Monday, March 14, 2011


Finally, finished the final book of the Hunger games Triology, Mockingjay. It definitely proved the most common theory about triologies where the introductory novel is supposed to be amazing, the middle book like treading water and the conclusion an explosive end. This eulogy definitely proved the fact that out of the three books The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the last i.e., conclusion was definitely the one to look out for.

Here is how the summary goes like,

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss' family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding. It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems has had a hand in the carefully laid plans - except Katniss. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to except responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay - no matter what the personal cost. 

For the first two books, I think most of us readers have all been laboring under the assumption that Katniss Everdeen would eventually choose one of the two terrific men in her life: Gale, her childhood companion or Peeta, the one who accompanied her to the Hunger Games twice. She'd pick one of them and live happily ever after with him, surrounded by friends and family. Somehow, along the way, Katniss would get rid of the awful President Snow and stop the evil Hunger Games. How one teenage girl would do all that, we weren't too sure, but we all had faith and hope that she would. 

This book had very fast paced and hard to put down, like the rest of the series. I read it very swiftly, with few breaks. Some of the supporting characters develop beautifully in this book. Finnick especially really rounded out in this book. Because you care about a lot of the supporting characters, you really care if they die. That's a big thing for me. When reading a book about war, I don't want to feel like I'm trapped in one of those shooting video games, where a death only means more points. In this book, most of the deaths were gut wrenching. You REALLY felt their loss. That might upset some people, but for me it was one of the strong points of the book. There also were deaths where you didn't care, because both you and Katniss were too numb at this point. That also was a strong point for me. It made the war feel that much more real and horrible. The war is not simply about good guys and bad guys. There are numerous shades of grey. District 13 is more than just the good guys sweeping in. 

But the plot does have a few weak point. 

In fantasy and science fiction, the main character's inner struggle has to mirror the world's outer struggle. The series is about revolting against an evil, freedom suppressing government and instating a new one in its place. Therefore, Katniss has to move from being an extremely resilient and unpredictable pawn to being in full control of her life. Otherwise the full meaning of the revolution is weakened, if it is not reflected in the emotional journey of the character. But instead Katniss remains an unpredictable pawn, manipulated by outside forces, struggling to retain her identity when she has no true control over her life. That she's manipulated by 13 rather than President Snow only adds salt to the wound. She's far too passive, in the book where she should be the most active. She can only react, not act. She reacts to others decisions, never making her own. 

That's fine for the first two books. But in the third book Katniss needs to mature. She needs to develop as a character, and really have control over her talents and her future. She needs to undergo the emotional journey of the revolution, and be the human face of what is happening in the country. But that doesn't happen, hence my problem with the book. Instead, Katniss is plopped into yet another situation where she is manipulated and used for others advantage, and she has to survive. This time it is being District 13's Mockingjay. Katniss is used to spur the other districts into revolution. At first she doesn't want to be the Mockingjay, because she doesn't trust District 13. Then, after seeing the realities of the war, she decides to go ahead with it and be their Mockingjay. All right. But it's past time for Katniss to decide to be used by other people. She needs to shape her fate for herself at this point. We've had two books where she had to survive others decisions. Now she needs to start making her own decisions. But the most she does is set conditions. 'I'll be your Mockingjay, if you don't kill the other victors". She doesn't decide her be HER Mockingjay. She doesn't make the revolution her own, the way Gale does. That is Katniss reacting to District 13's needs, not acting based on her own. 

"Mockingjay" relentlessly strips aside those feelings of faith and hope - much as District 13 must have done to Katniss. Katniss realizes that she is just as much a pawn for District 13 as she ever was for the Colony and that evil can exist in places outside of the Colony. And that's when the reader realizes that this will be a very different journey. And that maybe the first two books were a setup for a very different ride. That, at its heart, this wasn't a story about Katniss making her romantic decisions set against a backdrop of war. 

Also, speaking of Coin's death, that also bothered me. I was glad Katniss shot her. But Katniss doesn't sit there and think: 'Coin will be a really bad leader. She wanted to do another Hunger Games! She'll be just as bad as Snow once she gets the power. I have to stop her any way that I can!' Instead, Katniss lets herself get manipulated by Snow to kill Coin. Then she's put on trial for her life, and she doesn't even get to defend her decision at her own trial. Instead, she's not even there. Other people decide that she can live. She never argues for her life. Other virtually nameless people do, behind her back. 

This is a story of war. And what it means to be a volunteer and yet still be a pawn. We have an entirely volunteer military now that is spread entirely too thin for the tasks we ask of it. The burden we place upon it is great. And at the end of the day, when the personal war is over for each of them, each is left alone to pick up the pieces as best he/she can. 

For some, like Peeta, it means hanging onto the back of a chair until the voices in his head stop and he's safe to be around again. Each copes in the best way he can. We ask - no, demand - incredible things of our men and women in arms, and then relegate them to the sidelines afterwards because we don't want to be reminded of the things they did in battle. What do you do with people who are trained to kill when they come back home? And what if there's no real home to come back to - if, heaven forbid, the war is fought in your own home? We need our soldiers when we need them, but they make us uncomfortable when the fighting stops. 

Let’s face it Mockingjay really portrays the reality of the situation as to how the people treat or view our soldiers.

And all of that is bigger than a love story - than Peeta or Gale. And yet, Katniss' war does come to an end. And she does have to pick up the pieces of her life and figure out where to go at the end. So she does make a choice. But compared to the tragedy of everything that comes before it, it doesn't seem "enough". And I think that's the point. That once you've been to hell and lost so much, your life will never be the same. Katniss will never be the same. For a large part of this book, we see Katniss acting in a way that we can only see as being combat-stress or PTSD-related - running and hiding in closets. This isn't our Katniss, this isn't our warrior girl. 

I realize many out there will hate the epilogue and find it trite. At first, I did too. But in retrospect, it really was perfect. Katniss gave her life already - back when she volunteered for Prim in "The Hunger Games". It's just that she actually physically kept living.  There is this quote from an HBO series, don't remember the name "The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it."

But how do you go from that, to living again in society? You really don't. So I'm not sure Katniss ever really did - live again. She just ... kept going. And there's not really much to celebrate in that. Seeing someone keep going, despite being asked - no, demanded - to do unconscionably horrifying things, and then being relegated to the fringes of society, and then to keep going - to pick up the pieces and keep on going, there is something fine and admirable and infinitely sad and pure and noble about that. But the fact is, it should never happen in the first place. 


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...