Summary and Analysis
Part 3: “The Assassin”:
As uniformed guards converge on Katniss, she tries to bite at the sleeve holding her nightlock capsule, but Peeta stops her. The guards take her to her former room in the Training Center, where she lived before her first Hunger Games and the Quarter Quell.
All Katniss can think about is suicide. She stops eating and grows thinner than she has ever been. Isolated for days that grow into weeks, Katniss begins to sing regularly. She wonders why the authorities are taking so long to plan her execution; if they aren’t going to execute her, then she will take her life once she’s released.
The days continue to pass, with Katniss’ isolation finally ending when Haymitch enters the room and tells Katniss that her trial is over and they are going home. On the hovercraft carrying her home, Plutarch updates Katniss about everything that has transpired since her confinement: Snow is dead from either choking on his own blood or being trampled to death by the crowd, and Commander Paylor is president and Plutarch is secretary of communications, airing Katniss’ trial as his first big televised event.
Katniss is confined to District 12 until further notice. Haymitch looks after her, and Greasy Sae cooks Katniss’ meals and cleans for her. Katniss doesn’t leave the house, nor does she change clothes or bathe. For months this continues until one day Greasy Sae tells Katniss that she should go out hunting because it’s beginning to smell like spring.
Falling asleep in her father’s hunting jacket while looking for a bow and then having nightmares, Katniss wakes and runs outside and sees Peeta, who is planting primroses in honor of Prim. Eventually she goes hunting and seeks out her old meeting spot with Gale, who is now working in District 2. The next morning, Buttercup appears; he has walked all the way from District 13.
Slowly, Katniss returns to life. She makes a book, filling the pages with images and memories of all of those who died. Both Katniss and Peeta learn to be busy again, Katniss hunting and Peeta baking. They grow closer together again. When Peeta asks, “Real or not real?” about their love, Katniss answers, “Real,” and knows that it is true.
Peeta continues to protect Katniss, preventing her from taking her nightlock pill. Gale fails to shoot Katniss as the guards take her away, just as Katniss failed to shoot him earlier in the novel as he was being captured by the Peacekeepers. In the end, neither Peeta nor Gale is able to kill Katniss. Kept prisoner in her room with no way to kill herself, Katniss realizes that the Capitol is still in control of her life. It chooses when and how it will kill her.
As Katniss starves herself, wasting away, she begins to sing. Her voice grows into a full and beautiful thing, so wonderful, in fact, that even the mockingjays would grow quiet. Katniss has finally discovered her voice as the Mockingjay, and it’s through the songs of her father that she does so. For so long, she has kept music out of her life, and now during her most desperate of times, she turns to music and lets it fill her day. Katniss believes she is winning her ongoing struggle to die as she grows increasingly thin. She will no longer be a part of the Capitol’s games; she’s resolved to remove herself from this world in which innocent children are killed in order to wield power over populations. No matter how the Capitol decides it wants to use Katniss, no matter how much it wants to alter her identity and her appearance, she will not let it have her.
During Katniss’ trial in absentia, Dr. Aurelius was able to paint Katniss as being in a very fragile state, which led to her exoneration. This disguise or cover-up of her character, a recurring theme in the novel, is what ultimately saves her from execution.
Katniss’ terrible nightmare about everyone she knows who has died throwing ashes on her in a grave represents how Katniss is in a very real sense suffocating beneath the burden of her many losses. The ashes allude to all of those who died in District 12; recall the ashes she breathed in during the novel’s first chapter as she surveyed the destruction of her home. She has returned from winning the rebellion, but the ashes continue to haunt and bury her.
Peeta’s surrounding the house with primroses, keeping Prim present at the house, reminds Katniss of the rose that Snow left for her, and she knows she must rid the house of Snow completely. Her throwing the rose and its vase in the fire is a symbolic gesture of how “the girl on fire” beat Snow, the white rose. Burning the rose is the first step in her cleansing process. When she takes off her clothes and her skin peels off in flakes, she sees that new fresh and healthy skin is growing back. She scrubs her new skin free of Snow’s scent, brushes out her hair, and cuts her fingernails, all indications that she is transforming into a new version of herself.
The clean-up teams Katniss sees while on her way to hunting are trying to find remains of the dead to put in a mass grave. Katniss calls this process the “reaping of the dead,” which recalls all of the previous “reapings” that Katniss has experienced, including in the Hunger Games as well as of those who died at the hands of the Capitol.
The theme of change is prevalent in this chapter, notably concerning Katniss’ beloved Meadow, which has been altered to such a great degree that it will never be the same. Change can also be seen in the references of winter turning into spring and the woods coming back to life. The change of seasons parallels the changes occurring within Katniss.
After hunting, Katniss has to be wheeled back to her house in one of the carts the clean-up crew is using for dead bodies, symbolizing how the old Katniss is essentially dead. It also illustrates that Katniss allowed herself to die metaphorically for a little while during her mourning of Prim, but now she is resurfacing and returning to life. She begins a book, filling the pages with memories of those she loved and lost. Others add their memories and make more contributions. The book serves as a reminder of those lost, but it’s also a way that Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch can continue the dead’s stories, adding details like the birth of Finnick’s son. The book shows that those who were killed haven’t really been lost, and, in a way, gives those killed a kind of rebirth as well.
Finally, in this chapter, the ashes become a source of richness, fertilizing the soil and helping vegetation to reemerge. The Meadow turns green again, indicating that as District 12 continues to heal, so too does Katniss. She grows closer with Peeta and comes to realize fully that he is the one whom she loves; essentially he is what drives her toward her rebirth. In the end, both Peeta and Katniss are certain of what is real: their love.