Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay begins in the midst of a war, a revolution led against President Snow and the Capitol by rebels who have taken refuge in the previously believed destroyed District 13. Katniss agrees to be the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion, to rally those fighting for the cause, but fulfilling this role becomes increasingly difficult as the Capitol uses Peeta against her. While there is no official Hunger Games in this novel, Katniss recognizes that she is fighting in just that. The rules in these Games, however, are different because more than one person can survive, and Snow is a player as well. Katniss’ ultimate goals are to kill Snow and save Peeta; these are the thoughts that drive her forward during her grueling transformation into the Mockingjay.
Written by: Suzanne Collins
Type of Work: Novel, third in a trilogy
Genre: Science fiction
First Published: 2010
Setting: Panem, District 13, the Capitol, a post-apocalyptic world
Main Characters: Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Gale Hawthorne, Primrose (Prim) Everdeen, Haymitch Abernathy, President Coin, President Snow, Finnick Odair
Major Thematic Topics: Masks, deception, psychological manipulation, game-playing, identity, death and rebirth
Motifs: Real versus unreal
Major symbols: Mockingjay, knots, tying and untying a rope, fire
Movie Versions: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 (2014)
The three most important aspects of Mockingjay: Throughout the novel, Katniss tries to discover her identity as the Mockingjay. With many references to birds and wings, seen everywhere from the hummingbirds in District 13 to Katniss’ wing-like bow, Katniss is constantly reminded of the transformation she must undergo. With every step forward she takes in the rebellion, Katniss is searching for her wings. Believing at first that such transformation is a graceful, effortless process, she finds that turning into the Mockingjay is a painful, struggle-filled experience.
The ongoing motif of real or not real applies most obviously to Peeta. As Peeta works to sort out his memories — his real memories from the manipulated ones — he must constantly ask others, “Real or not real?” He’s trying to uncover his real identity and his true feelings for Katniss amidst a tangled weave of manipulated memories. Similarly, Katniss must struggle to decide whom she really loves, Peeta or Gale. Not only that, but Katniss is continuously faced with questions of whom she can trust, including at the end of the novel when President Snow reveals what he claims is the truth about President Coin. Additionally, the camera crew uses fake smoke and gunshots to add drama to propos, or propaganda spots, manipulating reality once again.
The cycle between death and rebirth is another strong thread throughout the narrative. Beginning with ashes in the first section, the novel progresses with many instances of more death: the physical death of those who die in war, as well as the emotional death of loved ones stricken by their losses. Characters struggle to carry on with their lives, including Finnick, Peeta, and Katniss, all of whom emerge from these struggles reborn with new life. At times, the natural setting mirrors this, moving from the ashes to the wintry war to spring at the end, where there is hope.