Suzanne Collin’sMockingjay—Top Ten Quotes
Edition: New York, Scholastic Press, 2010
“‘I want everyone watching—whether you’re on the Capitol or the rebel side—to stop for just a moment and think about what this war could mean. For human beings. We almost went extinct fighting one another before. Now our numbers are even fewer. Our conditions more tenuous. Is this really what we want to do? Kill ourselves off completely? In the hopes that—what? Some decent species will inherit the smoking remains of the earth?’”
When Peeta issues this call for a cease-fire at the end of his interview with Caesar Flickerman, District 13’s leadership brands him a traitor. Yet Katniss can’t tell whether he means it or has been somehow coerced to say condemn the rebellion. Either way, to lay down arms, she knows, “would only result in a return to our previous status. Or worse.”Peeta’s apparent siding with the Capitol further complicates Katniss’s decision about whether to play her role as symbolic leader of the rebellion.
“ . . . a bowl of hot grain, a cup of milk, and a small scoop of fruit or vegetables. Today, mashed turnips. All of it comes from 13’s underground farms. . . . there are never seconds here. They have nutrition down to a science. You leave with enough calories to take you to the next meal, no more, no less. Serving size is based on your age, height, body type, health, and amount of physical labor required by your schedule.”
Katniss’s description of breakfast and food in general in District 13 points up several important ideas. First, it suggests that District 13 is as regimented, and life there is as controlled, as it is anywhere in the other districts. Readers later learn, when Katniss finds her prep team chained in a cell, that District 13 punishes infractions with nearly as much cruelty as what she witnessed in District 12’s square. Second, the description explains how hard the struggle to survive underground has been for District 13 and how clever “they” have had to be. Finally, this description stands in stark contrast to the Capitol’s food orgies and constant availability of food in the Capitol, about which readers learn in The Hunger Games and especially Catching Fire.
“Another force to contend with. Another power player who has decided to use me as a piece in her games . . . . First there were the Gamemakers, making me their star and then scrambling to recover from that handful of poisonous berries. Then President Snow, trying to use me to put out the flames of rebellion . . . . Next, the rebels ensnaring me in the metal claw that lifted me from the arena . . . . And now Coin, with her fistful of precious nukes and her well-oiled machine of a district, finding it’s even harder to groom a Mockingjay than to catch one.”
From the beginning of the trilogy, Katniss has struggled to gain and keep self-determination. These sentences summarize the roles into which Katniss has been forced, against her will. Yet, she says, “things never seem to go according to plan,” and Coin understands why: Katniss has “an agenda of my own and am therefore not to be trusted.” In the speech to the assembly during which Coin announces that Katniss has agreed to be the Mockingjay, which these sentences follow, Coin becomes “the first” of those who try to force Katniss to carry out their plans “to publicly brand me as a threat.”
“The wounded from this morning’s bombing are being brought in. On homemade stretchers, in wheelbarrows, on carts, slung across shoulders, and clenched tight in arms. Bleeding, limbless, unconscious. Propelled by desperate people to a warehouse with a sloppily painted H above the doorway. It’s a scene from my old kitchen, where my mother treated the dying, multiplied by ten, by fifty, by a hundred. I had expected bombed-out buildings and instead find myself confronted with broken human bodies.”
Until this point in the novel, Katniss (and readers) have seen little of the actual war. It’s unreal to Katniss—a concept, not an experience people are enduring. Here, in her first onsite propaganda shots, she sees what she has agreed to represent, to lead and inspire, as Mockingjay. District 8’s soldiers are grimed, exhausted, battle-tested—they make Katniss, in her marvelous costume uniform, feel “like a recently hatched chick.” And Katniss has yet to see the rows of corpses or learn of the mass grave that’s been prepared for them. Ostensibly, Katniss is there to comfort and inspire the wounded; in fact, her first venture into the field is a sudden, brutal education in what the war means on the ground.
“‘Don’t be a fool, Katniss. Think for yourself. They’ve turned you into a weapon that could be instrumental in the destruction of humanity. If you’ve got any real influence, use it to put the brakes on this thing. Use it to stop the war before it’s too late. Ask yourself, do you really trust the people you’re working with? Do you really know what’s going on? And if you don’t . . . find out.”
Peeta’s second interview with Katniss reveals him to be haggard, in pain, and shaking. His condition and his words disturb Katniss deeply. She has no intention of trying to stop the rebellion, given what she’s seen in District 8; yet his words resonate with her because she distrusts Coin and Plutarch profoundly. She knows that she is still a piece, a soldier, in their game; while she agrees with their goal, she knows that they will sacrifice her or anyone to win. They are dangerous to her and those she loves, just as Snow is.
“When I saw the mountain fall tonight, I thought . . . they’ve done it again. Got me to kill you—the people in the districts. But why did I do it? District Twelve and District Two have no fight except the one the Capitol gave us. . . . And why are you fighting with the rebels on your rooftops? With Lyme, who was your victor? With people who were your neighbors, maybe even your family? . . . And you up there? I come from a mining town. Since when do miners condemn other miners to that kind of death, and then stand by to kill whoever manages to crawl from the rubble?”
These words come from the impassioned speech that Katniss makes in District 2’s square (just before she is shot) and that is broadcast across Panem. It encapsulates her objections—though she wavers at each new atrocity—about the way the rebellion is being conducted. It also hints at her growing comprehension of Coin’s agenda and foreshadows her reaction to Coin as the novel comes to a close.
“‘Ally.’ Peeta says the word slowly, tasting it. ‘Friend. Lover. Victor. Enemy. Fiancée. Target. Mutt. Neighbor. Hunter. Tribute. Ally. I’ll add it to the list of words I use to try to figure you out.’ He weaves the rope in and out of his fingers. ‘The problem is, I can’t tell what’s real anymore, and what’s made up.’”
As Peetalaboriously reconstructs his memories and his identity, using Jackson’s “Real or Not Real?” game, he finds most painful his attempts to understand what Katniss has been to him. She suggests that she always thought of him as an ally, prompting this list, which helps readers understand the depth of Peeta’s confusion and the extent to which his torture in the Capitol has harmed him.
“With my death, he predicts a turning of the tide in the war, since the demoralized rebels have no one left to follow. And what was I, really? A poor, unstable girl with a small talent with a bow and arrow. Not a great thinker, nor the mastermind of the rebellion, merely a face plucked from the rabble because I had caught the nation’s attention with my antics in the Games. But necessary, so very necessary, because the rebels have no real leader among them.”
Snow speaks this anti-eulogy to Panem after Katniss is assumed dead. His words are condescending and seem controlled but in fact hint at the Capitol’s true concerns. The rebellion clearly does have leaders, and it is succeeding. It has cut off the Capitol’s supplies, destroyed its air force, entombed many Peacekeepers, and advanced on the city itself. This ad feminam attack on Katniss, though it smacks of rejoicing over a fallen enemy and is meant to demoralize the rebels and reassure the besieged Capitol residents, rings hollow and reveals Snow’s failing grip on power.
“Peacekeeper, rebel, citizen, who knows? . . . Screaming people, bleeding people, dead people everywhere. As we reach the next corner, the entire block ahead of us lights us with a rich purple glow. . . . Something’s happening to those illuminated by it. They’re assaulted by . . . what? A sound? A wave? A laser? Weapons fall from their hands, fingers clutch their faces, as blood sprays from all visible orifices—eyes, noses, mouths, ears. In less than a minute, everyone’s dead and the glow vanishes.”
This description of one pod that deploys as evacuees stumble toward the City Center is representative of the horrible deaths that strike down all, rebels and Capitol residents, during the assault on the city. Civilian casualties are utterly new to the experience of Capitol citizens, separated as they are from the oppression in the districts and the role of the Peacekeepers. The scene, and in fact the entire chapter from which it comes, is proof that the Capitol’s only goal is its own preservation at any cost.
“He touches my cheek and leaves. I want to call him back and tell him that I was wrong. That I’ll figure out a way to make peace with this. To remember the circumstances under which he created the bomb. Take into account my own inexcusable crimes. Dig up the truth about who dropped the parachutes. Prove it wasn’t the rebels. Forgive him. But since I can’t, I’ll just have to deal with the pain.”
These thoughts mark the end of Katniss’s friendship and potential committed relationship with Gale. They end the conflicted triangle that has existed among Gale, Peeta, and Katniss through much of the trilogy. But more than that, they exemplify the destruction of the Capitol’s long reign of oppression and the brutality of war, even the part of war prosecuted by those fighting for freedom. The scene between Gale and Katniss, which ends in these lines, is a moment of realization for Katniss. She can think of no likely situation, as long as the Capitol was in power, that would allow their relationship to grow naturally into love or allow them to be together.