suggest to Gale, “Why don’t you run away with her?” (But the only snag in that is this: hadn’t Gale mentioned a possible life outside of District 12 before? I can’t remember for certain, but — going along with his character — it seems like something he would talk about often, in between his digs at the Capitol.)

    Going deeper into the “Gale/Peeta partnership,” you could also hypothesize that Gale asked Peeta — sometime before the Quell — to give Katniss “a reason to live/come back” (thus the locket) so that the rebellion’s mockingjay figure would not be lost. (Though, again, Peeta’s character is along the lines where he could have come up with that idea himself.)

    I don’t know. I’m not as keen with the players and their doings unbeknownst to Katniss. There seems to be a lot of very shady, underhanded business going on with both sides (rebellion and Capitol) — whether it all be for “the greater good” or not.

  2. That was, once again, a very interesting post with many things to consider. I agree that the Pearl plot has to run deeper than Katniss suspects to work out like it did. I also think it is likely that her father as well as Gale’s were part of the rebellion efforts leading to their deaths and that often their kids will be choosen to be tributes in the games as a punishment/scare tactic. This leads me ponder about something, bear with me a second.

    Consider as another possibility that their were two potential tributes with corresponding partners that could be choosen by the rebellion team. Gale is Katniss’ male counterbalence while Madge is Peeta’s. Perhaps they were backup in case Katniss did not make it to that point it time. Gale would have been picked (or more likely his little brother) while Madge’s name would have been called in that case. It is hinted that she has more than noticed Gale and perhaps held a similar flame. I could easily see “Ms. Pearl” as you deemed her hoping that it wouldn’t come to this while also feeling better about using someone’s kid if she had been planning on using hers in case things did not pan out (for the “greater good of course”). I don’t know how likely this scenario really is, but the similarities between these two pairings really struck me. I am not sure I can write that off as pure coincidence.

    I also am not sure how I feel about Peeta having awareness of the plot. The reasons for my discomfort stem from viewing Peeta as a Christ analogous figure. It would seem more consistant if all his playing were form a position of purity in that sense. But as you said, you are bound to have some things wrong, and likewise so am I. It is the exercise and what it represents that is most important and on that level I am enjoying following along on this ride.

    No matter wether we agree with some of the minor points I find this a fun and exercise and a learning experience. I always try to keep my mind open to things I missed and also enjoy learning about tools in a master writers arsenol. Thanks for sharing with us your thoughts and insights.

  3. I love the Gale/Madge parallel team idea. Look for it in version 3.0 with a hat-tip to you! That makes Gale’s comments to Madge the day of the Reaping that much more bitter. I’m guessing he understands the Pearl playwright chose the Katniss/Peeta team because Katniss made the better Mockingjay and had better survival skills — and wasn’t the playwright’s daughter! This also sets up nicely the eventual Gale/Madge match, Peeta’s sacrificial death, and Katniss’ apotheosis…

    Great thinking, Lynn!

  4. Thank you for another great post. I like reading these (and the comments!) nearly as much as the books. 🙂 And I really enjoyed the “new and improved” Pearl Plot – especially how all-encompassing it is.

    I would love it if the thing that won Katniss over to accepting her role in the rebellion were finding out that her dad had lost his life for it. Something has to push her over the edge and I think that would be powerful enough to do the trick. Maybe it would give some meaning to everything else she’s had to do (and a reason to forgive everyone for keeping the truth from her) if she were continuing her father’s legacy.

    And I can totally buy Gale being involved early on and training Katniss for the reasons listed in the post. It makes the idea of him keeping her in the dark a lot more forgivable (at least to me) and a lot less like him heartlessly setting her up. It would also explain why he seemingly has all the reason in the world to be in love with her, but apparently none of the feeling.

    I can also buy Peeta knowing the plan before the reaping. Maybe he would agree to it if he thought that the plot to put Katniss in the arena was inevitable. If she were going to the Games it’d be his last chance to ever let her know, or do anything about, his feelings for her. Maybe that would be enough motivation for him to go along with it, confess his feelings, and protect her at the expense of his own life. I’d been wondering for a while if Peeta was aware that he was the “sacrificial lamb” of the plot, or if we were supposed to assume he takes on that role just by nature. (Maybe it’s both?) I think him knowing and agreeing to his role strengthens the idea of him as a Christ figure.

    We’ve also seem Peeta hide his knowledge or strategy from Katniss before, and then reveal it at later points when he thinks it will be most helpful to her (in both of his interviews, on the beach in CF when he tells her that he’s also made deals with Haymitch, who must be lying to one of them). Over and over again we see Peeta is a compelling actor and liar; it has to make you wonder if there’s more he’s keeping from Katniss. Not because he’s bad or trying to hurt her, but because the information won’t benefit her most until later.

    Just my thoughts. And Lynn, I love the idea of a plan B Madge/Gale (team Male?) pair, just in case they needed them. If the plot goes this deep, certainly they’d have a back up plan. 🙂

  5. Well, Kathy, I confess to having expected that the first responses to Pearl Plot 2.0 (and its raising the possibility that Gale and Peeta were in on the Mockingjay conspiracy from the start) would be resoundingly negative. JSavant and you, however, have not only signed on, you’ve provided excellent explanations for their taking and playing these roles.


    And I love the idea that Katniss will be brought back into the Mockingjay Rebellion as an informed member, even a leader of the Pearl Plot with the revelation that (a) her father was a resistance martyr and (b) it was his suggestion that she be trained to become the Mockingjay.

    If I were into fanfiction, I’d start writing the scene. I assume the most powerful delivery of this news would come from Mrs. Everdeen? As an explanation of why she went catatonic after the mine explosion? Her fear that her children would be caught up and die serving the underground, too?

    Maybe, though, Gale and Madge as a couple, the other tribute-team-in-training, could drive the point home that everyone is in someone else’s script — and their greatest wish was that they could be doing what she was doing to inspire the districts.

    Your thoughts?

  6. (Very interesting. The Gale/Madge back-up team . . . very probable. It may not have worked as wonderfully as Peeta/Katniss did, but it was another option that the rebellion likely had in place.)

    The scene would come across most resoundingly if Mrs. Everdeen told the story of the early rebellion stirrings involving Mr. Everdeen, yes. Now that we are hypothesizing about Mrs. Everdeen’s possible involvement in the rebellion, it helps the reader view her as an even more sympathetic figure — a woman who was trying to play a part in bettering the world they lived in, only to lose her husband in the process and fall into the fear of what may come next. While I don’t think such a revelation would make Katniss forgive her mother fully (after all, there will be anger from Katniss, knowing that the rebellion plot had basically been building all around her all this time), it would help Katniss to better understand and accept the human emotions that fueled the rebellion plans and actions.

    If we look at it this way, then, could not Mrs. Hawthorne be in on the plot as well? (She is not a major character, but if we want to prove that Gale had a place in the plot from the start because of his father . . .) We have only met her once, but you would think that — if her son really did hold such feelings of ardour for Katniss — that she would be a bit cold to the girl in question who was running off with another boy and almost flaunting it (for the Capitol‘s cameras, of course). But she isn’t — making me think that she is in the know on many of the things that the others are.

    (But here’s a point against Gale being in the know on all: if he did know of the star-crossed lovers plot that Katniss and Peeta were a part of, WHY would he make things harder for Katniss by kissing her — even if he did know the cameras were there — and basically help push her into a trap of confusion and doubt over her own feelings? Did he simply believe that the emotions between Katniss and Peeta were an act that would come to an end after the rebellion was over? Or did Gale anticipate that a punishment (i.e. the whipping) was coming and, realizing he could die, he took a chance and kissed Katniss, with his thinking being, “This could be it“? My head is spinning from all the twists and turns that could be in this intricate theory.)

    The only problem I have with these theories is that it somehow dehumanizes the characters for me. The rebels now seem no better than the Capitol puppeteers. And, while I do like the idea of Peeta and Gale involved in the rebellion, the revelation would rather take away from all we may have known about them, wouldn’t it? Peeta’s hurt at the end of THG over realizing that Katniss’s feelings may have been just for show . . . Gale’s jealousy over Katniss when she arrives back in District 12 . . . are these simply the REAL human pieces seeping out of the characters who are already wearing masks? Or are they wearing masks at all? What is real, and what was merely an act to move the rebellion forward? (Goodness, I sound like Katniss.) I don’t know, but I’m waiting to find out.

  7. Two quick thoughts, JSavant:

    (1) One of the reasons Team Pearl can give for leaving Katniss in the dark about the Mockingjay Rebellion script with her in the lead role id her mother. They can say they feared for her sanity if she knew that her daughter was deliberately planning to enter the Games.

    (2) On the dehumanizing point, remember Haymitch’s aside to Katniss about the difficult decisions she will have to live with as a Victor, decisions about life and death with no answer in which no one dies:

    “You’ll see, the choices you’ll have to make. If we survive this,” says Haymitch. “You’ll learn.” (Fire, page 67)

    Katniss lives in a world almost entirely restricted to her mother, sister, and Gale. She thinks about and does nothing about the agonies all around her, to include the Hunger Games tribute Reaping and Peace Keeper abuse of District 12. (Remember the only thing that kept her from offering her body for food was her immaturity as a young woman.)

    Gale and Peeta, if they signed on to Team Pearl, know that it isn’t right that Katniss be kept in the dark about the Pearl Plot, but telling her means (a) someone else will go to the arena and die in her place, and, (b) telling her later means they lose the best chance they have of starting a wild fire that the Capitol will not be able to contain.

    I don’t see how this makes them less human, especially, as you point out, that they obviously are conflicted by their “ends justifies the means” war time-battle-field decision making.

    Unlike Katniss, though, living in her bubble world, Team Pearl are making hard decisions to change the world for the better. No?

  8. Maysilee says

    I mentioned this in a previous post, but just to repeat, is there any possibility that, if there are actually this many players in the pearl plot, that over the years rebels hidden in the Capitol, and even within the games themselves, had managed to save tributes from previous years, turning the greatest tool of the Capitol against them and building up a strong group of fighters who would be willing by all means to take down the capitol. (max 23 people over about 50 years). This is something that has been nagging me since I read the books, as it has been done in other books, shows movies, etc. before, such as in Bones (the show). It would be an interesting plot twist that would certainly add that POW to the final book.

  9. Fascinating idea, but I don’t think it adds anything to the themes and principal meanings the author is trying to present to the reader. I’m afraid this kind of ex machina surprise would really turn a lot of readers off because there doesn’t seem to have been any set-up for it other than the wolves with tribute eyes in Games’ finale. Your scenario would be a little bit like finding out that Peeta is actually an incredibly humanesque cyborg Haymitch stole from the Capitol — interesting but ultimately disappointing because it blows up all that we have been led to believe about Peeta.

    So, while I cannot say there is no possibility that there are tribute survivors at large in the Capitol, if I had any money or the inclination to wager, I’d bet heavily against it. Ditto for the coal mine passage to District 13 theory and the “happily ever after” wish-fulfillment re-union of the Everdeen and Hawthorne families with their not really dead daddies. Interesting ideas but they turn the story inside-out for no reason.

    Just sayin.’

  10. Maysilee says

    Still, with the end of Fire, the line there, although I can’t remember exactly what it was, seemed suspicious to me. There were many more ways it could have been said to make it more clear. So there is definitely something up with District 12, other than that there are supposedly A LOT of rebels there. Just saying.

  11. @John: Okay, I have been humbled. Perhaps “dehumanized” was too harsh a word to use. Leaving Katniss in the dark and making decisions for her doesn’t make Peeta and Gale less human (as you said, they might have it in their minds that “the ends justify the means”) — but you do have to admit that such actions WOULD make them appear less trustworthy to Katniss, who already has issues with trust as seen in the first two books. While such revelations would make Peeta and Gale (and whoever else may turn out as having been involved) very heroic and admirable to keep up such a charade, either one would also possibly lose any chance of being with Katniss at all in the process. (Katniss herself has a stubborn streak, much pride, and she doesn’t forgive or forget very easily.) I suppose, though, that both boys would be ready for anything to happen when dealing in such dire straits — even losing the love and trust of the girl they have helped to keep alive.

  12. This is an overly nitpicky question, but what was happening in District 12 for the first 11 years of Katniss’s life? We know that the whippings were going on no later than, say, 10 years before we start the series (if Katniss has no memory of them, and they were common when they occurred), then the rebels must have been driven underground at least by then. If the Capitol believed it had an active rebellion on its hands, it would not send the likes of Cray. If Katniss is right that Haymitch was referring to the Old Days around his Quell (when Mrs. Everdeen was Katniss’s age) — which she may not have been — then there’s a long, long stretch between the Second Quell and the mine explosion setting off the Pearl Plot (at least in its particulars).

    So why the 25 year delay (sure, the long game, but there’s long and then there’s long)? Even assuming Haymitch came back from his Quell converted and radicalized (on top of whatever activities had gotten him selected Tribute in the first place), started some trouble, Capitol cracked down, trouble subsided, draconian times faded into memory, Haymitch regrouped for the long game… why would it be another two decades before he formalized a script?

    Isn’t it more likely that the plot stretches back further than the explosion, a message in need of a narrative, a play in need of players? Assuming there was not a vacuum between the end of the whippings and the mine explosion, what was there and what did the capital know of it? Perhaps the conspirators we suspect and others raised their children to be able to withstand the Games, watching for a pairing to present itself for their love conquers story. But something must have occupied Haymitch in those times, surely, and something must have tipped off the mine explosion. It could have been a precursor to the Pearl Plot (and in turn its inspiration), but it also could have been part of it.

    Perhaps Katniss’s father’s admonition about being able to find herself is meant to show that he knew who and what she was to be. Because, if the Plotters did not settle on this precise tale until after Mr. E died, why then settle on Katniss? She would not prove her mettle for some time, nearly starving to death in the process. 11 year old Katniss was no mere diamond in the rough — her lack of resourcefulness until her Eureka moment would have discouraged the Plotters greatly, no matter how much her father had touted her archery potential. If the Pair had not yet been selected at the time of the mine explosion, I would think it was Peeta’s sacrifice that led to their selection and Katniss’s consequent grooming. Peeta’s father, already seeing in his young son the necessary qualities for Rebel Romeo, would see the last piece — sacrificial love — in the bruised Boy who Burned the Bread. Perhaps Katniss was chosen not for her own nascent skills (which oddly were enough to support a family but not enough that she, desperate and starving, would think to use them until she spotted that fateful dandelion) but because Peeta loved her. Then Gale was sent in to groom the girl that Peeta had (unknowingly) selected, putting her hunting through its paces and teaching her new skills.

    Alternatively, she could have been selected before the mine explosion, and the mine explosion itself may have been a diversion. Mssrs. Everdeen and Hawthorne, having been long established in the underground rebellion and having consequently imparted skills to their children as members of the pool of possible Pearl Tributes, suspect that the Capitol is growing wary. They call attention to themselves as the Rebels, enticing the Capitol to wipe them out. The Capitol satisfied, the Pearl Plot continues undetected for years. If Katniss had been selected, Mr. E’s sacrifice would also ensure that she was forced to learn to survive, to grow strong and capable of playing her role.

    But to return to the initial question, how far back does the Pearl Plot go, and when did it coalesce in a recognizable form? The seeds of rebellion were planted in Haymitch 25 years earlier. Did Peeta and Katniss truly begin their grooming in the last few years? Or were they always at a higher risk of being selected not just by a Capitol bent on hurting rebels by taking their children but also by a group of sympathetic Rebels (and Rebel-Parents) who saw risking their children as the only hope of exploiting and undoing the meta-narrative? I assume that they could not have been intended from birth, because the Plot required both careful manipulation of the situation (pulling the puppet strings) but also certain innate qualities of the puppets themselves, which could not have been detected until later in their lives.

  13. I’m glad someone else doubted the death of Mr. Everdeen! Guess I chomped down on the line about there not being anything left of him to bury and chewed on the idea that he and Gale’s dad staged their deaths and escaped in the mines. Then I thought about the years of hardship the families endured and wondered if the men could have literally gone underground without a thought to the suffering…well, I’m not convinced this could be the case in the end.

    Also, I originally mis-posted the following thoughts about a possible player in the rebellion…Cinna. I don’t mean to be obtuse, but I am curious as to whether others noticed the deeper implications of his design choices for Katniss? I submit the following:

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

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

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

    In CF, Cinna’s redesign of Katniss’ silk/pearl wedding dress for the Quell interviews is genius, a blatant act of in-your-face defiance protesting the use of victors in particular and the Games overall. Katniss is aware of the power of this dress to manipulate the crowd (CF 249); she is oblivious to the defiant message of rebellion Cinna has incorporated into it. Not the irony of wearing the dress preceeding her entrance into the area instead of a wedding ceremony; Katniss gets that jibe. I’m talking about the Mockingjay rebellion soon to come. President Snow got the message, yes? Why else would Katniss’ entrance into the Arena be delayed in order that she could witness the attack on Cinna? Is he dead? Is he now an Avox? Will we see him or Portia in Mockingjay?


  14. I neglected Ally’s longer response to a previous post only because my answers were so involved I thought it was easier to simply update the Pearl Plot than address each of Ally’s excellent points and questions.

    Today, though, I’ll go at it inline, Ally in italics, John in plain type:

    This is an overly nitpicky question, but what was happening in District 12 for the first 11 years of Katniss’s life? We know that the whippings were going on no later than, say, 10 years before we start the series (if Katniss has no memory of them, and they were common when they occurred), then the rebels must have been driven underground at least by then. If the Capitol believed it had an active rebellion on its hands, it would not send the likes of Cray. If Katniss is right that Haymitch was referring to the Old Days around his Quell (when Mrs. Everdeen was Katniss’s age) — which she may not have been — then there’s a long, long stretch between the Second Quell and the mine explosion setting off the Pearl Plot (at least in its particulars).

    “Overly nit-picky”? Hardly. Great question.

    Making “now” the end of Catching Fire, the Second Quell was 25 years ago, give or take a year. Let’s put Katniss’ birth and the Everdeen marriage together in the same year and 17 years ago, give or take a year (or two). The mine explosion was six years ago.

    Haymitch says “we used to bring them to her” but the only point of reference for time here is “when there used to be a lot of whippings” which is “before Cray.” Katniss’ thought here isn’t really helpful or necessarily on target:

    “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 don’t see any reason why Katniss believes her mother had to have been living at home during this time except that she seems confident that the beatings must have stopped before her birth or at least her memory kicks in. How old was Katniss, though, when her memories begin? Ally, if I understand you correctly, you’re putting Cray’s arrival, end of public whippings, and the dawn of Katniss’ memory at her 6th birthday (“10 years before the series [action] begins”). That seems as good a date as any I can think of.

    That would mean we have, in sequence: Second Quell, eight year gap with possible Cray arrival and end of whippings, Everdeen marriage, Katniss birth, up to a six year gap (with or without beatings) in which time Cray would have had to have arrived if he weren’t already there, another five year gap in which time Katniss’ father teaches her foraging and hunting skills, the Mine explosion and death of Everdeen and Hawthorne family fathers, Peeta bread gift, Katniss dandelion revelation and meeting with Gale, a 5 year gap, Reaping Day that opens Hunger Games.

    Ally makes the point that the Capitol is not going to send a man like Cray, who isn’t a rebellion-repressor but a man seeking his own pleasures, into a war zone. I’m assuming this means that whatever resistance there is to the regime goes underground, deep underground, soon after Haymitch’s Quell victory. Just to make things neat, I’d assume Cray’s appointment was made by the new Mayor under the influence of his young wife, Pearl Donner-Undersee.

    Deep underground (as in “in the mines”) or not, though, there was a resistance movement in District 12, and I’m guessing it was impatient with the long game strategy of its leadership, even if District 12 does have it relatively easy in terms of Big Brother’s grip compared to other districts we see in the books. If Messrs Everdeen and Hawthorne were as bold and open in their speech as Gale is in the forest (and we have to assume he heard it somewhere), then their demise consequent to their being suspected as firebrands makes sense — and leaves the Pearl Plot theory, 2.0, intact, I think.

    Haymitch and Pearl believe at the time of the explosion that they have one, maybe two pairs of potential tributes who can play the parts of “star-crossed lovers” as counter narrative to the Hunger Games message, namely, Peeta/Katniss and Gale/Madge. The day they’ve been waiting for since the day of Maysilee’s death is the Reaping Day in which Peeta and Prim are chosen.

    So why the 25 year delay (sure, the long game, but there’s long and then there’s long)? Even assuming Haymitch came back from his Quell converted and radicalized (on top of whatever activities had gotten him selected Tribute in the first place), started some trouble, Capitol cracked down, trouble subsided, draconian times faded into memory, Haymitch regrouped for the long game… why would it be another two decades before he formalized a script?

    See above.

    Isn’t it more likely that the plot stretches back further than the explosion, a message in need of a narrative, a play in need of players? Assuming there was not a vacuum between the end of the whippings and the mine explosion, what was there and what did the capital know of it? Perhaps the conspirators we suspect and others raised their children to be able to withstand the Games, watching for a pairing to present itself for their love conquers story. But something must have occupied Haymitch in those times, surely, and something must have tipped off the mine explosion. It could have been a precursor to the Pearl Plot (and in turn its inspiration), but it also could have been part of it.

    All of this seems reasonable to me and consistent with the timeline and explanation I’ve offered. I especially like the idea of the conspirators “watching for a pairing” and there being “a play in need of players.” Katniss is groomed for her role after she is recognized (by Gale? Madge?) as the Pure-heart Mockingjay they’ve been waiting for.

    Perhaps Katniss’s father’s admonition about being able to find herself is meant to show that he knew who and what she was to be. Because, if the Plotters did not settle on this precise tale until after Mr. E died, why then settle on Katniss? She would not prove her mettle for some time, nearly starving to death in the process. 11 year old Katniss was no mere diamond in the rough — her lack of resourcefulness until her Eureka moment would have discouraged the Plotters greatly, no matter how much her father had touted her archery potential. If the Pair had not yet been selected at the time of the mine explosion, I would think it was Peeta’s sacrifice that led to their selection and Katniss’s consequent grooming. Peeta’s father, already seeing in his young son the necessary qualities for Rebel Romeo, would see the last piece — sacrificial love — in the bruised Boy who Burned the Bread. Perhaps Katniss was chosen not for her own nascent skills (which oddly were enough to support a family but not enough that she, desperate and starving, would think to use them until she spotted that fateful dandelion) but because Peeta loved her. Then Gale was sent in to groom the girl that Peeta had (unknowingly) selected, putting her hunting through its paces and teaching her new skills.

    This is excellent, Ally, I really love it. That Peeta’s act of sacrificial love is the origin of his and Katniss’ selection as a tribute team dovetails perfectly with the first part of the 2.0 theory above in which I explain that the real “beginning” or atemporal origin of the story is in Peeta’s love. This would also mean that Peeta’s father is a much more more important part of the Pearl Plot than I thought before, which would explain his feeling the need to see Katniss off after the Reaping, an otherwise bizarre appearance for a man who barely knows Katniss — and who is supposed to kill or be killed by his son.

    Alternatively, she could have been selected before the mine explosion, and the mine explosion itself may have been a diversion. Mssrs. Everdeen and Hawthorne, having been long established in the underground rebellion and having consequently imparted skills to their children as members of the pool of possible Pearl Tributes, suspect that the Capitol is growing wary. They call attention to themselves as the Rebels, enticing the Capitol to wipe them out. The Capitol satisfied, the Pearl Plot continues undetected for years. If Katniss had been selected, Mr. E’s sacrifice would also ensure that she was forced to learn to survive, to grow strong and capable of playing her role.

    Hmmm. The only way I can see this happening is if Pearl Undersee learned that her husband suspected something along the lines of a Pearl Plot involving the Everdeen and Hawthorne families — and she and Haymitch make the “hard choice” to direct attention on the daddies. The surviving conspirators would have to leave 11 year old Katniss to starve or make it on the strength of her previous training, this being the case, lest anyone else connect the dots. I don’t see either daddy as willing suicides, coal kamikazes, if only because of their families.

    But to return to the initial question, how far back does the Pearl Plot go, and when did it coalesce in a recognizable form? The seeds of rebellion were planted in Haymitch 25 years earlier. Did Peeta and Katniss truly begin their grooming in the last few years? Or were they always at a higher risk of being selected not just by a Capitol bent on hurting rebels by taking their children but also by a group of sympathetic Rebels (and Rebel-Parents) who saw risking their children as the only hope of exploiting and undoing the meta-narrative? I assume that they could not have been intended from birth, because the Plot required both careful manipulation of the situation (pulling the puppet strings) but also certain innate qualities of the puppets themselves, which could not have been detected until later in their lives.

    I think you’ve laid out the several possibilities well here, any of which Ms. Collins could make work. I like the idea of both the Everdeen and Hawthorne daddies training their oldest children independently for the Hunger Games as the Careers of other districts were trained, with the difference being that these men expected the son and daughter who-never-meet to be the star crossed lovers of the Games someday. The men are sacrificed when someone hears them talking trash about the Capitol; either Pearl and Haymitch create the diversion of their deaths to protect the Plot (ouch!) or the loud mouths are blown up for prudential reasons by the mine owners.

    Thank you for taking my thinking in a new direction, Ally, and for your challenging questions and observations!

  15. First I want to be clear that I am not saying wether Gale or Peeta knew of the “plot” or not. For me, it is not a hugely significant point. Peeta does show an ability to lie when he deems it justified so he is not a perfect saint in that way. I think, though, for many it would change how they view him. Despite his ability to lie he comes across as innocent in many respects and if he knew of the plot than he has lost that for most people. It would also make him come across as manipulative which would not be commonly viewed as Christ like. Now clearly he has done some manipulating, but not at the expense of putting Katniss through horrors for the “greater good”. Rather, his past manipulating was usually to try to help her or give her some kind of edge. I think his previous manipulations would be seen very differantly than this. So I guess we will see. I actually think that the Pearl plot is not dependent on Gale and Peeta knowing about things so that is why it is not a signicficant point to me. For me it could work either way. There is significance in either scenario.

    I am glad that you guys warmed to my idea about the alternate couple back up. Thanks for taking that seriously. I always noticed how Madge seemed aware of Katniss almost like there was some imagined affinity or something more in commen than we were made aware. At the very least I think it is likely that Madge knew more than most, after all she lives in the possible brains of the operation. It would also make her affinity with Katniss make a lot of sense. It always struck me how the “couples” seemed to be almost mirror images in a lot of ways.

    I think it will be interesting to see how Katniss responds to all of this knowlege. How will she write her own script? I can’t wait to find out!

    PJ, I found Cinna to be an interesting character too. There was a lot withheld about his background and his roots. I figure we have too much on him to be left completely in the dark. Either we will find out a little more about his background if he is indeed dead, or if he is alive, we will find out more that way. Peeta is being brought to the Capitol so I wonder if this will be a source of information as well? There is clearly an underground resistance movement in the Capitol itself to yield Plutarch and the couple with the girl that was turned into an avox. Hopefully more will be revealed in the next book.

  16. Ah, Cinna! My favorite character in the series. 🙂 I have thought it most likely that he was involved in the rebellion in a much deeper way than was stated on the surface. As with Pearl/Undersee, I believe we are in store for quite a bit of info on mysterious Cinna, whose origins and motives are quite unknown to us as readers even while his actions have been so monumental to stirring up the plot.

    It’s interesting to note how Cinna’s own words point him to being an almost Christ-like figure just as Peeta is portrayed: In CF, his words were, “I always channel my emotions into my work. That way, I don’t hurt anyone but myself.” These words point to Cinna being a sacrificial character who, despite all possibilities of consequences and repercussions for his actions, will do so in such a way that no one but himself will pay the consequences. (Also, here’s a note on the names: Cinna’s name, as well as many of the characters from the Capitol, come from Shakespearean works — particularly the play Julius Caesar. Ironic, eh? Another planned point, I’m sure, on Suzanne Collins’s part. As for what I thought Cinna’s name meant — well, the most obviously would be a shortening of the cinnamon — a SPICE. Spice, as in SPARK to rebellion? I don’t know. Just some thoughts I’m throwing out there.)

    I definitely think we’ll be seeing more of Cinna and more of the Capitol’s rebellion shadow-players in Mockingjay. 🙂

  17. revgeorge says

    Cinna certainly is a fascinating character. I was thinking his name was a shortening of Cincinnatus, but I don’t have much evidence to back that up.

  18. JSavant, I had not considered the spice connection with Cinna! Intriguing.

    I have begun my second read of HG, this time around I am armed with pencil and paper for note-taking and sense-making! The posts here have been a veritable storehouse of information: my reading is far more directional and gratifying. First time ’round I read for the story; now I read for the deeper meanings and to answer why the story engaged me so. I welcome any advice to help me along the journey.

    Some other thoughs:
    We should not overlook Portia. Her collaboration with Cinna appears to be full-on. We might ask ourselves if she is one of the rebellious, or simply a dutiful assistant.

    Then there is the female Avox whom Katniss recognized from the D12 woods! Certainly a run-away who was not killed, but altered into servitude, has a story to tell? Where did she come from? What does she know? Who would be compromised politically if she were to communicate to the “right” or “wrong” factions?

    Sorry…today I have questions. I trust wiser, more learned All-Pros to supply the answers 🙂

  19. I’m glad someone liked my Cinna/Cinnamon idea. And here I was thinking all I would get were a few smirks I couldn’t see.

    The Avox girl, in my opinion, had probably run away with the same thought the refugees in CF had in mind: the lure of the fabled District 13 that may or may not exist (though now we know it DOES indeed exist). She certainly does have a story, though, and I’m hoping SC will be obliging in tying that little plot thread.

    (Also, staying on the idea of the Avoxes in general who have their tongues cut out, it’s interesting to note that, in Dante’s The Divine Comedy — of which we have already established that SC has based part of her series on in terms of structure — the sinners of hell have their sins thrust back at them — a reversal of sorts — in their punishments. Thus, thinking on the Avoxes with their tongues being cut out, one has to wonder if their punishment was so because these people had things to say — or, rather, they SPOKE OUT against their overlord, i.e. the Capitol, in rebellion. Furter, we know that the new Avox in CF, the former Peacekeeper Darius, actually DID rebel in a way before Gale’s whipping commenced by SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE ACTIONS THAT WERE TAKING PLACE. Is the Capitol, then, meant to be this allegorical “hell” — or even a ill-attempt at imitating a “just” paradise? It sure seems that either way is possible.)

    (Thus, it stands to reason that the unnamed Avox girl has/had something to tell — or that she rebelled in some way besides just escaping from her district.)

    Also, delving deeper into what I had brought up in my last comment, I was thinking on the Julius Caesar play also being a significant influence on SC’s plot. (We already know that she used some names from the play for certain characters such as Cinna, Portia, Flavius, and a few others. Couldn’t the vein run deeper that the CAPITOL was based on ancient Rome ruled by JULIUS CAESAR, a dictator in similar ways that PRESIDENT SNOW is? We already know that SC has compared her Hunger Games’ tributes to Roman gladiators. Maybe she drew the line even further by basing the Capitol’s tight-hold government and the eventual rebellion on the events that occurred in real history and the play Julius Caesar. Using this as a model, I think it may be safe to assume that President Snow will be overtaken, just as Caesar was, during the third act of Mockingjay — coincidentally being the same act that Caesar died in during the play.)

    (Also, it’s interesting to note that the Cinna character of the play Julius Caesar has NOTHING to do with the conspiracy going on in Rome that results in Julius’s assassination. He’s just a poet. However, lest we jump to conclusions, the play features ANOTHER character with the name Cinna: Lucius Cinna, the main conspirator of the assassination plot against Caesar. Now, isn’t that interesting? So which way IS Cinna? Is he simply a designer whose ideas were simply too inflammatory? Or is he one of the key players, the one who actually ended up FIRST inciting this rebellion? Hmm? I don’t know which way I go yet, but — always being pro-Cinna — I’m hoping that he will turn out to be another mastermind in the Pearl Plot theory.)

    Anyway — I think that is enough theorizing from me for now. (I am certainly exercising my brain cells by researching The Divine Comedy and Julius Caesar!) Now that I am regularly checking this site for HG updates and theories, I figure I am due for a second “deeper” read-around for THG and CF too, so we’ll see what else I can come up with once I do.

  20. JSavant, if the Capitol is “hell” like you suggest (and actually I already had made that possible connection too) when Peeta goes there and he is a Christ figure what will happen? He is descending into the heart of the capitol (hell). That is something that I have wondered about, and think will be interesting to see in the next book. Speculate away!

  21. Well, with Peeta being the Christ figure descending into the allegorical hell a.k.a. the Capitol, I think there are many scenarios that could occur. I’ll only touch on one since I feel it may be one of the most likely.

    Enter my scenario. One of Peeta’s fears has always been “to lose himself” — particularly at the hands of the Capitol’s machinations. Well, taking the Divine Comedy approach and turning fears and sins against people, Peeta may just lose himself by being brainwashed to work for the enemy. It has always been said that the Capitol’s technology is advanced in ways we cannot fully fathom, so it doesn’t seem outside of the realms of possibility that the Capitol may try underhanded ways to get inside Peeta’s head and turn him against Katniss since doing so would be wounding to Katniss in a detrimental way (also noting that the Capitol already has evidence from the Quell that Katniss is most hurt when pain is inflicted on her loved ones). Also, Peeta is an influential speaker — that has been brought up in the plot too many times to count — so why wouldn’t the Capitol try to get such an influence on THEIR side in any way they could? I don’t know what effect Peeta’s “betrayal” would have on the rebellion or the districts’ part in it, but it could be damaging. This scenario would also give Katniss a more immediate reason to get to the Capitol, the surefire battleground just as Hogwarts was in Harry Potter.

    (Sadly, though, this scenario would be a blow to Peeta’s Christ image — since the picture of a tainted Christ doesn’t seem very appropriate. However! This could be seen as another sacrifice in Peeta’s long history of selflessness — and, as Christ rose from the dead, perhaps Peeta will rise above this blight and come back from it even stronger than before.)

    I don’t know, though, if it would be appropriate for the plot in Mockingjay — but, if I were writing this, I would try to use that scenario if I could.

  22. Elizabeth says

    What a wonderful discussion! I feel like the “cow’s tail” getting into the conversation, but I’ve been catching up on the last few weeks of the posts after finally getting my hands on both HG and CF.
    I am also very intrigued by Cinna, the costume designer who may also be the stage manager and director of the play in which Katniss is unwillingly starring. I had also noted the “cinnamon” possibility, which ties into his coloring, certainly. Cinnamon is also, despite its spiciness, a little bitter. It’s best with sugar, just as Cinna “sweetens” his bitter attacks on the Capitol with jewels and makeup. Also, since Cinnamon is a plant, that version of the name (though the JC connection is surely no accident) also connects with all those plant-named women of the series, making him somewhat asexual, like Peeta and Gale. The plant names, while being a common historical Appalachian tendency (like the name morphing that gives us Peeta for Peter), are never arbitrary. John, I love the rue reference from Milton. Of course, with all those flowers, perhaps we’re also being taken to poor mad Ophelia’s flower speech in Hamlet, as Katniss “wears [her] Rue with a difference,” and as Ophelia reminds her audience that “rosemary is for remembrance,” no one forgets Rue, as Peeta and Katniss both ensure.

    I am so looking forward to more insights from John and great conversations on these books that make us think and feel and read with intensity!

  23. I agree with just about everything you say except the part about Peeta being part of Team Pearl. Mainly because Peeta seems to be in the dark as much as–if not more–Katniss is, particularly during the 75th Quell. Seems to me Peeta was completely unaware of the rescue attempt. Actually, Haymitch says as much, stating that he didn’t want Peeta to know in case they torture him or whatever.

    BUT, I’m willing to admit Peeta spent a lot of time kickin’ it with Haymitch the duration of Catching Fire (even before the book begins, it seems)–who knows what they talked about. But still, I’m thinking Peeta was in the dark about most of what was going on–another pawn, if you will.

    When it comes to Gale, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is part of Team Pearl–recruited a few years after the mining accident that killed their fathers. Now I’m wondering if there really is something going on between Gale and Madge (romantically-speaking, I mean), and he snapped at her because she slipped by accidentally flirting with him in front of Katniss–in public–something that may have revealed Team Pearl. As far as everyone knows Gale and Madge run in two very different circles.

    Then again, Gale is supposed to be ridiculously good looking. And he did complement her dress first…

    I don’t know.

    All I know is I feel Suzanne Collins did a poor job–intentionally or unintentionally, I can’t say–developing Gale as a character. Think about it, we know so little about him. He’s like a cardboard cutout. This is why I’m not in love with the Katniss/Gale ‘ship. I like him enough, I guess, but I think it’s incredibly strange that he never made a move, never attempted to kiss her until after the games. Gale doesn’t seem like a shy guy–a guy who would have a difficult time kissing a girl he likes.

    Hell, if the one you loved was about to go to the Hunger Games, and most likely die, don’t you think you’d kiss them goodbye, or good luck or whatever?

    I think you’re right about Gale kissing her. And yeah, it totally ticks me off. Which is weird since Katniss kisses Peeta all the time even though she’s not in love with him, and I’m okay with it. (well, I’m not totally okay with it. But it doesn’t bother me as much as the possibility that Gale kissed Katniss because it was part of some plan. And anyway, Katniss thought the kisses between Peeta and herself were just part of the game, and after its revealed that Peeta has feelings for her and Katniss doesn’t know how she feels for him, Peeta played along because he’s disgustingly selfless. But I digress. My point is, the kisses between Katniss and Peeta are all for show, and now they both know it. But Gale’s kisses are supposed to be genuine).

    But what do I know? And anyway, I’m insanely partial to Peeta, which is sad because I also think you’re right about him dying in the third book (did you suggest the Peeta dying theory or did someone else? I can’t remember).

    Did you notice the only times Katniss has ever felt sexual desire is when she was kissing Peeta. If that whole thing–Katniss figuring out that there’s something lacking when she kisses Gale–doesn’t pan out, I’m gonna slapabitch.

    My Cinna theory? Cinna is actually from district 13. He’s got a different accent and he’s so unlike others from the Capitol that it makes sense that he’s not from there. Sure, he could a native Capitoler (what are they called anyway?) that just so happens to be a district-sympathizer. But I don’t think so.

  24. Wow, Elizabeth and Penny added a lot to this conversation. 🙂 (I think the Ophelia parallel to Katniss is not accidental — especially since Suzanne Collins already has had Shakespearean references running through HG and CF with character names and such. I actually thought that the end of CF was really instrumental in showing how easily Katniss could go over the edge into madness — just like Ophelia — when things happen beyond her control.)

    I agree with Penny over the flatness in which Gale has been represented as a character. His actions don’t entirely make sense if we look at it the way that Penny has. (And many of the same things she brought up have filtered through my mind as well while reading THG and CF.)

    I’m not ruling out the Gale/Madge couple because there seems to be something there. I’m not entirely on the “Gale is in love with Katniss” bandwagon either since we all know that Gale’s mind has been set on the rebellion first and foremost (due to his inflammatory remarks scattered throughout THG and CF). But we’ll see what happens in Mockingjay. I’m looking forward to reading Mr. Granger’s thoughts on all these theories and opinions. 🙂

  25. Oh, holy crap!

    Check this out:

    Okay, first of all, before I elaborate on the link I want to mention that I’ve been thinking about the parallels between The Capitol and the Roman Empire. First off, the names–Flavius, Venia, Octavia, and Plutarch for example–need I say more? Then the mighty Empire, too big for it’s britches. And even in the little details, like at the party at President Snow’s place when Flavious, Venia and Octavia are encouraging Peeta and Katniss to drink something similar to ipecac, so they can throw-up and start eating again. That whole situation made me think of the Vomitoriums, associated with ancient Rome.

    Anyway, if you haven’t yet, check out the link I just posted. It’s about Lucius Cornelius Cinna who was a conspirator against Augustus Caesar and was killed for his role in Caesar’s assassination.

    Read the wiki article and you’ll see a lot of other parallels.

    I don’t know, just wanted to mention it since–as far as I know–it hasn’t been brought up yet.

  26. Okay, so I can’t get these theories off my mind. I’m one that likes symbolism and the like.

    Anyway, I was thinking if The Capitol is like the Roman Empire and Peeta is the Christ-figure, then I guess it’s obvious what happens next.

    If Peeta is the Christ-figure, then would that make Haymitch the Judas?

    I’m grasping at straws aren’t I?

    I forgot to mention that the Hunger Games are somewhat similar to Gladiator battles to the death. Just sayin’…

    And the pearl thing: Let’s say the tributes themselves are symbolic pearls. The citizens of the Capitol clearly don’t see their worth–that they’re people too. Not only that but the kids from the districts are better people then the citizens of the Capitol. So basically putting these children on TV is similar to ‘throwing pearls before swine’.

    I could find the scriptural reference to the pearls before swine thing but I’m running late. I gotta get going.

  27. Damn! I just saw that JSavant scooped me on the whole Roman empire thing.

    Okay, now I really gotta go.

  28. Arabella Figg says

    Don’t know if anyone has suggested this, but I suspect that Gale sacrificially brought about his own whipping by deliberately parading that turkey into town. He would have learned about the new Peacemakers earlier in the day. As I recall, he never once complained or said much about the whipping (our hothead took it awfully well, didn’t he?). I suspect he caused this to happen to keep Katniss in town to be in the Games, and to stir rebellion in the district. He was able to get Katniss’ family out in time, and probably his own. Source for all info, the Undersees, of course.

  29. Arabella, I had never thought about Gale getting whipped on purpose but it makes sense. He left that lake house fired up and it seems like him to go looking for a fight. I agree that we don’t know as much about him as I’d like, but I think “hothead” is a good description. I had always thought he didn’t say much about the whipping because he’s proud and that’s a huge blow to get publicly punished for something he’s been doing so cavalierly for years – sort of like the embarrassment (and maybe fear) shut him up. Those feelings would probably be even stronger if he had gone out looking for trouble.
    And I don’t know if anyone else brought this up, but wouldn’t it be weird that Gale ends up on the hovercraft at the end of CF if he’s not a rebel? It doesn’t seem like they were going around picking up random people here and there.

  30. Sorry, Penny: Yes, I did bring up the whole Roman Empire parallel (though I did not go into the same details that you did).

    (I think even Suzanne Collins herself might have mentioned the Hunger Games tributes being akin to gladiators too, so that wasn’t new to me . . . though I had thought of it more AFTER seeing the Roman Empire parallels.)

    Haymitch has already proven himself to be a Judas in a few ways (especially to Peeta, going by the double promises he was making to both Katniss and Peeta in CF), so I don’t think that’s too unlikely.

    Also, thinking on the Roman Empire parallels . . . if you think of President Snow (notice his name: you’re meant to think he’s pure like snow . . . a false Christ? Parallels to the Anti-Christ, perhaps?) as Julius Caesar, then one has to wonder: who is the Brutus who will stab Snow in the back? It would have to be one of his own people, a person of the Capitol, I believe . . .

    That’s uncanny that you would bring up the “pearls before swine” message — since I was discussing that with a Hunger Games group a few days ago. We were thinking along the same lines you were. XD

    @Arabella: I like that theory very much. 🙂 That scenario with Gale crossed my mind after the theory was brought up that Gale was in on the Pearl plot. It makes sense the way you put it. (Also, with there already being self-sacrificial characters like Peeta and Cinna in the plot, why not show one of Gale’s self-sacrificial moments openly to us, the audience? Self-sacrifice is a big theme in these books, so it makes sense that the theme would go as deep into Gale’s character too.)

    (Personally, I believe that we haven’t seen much of the “real” Gale due to Suzanne Collin’s suspicious side-stepping around him — and I think that’s on purpose that we haven’t really touched on who Gale is as a character as much as we have with Katniss and Peeta.)

    @Kathy: Gale doesn’t strike me as a character who would be very fearful after an encounter (the whipping) like that: rather, I think he would be out for vengeance, whether he had maneuvered to have it purposely done or not. 😛

    I think, by now, it’s safe to say that Gale IS a rebel. All we need to do is find out the timeline of his being a rebel: Was he brought into the plot shortly after his father was killed? Or was he only brought in after Katniss’s first bout in the Games? Or as late as DURING the Quell in CF? (I’m leaning towards the first timeline: post-father’s death.)

    (Also, now I just want to throw this out there for the sake of speculation: wasn’t it strange how Katniss was unable to see Gale before she left for the Quell in CF? That seems a bit suspicious, doesn’t it? If you’ll notice, he seemed to distance himself from her after the whipping — perhaps because he DID having something to hide? Just speculating. :P)

  31. I’m just reading Catching Fire for the third time and I just got to the part about Katniss not being able to see Gale and her family. While I always thought it was weird–her not being able to say goodbye to her mother, her sister and Gale–I’m now seeing it in an entirely different light because of this whole Team Pearl theory (which, as it turns out I just so happened to stumble upon a few days ago).

    You could say it was done out of cruelty, but perhaps there is another reason?

  32. At the end of CF, could they aready be in District 13? We all assume everyone is still on the hovercraft, but Katniss is in and out of painkillers so much that they might have landed; thus, Gale and the families would already be in 13.

    A question for everyone: if we assume Gale was a rebel before HG, why didn’t he spend more time refining Katniss’s snare skills and knife skills? It says in the book she really only knew basic snares — in fact, Gale taught her, Peeta, and Haymitch more before the Quell in CF. Also, Katniss said she was lucky to have the knife stick between the wood panels on the train in HG. Wouldn’t Gale have developed these skills in Katniss more if he was charged with making her the best tribute for the arena?

  33. Arabella Figg says

    YAReader, I believe that in the Pearl Plot scenario, Gale was brought in during the CF Victory Tour.

  34. No, I think Gale was in on it from the beginning (not that there aren’t perfectly legitimate variations on the Pearl Plot — and that Arabella’s would probably be the most credible and interesting!).

    One variation I hope to discuss (briefly!) this afternoon is Cinna as the mastermind of the Pearl Plot. Stay tuned.

  35. Elizabeth says

    I’m interested to see the Cinna-musings! There is another possibilty for Gale’s stoicism–he’s an Appalachian man, and coal miner to boot. His pride is massive, so he’ll fight injustice, but he won’t make a peep about his own pain. If you want to understand some of the elements of the culture that is the predecessor to District 12, check out Denise Giardina’s amazing novel Storming Heaven, which chronicles the coal mining wars of the early 20th century, a lovely little epiisode in American history (seldom taught in schools ) in which the US government sided with coal companies to wipe out unionizing coal miners….

  36. A variation of the Pearl Plot with CINNA as the mastermind? Oh, wow, I can’t WAIT to read that (since I’ve been wanting to hear your theories about Cinna for a while now). 😀

  37. Arabella Figg says

    I wasn’t clear. I believe, using the Pearl Plot as a scenario as a context, that Gale was brought in during the Victory Tour. i didn’t mean that this was John’s Pearl Theory.

  38. Arabella Figg says

    Talk about clear, my comment just above is moronic! I meant that in the context of John’s Pearl Plot scenario, it’s my own speculation that Gale was brought in during the VT.

  39. Have been reading all your Hunger Games posts, and am fascinated by the literary connections and theories (which a few of, I am happy to say I thought of on my 3rd read-through :)).

    The only thing I am wondering is about Gale and the first reaping- definitely agree that these can be/are rigged, but am I wrong, or wasn’t Gale out of reaping eligibility age for the first reaping? (making the alternate Madge/Gale pairing impossible?)

    Great read and thanks for sharing all your thoughts!!

  40. Jamie…the Reaping ages are 12-18; Gale is two years older than Katniss, making him 18, his final year of eligibility, and the owner of 42 entries in the bowl (HG p.13). By all accounts, he should have been chosen.

    Peeta’s personality combined with his feelings for Katniss play into the HG drama in ways Gale’s persona could not: Peeta exudes comfortable charm and crowd-pleasing charisma. He is quick-witted and authentic re: Katniss. Doesn’t the D12 team (specifically Haymitch and Cinna) utilize Peeta’s desire to save Katniss to advantage? Peeta may have loved her from afar since childhood, but he does love her and the Games allow him opportunity to actualize his feelings. Katniss has no idea she is the object of his long-term affection; therefore, she is confused/shocked/overwhelmed when he professes his love during the interview. How much easier to act the surprised recipient of avowed affection and thus play the part before Panem when Peeta can carry the weight of the relationship honestly?

    Kudos to Kat: her survival mind-set was the key to playing off Peeta’s persona to advantage. However…her 16 yr-old hormonal development with predisposition to emotional angst nearly blew up in her face. Hence, the repeated comparisons between Peeta and Gale!

    Gale comes across to me as guarded, calculated in action and speech. He would have to be; any careless slip of the tongue could easily land him and Katniss in jail thereby putting their families at further risk of starvation. I believe Gale may love Katniss, a natural outcome of his 4-year association with her (publicly, as the oldest surviving children of mining victims and secretly, as hunting companions in the woods). But what kind of love? Phileo? Eros? Born out of their common instincts for survival, a comfortable familiarity has grown between Katniss and her hunting partner, but what of “love?” Gale becomes edgy when Katniss declares, “I never want to have kids” and she is confused by his snapped “Forget it.” (HG p.9,10) Again…Gail is cryptive, closed in his response and Kat is confused enough (and cautious) not to pursue the conversation. Gale and Kat may have had 4 years of close association, but they appear to be at an emotional stalemate in the relationship, perhaps ultimately/ subconsiously out of fear that revealing their feelings would change the dynamics of their friendship. A different time, a different place perhaps…Kat infers as much the morning of the Reaping. Has Gale been privy to the Mockingjay/Pearl Plot ideology these many years?? I am curious to know!

    Had Gale been chosen for the HG, would he have been able to simultaneously pull off the declaration of love and win the hearts of Panem, a la Peeta? I don’t think so.

    Madge/Gale???? Hmmmm, I do hope SC reveals their connection in Mockingjay, too. Well, we should see all of the loose ends tied up into a nice, neat package..yes?

    Right ;-O

  41. I can’t remember if this has been brought up before, but the books seem to dwell on the detail that Gale is an expert at setting up snares. I think this very strongly hints that Gale IS on Team Pearl, having been clued in long ago, and has indeed set Katniss up for the role she is now playing.

    This would also mean that the kiss in the forest WAS another set up specifically to make President Snow see and confirm his suspicions that she had no real feelings for Peeta, that it was just a strategy to win the game. Regardless of her intention with the berries, she beat the Gamemakers and anyone who can succeed in that is a real threat to the Capitol.

    I’m not so certain that Gale and Team Pearl used the kiss in an attempt to manipulate the Quarter Quell game into being a victor recall. I could see that fitting into the theory, but I just don’t want to believe that everything has been planned out for Katniss. Perhaps President Snow and the Gamemakers decided on a victor recall as revenge, immediately after they were humiliated by Katniss and Peeta at the 74th Hunger Games, and since Team Pearl had players in high places like Plutarch Heavensbee, they were able to strategize accordingly.

    I think the kiss was staged largely to prevent Katniss from excusing her actions as simply being a foolish, desperate girl in love and instead force her to embrace the role of the Mockingjay and support (or even help lead) the rebellion.

  42. I love reading all of these ideas & posts! Very fascinating and I can see how so much of it fits perfectly.

    However, I have to make some corrections (or additions) to your references to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (sorry, I’m an English teacher, so it’s habit!).

    Cinna: There are two Cinnas in the play. Cinna the conspirator and Cinna the poet. Cinna the poet is killed by the mob at the end of Act III (after Mark Antony’s speech turned the crowd into a crazed mob willing to kill anyone to avenge Caesar’s death). Cinna insists he is not the conspirator they are looking for. The people don’t care & kill him for his “bad verses.” The audience in the Capitol is very much manipulated by speakers just as Caesar’s audience could be. I think the people of the Capitol will play a role with their “mob mentality” in Mockingjay just as the crowd did in JC.

    Brutus did not stab Caesar in the back. Remember, he was the most noble Roman of them all–he killed for the good of Rome, not out of jealousy of Caesar. Casca was the first to stab and he stabbed him in the back (“Speak hands for me!”).

    Cassius was the lead conspirator–not Cinna. Cassius was the ultimate mastermind of Caesar’s assassination–he even forged signatures to convince Brutus that more peole wanted Caesar dead.

    Portia, who plays Brutus’s wife, kills herself by “swallowing fire” or actually eating hot coals because she sees that Brutus cannot defeat Antony’s & Octavius’s army. I have no idea if that has any connection, but the coal/fire reference is a little creepy.

    Flavius is one of the men in the beginning of the play who is taken into custody for ripping down decorations of Caesar in celebration of Caesar’s return to Rome & defeat of Pompey’s army. I can’t find any connection with Flavius from THG & Flavius from JC, but maybe someone else will.

    I do not doubt one bit that Gale has been in on it & I do think Katniss’s father was grooming her to go into the Games & Haymitch is carrying out her father’s plan. I don’t think Peeta has been in on it, either; I do however think his father has been and perhaps told Haymitch that his son would be a good candidate to protect Katniss because of his love for her (without letting Peeta know any of this). But I think there’s something more with Prim. Katniss makes a point of how much the baker adores her & Johanna even mentions in CF how the entire country adores her, as well. I would not doubt that Prim & Katniss’s mother were in on the plan either, on a very limited basis, perhaps?

    I love these books & started teaching both novels with my 9th & 10th graders this year. I think I could spend an entire year going into all the little details and figurative references and layers. What I first thought was annoying and perhaps lazy in SC writing (when I read THG last year), I now see as intentional holes that will be filled with Mockingjay. She is a genius and master story teller! Thanks for letting me share & for all the wonderful topics to read & consider.

  43. By the way, my students & I had discussed that it would be great if SC wrote a prequel leading up to the mine explosion. If she doesn’t, I think John should! 🙂

  44. StrictlyTopSecret says

    I wonder if Haymitch Abernathy’s surname could reference Ralph Abernathy (civil rights leader).

    Ralph Abernathy continued MLK’s work after his assassination. In fact, MLK died in his arms. After MLK’s death, Abernathy led the march on Washington.

    Perhaps HG’s Haymitch Abernathy will lead an analogous “March on the CAPITOL” in Mockingjay.


  45. Yes! I have thought about that connection, as well. And I don’t think he’s a drunk, either. Just part of the act. Abernathy’s autobiography was entitled “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down.”

    I also forgot to add earlier that I can see Gale’s whipping being staged, even to the point that Romulus Thread is perhaps in on the rebellion (or Team Pearl). His accent, Katniss notices, is different. Perhaps another District 13 underling like Cinna???

  46. StrictlyTopSecret says

    What are you thoughts on the survival of Mr. Everdeen (and possibly Mr. Hawthorne)?

    Twill and Bonnie (the parent-replacement/teenager rebel escapees from D8) mentioned that they were “supposed to be” in the factory that was blown up in retaliation for seditious activities.

    Might Mr. Everdeen (and/or Mr. Hawthorne) have similarly escaped the (planned) explosion in the mine? Collins repeatedly mentioned that the two were blown to smithereens, further suggesting that there was no actual burial (nor open casket).

    She also mentions the point at which trains began to be used to transport coal directly.

    Interestingly, Twill and Bonnie used the train to manage their escape. Perhaps Mr. Everdeen (and possibly Mr. Hawthorne) used the train in their escape prior to the explosion.

    The description of the ‘house’ in the woods (i.e., 12 foot square, all made of concrete) made me wonder if such a structure could house some sort of train-related machinery or switching equipment.

    If Mr. Everdeen did, indeed, escape, he may have done so with the express purpose of becoming part of the Capitol and working the rebellion from INSIDE. He, of course, would likely need to be surgically altered to manage such a feat. Maybe Mrs. Everdeen’s family’s apothecary/medical connections could be summoned to secretly manage such a feat.

    Suppose Mr. Everdeen was actually . . . Cinna. Cinna’s manner of dress is not as flamboyant as the others. Cinna further prohibited any surgical alteration on Katniss (wouldn’t you, if you were her father?).

    Perhaps Cinna/Mr. Everdeen is the MLK to Haymitch’s Abernathy.

    Perhaps a bit far-fetched, but interesting to consider!


  47. Yes, again!! I do think it could be possible and could see the surgical alterations of Mr. Everdeen into Cinna. I don’t think I can wait until August for Mockingjay!!!

  48. StrictlyTopSecret says

    Collins’ distinct avoidance of any mention of spirituality is interesting, as well. Could it be that this is purposeful? Might she be saying that straying from faith can be disastrous?

    While in the Justice Bldg in D11, she mentions seeing paintings of “fat babies with wings” [or something along those lines] that seemed to me to be describing angels/cherubs. Katniss’ appears to have no idea what those might be.

    Your thoughts?

  49. Most dystopian novels are absent of religion because religion gives people hope, so I didn’t find it surprising. But I did enjoy Katniss’s description of the fat kids with wings in chapter 5 of CF. I did a lesson with my students in which they researched the purpose of religion & absence of it from dystopian novels. As a visual aide, I showed them Raphael’s Sistine Madonna’s famous cherubs. We also talked about what these “fat” kids would look like to Katniss, who sees people dying of starvation every day. If anything, it would make her angry that an all-powerful god would allow such human suffering. We definitely had som interesting discussions.

    We also went deeper into Wiress’s “Hickory Dickory Dock” song she sang before she was killed. And how Beetee would even know about the canary in the coal mine when they are never taught about the other districts. That, to us, was a big clue that the team has been working together much longer than just in CF.

    There’s just so many parts of the books to dissect! I love it!

  50. StrictlyTopSecret says

    One of my favorite bits in this novel revolved around Cinna’s statements with his designs.

    One of the most striking (though subtle) examples of this is seen in Cinna’s ensemble he designed for Katniss to wear at the beginning of the Victory tour. It consisted of an ermine coat (which Katniss describes as “encasing” her), leather gloves, a red scarf, and earmuffs.

    The significance of the use of ERMINE is brilliant. Below, I’ve quoted a bit of historical information regarding the use of ermine (taken from wiki):

    “. . . “The ermine is also considered a symbol of purity in Europe. In the Renaissance era, legend had it that an ermine would die before allowing its pure white coat to be besmirched. When it was being chased by hunters, it would supposedly turn around and give itself up to the hunters rather than risk soiling itself. …Henry Peacham’s Emblem 75, which depicts an ermine being pursued by a hunter and two hounds, is entitled … “Purity bought with his own death.” In some Nordic countries the ermine is invoked as a [b]symbol of[/b] curiosity and timely action. …”

    It’s just dripping with meaning. From the “Emblem 75” (Quarter Quell 75th games) to the ideas of purity and sacrifice. Katniss embodies all of the above both in her character and in her action.

    The earmuffs are a similarly subtle and brilliant statement. He is saying to the viewing audience to STOP LISTENING to what the media (the Capitol) are feeding you. “You’re bringing earmuffs back into style”, Cinna says prophetically on p. 41 (CF).

    I just can NOT get enough of these novels!


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