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Thoughts on Mockingjay

Last night I finished reading Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, and wanted to jot my thoughts down, so click the link for SPOILER FILLED ruminations...


The first half of the book is magnificent. Katniss is at her rebellious, strong willed self throughout, refusing to be no one's pawn and as always, trying to find a way for her friends and family to survive. I found myself practially moved to tears during her firefight in District 8, when she commandeers a gun and mows down various Capitol war machines, culminating in a final defiant scream at her enemies: "If we burn, you burn with us!" Oh god, Katniss, I would follow you to the ends of the earth. I would go down in flames for you. Lead me and I will follow.

And I hoped the book would continue this way. Strong, willfull, disparate Katniss scrambling ahead of her pursuers, surely she would prevail in the end! Find some way to change the world and emerge from the conflict whole and beautiful, a survivor to the last.

Sadly ... it's not to be.

Katniss is dead at the end of the book. Not physically, but the character we know dies, and what's left isn't her. Here's an interesting article on the ending, on Katniss's final moments in the book. The author points out something very true: If Katniss chooses Peeta, her life will suck in the end. And it does. However, I do not believe that this was some tacked on happy ending, or that the ending is a betrayal of the Katniss we have all come to know and love, or a betrayal of the Hunger Games trilogy in any way. I think it's an appropriate ending because it's a sad ending pretending to be a happy one. It is a miserable, miserable ending, and it has nothing to do with choosing Peeta or any of the love triangle stuff, it is a miserable ending because the Katniss we fell in love with in the first Hunger Games book is dead. The war has destroyed her, eaten away her strength and goodness, eaten away at her desire to live, to stand up and sacrifice herself for those she loves.

Ultimately, I think that was the point Suzanne Collins was trying to make: that war takes the best and brightest of a generation and rips out the things that made them the best and brightest. The character who I think came off the worst (and yet ended up with potentially the best ending, working a "fancy job" in Sector 2) at the end of the book was Gale, and it's because he seemed to gain an understanding of war throughout the course of Mockingjay. Gale loses his soul to the war. Gale survives the war with his mind and psyche intact because he compromises morally to it, discovering new ways to kill people, discovering the merciless machine behind war and accepting it, and adapting to it.

Katniss, however, is too moral to compromise the way Gale compromises, and ultimately it destroys her. She cannot accept the cost of war, cannot adapt to it, and in the end, she is lost to it. All she can do is drag her broken self home and live with the Baker, the person who does not question her, challenge her, the person who is not her equal in any way, and live out life as a haunted, shattered individual.

It is a horrible, horrible ending. I wept for Katniss. I closed the book after I finished it and felt devastated. The Katniss I loved loved LOVED in the Hunger Games was gone, her inner core wrecked. But ultimately, I think it is a legitimate ending, because it's an ending that's true. War destroys people. It especially destroys those who have a strong sense of morality, and throughout the course of these three books, despite Katniss's claims to the contrary, she has always come across as smart, moral and loving.

The ending I wanted for Katniss was one where she could overcome the demons that eventually swallowed her, and perhaps help her shattered society to move on to a brighter future (with Peeta or Gale, I don't really give a shit), but that would have (in my opinion) been a true happy ending. The ending that Mockingjay presents is to me in no way happy, and has nothing to do with the love triangle (ultimately I don't even feel she chose between the two boys. Peeta literally followed her home). Katniss is dead. Let's hope her shattered soul finds some peace, out there in the fields of District 12.

Comments

Very well said. I feel like Suzanne Collins really stuck to her themes throughout the story but man, that ending was devastating.

As a side note, I've never commented on here before but I really like your work. I've been a fan all the way back to Demonology 101. :)
My wife and I both read all three books in one big rush while we were on our honeymoon in October. Mockingjay was actually my favorite of the three, precisely because I felt like Collins didn't pull any punches in showing how war affects people. There probably could have been a happy ending that stayed true to how unflinching she had been about these sorts of issues up to that point, but I think she chose the more realistic route, and in a book that's aimed at an age group that doesn't usually hear those sorts of truths, I think it was very, very powerful precisely because it was so heartbreaking.
I feel like the person who wrote that article saw the ending very differently than I did. I think Katniss living happily ever after would have been a complete diversion from everything the series was about.

I didn't think Gale or Peeta was the thing matter in the end. The one relationship that was really important, from the start of first book to the end of the last, was Prim. And when *that* happened- I use euphemisms not because of spoilers, but because that still kind of hurts me three months later- that was when Katniss lost. Prim was survival and hope, and in a moment, all was lost.

Edited at 2010-11-19 10:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I liked the commentary about the plot in the article I linked too, but I felt they didn't quite read into the ending enough. I think at first read, the ending can seem very "yay! happy ending! (unless you're Team Gale)" but after you take a minute to examine it you notice how destroyed Katniss is, and how she's completely not comforted by her Happy Life With Peeta. It's not a happy ending at all, even though at first glance it might seem so.

Oh god, Prim... seriously, that was horrible. After it happened I knew nothing would matter any more, nothing to pick up but the rubble of the characters left over... ergh, it was awful. I keep flashing back to the first book when Katniss took her place in the Hunger Games: I couldn't help but think "well, the Games got her anyway, so all this has been for naught." Ye gods, what a gut puncher.
I read the last half of the book in dread, because in a moment of stupidity, I went to Wikipedia to check how old Prim was and accidentally saw that it happened. I've never had a Wikipedia article upset me so much. And then, when it finally happened, it was so much worse than I feared. Ugh. One of the two hardest deaths I've read this year. I loved Mockingjay, but it's certainly not a book I could reread often.

(I have a track record with spoiling myself. One book, second in a trilogy, I picked it up at the library and read the author's biography in the back for some reason. It mentioned how he was in hiding from readers over the ending of this book, and if you'd just happened to flip to the biography, you were expressly forbidden from reading the end to see what happened.)
Thank you so much for putting to words what I've been trying to say to everyone I talk to about this series.

It kills me when my friends take the ending as this super happy thing and just squee "YAY TEAM PEETA!" aaauuuggggghhh, it makes me want to tear my hair out cause it wasn't about "Team" whoever, she was broken in the end, she didn't choose a boy and have a lovey ending.
I felt the same way you did when I finished: devastated because my Katniss destroyed herself. I was incredibly dissatisfied with the ending as well, but I couldn't figure out why. You put it perfectly: it's a sad ending pretending to be a happy one.
My thoughts exactly. It's a horrible, crushing, depressing ending... and I think it's entirely intentional.

I actually wrote about something (somewhat) similar after I finished the book:
http://inknose.livejournal.com/15500.html#cutid1

...after I cried all over the house for hours ;______;

(Anonymous)

Very interesting take. Although I agree it was a crushing, brutal end, and Collins was wonderfully true to her theme that war is all-destroying, I actually felt that her ending was less about an uncompromising person's complete destruction, and more about very, very broken people figuring out how to live in a very, very broken world.

Katniss was always brilliant at survival and fighting for those she loved, at doing what had to be done. Even after Prim's death, the destruction of everything she fought for, she didn't give up on life till Coin was good and dead.

But, even from the start, she was never very good at just living. I think it's significant that all the people that were easy for her to love were destroyed - Prim, of course, but also the easy, undamaged, uncompromised versions of Gale and Peeta. At the end, though, she manages to form something like a family with the most difficult, prickly, damaged people - Haymitch, this new and much more troubled version of Peeta, even Buttercup. It's not a perfect happiness, just a fragile thing based as much on their shared losses as what they have together, but also based on
interdependence and hard-worn trust. There was no denying that everything that happened was awful and horrible and destroyed them all, but at the end, we see her moving forward and forging a life and finding that small happiness regardless.

I'm not one of those Team Gale/Team Peeta people, but I disagree with you that Peeta didn't challenge her. She and Gale fought more, and Peeta was so straightforwardly in love with her in contrast to Gale's more prickly romance, but Peeta's the one who always confronted her with things that she preferred to avoid - the importance of (even the possiblity of) personal morality within the Games (and by extension, war) in the first book, the possibility of living after the worst has happened in the last.

I thought Peeta's hijacking was gut-wrenching and perfect because it was an external echo of exactly what Katniss had been going through the whole time - how do you know what's real in a world that insane? He'd always been the one who was sure of his emotions. Without that she had to figure out how she really felt - not just about him, but about ends and means, loyalty, trust. When at the end, she says that her loving him is real, that's the first time she's really had the space and the freedom to decide if it IS.

I think Collins intended it to be a devastating but hopeful (but really, really devastating) ending. That whole bit about Peeta representing the dandelion of spring - life, hope, that small measure of kindess in the middle of the worst the world has to offer. By the end, she had me convinced. I do think the line about Gale getting a fancy job painted him unfairly, though.

So, uh...I've really gone on here. Well, I can't be expected to keep quiet when kids' books are on the table, that would just be silly. Sorry!

-Lianne


I really loved the ending. Mainly because it was so uncompromising and ambitious. The epilog had me in tears. Partially because the sentiment was so moving. It was the epilog J.K. Rowling wanted but wasn't able to have because she grew too attached to her characters.

(Anonymous)

Find this link at deviantart (love that picture btw <3) and i agree with you. Mockingjay was horrible and it was wonderful and i loved and hated it at the same time. It is so true and awful I can't do anything but hate it, but for the same reasons i must love it too.

in fact i didn't like that hero-Katniss at the first part of the book. Of course she was wonderful but I've been reading that quite same for hundreds of time. But the end... you were exactly right when you said it was a sad ending that only pretends a happy one... I didn't cry while reading the book, but when I closed it I feeled so empty and broken i cried. I really like that book, but I can't say I love it. It was too true. And of course Mockingjay was the best of the trilogy.

Sorry for that story but my friends hadn't readed that book yet and i got no one to talk about it :( And thank you for writing that post! It kinda makes me feel better - someone feels quite same way as i. (And sorry my horrible english, i've been learning it at school and never talked it for real so it is terrible -.-)
Lovely analysis. I absolutely loved the ending because it was so achingly real. Collins gave Katniss the only happiness she could have after everything that had happened to her, but it's not a happy ending. It's a bearable ending. It's just enough for the characters to keep living, but they have all been scarred irrevocably. I don't understand people who didn't like it simply because it was depressing, because to me that was never what the series was about. It would have been impossible to have a happy ending, and I'm so glad that Collins was brave enough to absolutely WRECK our most beloved characters. It was deeply moving.

(Anonymous)

Thanks to you I'm now reading this trilogy, so therefore I did not read this blog post. I don't like spoilers.

I feel you

I am unashamed to say that I read this book (so late at that) for the romance part and I'm team Gale all the way. But by the end of the first part of the book, I've decided I was right in what I thought in between reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay: Katniss is so screwed. The first part of the book was hot because Gale was there to ignite her as she's always claimed before anyway that they force each other to be brave. But in the second and third parts, she just totally lost her swag. I can't honestly help but feel that this is because of fan pressure that made Collins decide this way. Obviously the triangle has to be resolved and she somehow mucked it up and it has eaten most of the pages that should've been for glorifying Finnick's and Prim's deaths. They deserved that much.

I realised at the beginning of the second part of the book that I don't want Katniss for Gale. The only reason I'm supporting the cause is because he wants her and who am i deny him? She doesn't deserve him; she needs someone who needs her to survive. She feeds on that other person's needs for motivation. Gale doesn't need her like that and he probably realised it as early as that point when he had tears in his eyes. However, my problem with Peeta is that, he will never make Katniss realise her true potential now that he can hardly manage to get his life or body part in danger every 8 or so hours. But then again, I wouldn't like Gale so much if I didn't despise Peeta. I will never understand how he can get away with being constantly in danger and being such a hazard to society and still getting the girl. I foresee bad, bad KARMA in his future and I'm so glad he got the dead (metaphorically) Katniss. They deserve each other.

I hate the fact that Suzanne Collins insulted my intelligence. I know war is bad, that sometimes there is much, too much evil in the world for any kind of happiness to survive but she needn't rub it to my face with a nasty epilogue. I've convinced myself that the decision to keep Gale alive is from the editor, that he was actually meant to die but the big bosses saw a gold mine in him. That's why he got off easy in the end, so that someone (if not Collins herself) can pick up on his story and give Scholastic a few more million bucks. He is the most maligned character in that book, a secondary character set up to be a minor inconvenience but was always meant to be disposed of. I think, I will actually cry when I don't hear about this new series announcement within the next 5 years.
There's nothing I can say that you or other people on this page haven't said already. So I'll just say that Mockingjay was beautifully ugly and I knew it all too much to hate it as much as I loved it.