Summary and Analysis
Part 1: "The Ashes": Chapter 2
As Katniss and Gale’s hovercraft makes its way back to District 13, they note that the overhead view of District 13 is about as dismal as District 12, with hardly anything left aboveground; in the seventyfive years since the Dark Days, most of District 13’s construction has been underground. District 13 used to be the center of the Capitol’s nuclear weapons development program. During the Dark Days, the rebels in District 13 trained their nuclear missiles on the Capitol and struck a bargain: District 13 would metaphorically “play dead” if the Capitol left them alone. The Capitol agreed and destroyed all of District 13 aboveground, while those living in the district took to an underground life regulated by strict sharing of resources, discipline, and constant vigilance against more Capitol attacks.
Strict schedules in District 13 are very important. Katniss, however, disregards her schedule and prefers to wander the underground district or fall asleep in one of the hiding places that she has discovered. On one occasion, she visits her mother and Prim in their compartment and can see that they are concerned about how her visit to District 12 has affected her.
Later, on the way to dinner, Gale’s communicuff, a device that looks like an oversized watch and is awarded as a special privilege to those important to the cause, receives a message calling him and Katniss to Command. In Command, the rebel leaders, including District 13’s President Coin, are gathered around a television. Katniss assumes they are watching more of what she’s already seen: war footage, pro- paganda, or an ominous message from President Snow. Instead, she sees Caesar Flickerman, the host of the previous Hunger Games, with Peeta.
Peeta adamantly defends Katniss’ innocence during the last Games, saying she had no idea what she was doing when she shot an arrow at the arena’s force field, and that neither she nor he knew anything of the rebels’ plan. Replying to Caesar’s question about his thoughts on the current war, Peeta encourages a cease-fire, claiming that a war will mean the destruction of all humanity. He says that the rebels and Capitol supporters must not fight, and he asks everyone to lay down their weapons. The interview ends, but not before Katniss realizes that Peeta’s support of a cease-fire makes him a traitor of the revolution.
Gale tells Katniss that he believes Peeta’s calling for a cease-fire is President Snow’s idea and that Peeta supported it only to keep Katniss safe: Peeta wants the Capitol to believe that Katniss played no part in the rebels’ plan so that she can lie low during the war and emerge unscathed by either side, no matter who wins.
Katniss, however, now knows what she must do: She must become the Mockingjay.
The strict, highly regimented nature by which District 13 has to live stands in stark contrast to the way Katniss conducts her life. Like District 13, Katniss is not wasteful, but she also doesn’t like being controlled or told what to do. Throughout the novel, instances arise in which Katniss struggles to follow orders but makes instinctual decisions that best serve those around her. Katniss is, and always has been, a strong-willed, independent character who doesn’t wait for anyone else to tell her what to do.
Katniss’ reaction while seeing the interview with Peeta shows how much she cares about him, whether she knows it or not. Her relief at his health and safety is immeasurable, but as in the previous two Hunger Games novels, we see that Peeta is still trying to protect Katniss by declaring that she played no part in the rebel plan and didn’t intend to hit the force field.
Peeta’s rationale for calling for a cease-fire, though most likely it is President Snow telling him to do so, alludes to the same threat the Capitol feared more than seventy-five years ago with District 13’s first rebellion: human annihilation. Manipulating audiences through pleas for humanity and the degree of destruction humans are capable of are recurring themes in the book.
This chapter also illustrates how Katniss, though she cares about Peeta, is glad to have time with Gale again now that they are in District 13 and she no longer has to pretend for the Capitol. There is tension between them because of Katniss’ history with Peeta, and Katniss is in no hurry to become romantically involved with anyone as the revolution gains momentum and she, her family, and friends remain Capitol targets.
Katniss’ choosing to be the Mockingjay signifies a shift in her position in the revolution. Before, her role was decided for her by those leading the rebel cause. During her time in the Quarter Quell arena, Katniss was unaware of any kind of rebel plan. She was rescued to join the cause but had no say in what that cause was to be. Now, she chooses to be a part of it, which is significant and more meaningful because Katniss doesn’t take orders: She chooses — and makes — her own decisions.