Who is the Mockingjay? The Hidden Key to Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy

[This post on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games was written in Fenruary, 2010. A lot of discussion and theorizing has happened here since then — and I hope you’ll join that free-for-all where it is now rather than back here in February! Please check out this Round-Up post (and the Pearl Plot 2.0) so you can see what’s been written in one convenient list with links. Thanks for joining us at HogwartsProgessor, where serious readers discuss the meaning and artistry of The Hunger Games.]

A few weeks ago, two HogPro All-Pros wrote to me both asking me if I thought Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games books were written with intentional alchemical artistry. Forgive me, but I doubt I would have purchased the books, Hunger Games and Catching Fire, as promptly as I did except that I ignored a similar question about Twilight for more than two years, much to my loss, and except for the facts that both these writers are very serious readers, both praised the books without qualification, and they both came up with the alchemical reading independently of the other.

I bought and have read the two books in the trilogy now in print (the finale wil be published 24 August this year). I’ve even read them twice and made a lot of notes. The alchemy question is a good one, if the story scaffolding owe at least as much to television 3 act story templating and Dante as they might to Shakespearean drama. Now that I’ve read them and loved them, I hope you will read the Hunger Games books, too, and join me in conversation about them here. If you are a Harry Potter reader, I’m confident these books will challenge and delight you — and, in being a series-not-yet-finished, will draw you into speculation about what will happen in the next book based on patterns and events in the first two.

Yesterday we learned that the title of the Hungers Games trilogy finale will be Mockingjay and saw the cover of the Scholastic edition (US). Today I want to discuss what I think will be the surprise revelation of the finale and a key to opening up the meaning of the series. If you haven’t read the first two books, of course, or if you don’t care for speculative writing about novels not yet published, this would be the best place for you to stop reading. (Hey, a spoilers warning; doesn’t that feel like old times?)

At the end of Catching Fire, Katniss wakes up to the fact that she has, once again, been used as a pawn in someone else’s story. She is furious at Haymitch Abernathy, her Games and Quell mentor, because she is convinced that he is the puppet master and alchemical dramatist who has written her into the script of his subversive story within the Capitol regime’s Hunger Games narrative. Bad enough, she thinks, to have her sister chosen as a tribute and to have been forced to sacrifice herself in her first trip into the arena, an experience where she warred with the narrative line of her “real enemy” to write a rebellious story that ‘speaks truth to power.’ It is much worse to be manipulated by people you think are your friends to star in a second narrative as the rebellion’s symbolic leader, the Mockingjay.

Katniss believes that Haymitch is the rebellion’s story-teller and the author of the Mockingjay drama with good reason.

  • His gifts as her mentor are rarely just what they seem; her job as often as not when receiving a silver package gift is to interpret the “hidden messages” of the man directing the action outside the story action, i.e., he is the author and she is simultaneously character in and reader-interpreter of the story he is writing;
  • Haymitch’s Quell victory was based on his refusing to accept as fixed either the boundaries of the story in which he was placed, its metanarrative, or his role in that drama. He survived as a tribute because he played the game like a Game Maker or playwright;
  • In the hovercraft scenes of the Catching Fire last chapter, Haymitch says (and Katniss repeats) the line that seems to peg him as the rebellion’s ‘Mockingjay’ story author: “this is why no one lets you make the plans.” He then proceeds to tell her the story she has been living in (page 385) as if he were the one who had made the plans.

Katniss’ response to this demonstration? She attacks Haymitch with her fingernails in her agony and confusion on learning that “I am the mockingjay” (page 386).

This is the set-up for the last novel of the series we now know is titled Mockingjay. Judging from a quick look at the Scholastic cover and this set-up, the finale may be the story of Katniss winning her freedom at last from playing parts in plays for which she is never shown a script to her self-actualization and free choices as a character “writing her own plans.”

Maybe. Right now, though, I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong. Mockingjay will certainly be about the liberation of the story character who is the rebellion’s inspiration and the story will feature Katniss in a break out role. It’s just that I doubt that Haymitch is the story mastermind and that Katniss is the real mockingjay, as central as both these characters are.

The real mockingjay and true author of the rebellion story told within the regime narrative, like Ms. Collins the rebellious television writer, doesn’t appear in the story as a named character. I’m guessing the ‘Wizard Behind the Curtain’ will turn out to be Madge Undersee’s mother, the woman who is simultaneously

  • the twin sister of Maysilee Donner (or just Maysilee Donner),
  • childhood friend of Katniss’ mother,
  • the wife of District 12’s mayor, and
  • Haymitch’s “crazy girl” (Fire, page 115).

We only ‘see’ Mrs. Donner-Undersee once and then only in film as a young woman when her mirror image self is taken into the Games as one of the second Quarter Quell’s four District 12 tributes (Fire, page 196).

I think that the rebellion’s mockingjay symbolism and counter-narrative starring Katniss and Haymitch are stories written by Mrs. Undersee for these reasons:

  1. the origin of the Mockingjay pin;
  2. the privileged station and situation of Mrs. Undersee;
  3. the meaning of the name ‘Madge Undersee;’
  4. the necessity of a narrative misdirection ‘wow’ in the series finale; and
  5. the centrality of the series message that we are players in a drama whose author(s) we do not know.

One at a time…

1. The Mockingjay Pin: We first see the pin in the opening chapter of Hunger Games. Madge Undersee is wearing it then on her “reaping clothes” finery. Katniss sees Gale noting its value before his unkind comments about the unlikelihood of Madge being selected as a District 12 Tribute (page 12). Before it becomes the token of the rebellion that will eventually be stamped on something like communion wafers among refugees, not to mention its becoming fashionable in the Capitol, the mockingjay accessory has to be transferred from Madge to Katniss with a committment extracted from Katniss to wear it in the arena. It is an odd scene.

Madge brings this pin to Katniss after the Reaping and very deliberately, even “urgently” gives it to her, exacting a promise that Katniss will wear it in the arena.

My next guest is also unexpected. Madge walks straight to me. She is not weepy or evasive, instead there’s an urgency about her tone that surprises me. “They let you wear one thing from your district in the arena. One thing to remind you of home. Will you wear this?” She holds out the circular gold pin that was on her dress earlier. I hadn’t paid much attention to it before, but now I see it had a small bird in flight.

“Your pin?” I say. Wearing a token from my district is about the last thing on my mind.

“Here, I’ll put it on your dress, all right?” Madge doesn’t wait for an answer, she just leans in and fixes the bird to my dress. “Promise me you’ll wear it in the arena, Katniss?” she asks. “Promise?”

“Yes,” I say. Cookies. A pin. I’m getting all kinds of gifts today. Madge gives me one more. A kiss on the cheek. Then she’s gone and I’m left thinking that maybe Madge really has been my friend all along (page 38).

Katniss doesn’t understand the power or meaning of this pin’s symbolism until well into Catching Fire but it is clear from Madge’s urgency and insistence in how she gives the token to Katniss that Madge believes or has been instructed that it is critical to Katniss’s success and survival that she wear it. Madge’s instructions, of course, are correct both in the short and long term. Rue chooses to trust Katniss because of the pin, most obviously, and then the symbol becomes both spark and catalyst for the rebellion when Katniss humiliates the Games Makers by stepping outside their narrative at story’s end.

Using the Red Hen model of literary speculation, namely, that implausibly unlikely events coming to pass are the marks of design, my assumption in coming to interpret the seemingly providential happenings of Hunger Games is that they were planned by someone within the story. For starters, Prim’s and Peeta’s names being chosen at the District 12 Reaping was too much of a dream match to have been arbitrary or random. Effie, I’m guessing, was told which names to pull or all the names in the bowl were the same. Given the love Peeta has for Katniss and Katniss’ singular qualifications for surviving, even thriving in the arena, skills she alone has among all District 12 women, their selection and the consequent counter-story of the star-crossed lovers was almost certainly written well in advance of their Hunger Games. A key piece in this seditious narrative is the mockingjay token because it is the symbol of the counter-story the Capitol couldn’t anticipate or control. She has to be wearing it for the story to work as written.

Who could have instructed Madge to get Katniss’ promise to wear it in the arena? I think the believable possibilities have to be restricted to Haymitch Abernathy or her mother — and the latter seems much more likely. Though the Maysilee-twin and Haymitch share a motivation to avenge Maysilee’s death (and would want the token to mark their taking revenge), Madge tells Katniss in Fire that the pin “was my Aunt’s” “but I think it’s been in my family a long time” (page 91), i.e., it was a gift from Madge and her family to Katniss.

2. The Privileged Station and Situation of Mrs. Undersee: There is a curious scene during the post Games tour when Haymitch takes Peeta and Katniss through the labyrinth of the District 11 Justice building to find a place for them to talk without being monitored (Fire, chapter 5). We’re not supposed to believe that Haymitch is able to do this because he remembers so vividly his own visit as touring victor to that building in District 11 25 years earlier. How then does he move with such surety, speed, and confidence through the maze of rooms and seemingly sealed doors? It’s not plausible unless he’s been there sometime, even many times, in the intervening years.

Or if someone else has.

We learn from Madge that even the Mayor’s wife, her mother, cannot travel to the Capitol for medical treatment and medicines without special permission. Obviously, though, Mrs. Undersee does get this kind of allowance. She “spends half her life in bed immobilized with terrible pain, shutting out the world” (Fire, page 196). She has enough pain killers on hand consequent to her medicinal trips to the Capitol that she is able to send a box to Katniss’ house in the Victor’s Village when Gale is whipped close to death by the new Head Peace Keeper, Thread.

Knowing that she does get to the Capitol because of her illness means she gets around. I think it’s safe to assume that she goes to other Districts as Mayor Undersee’s escort. I would bet she knows the major political players in every district as the First Lady of District 12 and has relative freedom in the Capitol to meet important people there.

Even promising dress designers. Cinna repeatedly returns the mockingjay pin to Katniss and is an essential figure in creating the “girl on fire” phoenix imagery that is the heart of the token’s meaning. Someone has initiated him into the mockingjay conspiracy. If not Mrs. Undersee, who?

I bet she meets men like Games Maker Plutarch Heavensbee, too, with whom, because of her sister’s history in the Games, she could have conversations quite different than those he would have with magistrate’s wives. Who could enlist a Games Maker into a rebellion than another person from his caste, a person who understands the power of story?

In brief, the ability to craft a rebellion counter-narrative within the Hunger Games spectacles requires a story teller with the ability to travel or otherwise communicate with the other districts, especially the Capitol. Mrs. Undersee is the only character we know with these privileges. Her illness, given that she has a full, spare box of precious pain killers may just be a front to facilitate her travel and invisibility.

3. The Meaning of the Name ‘Madge Undersee:’ There are two or three key symbols in the Hunger Games novels, all of which I hope to explore here eventually, of which the most predominant is the mockingjay token, a pin with a bird flying within a golden circle. There’s much too much there to unpack now — the alchemical and religious meanings alone are two long posts — but there is a secondary symbol that is immediate relevant to this discussion: the pearl.

Effie Trinket, something of a ditz on the surface but a woman who understands symbolism better than most, introduces the pearl imagery in Hunger Games:

“Everyone [with whom I’ve talked about being your sponsors] has their reservations, naturally. You being from the coal districts. But I said, and this was very clever of me, I said, ‘Well, if you put enough pressure on coal it turns to pearls!'” Effie beams at us so brilliantly that we have no choice but to respond enthusiastically to her cleverness even though it is wrong.

Coal doesn’t turn to pearls. They grow in shellfish. Possibly she meant coal turns to diamonds, but that’s untrue, too. I’ve heard that they have some sort of machine in District 1 that can turn graphite into diamonds. But we don’t mine graphite in District 12. That was part of District 13’s job until they were destroyed. (Page 74)

This is odd, no? The idea of Peeta and Katniss as pearls, though, returns in Katniss’ wedding dress at the Quell interview (linked beautifully with her phoenix-mockingjay role and her love for Peeta; Fire, page 247), and finally in the gift given by Peeta to Katniss that she accepts in the Quell arena. Peter repeats Effie’s comment word for word when he finds the “glistening, perfect pearl” and Katniss’ thoughts then are instructive:

“Hey, look at this!” [Peeta] holds up a glistening, perfect pearl about the size of a pea. “You know, if you put enough pressure on coal it turns to pearls,” he says earnestly to Finnick.

“No, it doesn’t,” says Finnick dismissively. But I crack up, remembering that’s how a clueless Effie Trinket presented us to the people of the Capitol last year, before anyone knew us. As coal pressured into pearls by our weighty existence. Beauty that arose out of pain. (Page 365)

The Pearl, then, is no small thing in Hunger Games as a symbol of the transformation of Peeta and Katniss in the Games and Quell crucibles. But why a pearl as the product of this transformation rather than diamond — and what does this have to do with Maysilee Donner’s twin?

In brief, I will argue (elsewhere) that the pearl is chosen, not only because it is a strange conceit, even perverse and stupid, just like the Hunger Games, but because of the pearl’s traditional meaning, namely, the “pearl of great price,” Matthew 13:45-46. In Ms. Collins’ story the pearl that Peeta-Katniss have become by the Quell’s crisis point is unconditional, sacrificial love, the “love hunger” that Katniss experiences on the beach in Fire when Peeta appeals to her to stop trying to protect him (pages 362-363).

And the Maysilee link? I will unpack this more in another post but it is important here just to note that “Madge” is short for “Margaret” which is the anglicized form of margarites, the Greek word for “pearl.” Mrs. Undersee has named her daughter “pearl” and this is a key symbol within the story-line that the as-yet-unnamed rebellion puppet-master is crafting.

Madge’s last name is meaningful, too. ‘Undersee’ means “under the ocean.” I think in Hunger Games it means something like “submarine,” as in “beneath the surface” or “out of sight.” Which is saying that what Mrs. Undersee wanted first for her daughter was for her to be a “hidden treasure” safe from the Reaping as the Mayor’s daughter in a way her twin sister Maysilee wasn’t. More important, I think, is the suggestion that Mrs. Undersee is “out of sight” and the Pearl beneath the surface, the secret genius creating the rebellion by re-writing the narrative that took her sister’s life

4. The Necessity of a Narrative Misdirection ‘Wow’ in the Series Finale

The story of Hunger Games is told from the first person perspective of the story protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. The key virtues of this voice are:

  • we readers identify with Katniss, which identification or story-engagement, our “poetic faith” consequent to “suspending disbelief,” is very strong; and
  • the author can deliver the postmodern message “don’t believe what you think” (among several other PoMo messages) via narrative misdirection.

In short, Katniss is a brilliant young woman, but most especially when she comes to the understanding that she doesn’t understand and doesn’t know what is really going on. (See Fire, pages 356, 378.) She is a player in someone else’s story — “Used without consent. Used Without knowledge.” (Fire, page 385) — even when she thinks she is writing the rebellious story within the Capitol’s Hunger Games and Quarter Quell.

All story-pointers at the end of Catching Fire direct our attention to Haymitch Abernathy as the alchemical dramatist who is the playwright for the play-within-the-play. And for just that reason, that so many clues point to him and that Katniss believes it sufficiently to attack him physically for the plans she is convinced he has made about her without her consent, I’m pretty sure the master planner is not Haymitch. Simply put, it’s not misdirection if it turns out to be who you thought it was going to be.

I’m betting instead on the twin sister of the girl who saved Haymitch’s life in the Quarter Quell and whose life he couldn’t save (he found the metanarrative boundary and the secret that defeated both his opponent and the Capitol but not in time to save Maysilee from the deadly, animated lawn flamingos). Even more of a ‘wow’ finish than having Mrs. Undersee just step out from behind the curtain as author-in-hiding would be learning that Maysilee’s surviving mirror reflection fell in love with Haymitch years ago — but that she married Mayor Undersee to insure that her child would not be made a District 12 tribute.

This Reaping possibility would have been dreadful to her not only because of her sister’s fate but also — egad! can it be? — because Madge is Haymitch’s daughter and a Victor’s child is too often chosen for the Games. Katniss has all but decided against children for just this reason. Both Haymitch and Mrs. Undersee play the parts they do because their lives turn on making the kind of impossible life-and-death choices Haymitch tells Katniss she’ll “have to make” someday as a Hunger Games victor and mentor (Fire, page 67).

Too much? I’ll concede that a Haymitch-as-Madge’s-dad revelation at Mockingjay’s finish (or opening) is a stretch. There are shades and hints of this possibility in the echoes of Haymitch’s relationship with Maysilee in the relationships of Katniss-Peeta with Rue and of Finnick with the mad Annie Cresta. That plot-point speculation, though, isn’t what I’m reaching for, really.

The narrative misdirection consequent to our being suckered quite naturally into accepting Katniss’ beliefs as reality is the point. The jolt we receive along with Katniss as she wakes up to her being a pawn is a big piece of the Hunger Games postmodern morality (see point 5) — and the bigger the jolt of surprise, the stronger the message hits home.

And I cannot think of a more credible and still surprising candidate for secret-story-mage than Mrs. Undersee.

5. The Centrality of the Series Message that We are Players in a Drama whose Author(s) We do not Know

As I said, a big piece of Ms. Collins’ aim in writing Hunger Games is to create the shock we feel as readers sharing Katniss’ shock about being a pawn in someone else’s story. The message here isn’t surprise just for surprise’s sake but as dramatic confirmation of the usual postmodern beliefs we share: things aren’t what they seem, the core cultural metanarrative is the fount of prejudice, injustice, and evil in the world, self-actualizing choice is the means to freedom, only speaking truth to power is a free choice, don’t believe what you think, etc. Ms. Collins within this reinforcement of the generic beliefs of our age is making attacks as well on specific targets, most notably, television and the American consumerist anti-culture.

I hope to be writing here in coming weeks about the postmodern themes in Hunger Games and the satirical quality of Ms. Collins’ dystopia (Animal Farm meets Rollerball), especially about television and its uses in Panem by both the Capitol and the rebels. But in the speculative discussion of whether Mrs. Undersee might be the real story Mockingjay, I need only note the theme in Hunger Games that we are actors in a drama whose parameters and meaning were created by other people, more powerful people, that we don’t know.

Katniss in the 74th and 75th Hunger Games is leading, as she says herself again and again, the life of a “pawn.” Her victory in her first Games is, like Haymitch’s insight in his, to step outside the boundaries of the fixed-story. She succeeds in this by her willingness to sacrifice herself rather than submit to the ending given her by the Games Makers. The berry-bluff and near suicide, however, trap Katniss into a relationship with Peeta and another story that is, like the demeaning arena narrative, not her story to control or change.

More intriguing and mysterious, she discovers that her star-crossed lovers sub-plot has become an inspiring act of rebellion to the people of the Districts. She meets the author of the evil regime’s Hunger Games story-line when President Snow visits the Victors Village to exact with threats her enthusiastic co-operation in the tour and associated events. But who is the author of the Romeo and Juliet ‘Mockingjay’ rebellion narrative? Who brought Cinna into the game? Who made the connections with men like Plutarch Heavensbee in the Capitol? We know the players in the regime’s drama; who is producing the rebellion’s show?

Katniss doesn’t know. She assumes at the end of Catching Fire that it is Haymitch Abernathy but her agony isn’t so much in the realization that she’s been tricked by her mentor. What causes her to all but despair and die before Gale’s appearance at the very end of Catching Fire is that what she had imagined was a dangerous game being played to defeat the regime’s Quarter Quell was actually a drama whose other players knew they were on a different, larger stage to overthrow the regime itself.

She became a story symbol of love transcending self and power despite herself in her first Games. By the Quell, she understood clearly that playing this part was taken by Capitol leaders as an act of rebellion and she played it willingly and deliberately despite the risk. Katniss learns, though, in the hovercraft that she has been the unwitting accomplice — and the featured performer! — in the real world rebellion taking place outside any fixed arena. And she is furious.

Collins’ point for her readers? I think it is a call, first, following Katniss’ example, to reject the soul-slaughtering message of the regime’s entertainment as we have it on commercial driven television. More to the point of this post, though, is her main character’s struggle to know the roles she is playing and to choose deliberately when and as much as she can to step out of roles that are demeaning to her or to those around her. This struggle requires recognition not only of the obvious political metanarratives (“Capitol, good; Districts, bad”) but the scripts we follow in all our relationships, roles we have from family, community, and culture.

In real life, we don’t get to meet the author(s) of the plays in which we act and which we stage in our lives. They’re either dead white men (the Founding Fathers, Marx, Freud, Dewey, Roosevelt, Friedman) or talking head media corporations (CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NPR). Katniss, though,will meet in Mockingjay the real Mockingjay who has written the story she is in, which meeting will highlight for us how little we know about the stories we are acting out and who is pulling our strings.

Conclusion: The Pearl Theory

My ‘Pearl’ Mockingjay theory is that the secret story writer of the Hunter Games books is one of the Donner twin sisters. We know that Maysilee Donner was called but, because they were twins, we cannot know whether she or her sister went to the Capitol. Madge tells us that the golden mockingjay pin belonged to Maysilee, her aunt (or mother), but Maysilee either didn’t take it with her to the Quell or her sister took her place.

Either survivor, of course, would hate the Games. She would know, too, how a sister would respond if a weaker sister were chosen at the Reaping. That surviving twin, if in the proper position, could plan how to defeat the Games using Haymitch’s strategy of attacking the story boundaries and humiliating the Games Makers.

I suggest for your consideration through Madge and other contacts, especially Haymitch, Mrs. Donner-Undersee knew about Katniss’ archery abilities and Peeta’s affection for her. The idea of a love-story inside the arena was natural to her because of her sister’s relationship with Haymitch, if not her own. Again, the idea of Katniss heroically taking Prim’s place was if anything more obvious than a love story to the twin sister left behind at the Reaping to wish she had been chosen or volunteered.

Rue and Thresh were selected because of their strengths but also also because of their places in the District 11 community (i.e., that their deaths would incite rebellion). Rue was told about the Mockingjay token.

Cinna was recruited during trips to the Capitol; his choice of District 12 was anything but arbitrary and his ‘Girl on Fire’ designs at both Games and Quell were deliberately incendiary. Plutarch Heavensbee the Games Maker after being recruited to the mission was able to help manipulate the District 12 Tribute training scores and eventually even the rules of the Games so that Peeta and Katniss’ story could play out as it did. Haymitch had recruited the Victors he wanted to the cause over a period of 25 years during his mentoring times in the Capitol.

Through her husband’s office and communications, Donner-Undersee was tapped into everything happening in Panem that the Capitol shared with District leaders. She arranged Katniss’ and Peeta’s selection and she wrote the script for Haymitch to produce. He did the job so well a la Foster Brookes that no one suspected he had a part in it until the end of the Quell and even then Donner-Undersee’s role was obscured.

In Mockingjay, though, I expect two things: Katniss to insist on writing her own script and the revelation of the real mockingjay, Madge’s mother.

Ms. Collins, I suggest for your comment and correction, is saying that as watchers of television we are all twins, after a fashion. Part of us is sucked into the commercial metanarrative and the postmodern relativist messages of this medium and all the entertainment and news programming it delivers. This part of us — a large part of us — dies to what is real, good, and beautiful about life as a human being.

Our surviving twin, though, can defeat the Beast and protect our children from it by creating a counter narrative, the story of Diana-Katniss, the woman-warrior and nature-goddess, who is not a child of the City but of the Seam, where heaven and earth meet and are joined. This child, nourished by the androgynous and asexual men of her life — ‘Gale,’ the Wind, nature, and Spirit with ‘Peeta,’ the bread of communion, art, culture — is the anti-victim, a young woman who provides for her family and responsible for her thinking and understanding — whom the regime cannot control or destroy. She speaks loudly and vividly of love’s transcendent victory over power and self via her very existence and the trappings the hidden rebellion’s alchemical dramatist gives her in dress through Cinna and in story-production through the Games Maker and her mentor.

Like her character Maysilee Donner-Undersee, Suzanne Collins is writing this counter-narrative to the regime’s televised culture of death in Hunger Games. And she is calling us to write a similar counter-narrative in our lives by nourishing our inner Katniss in resistance to the anti-culture’s story tellers in whose Cave we live, chained mentally to the shadows they cast on the walls.


  1. This is NOT Twilight people do not even start on the team Peeta team Gale BS you will totally destroy the point of this book.

  2. I definitely have a suspicion on re-reading the books today (after reading the interesting theories here) that President Snow is not what he seems to be. The scene where he is in her house reads very strangely and what someone suggested about him previously living in District 12 makes sense. It sounds bizarre, but because I can’t imagine a Capitol person smelling of anything unless they’d chosen it (and because Katniss is so literal, he must literally rather than metaphorically have it on his breath). I wondered if the deaths he had caused were, in his mind at least, unavoidable, and he chooses the smell as some sort of memento mori of the lives he’s had to destroy. The scene where he claims it’s all for their good – does he believe that and there more we are not being told? It’s far-fetched, but would be a dramatic narrative misdirection and it’s not without fictional precedent.

  3. StrictlyTopSecret says

    The line where he responds to Katniss’ taunt by partially acknowledging the fragility of “the system” suggest that something larger (something to which he and possibly select others ares privy) may be at play.

    p. 21 “Do you have any idea what that [revolution] would mean? How many people would die? What conditions those left would have to face? Whatever problems anyone may have with the Capitol, believe me when I say that IF IT RELEASED ITS GRIP ON THE DISTRICTS FOR EVEN A SHORT TIME, THE ENTIRE SYSTEM WOULD COLLAPSE.” Emphasis mine.

    p. 22 “It [the entire system] is fragile, BUT NOT IN THE WAY YOU SUPPOSE.” Emphasis mine.

    I suspect that the “something larger” could indicate that the Capitol itself is being controlled (at least in part) by a more powerful entity.


  4. אני אוהב את פיתה says

    …interesting theories I, agree with a lot of them except this one. “Peeta is a literary Christ figure” Noooooo, Peeta is just so self sacrificing and good like an angel but that doesn’t make him “androgynous”. He is still a person (in the fictional sense). I think Peeta is more of a symbol for love. And yes you can argue that God is love and all that but lets just face it, y’all. This is a teen fiction, there is a love triangle, she is going to pick one! There is no denying that. I’m not saying you shouldn’t delve into the deeper meanings of these books but seriously people! I don’t think Gale or Peeta are supposed to be so other-worldly its not like Peeta doesn’t make mistakes and its not like Jesus ever wanted to marry anyone or be with anyone in that kind of way. They are just NOT the same at all. I think the name Peeta more refers to Peter in that he is “the rock” he’s always so steady and reliable and unmoving. I think Suzzanne wrote him being able to lie so well because she wanted the reader to be unsure of him like you are saying so there could be a barrier to Katniss and Peeta’s love, not to mention the whole Capital stuff. But I also think that she was not really forced into being with him either. I mean she had every opportunity to kill him, she could’ve during the games but she didn’t and you might say this is because she is a good person and couldn’t kill anyone. But if she was a good person then i dunno about you but if it was me and a boy who also saved my life as a child and saved it over and over again said he loved me, I would have been like, “OK! lets get married now!” Maybe thats too general but I don’t care in the slightest. But! back to that time that I said he symbolizes love (haha) saying that sacrificing yourself for someone else is like Jesus is very true but Jesus sacrificed himself for all mankind, the past, present, and future and he did this because he loves us soo he did this out of love. Peeta sacrificing himself for Katniss is just him saying “I love you” (emphasis on YOU) and does not necessarily mean “I AM JESUS!” So this is definitely not saying hes like the “Aslan” of the Hunger Games. He is also like love in that its like their love brings down the Capital. When they rebel against the Capital with the berries President Snow thinks this is just an act of rebellion on Katniss’s part and yes this might’ve been true at the time but the only way they could’ve truly rebelled is to totally not be a piece of their games and the only way they can do this is to be in love and fight for each other unselfishly, because love is the only thing that the Capital can not control because obviously they can always win physically but when the Capital people start siding with the District people because they can relate to love they are in some serious shit.
    Now to the whole team thing. I strongly believe in taking teams if you don’t then you are intentionally ignoring a whole part of the book. Being afraid of picking the Hermione team is no excuse, y’all. And another thing people are also so afraid of the whole team thing because they think its going to turn into “Twilight”. OK, so The Hunger Games is NOT Twilight it will never be so saying it will turn into twilight is, frankly, impossible. And another thing is that saying you are team whoever just means that you just think that the main character is going to end up with this character, personal preference often comes into play but it should not be the deciding factor. You are allowed to like the third wheel character more but if you think that the main character does not prefer that character then don’t be team Gale, *cough, cough*- I mean team third wheel and therefore eliminate the chance of ever being on the wrong team. Alright so I’ll admit it- I AM TEAM PEETA. I actually have no hesitance in that statement whatsoever. I think the proof of this is actually in their names. Peeta as I said before is close to Peter- rock. A rock is steady reliable and so on and so forth. Gale, more obviously is like wind always moving and changing and much less reliable. And Katniss obviously doesn’t like unreliable people more, like how her mother was when her father died and she became useless and unreliable. But also, she just doesn’t love Gale, alright? I always think that the biggest proof of this and everyone seems to forget this is in Catching Fire page 96-97 starting at where Gale says “I love you” and ending at where Katniss says “I know”. I feel like no one other than me has read this part, she obviously does not love him. I mean, what the Quell? OH and just saying I thought Gadge was going to happen at the beginning of the Hunger Games when they bring the strawberries to her house. You guys just don’t understand the woman’s mind and you all obviously don’t understand teen fiction with romantic interests, no offense but you just are obviously not teenage girls. Also, I have read these two book an upwards of at least 10 times all the way through, I know exactly how many days till the third one comes out (99 days 8 hours)and I don’t think you guys do a.k.a. I’m more qualified to talk.

    You also have to remember that the Hunger Games series is written in first person. Everything we’re learning about Peeta is told to us from Katniss’ mind. She has always thought of him as the ‘boy with the bread’ and so we tend to do the same thing. Plus, he has decided that she is the one good thing in his life. He acts differently around her than he necessarily acts around other people-not that we know this for sure.
    Plus, I think that y’all are still against Peeta and on Team Gale because of his more obvious flaws (even though–from all your talk about how he is perfect and Christ-like you know that his flaws are less important and more superficial than Gale’s flaws). Peeta is physically weaker than Gale and Katniss. Katniss has been annoyed with Peeta from the beginning–his loud footsteps in the woods, the way he has not been strengthened from the pain of starvation, from the anxiety of being the provider of his family. Katniss tries to see Peeta as the spoiled baker’s son who has never had to deal with the horrible problems of the Seam. We find out that he has had his own share of problems, that have simply strengthened him in different ways than Gale and Katniss have been strengthened. Still, we see these differences as faults, as a kind of weakness in Peeta. He doesn’t know which plants are safe, he doesn’t know how to hunt, he doesn’t know the basics of keeping himself alive. He is only able to sacrifice himself for Katniss because she has the knowledge and strength to keep them alive until then.

    Gale thinks it’s important to fight for a cause, to fight for an end; whereas Peeta just fights for Katniss. He fights for his own personal love. Gale thinks he’s all idealistic but he’s missing the person, the love in front of him. He would choose the cause over Katniss, where Peeta will always choose Katniss, no matter what. He makes the only decision that he really has control over. Gale thinks that the big picture is the only thing that matters–but he doesn’t realize that he won’t ever be able to control that, there are too many factors going into it. Plus, you can never really be certain that the “good guys” are in power. The people in power in the world of the Hunger Games do seem particularly bad right now, and it’s right to fight against their evils, but when it comes down to it you can never have much control over how “good” the people in power are being. What you do have control over is the little decisions of your life–choosing to love someone. This is what Peeta does. Gale, like Haymitch, would be perfectly willing to use people as pawns to meet some higher goal. But how far can you take this before you’ve turned into the Capital yourself? You think you’re fighting against the oppressive force of the Capital, but what would Haymitch be like as a leader if he were to take over himself? Would he be willing to sacrifice a bunch of people like he was willing to sacrifice Peeta in order to meet some higher goal? Is that okay? Does that really mean anything?
    So the question of whether or not Peeta is a bad person is total bullshit. The real question is, Why the hell would I ever care about Gale? Anyone? Anyone? And the whole conspiracy doesn’t matter either because in the end when we think about the big picture too much we get obsessed with power and so all in all- I think that you JUST GOT SERVED.

  5. Elizabeth says

    Ah, to be in junior high again and still know everything….

  6. Okay So I’m TOTALLY team Peeta and no the. hunger. games. will. never. be. like. twilight. Yes I am a Twilight fan and I did pick a side, which was Edward, but this time I picked the underdog Peeta. Picking a person you want the main character to be with is the same as every other love triangle in the world that is writing. There will always be picking sides but not in the same exact way as another book.

  7. i have to reread the books again… very interesting theory,by the way. awesome.

    GO TEAM GALE!!!!!!!!!!

  8. these are still just theories. let’s wait and see.
    and that team thing? come on people, that’s just part of the story. the bigger theme is not the triangle relationship but the mockingjay! (as the book name suggests)

  9. Has anyone considered the possibility that District 12 Mayor’s wife may have died in the Games while posing as her sister? This could play a bigger part in the scheme of things if the woman writing the story is actually Haymitch’s woman (the Mayor’s sister-in-law).

  10. I agree fully with Eugenia.. and that is quite an excellent thought..

  11. I don’t know where y’all are coming from but the discussion at HogwartsProfessor has moved on to much better ground since this first post months ago. Check out these threads below for much more in depth discussion and speculation about Mockingjay. Forgive me for blowing my own horn, but this is the most in-depth discussion of Suzanne Collins’ work anywhere — and you’re several months behind the curve! Thank you for visiting — and please do join in the conversation.

    Posts by John Granger:




    Posts by Louise Freeman:





    Posts by Elizabeth Baird Hardy:





  12. I agree with your theory that Hymitch isnt the real pupet master here, and a unknown character like Mrs. Undersee is quite likely, but I DO belive that Katniss is the true Mockinjay. Throughout the series people have continously pointed out that the Mockinjays are results of the Governments mistaks. That the Mockingjays were born because of circumstances the Government never suspected and never planed for. They were mistakes that the Governmetn made that showed that the Government could make mistakes and that is sean as a weakness. Katniss and Peeta and thier realtionship was a sinario that the Government had never planed for in the Hunger Games, they had never planed for a people to use emotions that would inspire and effect the viewers. And because Katniss and Peeta were able to use emotional conections to thier advantage in the game, and they made the viewers feel sympathy and made the viewers acctualy care about them as people and not just as contestents. Because of this emotional attachment the viewers had for Katniss and Peeta the Game Makers were forced to change the rules inorder to keep the viewers and people of the Capitol happy. Katniss and Peetas realtionship and the both of them wining the Hunger Games was a slap in the face to the Government, because it was not them who were controling the Game Makers and the rules of the Hunger Games, in the end the rules were really being made by Katniss and Peeta whether or not they knew it.
    I do belive Hymitch knew about the power of emtions all along, and maybe Peeta even originaly knew that the romcatic plotline between him and Katniss could spark some emotions, but I dont belive he knew how far it could and would go. Hymitch knew that a tragic love story would spark strong emotions like love and sympathy for more than one player, especualy if both Katniss and Peeta loved eachother and had a acctual realationship in the arena which was why he praised Katniss for the kissing and emotional conversations.
    But why is Katniss the Mockingjay and not Peeta? Peeta is the one who is strong in words and who understands emotions, so why did the people of the districs see Katniss as the Mockinjay? I belive that is because Katniss is the one who speaks with actions, and actions speak louder than words. Katniss has never been good with words, and while she is blind to the emotions of other people, and she thinks she hides her emotions very well, when she does show emotion through her actions, such as the berrys, they speak louder than any speach could becasue they are so human, so real. Her actions and emotions are realatable to other people, her story is one that most people in the districs live through teveryday. And the people of the Districs look to her as the Mockingjay, the slap in the face to the Government because from the moment Katniss took her sister Prims place durring the reaping she has been showing something that the Government has been trying to destroy in the people of the Districts. When Katniss took Prims place in the Reaping she showed that in a time of darkness, she had a choice to save her own life or save herr sisters, and she chose her sisters.
    It is mentioned in the first book that family bonds and friendships dont mean as much as they should because there are very rare occations were a sibling willingly sacrifises themselves for another, or friends take the place of oneanother. When it comes the the Hunger Games, feelings and realationships dont count because it is all about saving your own life. The Government has made it that way, it is probably one of the biggest ways the Government has been controling the Districts. But Katniss broke that rule when she took Prims place. That action from the very beging was a stab at the Government because she was a girl who still loved and was willing to most certanily kill herself by volenteering to go into the Hunger Games inorder to save the life of someone she loved. That desision was what made Katniss stand out from everyother contender in the Hunger Games, she was sean by all people of the Capitol and the Districs as a person who was strong anough to do the right thing even if the Government condemed it.
    There are other examples of Katniss’ actions that inspired emotions and people such as her allience with Rue. Rue was a young girl, who no one expected to live, and not one person who knew about the Allience could say that Katniss had allied with her stricktly for game purposes. Anyone who saw how Katniss reacted and honored her after her death could tell that Katniss cared for her as a person not just as a tool to garentee her servival. by her honoring Rue on her death bed and by burrying her in flowers Katniss again showed that even in a place were she was being forced to kill for her own servival she could still care for people and love. Which was why Distric 11 honored her, becasue she was stronger than the rest of the tributes in moral and as a person.
    When Katniss shot Cato to stop his suffering it was a blatent insult to the Government who enjoyed the suffering. The Game Makers were making Cato suffer for their enjoyment and when Katniss killed him inorder to stop his suffering she showed again that even though the Government causes suffering and pain, she was strong anough to care for a person who had tried to kill her and her lover numorus times and almost succeded. Her actions of kindness in the Hunger Games had more of an affect on the people because Katniss wasnt just talking about being a good person, and deffiying the Government, she was acctualy doing it. Which sparked hope in people from all of Panema.
    Katniss is the Mockingjay, she is the symbol of rebelion because while she may not have been the one to start orginizing one, she was the first person to openly take action agenst the Government for all of Panema to see. I dont belive the Mockingjay is the leader of the rebelion, it is the symbol that gives people hope and that drives them to take action and to fight. And The Girl on Fire deffinily is the symbol of the Rebelion, the Mockingjay.

  13. Shannon, your comment about Katniss being the true mockingjay led me to think– in a few literary dissections of the Hunger Games I have read, various people (here and elsewhere) have brought up the idea that Maysilee Donner/Mrs. Undersee is the ‘puppet-master’ of the games and that Katniss and Peeta’s presence in the 74th Hunger Games was no accident. What if Katniss and Peeta were expected to die (or at least one of them was) by the behind-the-scenes ‘puppet-master’ so their dual survival WAS an accident? The deaths of two lovers (or one of the pair, leaving Katniss, the likely survivor, forever heartbroken) in the arena, after they had been promised by the Gamemakers an out together, could have been enough to stir unrest in the Districts, couldn’t it?

    The Capitol never seems to have promised the Districts anything but a harsh life– could a broken promise of this magnitude been enough to incite a rebellion? Either people are mad because of the broken promise or they are mad because such a change has never been offered to any other competitors before– even when fellow District members neared the end of the competition (as Haymitch and Maysilee did 25 years ago).

    Perhaps the puppeteer didn’t forsee the survival of both Katniss AND Peeta. If these thoughts are even a little true, Katniss is both a symbol of the movement in which she is a pawn and a mockingjay in her own right– the leader of her own rebellion and the symbol of another (even though these two rebellions appear to have the same ultimate goal).

    Feel free to drill holes all over my thoughts; they just surfaced while I was reading your comment and I thought I’d write it out right away.

  14. I’ve read both books at least ten times now and yet a few of these theories i would have never thought of. But all of this led me to think the same as Maggie, maybe both Katniss and Peeta’s survival was an accident. Because I mean the real “Mockingjay” doesn’t have a say at what happens in the arena or who kills who. It might have even done the same damage to the Districts if both of them died.
    Also, I think it is quite possible that when Maysille was called to be a tribute, that Madges “mother” (wouldn’t even be her mother) went instead but went as Maysille. That could also be why Madges mother (maysille) is always inside basicly hidden from society all the time with the excuse of pain.
    Just a thought.

  15. kimfaithchurch says

    I agree STS…the “mockingjay” theories are great and all, but something happened a lot time ago, before the games began that caused the status quo…I think the key lies in finding DISTRICT 13! Remember this…it’s important! Knowing facts about the last rebellion that caused the supposed incineration of District 13 is the key to President Snow’s odd behavior…and yes, of course Haymitch…and the Mayor of district 13…he’s a player for the rebellion for sure…Madge is definitely Haymitch’s daughter…he’s protective over her…but that’s it…then it ends…

    I really hope Suzanne Collins plans to write prequels, how the apocolypse came to be, how the division of the districts began, the original rebellion with District 13, the FIRST HUNGER GAMES! That had to of been CRAZY! Could you just imagine the first time it was announced? So much backstory there…these first 3 books are just the tip of the iceberg. k. pura vida

  16. kimfaithchurch says

    It just occured to me…Peeta is definitely part of the rebellion…before the Games, when they are in the Capitol and each Katniss and Peeta have their private talks with Haymitch to practice their interview questions, Haymitch is always very pleased with the directions of Peeta, and suggests to Katniss that he and Peeta are in on some plan, together.

    And Peeta was left there at the end of Catching Fire…If they have a hovercraft that can appear out of nowhere, they could have gone for Peeta…with as calm and resolved as Peeta is, it’s as if he knows his place in these Games quite well. k. pura vida

  17. Please check out the other Hunger Games posts at HogwartsProfessor! A lot of great thinking and writing has gone on here since these notes went up in February —

  18. Character’s names have really struck me. I find it interesting that most of the names have more obvious backgrounds while others (where did Haymitch come from?) don’t. To further your pearl plot, I thought it interesting that Maysie is cited as being derived from Margaret and meaning child of light. Lee means meadow, a place of perfection to which Collins has alluded several times. Together does this mean Child of Light Meadow, the place from Rue’s Lullaby where Peeta’s child can be safe? A Donner twin switch seems likely.

    Thanks for giving me something exciting and thought-provoking to read while enduring the wait for Mockingjay.

  19. seriouly people i think i will boycote this movie if kristian stwert is katniss

  20. Interesting…. interesting… (thinking) katniss is definetly the as you say cover of like a magazine mockingjay because it appears that she is used as a symbol of rebellion. Clearly that is what it seems because she had no knowing in it, but it would seem that they need her because of her story with the games she participated in. Without Katniss they couldnt have pulled the heist off. The theories of madge’s mother (whether its one twin or the other) is a good theory that i didnt see in bewteen the lines, but i think its a conspiracy. oooooo yeah i said conspiracy, that possibly she isnt the only mastermind just a main one. Who Knows. Maybe a more powerful person is behind it because i dont think she had that much power in what you say she has. A more poweful leader in the goverment someone like Plutarch Heavensbee and maybe Plutarch himself who knows. That is the end of my post but i will try to remember to post more (i might forget though so post for me).

  21. hunger games!!!!! says

    i agree bossking there is probably another main mastermind besides the donner twin. they probably worked together.

  22. Does anyone think Collins will show an epilogue of what happens to the characters after the rebellion/drama is over? Id love to see how the rest of their lives turn out (if they live, that is).

  23. That’s a very interesting and well-developed theory, but I think there are a few flaws. First of all, there’s no logic to the idea that Mrs. Undersee could be Maysilee Donner. There’s a volunteer system in place; there’s no reason Maysilee’s twin sister would need to pretend to be Maysilee if she wanted to replace her in HG50. Secondly, if HG74 was a setup from the beginning, there were way too many contingencies for it to turn out the way that it did. (What if Katniss had NOT volunteered? Volunteers were unheard of in D12. What if Clove had hit Katniss instead of District 9 at the bloodbath? What if Katniss had been a step too slow dodging fireballs? What if Peeta hadn’t picked up poisonous berries?) Even with extra help, the probability of Katniss even winning HG74, let alone defying the Capitol by bringing Peeta home with her, would have been far too small to be the key to the rebellion.

    I think Haymitch was genuinely surprised on the first train when he found that Peeta and Katniss had a fighting spirit, and Katniss won HG74 on her own merit. It was chance that gave Katniss the opportunity, and she seized it with the berries, which in turn gave the Rebellion the opportunity to make her into an icon of hope. In this framework, Haymitch’s explanation fits because he said the plan was set up after the Quell was announced.

    I really feel like Katniss is the mockingjay, and part of her journey of self discovery is to realize that being the mockingjay does not mean being a “piece of Haymitch’s games”. It’s something she can choose to do to give hope to the rebellion. She went down that thought path at points in the book, considering what it might mean for her to be a martyr. The rebellion isn’t a game; it’s basically for the fate of all humanity (since there’s no indication of life outside of Panem).

  24. Have you read these posts?

    Unlocking the Hunger Games: The Four Layers of Meaning

    The Pearl Plot, Version 2.0

    Here’s a Round-Up of all the posts that have gone up at HogPro since the one you commented on above:


    Thanks for reading and for joining the conversation!

    Grateful John

  25. Josh Petersen says

    This begs the question: Since the Mockingjay is the child of a mocking bird (Natural/average) and a Jabberjay (Capital created/Synthetic), then would Katniss’/Mrs.Undersee have a paternal influence/father figure from the capital?

  26. WOW. This is really something to think about, especially with the release date just two days away. I haven’t really been able to come up with any real predictions. A lot of clues are dropped, especially in Catching Fire, about things that definitely symbolize something else, but I really haven’t gotten them till now. Thanks for your insight!

  27. I agree with all of yall (don give me a hard time- im a texan) who say that Katniss is the true mckingjay. And PK9- youre right. they couldnt have planedHG74 or HG75 so perfectly. I dont care that the capital is all powerful and way high tech. its just NOT possible people.
    Secondly, Katniss HAS to end up with Peeta. Collins cant spend 2 books develuping his character to make her end up with Gale. and if she does i will NOT re-read Mockingjay!

  28. I can see the whole “Mrs. Undersee is the Mockingjay” thing happening, and it’s a very good theory. I wish I thought of it! I do have one problem, though- I don’t think Haymitch was in on it, or at least he didn’t have any hope that it would actually succeed. If Mrs. Undersee had been planning this for years and had Peeta and Katniss specially picked, wouldn’t Haymitch be more into it? Peeta and Katniss had to physically take his alcohol away and make him swear to sober up and actually help them. That doesn’t seem like the actions of a man who knows about this big master plan. However, I think it is very possible that he knew about Undersee’s plans, and wasn’t into it because she had picked kids before and they still died. I can see that he would lose hope in the plans ever working, and THAT’S when he turned to alcohol.

    I love your theories! I am going to pick up Mockingjay in about 10 minutes, so I can be there right when the bookstore opens 🙂

  29. Lauren, the idea of previous plots failing…. wow. It’s amazing! Here’s me going out on a limb (again, because I don’t have the book yet), but what if Maysilee/Undersee and Haymitch were the first in a long line of trbutes chosen as part of a plot? Haymitch won his Games, and Maysilee was really close to being one of the last two survivors. They couldn’t pick strong ones every year though, that would have been to suspicious. That would explain Haymitch’s “in” and his reluctance to believe that Katniss and Peeta could win.

  30. So what are you thoughts now that you’ve read the book?

  31. Please check out the discussion of Mockingjay happening now at Hogwarts Professor!

  32. I know i’m a little late with this but I just seen this page, and i’m blown away ttthe only problem I have with it is if you were to choose two people to goo to the hunger games any sane person would take gale over peeta. He is hands down the better choice. It says in the book he’s better looking they could sill play the in love card (and he was probably in love with her anyway). He is a better hunter, he can tie snars like no other and he’s not to shabby with a bow. If they set it up he would have been picked.

  33. It wasn’t set up just for District 12 to win……it was set up to make Katniss the Mockingjay, to gather support for the rebellion and overthrow the Capitol.

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