Summary and Analysis
Part 1: "The Ashes":
Katniss’ imprisoned prep-team members — Flavius, Octavia, and Venia — are weak, dirty, and malnourished almost to the point of being unrecognizable. Venia explains that the night Katniss broke out of the arena, her prep team was taken from the Capitol. At Plutarch’s command, the guard releases the prep team, and Katniss takes them to her mother for healing.
For the rest of the day, Plutarch releases Katniss from her Mockingjay duties. Later, she and Gale have their first hunting session outside of the district’s fence, a formidable barrier that they could never escape through on their own. They discuss the importance of the prep team’s imprisonment and Coin’s motivations and then return underground with their game.
Coin has called an assembly for all of District 13. While waiting for the assembly to start, Katniss sees a dazed Finnick, still disturbed from the Quarter Quell, making and unmaking knots in some rope. Katniss greets him and explains that she has agreed to be the rebels’ Mockingjay, but only if Coin grants immunity to the captured tributes, including Annie, whom Finnick loves.
Coin announces that Katniss has agreed to be the Mockingjay as long as Peeta, Johanna, Enobaria, and Annie have immunity. The crowd is unrestful; they never doubted that Katniss would want to be the Mockingjay, so making such demands designed to help possible enemies angers them, but Katniss remains indifferent to their hostile looks.
Coin continues on, adding that should Katniss deviate from her mission, District 13 will view this deviation as a breach of their agreement and Katniss, along with the other four tributes, will be treated as determined by District 13’s laws.
The inhumane acts toward Katniss’ prep team give Katniss a glimpse into what horrors District 13 is capable of, again alluding to the strong parallels between District 13 and the harsh punishments that exist within the Capitol. Both Katniss and her mother begin to have concerns about how unforgiving this district can be. While Gale sees the punishment of Katniss’ prep team as a favor to Katniss from Coin, Katniss interprets it as more of a threat. It’s a message, she believes, from Coin, who insists on showing all of District 13 that she is the one in control. Even this early in their relationship, Katniss has misgivings about President Coin.
Hunting in the woods with Gale, Katniss is at her most alive. It’s clear that being free is what she hungers for most. She and Gale nurture their relationship and almost go back to the way things were in the Meadow, except there is an ongoing tension between them. Katniss fights for her prep team; Gale burns with anger, reminding Katniss that they were the ones who prepared her for slaughter in the arena. Although Katniss is happy hunting with Gale, this continuing discord between them demonstrates to Katniss that their relationship can never return to how it was initially.
The image of tying knots in a rope, introduced in this chapter with Finnick, is a recurring symbol throughout the novel. For Finnick, the rope helps him hang onto reality, but these knots also represent the ongoing weaving and winding of identities, confusions, and distrust that occur between different characters as the novel progresses. Along with Finnick’s need for physical knots to hold onto, linking him to reality, Katniss also finds herself “knotted up in [her] words” when she tries to defend her prep team to Gale. She goes back and forth as to why she feels the way she does, or why she should make particular decisions. The knot represents this continuous and confusing weaving that occurs for Katniss as she struggles to make sense of her position and her feelings concerning love, hate, trust, anger, and fear.
At the assembly, Coin demonstrates her control and power, making sure that Katniss is held accountable for her promise to be the Mockingjay. Should Katniss disobey or deviate from rebel orders, she will be tried for her crimes. Coin turns the tables to ensure that the odds are in her favor and not in Katniss’. Again, Katniss is under the thumb of an authoritative figure.