Two sides are at war. Battles are televised. Interviews with each side are televised. You watch them. You hang on to every word. But you don’t really know, deep down, who to trust. You don’t know who the real enemy is. You only know what your parents tell you, and what their parents told them. What am I describing? Our world, today, or the futuristic world of Mockingjay?
Yeah, I can’t really tell either. Either way, anyone who thinks that Mockingjay isn’t at least somewhat allegorical is wrong. Our country can learn from this. Our country’s leaders need to learn to compromise for the good of everyone and not attempt to seek power for the good of a few. Our government needs to be less corrupt and more “by the people for the people”.
But I digress. This is about Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay, not Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Where Live Tweets (And Spoilers!) Abound
On my final night of reading Mockingjay, with four chapters left, I started to “live tweet” my reactions to reading the book. My thoughts about the book before those those few chapters? Well, let me give you an illustration:
From time to time, when a student has finished reading the series on their own (the Hunger Games novels are not something that I assign them—if I did, I would read them myself first), I ask them, without spoiling anything for me, what their favorite of the series is. Some say Hunger Games. Some say Catching Fire. But almost always, this opinion prevails: Mockingjay is their least favorite.
Why? I always ask. Well, some say that there isn’t enough action. After having read all three in the series now, I can understand why they might say that. This is the only novel of the three that does not take place in the arena—though the battles within the Capitol are reminiscent of it. Regardless, this is the only novel without a “Hunger Games”. Are my students thinking like Capitol citizens? Are they thinking that, without the Games, their source of entertainment is gone? Granted, I do have some students who consider Mockingjay to be their favorite, and also granted, my students probably don’t think that they’re acting like Capitol citizens merely because they chose a different favorite within the series. Nor, for that matter, do I they are.
While Mockingjay might have less “action”, despite Panem being at war, this novel really makes you think. Who do you trust? There are twists and turns that you don’t expect. As illustrated in the opening, you really don’t know who to trust. As one of my “live tweets” states, “I need to not read Mockingjay so late into the night. I’m more than a little creeped out by the Capitol and its control over things.” Mockingjay is eerily similar to 1984 by George Orwell, in that the tactics that the Capitol uses to brainwash Peeta are similar to those that are used on Winston Smith in 1984. If Mockingjay was told from Peeta’s point of view, I might have even thought that it was 1984, except that Mockingjay has hope. Mockingjay has a happy ending. 1984 does not.
As my evening reading Mockingjay wore on, my “live tweets” lived within CAPS LOCK.
THIS BOOK IS ALL KINDS OF GORY. MY IMAGINATION IS FIFTY SHADES OF RED.
It’s also debilitatingly creepy. I hate all the muttations. They give me the heebie-jeebies.
KATNISS VOTED YES? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.
These last few chapters were so intense that I wore a path into my carpet where I paced during the entire evening that I finished Mockingjay. I’m also pretty sure the CO2 levels increased in my house due to hyperventilation.
As I’ve already said, there are so many unexpected twists and turns in this novel. I didn’t expect President Coin to propose a Capitol-reaped Hunger Games. I didn’t expect the heavily-brainwashed Peeta to vote “no” to the proposition, and furthermore, I really didn’t expect Katniss and Haymitch to vote “yes” (though Haymitch merely sides with Katniss after she votes) to the proposition of continuing the Hunger Games. However, I think at this point Katniss is already contemplating assassinating Coin, and she probably voted “yes” against her better judgment (and against Peeta’s urging) in order to stay on Coin’s good side, since President Snow’s execution hadn’t happened yet, and Katniss still needed to be in a position to kill him (or rather her).
WHAT EVEN JUST HAPPENED. CHAPTER 26.
Obviously, when Katniss voted “yes”, I did not know that she was about to assassinate President Coin. Despite her sheer hatred for President Snow and her desperation to kill him for so long, she gives up that opportunity and kills Coin instead. It seems so bizarre, unless you take into account that Snow was already dying. He was coughing up blood when Katniss saw him last. His days were numbered anyway. There’s no way he would have returned to power, since with or without Coin, he remains in the shackles of the rebellion. Katniss knew all of this. She made a calculated decision to assassinate Snow instead, because she knew that any president who could contemplate continuing the Hunger Games even for a moment was not a president she wanted to follow.
Certainly, Coin’s proposition was to reap from Capitol citizens, who fought against the rebellion—or at the very least lived in the wrong place at the wrong time, meaning that many Capitol citizens were basically innocent. Katniss knew this. Katniss knew that no lives, from the Seam or from the Capitol, are disposable. She knew that this “one last Hunger Games” proposition, to punish the opposition, would not be “the last Hunger Games”. If the Hunger Games were allowed to continue once, they would be allowed to continue indefinitely. They would spread. It would be all of the same, all over again, but with Coin in power rather than Snow.
THAT LAST LINE, THOUGH.
You can see this clearly in the epilogue of the novel—that Katniss really didn’t want the Hunger Games to return, despite her decision to vote “yes” to allow them to continue. The last paragraphs, and particularly the last line, floored me. If you haven’t read Mockingjay yet, I am shocked and appalled that you continued to read this far, but please don’t continue any further.
[On] bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I’m afraid it could be taken away. That’s when I made a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do. It’s like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.
But there are much worse games to play.