Monday, September 13, 2010

Wrapping It Up With Mockingjay

by K.A. Lewis

This post has moved from the realm of timely to overdue; it is high time to tie up our thoughts about Mockingjay and The Hunger Games series.  (Mockingjay spoilers ahead, so stop here if you are still a-readin'.)

First, how did you like it?  Were you surprised/disappointed/satisfied by the ending?  I found myself so happy that Katniss, Peeta, and Gale survived that my initial reaction was joy and relief.  There was discussion at the Book Club Meeting last week about the smallish attention to detail payed to Katniss and Peeta's reunion in the finale, like it was an afterthought.  It is an ending that extends the novel's focus from that of a relationship in war time, to the horrors of war and how it affects relationships.  Another popular idea at the meeting was that the evolution of Peeta's love for Katniss to its final form turned it from teenage girl-on-a-pedestal ardor into something more lasting and sustainable; in the end Peeta and Katniss find real love (idea credit: Yuliya).  They can rebuild their devastatingly damaged lives together as partners: equals, each with a intimate understanding of the other's weakness, strength and pain.  

Concerning those who didn't survive, my fellow book clubbers and I were most disappointed about Finnick.  It wasn't just that he didn't get the happy ending we hoped for him, it was that we lost him so quickly, without incident or time to mourn.  He was too rad a character to meet such a swift end.  Prim's sacrifice, in contrast, was probably inevitable.  The entire horrid adventure began in an attempt to save her, and as the story came full circle the futility of this singular mission was sure to be realized.  The loss of Prim and questions surrounding it were fundamental in Katniss' terminal break of faith with President Coin as well as recognition of the impassible divide between her values and Rebel Gale's.  I'm not sure she would have achieved the understanding or courage to assassinate President Coin if she wasn't so emotionally destitute, a triumphant act that led to my very favorite scene: desperate Peeta putting himself between her biting mouth and the poisonous nightlock capsules because he just can't stand to let her die, even in light of a bleak and unknown future.  That is when I knew Dear Brave Peeta was back.

In the end, I found Mockingjay and the rest of the series such a clever execution of timeless themes (war, oppression, love, etc.) that I think it is worthwhile as a story of ideas in addition to entertainment.  Yes, The Hunger Games is like methamphetamine for readers: while under the influence one is likely to neglect the demands of daily life in favor of the drug ... you just gotta have One More Hit.  But amid the relentless onslaught of cliffhangers, war games, and propaganda machines are simple human dilemmas, from the personal (e.g. loyalty) to the public (e.g. poverty).  I enjoyed the Hunger Games series very much, and believe I will still recommend it in 10 years as a novel of substance, especially because that content is delivered in my very favorite form: just like crack.           


  1. Hey Skristin,

    I just wanted to let you know that I'm enjoying your writing and that at least one of your male readers isn't imaginary.

    My feelings about the trilogy changed dramatically around the middle of Catching Fire. Initially, I tried to read slower in order to enjoy the story. But sometime around the Tour and the announcement of the Quarter Quell I started reading faster just to get it over with. I tried preemptively to distance myself emotionally from all the characters while I waited for them to die. The books were effective in that I couldn't put them down, but maybe too consistently grim for my tastes.

    I also failed often to have sympathy for Katniss. In Mockingjay when Haymitch is asking the production crew when they were genuinely moved by her I felt like he was reminding me as well. Now I look back and see many admirable qualities including, as you mentioned, her choices in allies.

    So, as far as the books go a mixed bag for me. But I enjoyed having them to discuss with Shannon and reading about them here. I look forward to the next.


  2. Adam, your comment and non-imaginary readership made my day!

    Regarding the ability of Katniss to move us (the reader) and a nation, I was glad that Collins put forth the idea through President Coin that Peeta would possibly have been a better candidate for the role of Mockingjay. He was as much a publicized victim-turned-rebel as Katniss, and a bit less accidentally. Moreover, Peeta is a genuinely gifted public speaker with everything in Katniss to lose, whereas in the advancing stages of the rebellion it is hard to believe that she can serve it more profoundly in life than with death. I'm glad that she didn't die. Things were so, as you put it well, consistently grim that I often thought she might. But like her character or not, I felt her usefulness as a piece of propaganda had to be questioned.

  3. As for enjoying the books, I did, but I must be showing my age, because I was able to put them down without too much difficulty; sometimes I even needed to in order to escape the intensity.

    One of things that I really liked about Katniss was that she was almost always able to be understanding about people's actions and not judge them. She was able to see that others were victims, even if it was in a far different way than she was. Thus she was able to sympathize with the other people in the Hunger Games and their need to try to kill her, and also was able to sympathize with the people from the Capital with their strange appetites and fashions and ways of relating. There was only no sympathy for those in power, Snow and then Coin.

    A theme that I thought was explored really well in these books is that, even though war might be at times necessary, we need to try to keep our humanity and not justify anything and everything in order to win. A very good point was made in the books that the Capital need to be overthrown. Growing up in the 60's, it was easy to take the view that war was always wrong and that there was always a better way to solve the conflict. My parents' generation had to deal with Hitler and had a very different notion. And yet, war must still be fought humanely. "War crimes" can seem like a misnomer, but it is not.

    Love the book club and the discussions!

  4. Hi All,
    I enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy a lot too, and I'd like to thank this book club for encouraging me to read them! (thanks K!) In fact, I read each in less than 2 days--and the last one I read in pretty much one sitting. I've never tried crack, but I do gobble my treats, and these books were delicious!

    About the ending: I really wanted that hopeful young adult ending we were talking about in Young Adult fiction. Once people started dying with frequency in alarming ways at the end of Mockingjay, and then finally Prim. . .I was so emotionally done. I am not sure what could have made me satisfied, but I felt really rung out by the end.

    I was, however, satisfied with the explanation of the name of the country "Panem." It was clear that bread was symbolic of each region in the first book, and I knew that 'pan' means bread in many languages. However, I hadn't made the connection with the Latin phrase 'panem and circenses" until the last book when she spelled it out for me. The people of the Capitol were lulled into complacency because they were well-fed and entertained, just like the upper class at the fall of the Roman Empire (which is strongly alluded to at the Capitol party where they purge to enjoy more feasting.)

    I also really connected with the Reality TV-show quality to the Games themselves--the forming of alliances and subsequent inevitable betrayals are why we watch shows like Survivor and (gulp) The Bachelor Pad. . . Do these show herald the upcoming fall of our empire?

    I have also enjoyed reading your blog posts, and have wanted very badly to be part of the discussions in more of a real-time way. I would like to propose that for the next book there is an online chatroom discussion in addition to your real-life chat in Reno. I have looked into this a little, and it would be free and relatively easy for us to do it. We'd just have to set a time when we could all be at our computers. . .

    Let me know if you want me to arrange it.