Summary and Analysis
Part 1: "The Ashes": Chapter 1
Katniss surveys what is left of her home, District 12, a month after the Capitol’s bombings of the district. The entire district, aside from the Victor’s Village, has been reduced to ashes.
Katniss is still recovering from the concussion Johanna Mason gave her in the Quarter Quell arena, but she tries her best to look strong despite the pain so doctors will continue to wean her off medicine. Gale has made the journey with her, but he waits above in the hovercraft, speaking to Katniss through a headset.
Blaming herself for the deaths of everyone who lost their lives the day the Capitol dropped its bombs, Katniss believes it was her arrow, the one she fired at the chink in the arena’s force field, that brought on the Capitol’s retribution. Katniss credits Gale for saving the remaining survivors from District 12, her mother and Prim included. As soon as the bombs began to drop after the Quarter Quell, Gale led people to the Meadow. For three days, they survived there until District 13’s hovercrafts came to rescue them.
Despite District 13’s warm welcome of refugees, Katniss blames the district for using her in its plot to overthrow the Capitol; she blames herself for all of the pain she’s caused everyone, including Peeta. Most District 12 survivors are happy to be rid of the oppression and hunger of their past, moving to District 13 — a place that a short time ago no one knew existed — where they live underground.
Katniss is unsure of exactly what her role is supposed to be now. Plutarch Heavensbee, the Head Gamemaker who organized the rebels in the Capitol, along with many other District 13 authorities, wants Katniss to take on the role of the Mockingjay, a leader who defies the Capitol and embodies the revolution. However, she doubts her ability to lead such a cause, thinking that every time she tries to help the districts, her actions result in death and destruction.
While looking around her old bedroom, Katniss notices that on her dresser is a vase of dried flowers and in the middle, a fresh white rose. She knows the rose is from President Snow and that this rose carries a very intimidating message: Snow wants Katniss to know that he can get her at any time, any place; he has the power to do so.
This chapter serves to help Katniss begin the long process of reorienting herself, trying to find truth in everything that led up to her rescue in the Quarter Quell, her time in the hospital, and finally this moment, walking through her demolished district. Katniss can’t help but blame herself for everything that has happened to her family, to the people of District 12, and to Peeta, who remains in the hands of the Capitol. Self-blame because of the growing number of people who she believes have died because of her is something Katniss often struggles to escape.
Katniss is still recovering from the events of the Quarter Quell, physically as well as emotionally. Considered mentally unstable by her doctors, Katniss wants to discontinue medication so she can regain some clarity and perspective, something she is lacking in many facets of her life, including her relationships with Peeta and Gale, how she feels about the rebellion and about District 13, and whether she should fulfill the Mockingjay role.
When Katniss thinks about being the Mockingjay, she imagines how the leaders of the revolution will attempt to manipulate her into being a “hero,” telling her what to say and how to act. This manipulation reminds her of her time as a tribute: having a prep team and stylist to alter the way she looked; pretending to be in love with Peeta for the sake of survival; and getting coached on how to walk, talk, and carry herself to win the love of sponsors.
Katniss is struggling to find her identity as well as fighting against being used as a piece in someone else’s games. That Plutarch Heavensbee, Head Gamemaker from the Quarter Quell who helped organize the rebellion, is one of the leaders pushing for Katniss to take on this symbolic Mockingjay role of defiance only makes the feeling of manipulation that much more familiar. Although she’s not in the hands of the Capitol, she is still under another power’s control — namely District 13. This sustained theme of power-and-identity struggle continues throughout the novel for Katniss.
Katniss doesn’t believe she can be the Mockingjay. She questions her ability to sway Panem and give the rebels inspiration, underestimating her effect on those around her even though Peeta has repeatedly told her otherwise, and President Snow obviously views Katniss as a key enemy target. She holds great power but doesn’t realize it. Self-doubt is something Katniss will continue to work through as the novel progresses.