Monday, August 30, 2010

Mockingjay Discussion (Spoilers Abound, But Only in the Comments)

Head to the comments to join the discussion.


Karen E. said...

Just some thoughts, in no particular order:

I loved the way Collins surprised me right off the bat with District 13. I was picturing a noble gathering of like-minded souls. Han Solo/We’re All in This Together -- that sort of thing. Instead, we find the highly rigid and militaristic district, led by the cold and calculating President Coin. Bingo. This is a war. People are in it to win power. District 13 was capable of doing everything of which the Capitol was capable. The line between good guys and bad guys gets blurred.

Cinna. Loved him. I missed him. But, he was very much present in this book. Artfully handled by Collins, and appropriately so for a character who was an artist and a poet and the noble sort of soul I had in mind when I pictured District 13 rebels.

There were times, throughout Mockingjay, when I got irritated with Katniss (again) for her indecision and her flip-flopping of thoughts, feelings, etc. But then, I realized Collins deliberately chose first-person/present tense for exactly this reason: By living this story in the present tense with Katniss, we are not seeing any kind of reflection on actions. We are seeing her immediate responses -- good, bad and ugly. We’re seeing every ugly thought that flits into her head (just the kinds of thoughts we have) and every loving impulse (just the kind we have) and every wrestling match, debate and bit of confusion she experienced (just like the ones we endure in our heads, too.) Katniss doesn’t act on every ugly thought or loving impulse, and she doesn’t give voice to every mental wrestling match, and neither do we. But we have them. And in seeing hers, we can identify with her, with the real Katniss that no one else sees as fully as we do. It makes her both less likable and more so. It makes her human.

(to be cont'd)

Karen E. said...

Peeta’s hijacking nearly killed me. “No!” I wanted to scream. I wanted them to be reunited neatly, fully, completely and happily (well, as happy as it gets in the middle of a war ...) But, again, Collins surprised me and bowled me over. I loved that Katniss and Peeta ended up having to fall in love all over again. “Real or not real?” This time it’s real. For both of them. I loved the boy with the bread.

Poor Gale. His character development through this novel was hard for me to watch (hmmm ... notice I wrote, “watch.” Collins is a TV writer, after all ....) I thought that Gale had become so hardened from all the years of pain and cruelty and loss. I saw where he was going and it was clear that he was embracing a world that ultimately Katniss wouldn't accept or live in. Gale and Beetee's combination of brilliance/hunting strategy/war tactics was chilling. I was extremely touched and saddened when Gale said to Katniss near the end, “That was the one thing I had going for me. Taking care of your family.”

Finnick’s death nearly did us all in. We’d grown to love him so much.

The death of Prim was one of the final heart wrenching ironies. We started this journey with Katniss and her efforts to save Prim’s life but ultimately the entire journey led her to her death. Heartbreaking and real.

Poor Haymitch. In the end, I felt so very sad and sorry for him. What an amazing character.

Was it actually Coin and not Snow behind the bombing of the children? I think it was. There was a certain kind of “honesty” between Katniss and Snow, an understanding, and there was a truth to his story that she couldn't shake. And how macabrely ironic that Coin had earlier said to Katniss, regarding who would eventually kill Snow, "When the time comes, I'll flip you for it," since Katniss flipped her decision at the last moment and killed Coin. A coin toss. One side is the same as the other ....

The juxtaposition of songs: “The Hanging Tree” vs. the sweet, hopeful lullaby that Katniss sang to Rue and then to her own children. The Hanging Tree was an invitation to rebellion and death (Gale’s fire) and the lullaby was hope, peace, rebirth (Peeta.) Just lovely. Perfect, really.

Much more I could say -- at 2:30 in the morning, Betsy and I were discussing war, the aftermath and scars of war, the selling of one's soul for a political end, media manipulation, propaganda, reality TV, gladiators and fights to the death in the Colosseum, personal choices, holding on to morality and truth in hellish circumstances ....

And you? What did you think?

Emily said...

Agree, Karen, just about DIED when Peeta was hijacked. I mean, COME ON. But you're right--it was great to see them both fall in love, together, and for the *right* reaons. (OK, not that staying alive isn't a good reason, but still)

LOVED how Katniss assisinated Pres. Coin. That was fantastic. Did anyone else think she was a sort of Umbridge-ish character? Minus the pink bows and cats? :)

Oh Prim's death. Oh! So sad! I loved the girl with the duck-tailed shirttail...

The lullabies were beautiful--both of them. I'm glad that Katniss and Peeta had children--that life goes one for them.

And I missed Cinna too, oh my gosh, I just loved him. I liked how Katniss rescues the Preps and protects and defends them. Really, I loved how Katniss defended and protected Joanna and Finnick, too. And how awesome was the marriage of Finnick and Anne? Glad to see that.

Gale. Well...hmm. He sort of irritated me throughout the series, because I didn't think it was fair for him to use things Katniss did to STAY ALIVE against her once she was home. I was a bit sad that he didn't come back to District 12. I sort of hoped that with everything the three of them had been through, there could've been some reconciliation.

Haymich SO grew on me through the series, and I loved him at the end. Poor man.

And of COURSE the larger themes are present too! Staying true to yourself, the price of war, etc.,etc. all those things you talked about at 2:30 in the morning. :)

Bring on more discussion!

(And yeah, I forgive you for making me a Hunger Games addict... :))

Emily said...

Oh, and another thought:
My feelings on Katniss' mom really changed throughout the series. In the first book, I felt essentially the same way Katniss did--pull it together, feed your kids! But at the end I just felt so bad for her. Her entire world had been taken from her--husband, Prim, and even Katniss, because Katniss wasn't her daughter anymore, she was a *symbol*. Really, Katniss probably left her once her father died and K had to start hunting. But for someone who gave up a comfortable life for love, to have it all implode like's amazing she was able to hold it together as much as she did, and still be able to help people like she did.

Danae said...

My first reaction when Collins said that Katniss's mother had gone to another district to work in the hospital was, "really?" Why wouldn't she want to be with her daughter, finally. And then when I thought back through all of the books, Katniss had pretty much been a stranger to her mother and her mother sought refuge in using her gifts to heal other people.

I don't think it would have been possible for Gale, Peeta, and Katniss to co-exist. It was right for Gale to move on, but I wish we could have learned a little more about what happened to him.

Karen, I like your line about the line between good guys and bad guys getting blurred. I think every character experienced the blurring, to some degree. Gale was essentially a good guy, and yet seemed to be so cold-hearted in his war strategies. Plutarch was fighting with the rebel cause, but was essentially still trying to orchestrate entertainment against the Capitol. I think the examples could go on and on.

TeeCap said...

Ditto, Karen, on everything you said. Especially about the use of first person - so much of what Katniss said and did was purely reactionary and this really highlighted the difficulty of her decisions.

Where to start? For me, the most devastating words in the book were, "I vote yes...for Prim." Ouch. At that point I had already felt sort of abandoned, that some of the most crucial events had taken place "off stage" and that Katniss was truly just a powerless pawn in a gruesome battle that would never end. I couldn't see how Collins could possibly have left us hanging after Prim's death, only to find that Katniss had learned nothing and would in fact vote for revenge, in her sister's name no less!

It was only after I finished reading that the bigger picture became clearer. That war, in all its collateral damage and fatal decision-making and personal heartbreak, can't be tidied up. Each of the characters was damaged by it in some way. Even their best intentions were often twisted into something that would be unrecognizable in the light of peace.

The third book was always bound to be painful; I knew that going in. But WOW! Thank goodness for Peeta! "The boy with the bread" as you say. And for Cinna and Haymitch and Prim and even the cat!

I have a feeling I'll be re-reading the series in a couple of years when my oldest is ready for it. So many layers - the propaganda and media usage of brutal reality overshadowing it all.


Emily said...

Teresa: Yup, agree. I didn't think Katniss would vote to continue the games. That sort of shocked me. She knew, first hand, what it did to destroy so many families and lives...and then....

Karen E. said...

I agree that Katniss' "yes" vote was a surprise, initially. I think Prim's death was pushing her over the edge.

BUT ... her last-minute decision to kill Coin was her reversal of her vote. At that point, she said "no" to all of it. She was done. And, as you said, Teresa, so terribly damaged.

And, yes, even the cat! :) One of my girls cried when Katniss yelled at Buttercup, "She's not here! She's never coming back!" :(

Danae and Emily, I agree with you about Katniss' mother -- she couldn't heal her daughter, but she could heal others, and I think it was, in a way, both psychological and corporal compensation for her failings with her own child. She, too, was horribly damaged by the world in which they lived. And, yes, I think Gale was a good man, but as you said, every character experienced the blur. Except perhaps Peeta. His essence, I think, remained pure. The Capitol couldn't make him someone he wasn't.

From the first book:

"I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?" he asks. I shake my head. How could he die as anyone but himself? "I don't want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not."

In the end, not even the Capitol was able to change the boy with the bread.

And Danae, we really enjoyed our book discussion with you at the coffeehouse! :)

Anonymous said...

MOM!! Betsy and I BOTH cried when Katniss yelled at Buttercup!


The Girl Who Wants the Boy With the Bread (A.K.A. Anne)

Anonymous said...

Sorry Anne, but I already claimed The Boy With The Bread. :)

I literally died when Peeta was hijacked. Really. This is Betsy's ghost writing this.

When Prim died, so sad. Same with Finnick. Right after he got married! I loved his legacy though.

Tabatha said...

Loved hearing your thoughts, Karen. I think they echo my own. Cinna was a favorite character of mine, and Finnick too.

I was confused about Katniss's "yes" vote on the new games -- it seemed so impossible -- so I read what other people had said about it.. they said that the only reason she and Haymitch had voted for it was so she could be allowed to go outside (and kill Coin). That Haymitch had said he was with the Mockinjay for that reason -- he knew Katniss had a plan. (Would Coin have not let Katniss kill Snow if she voted against the Games? I wouldn't have thought so, but maybe Katniss did) It made more sense to me that Katniss would have said, "For Prim," if she meant her vote was so she could do something for Prim, than holding another Games would be for Prim.

Karen E. said...

Okay, daughters, you can quit duking it out in my combox over Peeta. He's already taken. :)

Tabatha, that's an interesting take on the vote and certainly makes the most sense. I just took another look at the passage and see that Katniss does indeed think about "all her options." Yup. I think that's it.

Emily said...

Wait a minute A and B: I want Peeta to be *my* imaginary, fictional boyfriend... (ha!)
Tabatha: I like that take! It makes a lot of sense. And I guess since President Coin is dead, then vote is moot anyway?

TeeCap said...

Tabatha, great take on Katniss's vote! In light of what she knew about Coin it makes perfect sense. And how apt is that name - Coin? Flipping for rights to kill Snow. Gambling on the murder of children to sway public opinion. Betting on a yes vote for a new Hunger Games. Oh, and *slightly* two-faced and double-dealing.

Days later, things are still falling into place for me.

Btw, Karen, your daughters are a hoot. I think I remember feeling that way about Gilbert Blythe. :)


Emily said...

Um, I still feel that way about Gilbert Blythe...

Karen E. said...

Ramona here, dictating to Betsy:

I personally have never read The Hunger Games, but, I don't want to have anything to do with it. At all. Whatsoever. Because I do not want to have anything to do with it, I very much loathe Karen Edmisten. So I say farewell to all of you, and I love you very much.

Dramatization. I really actually love Karen Edmisten.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I was shocked when Kat killed Coin. I had to read that part twice.

I liked Gale, but was rather surprised at how heartless he could be sometimes.

When they first introduced 13 in the book, I was surprised. I expected something more like The Order of the Pheonix from Harry Potter.

I was very sad when Cinna didn't come back. I kept hoping all the way through that he was still alive somehow!

I really grew to love Haymitch, and felt bad for him at the end.

The end! I cried like a baby, even though I was smiling. I loved the way the book ended.


P.S See Mom? I CAN contribute to the conversation more than just saying how much I love Peeta. :)

Karen E. said...

Don't I know it? Who sat up with you at 2 in the morning jabbering about it? :)

Sara said...

Is it too late to join in??? I finished a couple of days after this post. My 14 yo was disappointed. Very much so, but I'm not totally sure why because we haven't discussed it yet. He's at school, and when he's home his brother is here---who just started with THG yesterday. We have to wait for him to finish!

I was not disappointed---melancholy, yes. I, too, was shocked by Katniss's vote to hold another Hunger Games. I don't think Prim, mature Prim would have approved of that in her honor. I was proud of K for shooting Coin instead of Snow, because she knew he was dying and she realized that Coin was just going to be another Snow.

I was a little surprised that Peeta was able to come back from his hijacking, but of course, he is the only one she could have ended up with. She and Gale were so much alike, maybe soulmates at first, but he hadn't been through the Games, so his tendency toward violence was too much for her. She and Peeta had to be together because they were used to taking care of each other and he was the only one who could heal her weary soul. She was so much like her mother: checking out emotionally after every trauma. I think Prim was the strongest of the 3.

Anonymous said...

After being a bit disapointed by 'Catching Fire', I loved 'Mockingjay'. I spent some time after finishing the novel wondering what made Katniss so different than any of the other tributes or from any other District teenager and I think it was that for all of the vacillating and internal hand-wringing that Katniss did (as we all do), when the moment for action arrived she almost invariably chose the correct action. More significantly, she often chose a 'door three' - an action that wouldn't have been immediately obvious to someone in the agonizing situations Katniss found herself in. Haymitch saw that this was her strength and helped her capitalize on it throughout the series.

I loved the book and was glad she included the epilogue, though I'd guess that it was an afterthought. What a great book!

Karen E. said...

Sara, not too late at all -- I'm glad you joined in. I'd be interested to hear more about why your son was disappointed. I'm really interested in a boy's take on the books. Despite all the violence and action, is this ultimately a "girls' series", given the love triangle?

Anon, I agree and love the "Door Three" aspect of Katniss. We were also very glad that there was an epilogue -- it was one of my girls' favorite parts. Mine, too.

Melanie B said...

I finally got the book this last week and devoured it in two days. (Would have been one; but I did need to sleep.)

My initial reaction to Katniss' yes vote "for Prim" was incredulity. I didn't think her suffering was enough to justify that big of an about face. I wasn't convinced. Then when she assassinates Coin instead of executing Snow, it suddenly made sense to me. It wasn't a last second decision. She knew she was going to kill Snow when she cast her vote.

I went back and re-read the vote passage several times and I think it might be the most sophisticated thing Katniss does in the series, the thing that shows how much her character has learned from her experiences.

There is just no way in my mind that Katniss could ever see the hunger games as a fitting memorial for Prim. She's with Peeta in being completely disgusted with the cynical manipulation of people, with the slaughter of the innocent. And she knows Haymitch feels the same as well. And she knows how much Haymitch understands her. That's what she's counting on, their ability to get into each other's heads and guess what the other intends-- that ability which was crucial in her survival in the first hunger games.

"Nothing has changed. Nothing will ever change."

She's got to find some way of changing things. To me that's the key to understanding her weighing her options carefully, thinking everything through. She's still playing the game, playing to her audience (who in this instance is Coin) and yet encoding hidden messages in her words: "I can feel Haymitch watching me. This is the moment, then. When we find out exactly just how alike we are, and how much he truly understands me."

She knows the only way she will get that opportunity to kill Coin is if Coin is completely certain that Katniss is on her side. If Katniss opposes the hunger games, then Coin will know there is that difference between the two of them and it is precisely that compassion that Coin distrusts. Coin knows that Katniss, the Mockingjay, defender of the innocent is her enemy. On the other hand, a Katniss who vengefully votes for the hunger games is her ally.

Also I think the "for Prim" is as much signal to Haymitch as a sop to Coin's ego. Neither Gale or Peeta would have understood it; but Haymitch does have this rapport with Katniss that just works.

I do think that one of the major limitations of the first person, present tense narrative-- and I agree with you Karen, that it allows us to live in the moment-- is that it does put more of a burden on the reader to decode moments like this.

Karen E. said...

Yes, Melanie, I think you're spot on with all of it!

After Tabatha's comment, when I went back and reread the passage (which I'd initially read soooo fast because we had our priest coming to dinner in an hour and I didn't have dinner ready, lol) I could see all the clues that you mentioned: "for Prim," her signal to Haymitch, the fact that she weighed all her options, the fact that she needed to convince Coin, keeping her eyes on the rose as she announces her vote ... it's all there, and so well done in the first person, in-the-moment voice. You're right -- it wasn't a last-minute reversal at all. It was the execution of the plan she made in the moment, during the vote.