Summary and Analysis
Part 1: "The Ashes":
Katniss ponders her decision to be the Mockingjay and struggles to sleep. In her room, she looks at the few keepsakes she has from when she was last in the arena, including the pearl Peeta gave to her during the Quarter Quell. Prim wakes; Katniss tells Prim that she plans on announcing tomorrow morning that she will be the Mockingjay. She’s worried, though, that if the rebels win they will kill Peeta as a traitor. To ensure the rebels will keep their word about not declaring Peeta a traitor, Katniss decides she will have President Coin make a public announcement to that effect.
The next day, in the command room, Katniss writes a list of her requests if she is to be the Mockingjay, including “Buttercup,” thinking to save Prim’s cat in case District 13 has rules against pets; hunting privileges with Gale; and a public announcement about Peeta’s immunity. She ends her list with the entry, I KILL SNOW.
Katniss anticlimactically announces she will be Command’s Mockingjay with some conditions, including Gale’s assistance in her role as Mockingjay, and her greatest demand: Peeta’s immunity. She adds to the request, asking for immunity for the other captured tributes as well. Coin denies the request.
Katniss presses on, her voice growing in volume and authority. She describes her requested public announcement, that it will happen that day or they will find another Mockingjay. Coin finally relents and agrees to Katniss’ requests.
After the meeting ends, Plutarch and Fulvia, his assistant, show Katniss and Gale a sketchbook that contains designs for Katniss’ Mockingjay uniforms drawn by Cinna. Plutarch explains how they will want to make propos, short for propaganda spots, featuring Katniss and broadcast them to Panem via an underground broadcasting network.
Leaving the command center, on the elevator Plutarch swipes his key into a slot Katniss hasn’t noticed before, and they descend farther underground than she knew the district existed. The door opens at level 39; Katniss and Gale can tell something is wrong. In one of the cells on this level, Katniss discovers her previous prep team — bruised, half naked, and shackled to the wall.
Katniss continues to worry about Peeta despite not knowing how she truly feels about him. When Katniss kisses the keepsake pearl that Peeta gave to her during the Quarter Quell when he promised to protect her always, it’s as if she is kissing Peeta himself. In that moment, the pearl symbolizes Peeta’s ongoing promise to protect her. Even while they are apart, each tries to take care of one another, and Katniss does so by requesting Peeta’s immunity if the rebels win the war.
Again, Katniss thinks about the strict regulations in District 13 and draws parallels between the way authorities in both District 13 and the Capitol demand and wield control. No matter which side she is on, someone still possesses her in some way. Similarly, when she requests to have Gale help her in her role as the Mockingjay and talk immediately turns to the love story they could formulate around them, Katniss is reminded of her time as a tribute. This manipulation and fabrication of her identity angers her, but there’s more to it than that. She is offended that they think she could discard Peeta so heartlessly and quickly and finds it demeaning that the Mockingjay’s love story should be a point of interest during the war.
Even the rebels, just like the Capitol, are looking to spin her story, or at least give it entertainment value: first in the suggestion of creating a love story with Gale, and then later when Plutarch and Fulvia begin discussing next steps in Katniss’ Mockingjay birth. Not only will they film propos, which, by the nature of propaganda, tend to put a specific spin on one side’s story, but they will also make Katniss look like the Mockingjay, hair and makeup included. Even Coin tells Katniss that she had better perform, which carries with it elements of entertainment or production and not, simply, Katniss being Katniss.
What Katniss does trust is Cinna’s judgment. That he had drawn and created her Mockingjay uniforms and armor means that he knew from the start that Katniss would, and should, become the Mockingjay. Katniss’ entire transformation up until this point has always been in Cinna’s hands, and now, even after Cinna’s death, that remains true.
The chapter ends with the stark realization that what Katniss has expected all along — namely, that District 13 is in many ways like the Capitol — is made clear when she discovers her beaten, starved, and imprisoned prep team. The prep team’s treatment foreshadows more struggles to come, indicating that brutality and a lack of humanity have survived in District 13, deep underground.