The Hunger Games (Series) | Study Guide

Suzanne Collins

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The Hunger Games (Series) | Mockingjay | Summary

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About the Title

The title of the third book, Mockingjay, shows that the significance of the word has shifted throughout the series. The mockingjay is a hybrid of the mockingbird and the jabberjay, a genetically engineered creature created by the Capitol during the first rebellion to eavesdrop on the rebels and mimic their words. But the rebels quickly figured out the trick and fed the birds lies. The government abandoned the jabberjay strategy, releasing the birds into the wild to die. Unexpectedly, they mated with mockingbirds and survived. As a result, the birds became a reminder of the government's failure. When Katniss Everdeen wears a mockingjay pin in the Games, the bird becomes a symbol of opposition to the Capitol, and Katniss herself the human embodiment of the mockingjay and the face of the rebellion.

Summary

Part I: The Ashes (Chapters 1–9)

After her rescue from the Quarter Quell by the District 13 resistance fighters, Katniss Everdeen becomes a mix of fury, resentment, and grief. She realizes many of the people she had trusted most—like Haymitch Abernathy—have been part of a longstanding plan to rescue her from the Games and make her the face of the resistance. She also learns that within minutes of her extraction from the arena, her home, District 12, was obliterated in a bombing by the Capitol. Although her sister and mother survived, 90 percent of the district did not. The remaining people—fewer than 900—have been brought to District 13 to help strengthen the population there. Worse, Peeta Mellark and some of the other tributes have been captured, and Katniss is tormented by thoughts of what might happen to them.

Katniss quickly learns the history of District 13, which was once the center of technology. Before the end of the first rebellion, its citizens managed to take control of one of the two nuclear arsenals in Panem. They arranged an uneasy truce with the Capitol: leave us alone, and we'll play dead; attack us with your weapons, and we will respond, resulting in mutual annihilation. The Capitol had no choice but to agree. It faked District 13's destruction as a warning to the other districts, and the people of 13 moved underground to live.

To survive, though, District 13 established a strict authoritarian government, now led by President Coin. Although everyone who comes to the district is made a citizen, individuals are given strict, personalized schedules for the day. Food is carefully rationed, and even small infractions result in brutal punishment. Everyone wears the same gray uniform, lives in identical quarters, and is trained for rebellion against the Capitol. The rebel leaders want Katniss to be the face of the resistance, but she is not entirely sure she trusts them.

Two events finally force Katniss to make a decision. She visits the remains of District 12, and sees charred bodies half-buried in the rubble of what was once her home. Later, back in District 13, an interview is broadcast from the Capitol. Caesar Flickerman is talking to Peeta, who first speaks to the horrors of the Games, saying that murdering other people "costs everything you are." He then defends Katniss's actions, saying she was not rebelling, just trying to stay alive. Finally, Peeta makes an impassioned plea for a cease-fire, reminding everyone that the human race almost made itself extinct once before.

The rebels of District 13 see Peeta as a traitor, and a mouthpiece for President Snow. Gale Hawthorne doubts this. He tells Katniss that Peeta may have been tortured into saying what he did, or that he may have agreed to promote the cease-fire in exchange for Katniss's safety. Whatever the reason for his statements, though, Gale admits that the words "sound so reasonable coming out of Peeta's mouth." Because of what she saw in District 12, Katniss knows there can't be a cease-fire. The Capitol must be held accountable, and she agrees to be the Mockingjay and create a series of propaganda films. In exchange, she is granted immunity for Peeta.

Initial attempts to film staged propos—propaganda spots—in a studio end in dismal failure. Haymitch Abernathy realizes it is Katniss's spontaneous actions during battle that inspire people. The decision is made to send her into the field with Gale, an experienced and trustworthy military leader named Boggs, and a brilliant media producer named Cressida who, along with her crew, will record Katniss's every move.

Katniss's first stop is at a hospital in District 8, where hundreds of wounded are suffering or dying. Her appearance there inspires the victims and gives them hope. Just as she and her crew leave, however, bombers from the Capitol appear overhead. Katniss and her team fight back, bringing down several of the planes, but not before the hospital has been bombed out of existence. Katniss is filled with fury that they would go out of their way to kill the wounded and dying. She directs Cressida to turn the cameras on her and points to the wreckage of the downed planes. "Fire is catching!" she cries in a message to the Capitol, "And if we burn, you burn with us!"

The propos are a sensation, rallying efforts in several of the districts. Katniss and Gale make additional rebel propos in District 12, and this time Beetee is able to break into the Capitol's broadcast system, interrupting a live interview with Peeta, who looks even weaker than before, and almost insane. The broadcast shifts between the interview and the rebel propos, and Peeta suddenly yells out a warning. He screams to Katniss that no one is safe, and that "you ... in Thirteen ... Dead by morning!" Katniss sees him dragged off camera, and the broadcast is cut.

Part II: The Assault (Chapters 10–18)

After Peeta Mellark's warning, the whole population of District 13 goes into lockdown, taking shelter in deep underground bunkers. Bombs begin exploding overhead, but they reach only the upper levels. Katniss Everdeen is still in agony over Peeta, but Primrose Everdeen, now mature beyond her years and training to be a medic, reminds Katniss that the Capitol must keep Peeta alive because he is the one thing President Snow can use against her. Katniss knows that Primrose is right, but also realizes that any action she takes will result in Peeta's torture. Finnick Odair is similarly distraught, because his beloved Annie Cresta is also being held by the Capitol. Knowing that the rebel cause is weakened without the Mockingjay and strong figures like Finnick, the rebels develop a plan to rescue Peeta, Annie, and other rebels who are being held.

The rescue mission goes smoothly—almost too smoothly—with the rescue team returning intact with both Peeta and Annie. But when Katniss joyfully runs toward Peeta, his eyes are wild and he tries to strangle her. His mind has been "hijacked" through injections of tracker jacker venom, which causes him to hallucinate and associate everything horrific that has happened during the Games and the war with Katniss. His only goal is to kill her.

The district's doctors begin treating Peeta in an attempt to undo the damage caused by the venom. Katniss can't bear to see this corruption of the gentle boy who has always been so kind and steady, so she asks to be put back into action. She joins an assault on District 2, the one district that has not yet been taken by the rebels. District 2 is a favorite of the Capitol; it has been treated better than the other districts and is also the main hub of the Capitol's military. To take the district, the rebels must find a way to destroy the "Nut," a mountain where most of its citizens are sheltered.

Gale, skilled in developing "death traps" from his years of hunting, becomes part of an elite attack team that Haymitch calls "the brains." He devises an efficient method of destroying the district by starting a series of avalanches that would seal off all the train tunnels that serve as entrances and exits to the mountain, trapping everyone from District 2 inside. Katniss is upset by the plan, saying it will result in the death of too many innocent people. She and Gale argue about what atrocities are acceptable in times of war, and the team itself is torn. Eventually, a compromise is reached. One of the exits will be left open, but survivors will be met by a heavily armed group of rebels.

Gale's plan is successful, and eventually survivors spill out. The two sides open fire. Katniss screams at them to stop, but not before a young man has a gun pointed at her head. He asks for one reason he shouldn't shoot her, and she tells him she can't provide one. But she says she is done doing the Capitol's work for them, killing their slaves for them, and being a piece in their games. She ends by saying, "We all have one enemy, and it's the Capitol!" District 2 switches allegiances and throws in with the rest of the rebels. This means all of the districts are now aligned against the Capitol, and resources to the city have been cut off.

Katniss goes to visit Peeta, and cautiously tries to help him sort through the images that are still at war in his mind. The visit begins well, with Peeta recalling the episode with the bread when they were young. But he becomes frustrated when he can't decide which Katniss is real: the one who seemed to love him, or the one who has always been ambivalent and once tried to kill him in the arena. His mistrust echoes the suspicions that Katniss had of him when they first faced each other in the Games, and Katniss is distraught to realize that Peeta now sees her as she sees herself: untrustworthy, manipulative, and deadly.

It is now time for the assault on the Capitol. At first, Katniss is told by President Coin that she will not be going; she is more important as a symbol of the resistance than as a soldier. But Katniss insists that the Mockingjay must be part of the battle and is finally given permission. She, Finnick, and Gale are assigned to the same sharpshooting unit, joining a half-dozen other soldiers under Boggs's command. When they are shown a smuggled holograph of the Capitol, with blinking green lights indicating where traps have been set, Katniss and Finnick both realize they are in yet another arena and still playing the Hunger Games.

As they are about to head out, Katniss's team is told they will be the "Star Squad," with Cressida coming along to film more propos. The squad protests their trivialized role, and Katniss secretly decides she will separate from the squad as soon as she can. But on the fourth day, one of the soldiers steps on a hidden pod and is killed. A replacement is sent. It is Peeta, who has been assigned by President Coin herself to "heat up" the propos. But Katniss suspects the president actually wants her dead, and that Peeta has been sent by Coin to kill her.

Part III: The Assassin (Chapters 19–27)

Katniss Everdeen confides her suspicions about the president's motives to Boggs. He can't confirm them, but believes President Coin does see Katniss as a threat, because Katniss is perhaps the most influential person in the districts. Coin may believe that Katniss can be more useful in another way, though: dead, and a martyr for the resistance. The squad decides to make sure this doesn't happen on their watch, and they mount an around-the-clock guard on Peeta Mellark. Peeta, meanwhile, is desperately trying to regain his sanity. Jackson, one of the soldiers, invents a game called "Real or Not Real," in which Peeta describes memories, and the squad tells him whether they are real or not.

The squad decides to try to capture some more exciting footage for the propos, and ventures out into the streets. They locate some of the pods listed on the map and set them off, adding special effects to make the footage more dramatic. But their staged efforts become a hideous reality when Boggs unintentionally sets off a hidden pod that explodes and blows his legs off. Katniss races to help him, and he quickly turns command of the squad over to her, telling her, "Do what you came to do."

A second pod is triggered, and an oily black substance spouts into the air from further down the street and begins rolling toward them. Katniss grabs the dying Boggs to pull him to safety, but Peeta goes mad in the chaos and attacks Katniss. When one of their companions tries to intercede, Peeta kicks him away, accidentally triggering a barbed wire net that traps and kills him. The group restrains Peeta—who asks them to kill him for what he just did—then hammers down the door of a nearby house to avoid the oncoming black wave.

Katniss tells the squad about the shift in command, persuading them to follow her by saying that Coin has assigned her a special mission: to reach the Capitol and kill President Snow. She is surprised but relieved when they believe her, and they work together to figure out a way to help her achieve her objective. The Capitol provides them with an unexpected opportunity. Believing Katniss's unit to be dead, the government broadcasts news bulletins around Panem announcing the death of the Mockingjay and her squad.

The team realizes that their "deaths" give them an advantage: as long as no one knows they are alive, they can move more quickly toward the Capitol. Pollux, a member of the squad who spent five years working as a slave in the sewers, becomes their guide. But before they have journeyed more than a day, they are wakened by an eerie sound: inhuman voices hissing Katniss's name. The Capitol knows they are alive and has sent hideous, reptilian muttations after them, pale creatures with razor-sharp fangs and long talons.

The squad races toward the surface, but before they can all emerge, more pods go off, killing other members of the squad. Then the mutts grab Finnick Odair, ripping him apart in front of his companions' horrified eyes. Only Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Cressida, and Pollux remain. They blow up the tunnel and join a mass of refugees all heading toward City Circle, the center of the Capitol and the home of President Snow. Peeta, desperately wanting to do something good, heads off separately to act as a diversion and give Katniss and Gale a better chance of reaching their target. Suddenly, the ground beneath them begins to tilt and crack open in a mechanically engineered earthquake. Katniss is able to save herself, but Gale is captured by Peacemakers.

Wild with grief, Katniss knows the only way to save Gale is to get to the City Circle, kill Snow, and bring an end to the war. But as she arrives outside the president's mansion, she sees it is surrounded by a human barricade of the Capitol's children. As Katniss stares, a hovercraft with the Capitol's emblem appears above the children, releasing parachutes. The packages detonate, leaving the children wounded or dying. Rebel medics rush in, and Katniss sees her own sister racing to help. Before Katniss can even call out to her, another round of bombs goes off, killing Primrose Everdeen and engulfing Katniss in flames.

For days or weeks, Katniss swims in and out of consciousness, tormented by visions of the dead. Eventually, she emerges from her delirium to find herself in the mansion. The Capitol has fallen, Snow is being held prisoner, and Coin is now president of Panem. Peeta and Gale are both alive. But Katniss's grief over the deaths of so many innocents, including her sister, is almost beyond healing. The one thing keeping her going is vengeance. She is waiting to execute Snow.

As Katniss continues to recuperate and wanders through the mansion, she stumbles across Snow's greenhouse and enters it, thinking she would like a white rose to pin over his heart when she kills him. To her shock, she finds Snow shackled inside, a prisoner among his roses. He tells her he had nothing to do with the barricade of children—that it was President Coin's idea, designed to turn the rebels and the citizens of the Capitol completely and irrevocably against the government. He says Coin has played them both for fools.

Katniss refuses to believe him, but then uncertainty sets in. She realizes the barricade was exactly the kind of trap that Gale and Beetee had been devising, and that the loss of life would have been deemed acceptable collateral damage by some of the rebels. Still uncertain, she responds to a summons from Coin, who calls the remaining victors together to vote on whether there should be one last Hunger Games, this time with the children of the Capitol's most powerful citizens as tributes. The total vote is in favor of the Games, and Katniss realizes nothing has changed. The new government is as corrupt, unjust, and immoral as the last one.

The day of Snow's execution arrives, and City Circle is filled with people crying out for Snow's death. Katniss takes aim but sees only amusement in Snow's eyes. She remembers they had once promised not to lie to each other, and realizes in a flash that it was indeed Coin, and not Snow, who had orchestrated the death of her sister, the medics, and the mass of children outside Snow's mansion. She quickly shifts her position, points her weapon at Coin, and releases the arrow. It is the final shot of the rebellion.

Weeks pass, and Katniss is held prisoner while her fate is decided. But truthfully, she wants nothing more than to die and feels she no longer has "any allegiance to these monsters called human beings." But then Haymitch Abernathy comes to her, and tells her she is going home. Her actions have been attributed to shell shock. Haymitch also tells Katniss that Snow is dead, crushed to death by the crowd, or perhaps from choking on his own blood as he laughed after Katniss's assassination of Coin.

Back at home, months go by before Katniss emerges from her grief. Peeta, also back from the Capitol, plants primroses around her house as a reminder of her sister. Life slowly takes on a quiet normalcy, and Katniss finds bits of happiness to cling to. When Peeta asks, "You love me. Real or not real?" she is able to reply, "Real." And looking at him, Katniss knows that he is the one she needed to survive all along. Not Gale and his fire, "kindled with rage and hatred," but the boy with the bread, who represents hope for the future. He makes her believe the world can be good again.

Epilogue

Twenty years after the second rebellion, Katniss is playing with her daughter outside their home. It took her 15 years to decide it was all right to bring children into the world. But now the girl is learning about the history of Panem in school, and she asks questions that are difficult to answer. Katniss comforts herself that she will find a way. In the meantime, she plays a game with herself in which she focuses on the good she has witnessed in the world. It has become a little repetitive after 20 years, but she knows there are much worse games to play.

Analysis

The Power of Propaganda

Propaganda—the systematic use of information to promote a particular political cause or point of view—features prominently throughout the Hunger Games. Designed to shape and manipulate other people's beliefs and actions, it is crafted from a combination of symbols, images, half-truths, and partial information cherry-picked to reveal only one side of an issue. Although propaganda is used almost every day, in every country, it becomes much more visible in times of war, where it can be used as a powerful weapon.

Throughout The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins tries to show readers just how effective propaganda can be, and how dangerous. In Book 1, it is clear that the Capitol has fed a steady diet of misinformation to citizens for decades. It decides what is shown, and how news and events are portrayed. Government mouthpieces, such as Caesar Flickerman, then present the information in the approved manner. Many of these broadcasts are mandatory viewing throughout Panem, ensuring the government's messages are received.

The Capitol has even revised Panem's history to suit its purposes. A carefully composed speech, presented regularly throughout Panem, revisits the myth of a magnificent country that rose from the ashes of war, and of the "shining Capitol" that saved the world from destruction, and brought peace and prosperity to its citizens. Left out, of course, is the fact that most of the prosperity is enjoyed only by citizens of the Capitol, and that the other districts serve the capitol as slaves. Language is carefully manipulated to reinforce this story. The first rebellion by the districts is now called the "Dark Days," for example, with no mention of the horrible conditions that led to it. The police put in place to keep the districts under control are euphemistically called Peacekeepers, an unusual name for officers who are allowed to beat and kill to keep others in line.

The power of propaganda is shown most explicitly in Mockingjay, in which readers see a battle of propagandists unfold. In the Capitol, the government struggles to retain control over communications even as the rebels begin to break into its system. It also recognizes the importance of having the right figurehead for its messages and begins using a brainwashed Peeta Mellark as a mouthpiece.

District 13, however, shows itself to be the equal of any propaganda games the Capitol plays. Even during the 74th Games and the Quarter Quell, the rebels had Cinna working on Katniss Everdeen to turn her into an unforgettable symbol of rebellion: first, the girl on fire, and then, the Mockingjay. They also have plans for a constant stream of "propos"—propaganda spots that, for the most part, will feature Katniss, whom people in the districts see as a symbol of rebellion and a sign of hope. A sophisticated team is assembled to costume her and give her the right "look." They also employ a talented director and camera team to shoot the spots. Katniss is sent to the streets to participate in controlled "battles," complete with fake smoke for effect. And when the battles turn real, the cameras keep turning. Of course, the Capitol fights back with similar techniques. Katniss even sees at one point that a crew from the Capitol has put makeup on the body of a woman Katniss killed to make her death more horrifying to viewers. Collins wants her readers to realize these techniques are still used today: online, on TV, and in every form of pervasive media that reaches a worldwide audience. She also appears to be warning everyone to take nothing at face value, and to question the credibility of everything people see and hear.

Morality and War

Author Suzanne Collins has said the idea of necessary and unnecessary wars is at the core of The Hunger Games trilogy. Unnecessary wars are those waged for no reason other than the desire of one group to show its might by subjugating another, or because of some individual or group's need to satisfy greed or ego through the acquisition of land and power. Collins suggests that in some cases, though, war is justified—for example, to overthrow a brutal government, to liberate an oppressed people, or simply to ensure survival. The moral struggles, however, appear when the line between the two types of wars blurs.

Even when a cause is just, the tactics put in motion to support the cause may themselves be immoral. Katniss Everdeen and Gale Hawthorne argue this point after Katniss sees Gale's and Beetee's ideas for turning Gale's hunting traps into weapons of war. Katniss feels that these weapons—which exploit people's basic needs and sometimes turn their best impulses against them—cross some kind of moral line. She adds sarcastically, "There isn't a rule book for what might be unacceptable to do to another human being." Gale points out they are only responding in kind to what the Capitol does. He also argues that by strategically sacrificing some lives, they can save many more. Katniss pounces on what she sees as flaws in his arguments. Can mimicking the immoral actions of one's enemy ever be moral? And does the idea of sacrificing a few to save many actually serve as a justification for killing anyone, at any time, in any way?

The ultimate test of these questions comes near the end of the trilogy, when President Coin and some of the rebels use the Capitol's children as human barricades around the presidential mansion, staging a final act of carnage designed to look as though it were put in place by President Snow. When the bombs detonate, the children are killed or maimed. Then, when the rebel medics move in to help, they are slaughtered by a second round of bombs. The attack is one of Gale's traps made real. But the innocent and the good—including Katniss's sister—were killed "for the greater good."

By exploring these impossible questions of morality during wartime, Collins invites readers to consider the real wartime actions, such as the United States dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. The attacks were justified with statements saying they ended the war more quickly and therefore saved many more lives than were lost. Every war has similar stories, but as Katniss realizes, it's difficult to determine when the moral "line" has been crossed.

The Capitol and District 13

Toward the end of Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen realizes that District 13 may be the center of a resistance, the salvation that the districts have longed for since the Dark Days. The district appears to be just that, providing the means of destroying the Quarter Quell arena, and rescuing Katniss and Beetee in the process. Almost from the beginning of her stay in District 13, though, Katniss is disturbed by what she sees there.

She quickly notes that life in District 13 is highly regimented. People dress the same, follow strict individualized schedules, and receive carefully calculated rations. Waste is not tolerated, and stealing results in severe punishment. But even Katniss understands that most of these rules are completely justifiable. After the Dark Days, the district almost collapsed several times as its people struggled to stay alive. Strict control and militaristic discipline were necessary for survival, and for the effective planning of a rebellion. But just as the well-intentioned birth of Panem eventually led to a dictatorship, the underground society of District 13 has turned into an authoritarian government in which the will of the state is imposed on its citizens.

The two governments also have leaders who are frighteningly similar. President Snow is a dictator, basking in his power, but he still attempts to cloak himself in righteousness. He tells Katniss at one point that without the structure imposed by the Capitol, war would break out, thousands would die, and the world that remained would be uninhabitable. Alma Coin, too, positions herself on the side of good, but is as hungry for power as Snow. She intends to become President of Panem after Snow is eliminated, and it's clear she will let nothing stand in her way. In fact, Katniss realizes President Coin would have no qualms about arranging for Katniss to be killed, if the influential Mockingjay does not support her.

The ultimate similarity between the Capitol and District 13 becomes clear near the very end of the trilogy when the rebels have triumphed. Coin suggests having a final Hunger Games, using the children of the most powerful people in the Capitol to provide an element of revenge, and to make it clear who is now in power. It is at this point that Katniss realizes Coin really is no different than Snow, and may even be worse in some ways because at least Snow had a cold honesty.

It is left for readers to determine what all this means. Will power always corrupt those who have it? Is humankind basically doomed because, as Plutarch Heavensbee remarks, people have "poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction"? Does oppression breed only more oppression? The epilogue, more hopeful than most of what has preceded it, offers another option: that the goodness represented by Peeta Mellark, and the sense of justice that drives Katniss will eventually ensure people always find their way back to the right path.

Character Growth and Change

As in most fiction, The Hunger Games trilogy shows key characters undergoing significant transformations in response to events. In this series, though, the changes are more dramatic and less linear than in many novels.

Gale Hawthorne shows the most straightforward character development of the three main characters. Katniss Everdeen knows him as a kindred spirit, someone who, like she, has become the provider for his family and is fiercely loyal to those he loves. From the beginning, though, Gale is also a fighter and a rebel, railing against the government when he and Katniss are out hunting. In Catching Fire, when he hears of the uprising in District 8, the news unleashes the warrior in him, and he jumps at the chance to become part of the rebellion.

As events play out through the series, and he witnesses the destruction of District 12 and the brutality around him, Gale becomes a darker, less compassionate version of himself. His good impulses wither, and his more violent ones come to the fore. By the end of Mockingjay, he is more than willing to design and unleash weapons of destruction on both friend and enemy alike, as long as it serves his ultimate objective.

Peeta Mellark's changes are more dramatic and unexpected. At the beginning of the trilogy, he is little more than the gentle "boy with the bread," someone whom Katniss remembers for his kindness. What she doesn't realize until much later is that he is also entirely selfless and utterly loyal, entering the 74th Hunger Games hoping only to protect Katniss and see that she returns to her family. He has one more goal: to show the Capitol they don't own him, and that he is more than just a piece in their Games.

Peeta succeeds at both goals for a time, protecting Katniss and helping her beat the Capitol at its own game. He continues to demonstrate his essential goodness during the Victory Tour when he shows compassion for the families whose children were lost. Even Haymitch Abernathy, the eternal cynic, is not immune to Peeta's goodness, and at one point says to Katniss that she could live many lifetimes and still not deserve him.

All this is what makes the events of Mockingjay so devastating. After being captured by the Capitol, Peeta is tortured and brainwashed until he is a muttation of his former self. He becomes violent, angry, and distrustful, even bent on killing Katniss. But glimmers of his true self remain, showing an almost incomprehensible strength. He is able to fight past his jumbled thoughts to warn District 13 of a deadly attack. And when he goes mad out in the field with the Star Squad, accidentally causing the death of a companion, his immediate impulse is to tell the others to kill him.

Eventually, Peeta is able to regain his sense of self and his goodness, although the flashbacks and nightmares will never entirely disappear. He becomes Katniss's salvation, a promise of hope for the future. By holding on to his essential self through torture and loss, Peeta shows himself to be perhaps the strongest of the characters.

Katniss's evolution is the most complex of all. At the beginning of the trilogy, she is simply a survivor, closed off emotionally after the death of her father, focused on providing for her family, and loyal primarily to her sister, Primrose Everdeen, and her friend Gale Hawthorne. She resents the government, but her feelings are somewhat passive—she cares only about her family, and not those around her.

The Games change everything. From the moment Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place, a seething anger at the Capitol and the inequities between rich and poor begin to build inside her. Her rebellious side begins to reveal itself, as she shoots her arrow at the Gamemakers during training, and takes opportunities throughout the Games to thumb her nose at the Capitol and play the game on her own terms. Her final act of defiance, the double-suicide plan, officially makes her an enemy of the Capitol.

After the Games, the horror of the experience, and her fear of what President Snow and the Capitol may do to her friends and family temporarily turn Katniss into a submissive, almost unrecognizable version of herself. She promises Snow she will try to subdue the unrest she has created, but soon finds she is unable to do so. She is horrified when the people of District 11 salute her, only to be shot by the Peacemakers. Then she hears about by the uprising in District 8, and her first response is simply to run away and protect her family.

Katniss's attitude changes again when she sees Gale being whipped and observes the transformation of District 12 into a police state. The rebel in her returns, and she tells Haymitch she wants to start an uprising. But then Snow reveals the plans for the Quarter Quell, which have Katniss and all of Panem temporarily believing that the rebels have no hope and no power. The death of Cinna at the beginning of the Quell and the obliteration of District 12 after it begin to shake Katniss's resolve even more. And because she believes her acts in the 74th Hunger Games were the spark that triggered the rebellion, she sees every death and every bombed building as her fault. She even begins to think it would have been better if she had died in the first Games.

But Katniss rallies once more as District 13 puts the rebellion into motion, and the evil of the Capitol is revealed through their torture of Peeta and the bombing of the hospital in District 8. She becomes her fiercest version of herself, the Mockingjay crying out against the Capitol and threatening, "If we burn, you burn with us!" But despair overcomes her once again when she realizes that President Coin and District 13 are in many ways just a new incarnation of the Capitol, and that "nothing will ever change." She murders Coin, and sinks back into a black despair.

Eventually, though, Katniss returns home and does achieve a kind of peace. Although readers are not shown the Panem of 20 years after the rebellion, there is a sense that civilization has been rebuilt, and that there have been no more wars. Katniss has built a life with Peeta and finally has built up enough trust in the future to have children with him. But she still has nightmares, and she can never forget that her children "play on a graveyard." On bad mornings, she finds it impossible to take pleasure in what she has because she fears that any day it could be taken away. But Peeta is able to bring her back from those thoughts, reminding her that life can be good.

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