Summary and Analysis
Part 1: "The Ashes": Chapter 5
Katniss thinks about how she has continually been a piece in someone else’s game as her prep team gets her ready to be the image of a rebellion. Presently, she has too many scars from her last venture in the arena; the prep team’s goal is to make her look natural, but flawless. When it’s time to go to the dining hall, Katniss dreads taking them: She knows they will attract a lot of attention. Once in the dining hall, the prep team receives many shocked looks and exclamations about their appearance. Posy, Gale’s 5-year-old sister, eases a lot of the tension when she asks Octavia about her green skin and tells Octavia that she’d be pretty in any color.
Gale tries to smooth over any discord that still exists between himself and Katniss. Katniss wants Gale to be on her side and feels betrayed, but she recognizes that one of the reasons she trusts him so much is that he holds true to his opinions, no matter the pressure she places on him.
After eating, Gale and Katniss go to the Special Defense level to meet with Beetee about their weapons and find him sitting in a manufactured meadow behind a plate-glass window. In the Special Weaponry room, Beetee presents Gale and Katniss each with a bow and arrows and also mentions that he’s made a new trident for Finnick. Katniss’ bow is special in that it recognizes her voice — and only her voice; to deactivate the bow, she need only say, “Good night.” Her special arrows that Beetee has designed include razor sharp, incendiary, and explosive varieties.
Katniss returns to her prep team to shoot propos. She carries her bow and arrow, listens to instructions, and performs how she is asked to. Seeing herself onscreen, Katniss hardly recognizes how imposing she now looks. The final piece to work into the propo is a shot of Katniss vehemently proclaiming, “People of Panem, we fight, we dare, we end our hunger for justice!” It’s a slogan that, to Katniss, seems stilted and stiff, something she would never say.
After she says the slogan, there is an extended silence on the set. Then, over the loudspeaker comes Haymitch’s laughter and a snide remark about how this production, as well as Katniss’ performance, is how a revolution dies.
Katniss’ feeling of being used and manipulated continues in this chapter. Whether it’s at the hands of the Gamemakers, President Snow, the rebels, or President Coin, Katniss doesn’t seem to have a say in her life. Control over her choices and her actions, as well as the image she must portray, seems to be driven constantly by the need to protect her loved ones or herself from harm. Even though Katniss is no longer in the Hunger Games, her life is still not yet her own, something that Peeta worried about of himself in their first Hunger Games. He didn’t want to lose himself and just play a part in the Capitol’s Games.
The theme of external appearances, including wearing masks to conceal or alter appearances, is important in this chapter. This theme has recurred throughout all of the Hunger Games novels, including concerning Capitol citizens who go to extreme lengths, often surgical, to manipulate their appearances. Katniss has certainly experienced plenty of alterations at the hands of a prep team over the past two Hunger Games as they would pluck her, polish her, do her hair, and dress her up in garments and makeup.
The prep team’s working many hours to get Katniss to return to looking “natural” is ironic in that her appearance is completely orchestrated. Also ironic is that each member of Katniss’ prep team, who each take pride in his or her altered appearance, is slowly and without effort returning to their natural beauty state. Also note that many in District 13 gawk at the prep team, startled by the team’s unnatural appearance: What was once a source of joy for the prep team — their collective fabricated beauty — is now something that brings unwanted and hurtful attention.
In stark juxtaposition to this, the manufactured meadow where Katniss finds Beetee is one of the prettiest things Katniss has ever seen. Even though the meadow is indoors, underground, and manmade, it still calls to mind the Meadow from District 12 that Katniss loves. Though not in a natural state, the meadow in District 13 brings Katniss great peace.
Wings serve as a prominent symbol in this chapter, both in the bow that Beetee has made for Katniss and the wings of the hummingbirds in the man-made meadow. The graceful, wing-like appearance of the bow, an extension of Katniss, bolsters Katniss’ role as the Mockingjay. Everything surrounding her is meant to accentuate her position in the war. When Beetee calls attention to the hummingbirds’ wings and how he wishes he could make wings like that for Katniss, Katniss doesn’t believe she could handle them. Katniss’ metaphorical “wings” in her role as the Mockingjay are something that she will have to develop for herself. Wings, which symbolize her transformation into the Mockingjay, cannot be manufactured by someone else.
The extensive identity verification checks that Katniss and Gale must go through as they move through Special Defense and into the weaponry section emphasize the novel’s theme of identity, particularly now as Katniss tries to figure out who she is as the Mockingjay. The detail about Katniss’ bow responding to her voice — and only her voice — is key in that it is identity-dependent. Again and again throughout the novel, identity is important.
Another instance of manufactured reality versus true reality emerges when Katniss shoots her first propo. In appearance and action, Katniss is not herself: She performs as instructed and wears so much makeup that she can hardly identify herself onscreen. From lighting to camera angles to fake smoke, the entire propo consists of falsities, and Haymitch is able to see right through it all.