Katniss Becomes the Mockingjay

One of the great reads for young as well as older adults is a trilogy of novels known as the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The series of stories deal with oppression, conquest, struggle for survival, hunters and those preyed upon, deprivation, courage, and a strong love triangle. There are many exciting twists and turns in the series, particularly over whom Katniss will choose as her final love interest: Peetah or Gale, both “citizens” of her district; and rumors of a mysterious D13 and its ultimate role in the story’s resolution. The three books are narrated by Katniss, which lends a deeply personal tone and excitement to the saga. In the first book, following the arena contest, Katniss waits in a basement room for her televised appearance. By her actions in the arena at the end, she has aroused the hatred of President Snow, which explains her fears in the following excerpt from the first novel:

The damp, moldy smell beneath the stage threatens to choke me. A cold, clammy sweat breaks out on my skin and I can’t rid myself of the feeling that the boards above my head are about to collapse, to bury me alive under the rubble. When I left the arena, when the trumpet played, I was supposed to be safe. From then on. For the rest of my life. But if what Haymitch (her drunkard mentor and a former arena victor) says is true, and he’s got no reason to lie, I’ve never been in such a dangerous place in my life.

The first book in the saga, entitled The Hunger Games, introduces a graphic background about a war that has left the United States divided into 12 districts, each ruled by the victors from a city called The Capitol. Each district provides a different need of the rulers: for example, D12 supplies coal; another district provides training for the peacekeeper troops.

For the last 75 years the Capitol has held arena events. Every year two youths, one female and one male, are selected from each district to perform in a fight-to-the-death contest. There are 24 total. The survivor’s district gets extra benefits and the survivor wins numerous accolades. After the event, all surviving youths are sent on a victors tour of each district.

In the second book, Catching Fire, the drama continues with yet another Arena Event, in which the vengeful Capitol president, Snow, has the selection rigged so that former winners have to compete again. Snow’s real strategy is to get the female victor of Dl2 into another fight in hopes she will be killed. The teenager, Katniss Aberdeen, is gradually becoming the “Mockingjay”, a rallying symbol of a growing rebellion against the Capitol’s heartless oppression.

Mockingjay is the title of the concluding book in this absorbing saga, in which Katniss becomes a Mockingjay, the prime leader rallying figure of all districts, including District 13 that in the last novel in the trilogy has become the ultimate fortress for the masses against the power and force of the Capitol. D13 has been able to develop a standoff with President Snow and his followers because D13 has command of considerable nuclear force. In this third dramatic saga, Katniss goes through strenuous training while her relationship with the president of D13 grows increasingly taut. Her close friend Peetah is in the hands of President Snow and has become unstable mentally. Katniss is unsure of how to reignite their relationship when he finally rejoins them.

With time running out, D13 orders an offensive in one of the other districts to begin its campaign to overthrow Snow’s regime. Katniss and some of her followers make their way subsequently underground into the Capitol, where eventually they are followed by a massive force from D13 that Katniss thinks is ill-advised at that point. A tragic incident results in a shocking, surprising twist at the end, in which the heroine Mockingjay makes a spur-of-the-moment decision that will have far reaching implications. As a reader, I felt that the final book’s narrative becomes pale in that the author should have had Katniss leading the anti-Capitol forces into the city instead of D13’s overly ambitious president.

The Hunger Games books became so popular that four films were authorized, with the first one released in March 2012. Jennifer Lawrence, Academy Award nominee for Best Actress in Winter’s Bone and Best Actress winner for Silver Linings Playbook, won the lead role of Katniss. She won over such well-known actresses as Abigail Breslin (Zombieland, Little Miss Sunshine) Academy Award nominee Hailey Seinfeld (True Grit) and Shailene Woodley (Tris in Divergent and Hazel Grace in The Fault in Our Stars).

Other actors named for coveted roles include Donald Sutherland, as the sinister President Snow; Lenny Kravitz, as Katniss’ caring, brilliant stylist Cinna (who died in the second movie Catching Fire; Woody Harrelson, as her overbearing, unpredictable mentor Haymitch; and Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as her two aspiring lovers Peetah and Gale. Willow Shields was chosen to portray Katniss’ younger sister Prim, whose place Katniss took in the first Arena Event. Another character whom Katniss allies herself with in the first arena contest is diminutive, tragic Rue, a tribute from another district, whose only survival talent seemed to be her speed, Chosen for this role was Amandla Stenberg.