Part I: “The Ashes”
Nightmares keep Katniss from sleeping, but in the morning she is released for light duty. She records audio for a propo and then heads to lunch with Gale. Still, no one has brought up the interview with Peeta with her or Finnick. Gale is working with Beetee again in weapons, so Katniss takesFinnick out to hunt. They leave their communication devices behind so that they can talk privately about what has happened with Peeta. Katniss wants to believe that Gale “honestly knows nothing,” and Finnick suggests that perhaps Gale is waiting for a private moment to talk to her. They sit silently, and a buck wanders near them. Katniss kills it, and Finnick carries it back to the district fence. That night’s dinner is stew with minced venison—a treat.
Afterward, Gale walks Katniss back to her compartment but still says nothing about Peeta. In bed, Katniss holds Peeta’s pearl and thinks about his warning. What could he know that she needs to find out? Why is no one talking about the interview? Most of all, Katniss wants to know what’s happening to Peeta.
The next morning, Katniss notices at breakfast that Gale is wearing his communicuff again; he’s back in Coin’s good graces, clearly. Gale claims that it’s for back-up communication when they’re in the field filming propos, which angers Katniss, who feels betrayed.She grabs her tray and flees the table, and he follows, explaining that no one has said anything about Peeta because they were afraid the information would make Katniss ill. Katniss retorts that she feels sicker at the thought of Gale “lying to me for Coin.” Gale’s commicuff beeps at the moment, and Katniss says he had “[b]etter run” since Coin is calling. Gale reacts with anger and leaves. Katniss has some regret, but she’s still angry and tired of people lying to her.
Production goes on, though Cressida can tell that Katniss is distressed and asks if she’s up to it. Today, the team is traveling to District 12 to record “unscripted interviews” between her and Gale as they walk through the ruins. Katniss sits stifflyfor her make-up and then goes with the silent Boggs to the hangar. She remembers at the last moment to let her mother know her plans. During the flight, Plutarch spreads out maps that show rebel advances. District 3 and 11, the latter the main supplier of Panem’s crops, are now in rebel control. The Airborne Assault is making a difference, and the first We Rememberpropo goes out that night.
When they reach the Meadow, Katniss realizes that Haymitch isn’t with them. He could not face the ruins “without a bottle,” Plutarch reports his having said. At first, Katniss despises this excuse, but after a few minutes among the ruins and burned bones, she wishes she, too, could get drunk. All she sees brings a “fresh pang of grief,” and the look on Gale’s face as he sees the destruction for the first time “makes the atrocity feel brand-new.” At the ruins of Gale’s house, Cressida asks him questions about his life in the Seam and the night of the bombing, following him as he retraces their escape route. As they traverse the Meadow and walk through the woods to the lake, Katniss perceives the crew’s presence as “a violation” of a place that once was “a sanctuary” for her. They rest at the lake, and she and Gale stand in the concrete cabin, thinking of the last time they were there, when they talked about running away.
They eat sandwiches by the lake and listen to the birds. Katniss points out a mockingjay to Pollux and whistles a call for the bird to repeat. Soon, many birds have taken it up. Pollux draws the word “SING?” in the dirt, and Katniss sings Rue’s call. The birds “bounce” the four-note song around but their music brings the memories of the muttations that attacked her, Peeta, and Cato into her memory sharply. To cut these painful thoughts off, Katniss sings “The Hanging Tree” song, forbidden for years but still in her mind. But the mockingjays fall silent when she sings. She finishes the song and thinks back to a day when Prim, a toddler, sat on the floor and sang the song, not understanding its meaning. Prim was playing with scraps of old rope as she sang, but their mother snatched them away and yelled, uncharacteristically, at their father. Prim and Katniss cried, and Katniss hid in the Meadow till her father found her, comforted her, and said that they wouldn’t sing that song again.
Katniss, lost in the song and her thoughts, doesn’t realize that Castor is filming till she sees that Pollux is crying. As she falls silent, the mockingjays take up the terrible song and make it lovely, and Cressida cuts the scene. Plutarch laughs that Katniss is “golden,” but she objects that she didn’t sing for the cameras. As the crew walks back toward the district, they pass the rock ledge where she and Gale once met to hunt, the “doorway to both sustenance and sanity” in the days when they “were each other’s key.” Those days are lost, and now Katniss feels that she is losing Gale. She tosses a berry to him, saying as they often did, “And may the odds . . . .” He catches the berry in his mouth and, after a worrisome pause, finishes Effie’s line: “. . . be ever in your favor.” They sit on the rock and answer Cressida’s leading questions about hunting mishaps, and the bitter anger between them eases a bit.
Back in town, the crew films the rubble that was Peeta’s parents’ bakery and his home. Katniss addresses Peeta directly, asking how he can call for a cease-fire after he sees the ruins and understands that the Capitol killed his family: “There’s no one left to hear you.” Then they film the melted gallows, and Gale shows his scarred back. Katniss can’t stand more, so she flees to her home in the Victor’s Village to pack glass jars her mother wants. She wonders if the rose is still on her dresser but fears to look. Gale catches up with her and touches the table where Mrs. Everdeen treated his wounds and where Katniss kissed him. Tears are in his eyes, and Katniss kisses him.” He breaks off and says that he knew she’d kiss him because he was in pain.
Katniss is too tired to deal with Gale’s “latest charge” as they fly back to 13. Plutarch rhapsodizes about weapons that are no longer available because of “the destruction of the atmosphere or lack of resources or moral squeamishness.” Katniss knows that he longs for these “toys.” Back in 13, she goes immediately to her compartment to sleep, and after breakfast the next day, she hides in the supply closet to sleep some more. Not till dinner has she somewhat recovered from the trauma of returning to District 12, and even then, she tries to flee to her compartment again. Boggs intercepts her; she’s needed in Command. There, the screens display the Capitol programming, and Snow appears with Peeta to make an announcement. The team is excited—Beetee is on the verge, they think, of breaking into the Capitol feed. As usual, Snow is “barricaded behind his podium,” white rose in his lapel; by him, Peeta perches on a chair and nervously taps his prosthetic leg against it.Finnick grips Katniss’s hand “to give me an anchor” as Peeta lists the rebel-caused damages and calls again for a cease-fire. Suddenly, Katniss sees herself on the screen; Beetee has broken through. A “broadcast battle” breaks out as Beetee inserts clips of just a few seconds each into the Capitol feed. Peeta is confused but tries to stick to the Capitol script. Most people in the Command room cheer, but Katniss, Haymitch, and Finnick are silent with fear of the consequences to Peeta of this triumph of hacking. Snow decries the interruption and assures viewers that “truth and justice will reign.” He asks Peeta for a final comment. Peeta’s face contorts, his breath is strangled, and his eyes look “insane” as he forces out words of warning. Off screen, Snow commands, “End it!” The people in the Command room see, in bursts of video, that Peeta tries to keep speaking as guards hit him. He cries out in pain.
Like the first two novels in the trilogy, Mockingjay is arranged in thirds, each with nine chapters. Chapter 9 provides the plot pivot from the section of the novel that sees Katniss, traumatized by one loss after another, choose to play the role of the Mockingjay to the section in which Snow brings the war to Katniss in what she thought was the underground haven of 13. Part I is titled “The Ashes” not only for the actual ashes of District 12 and later District 8 but for the ashes of Katniss’s life, such as it was, before her reaping. She has lost her home and Peeta; she is clearly losing Gale. Only Finnick can grasp her terror for Peeta, and trauma repeatedly reduces her to such exhaustion that she must hide from her assigned duties. At once powerful as a symbol and powerless as an individual, Katniss has been on the edge of the rebellion. The title of Part II, “The Assault,” suggests that Katniss will no longer be able to stay out of the war because the war is coming to District 13. The question is how she will cope, in her shattered, fearful state, with the change in conditions.