What I'm Reading: Mockingjay Discussion

Monday, March 12, 2012

First of all, let me apologize for making you all wait for our Mockingjay discussion. I realize that a lot of you are anxious to talk about it, and I've been holding us up. I finished the book about a week and a half ago, but I needed time to process and get some distance before I wrote this post. If I hadn't, you would have gotten something really snarky, like the zero draft I started immediately after finishing Mockingjay. Let's just say that it was not kind.

Having said that, I won't beat around the bush: I did not like Mockingjay. To me, it was the weakest book in the series, and my motivation to actually finish the series kept me reading more than anything else. I'm sad to say that this final installment kind of changed my feelings about the entire trilogy. I was on the fence before, but as much as the previous books frustrated me, I still felt really interested in all of the characters and larger thematic issues and questions that the books bring up. Mockingjay changed that for me, and while reading it, I finally lost my sense of investment in The Hunger Games. In all honesty, I can't say that I enjoyed the series or that I would recommend them.


Let's break it down, shall we? I've divided my discussion into sections to make it easier to navigate my thoughts.

*Spoilers ahead. If haven't read the series and don't want to know about key plot points, you should stop reading now.

Unbelievability

My largest problem with the books has always been believability, or lack thereof. When I have discussed my concerns with Jordan, he'd always tease me, "Don't go pulling on that thread - everything will unravel!" To me, that perfectly describes the experience of reading the third book. 

I've had issues with believability since Katniss threated to eat the berries at the end of the first book. I still don't believe that Capitol would have let her act of defiance slide, especially since the head gamekeeper was executed for allowing it to happen in the first place and President Snow confronted Katniss about her actions and constantly threatened her. In a world where children are forced to kill each other for sport, why would a hint of rebellion escape punishment from the governing powers? 

And to me, Mockingjay solidifies the unbelievability of Capitol's response. To understand why they didn't punish Katniss, you have to accept that her actions weren't actually discernible as a form of rebellion. But by the third book, we're told that Katniss' act of defiance ultimately led to a full-scale rebellion. To me, Collins wants to have it both ways: she wants us to believe that the berries incident is unassuming enough to escape the wrath of Capitol and President Snow but important enough to catalyze a rebellion. But it can't be both, and if Katniss' actions were responsible for starting a rebellion, then Capitol would have acted differently towards her from the outset. 

I also don't believe that Katniss was absolutely crucial to the rebellion. Collins makes it seem like the rebellion has been building in District 13 for over seventy-five years, and yet, they have no idea how to get the other districts involved so that they can actually overthrow Capitol. If this rebellion has been in the works for years and is actually capable of uniting the districts and defeating Capitol, I don't think they would have been sitting around waiting for "something" to catalyze it. Either they would have had something else in the works, or they simply would have seen Katniss' act as a fortuitous opportunity that they could capitalize on. If they really needed her to catalyze things, then the rebellion itself wouldn't have been strong enough to overthrow Capitol.

And even if I believed that Katniss was important as a symbol of the rebellion, I don't believe that they actually needed her physical presence. She's so clearly not on the rebellion's side, and more often then not, she acts as an unpredictable loose cannon. In all likelihood, Katniss was more of a problem for the rebellion than anything else. It would have been more productive to simply reappropriate her image for the rebellion's own purposes, but instead, they wasted countless time and energy on an unstable teenager who was admittedly not invested in their cause. 

Finally, I thought the entire rebellion was just too easy. In the second book, there are growing whispers of it, and by the end, Katniss gets clued into the fact that there is a District 13. But in Mockingjay, Collins rushes over all the details of the entire rebellion. We don't see the hard work of getting the districts to unite and overthrow the powers that rule them. We're told that almost all of the other districts have essentially joined forces, we see very little struggle or fighting, and before you know it, Capitol is the only thing left to take down. And that's unbelievable. Either Capitol wasn't actually that powerful to begin with, which would make the districts seem incredibly weak for allowing themselves to remain subjugated to Capitol for so long, or the resisting districts and Capitol were far too easy to overcome. Collins has built the entire premise of her series on Capitol's absolute power, which makes its easy fall entirely unbelievable.  

I'll also briefly add that Collins needed to explain in much greater depth how Peeta got better after he was hijacked. He was completely destroyed by Capitol, and yet, Collins offers no plausible explanation for how he was able to regain some semblance of his sanity.

The Love Triangle, Peeta, and Gale

I don't want to get into the love triangle because I think it's weak, uninteresting, and underdeveloped. By the end of Mockingjay, I didn't care about romance at all. In a dystopian world that is falling apart at the seams, who has time to think about which guy Katniss ends up with? I guess I prefer Peeta because he actually has a place in the novel as a character and a love interest. I do really like Peeta, and at one point, I thought that he and Katniss made the most sense together because they understood exactly what they'd lived through in the Hunger Games. But he and Katniss are so destroyed in Mockingjay that it seems unlikely that they could build any sort of life together. I didn't even want that life for them (especially Peeta) by the end of the book.

In comparison to Peeta, I think Gale is completely superfluous. I've never understood his place in the novel, especially as a love interest. The only thing I'll add is that Gale's mentality throughout Mockingjay did not sit well with me. At all. Even if he's not directly responsible for the bombings that kill Prim, I don't think he would have had a problem with them. He makes it clear that he's fine with any actions that advance the purposes of the rebellion, even those that entail killing innocent people. And you know who else has that mentality? Capitol. How Gale can justify the horror and violence that he does (like trapping District 2 citizens in the Nut and leaving them to die) because it's for a cause he deems worthy is beyond me. I'm sure that President Snow and other Capitol citizens use the same logic to justify their own acts of atrocity.

Katniss

I loved Katniss in the first book. Absolutely, unequivocally. By Mockingjay, my feelings had radically changed. I think she's incredibly vindictive and judgmental, and her inability to think through the consequences of her actions causes so much harm to herself and especially to others, and that makes me dislike her even more. 

One thing that I have never understood is Katniss' hatred for Haymitch. Maybe it's because I think he's incredible and find him immensely fascinating. But in Mockingjay, I couldn't understand why she was so mad at him for "tricking" her in the second hunger games and "using" her for the rebellion. I especially couldn't understand why she didn't have the same feelings towards Cinna when she found out that he, like Haymitch, was also involved with the rebellion and had plans for her to be the Mockingjay. But Cinna's role just made Katniss feel like she should be a part of the rebellion, while Haymitch's involvement infuriated her. Maybe the only explanation is that Katniss just so happens to like Cinna. But if that's not a double standard, I don't know what is. 

What's worse, though, are all the needless deaths that occur in Mockingjay as a result of Katniss' poorly thought-through decisions. I couldn't understand why Katniss decided to go off on her own assassination mission against the express orders of the rebellion, and it broke my heart that so many of her squad members (including Finnick) died in such horrific ways. And for what? Katniss didn't accomplish anything, and the rebellion got into Capitol on their own and took it down while Katniss was wandering the streets trying to get to President Snow. Ultimately, her mission was completely for naught, and those who died essentially died for nothing. This section actually made me livid.

I know a lot of people think that Katniss exhibits classic signs of PTSD, but I just don't see that coherently developed in the books at all, aside from the fact that she has trouble sleeping at night and is plagued by nightmares. If you think she's suffering from PTSD, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe I'm just missing something?

The Final Hunger Games

When I reached the end of Mockingjay and Coin suggested one last Hunger Games with the Capitol's children, my heart broke. With that ending, Collins basically undid the entire series for me. The books are built around a dystopian society whose horrible power is crystallized in the needless waste of life every year during the Hunger Games. We are supposed to feel sorrow and disgust over the unspeakable horrors that the Capitol subjects its citizens to, and we are supposed to cheer as Katniss and others rebel against and overthrow this terrible power. Needless to say, I was utterly confused and disappointed when Katniss, Johanna, Haymitch, and the others turned around and did exactly what the Capitol had done to them.  

In that sense, Capitol's children are held responsible for their parents' acts of oppression, just as the district children were held responsible for the generations that rebelled before them. And yet, somehow it's justifiable when the districts do it to Capitol but not vice versa? I cannot understand why Collins would write this scenario into her book. It would be one thing if only Coin and the other rebellion leaders wanted the last Hunger Games. I actually think that this would have been a much stronger and more plausible scenario because it would have demonstrated that the rebellion was just as corrupt and oppressive as Capitol. There are hints of the rebellion's corruption throughout Mockingjay, and Collins' book could have made a much stronger statement about the dangers of localized power. 

However, Katniss and other Hunger Games victors are also in favor of implementing this cruel punishment. In many ways, their justifications are absurd, and Collins once again rushes through this significant moment in her novel with little explanation. Johanna's motivation is reduced to a desire for revenge, and Haymitch offers little more than a cop-out. 

But it is Katniss' explanation that is the real problem. She justifies her agreement to the final Hunger Games by saying that she's doing it for Prim, which makes no sense. First of all, Katniss already doubts that Capitol set off the bombs that killed her sister. In fact, she suspects that Coin was responsible and is about to kill her, so why would she vote for the very thing that Coin wants to solidify her own power? And secondly, Prim would never want another Hunger Games. We see little of her character in the books, but we do know that she was terrified of going into the Hunger Games and constantly worked to help and heal people. She saw firsthand how the Hunger Games affected and hurt Katniss, and I can't imagine that she would ever subject another child to the horrors she was so afraid of, the very horrors that destroyed her sister. To me, that makes Katniss' vote not only unbelievable, but also inexcusable.

By the end of Mockingjay, Katniss and many of the others act just like Capitol, and their oppression has taught them little else than how to effectively oppress others. Power, it seems, always goes hand-in-hand with violence, and there is no true redemption for anyone. 

Discussion

There you have it - my feelings about the final installment in The Hunger Games trilogy. Don't take my novel-length post as any indication that I've exhausted this topic. There's still so much more to say, and now it's your turn! I would love to hear your thoughts on Mockingjay specifically and the series more generally, and I welcome dissenting opinions (I know my cousin will probably have a few!). I'm just one person, and I only have my own thoughts, and now I want to share yours! I look forward to a lively discussion in the comments.

Also, how is everyone feeling about the movie? It's coming out next week (as if any of you had forgotten)!

22 comments:

  1. I'm really excited about the movie. Like you, I really liked Katniss in the first book, so I can't wait to see how it translates to the screen. Especially because, no doubt about it, the first book was pretty incredible (leaving aside all bias from the second and third books).

    You're completely right about the believability aspect. I chose to read without questioning the plausability because as in plenty of other dystopian novels, you have to set aside reality quite a bit (ie. what happened that North America doesn't exist as North America anymore?). But I did question why District 13 bothered with Katniss as anything more than someone to film their promos, because (and she said it herself in the second book) she was more valuable to the rebellion dead than alive. I also can't believe the Capitol didn't do more to punish her after the berries, especially in light of Haymitch, Finnick, etc.'s punishment for lesser "crimes."

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    1. Me too! As mixed as my feelings are about the series, I am very pumped to see the movie. I can't believe it's coming out so soon! Do you have tickets yet?

      And I totally agree that you have to set aside some "believability" - when it comes down to it, nothing in the books is believable because it's all made up! Like you, though, I was most bothered by inconsistencies within the world Collins created. That's what always gets me - OK, vampires are real and are characterized by X, Y, and Z, I'll buy it. But the minute an author deviates from their own rules/logic, I break my suspension of disbelief.

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    2. Well, I asked a friend to get me tickets, but I don't have them in my hands yet, so I don't know! But I really really want to go to the premiere! You have a point with the inconsistencies ... and verbalized it much better than I did!

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  2. I love your honest opinions about this series. I, personally, loved it, but I don't think I read as often as you do and I hadn't read a book this exciting in awhile (what's that say??).

    I agree the first was the best of all three books, and I felt that the third book was rushed. I had a hard time understanding Katniss in the end, too, like you said, especially with respect to her attitude and actions during her stay in the District 13. I was completely heartbroken about Finnick as well, and disappointed it wasn't given explanation or attention...

    I always assumed Katniss (and Haymitch) agreed to a final Hunger Games just to throw off President Coin... That way, Katniss could assassinate her? I'm not sure.

    Overall though, I must admit, I really, really enjoyed this series. Even though I felt rushed through the third book, I was beyond thrilled to have that sort of "happy ending," which I did not expect.

    Great, great recount of everything though! You make some excellent points! I CANNOT WAIT FOR THE MOVIE! Now, that, I'm sure I won't like as much (movies are never better than the book), but we'll see!

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    1. I'm glad to see fans commenting here! I think my literary background definitely infringes upon my ability to simply read exciting books as such, and there's a part of me that wishes I could have enjoyed the series more. I get in my own way sometimes! And I'm glad I'm not the only one who was devastated about Finnick. That felt totally out of left field, and my heart just broke when he died.

      That's an interesting point about Katniss trying to throw off Coin. I guess it's hard to know her true motives because we don't see much of her thoughts in that scene, and even when she kills Coin, she doesn't seem fully convinced about what actually happened with the bombs.

      And I totally agree - the non-happy ending was incredibly satisfying. Anything more would have felt completely out of character in terms of where the book ended up. To even imagine that Katniss and Peeta could find what we consider to be "happiness" immediately after living through two hunger games and a war is simply impossible.

      And yay for the movie! Are you going opening night?

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  3. You made some very good points! I have to start off by saying that I enjoyed reading the books and am excited to see the movies. With that said, I agree with many of your points on the final book. I read through it with excitement, but not so much believability.

    From book one I never cared or really thought of the love triangle. I think it was a waste because I never really saw Gale as true love interest from the start. I felt that the third book was very rushed and was very sad about the deaths on the road to the Capital.

    I can see Katniss as the spark for the rebellion, but beyond the propagandas I did not see a need for her to be on the front line. It seemed to cause more problems then really helping. I was crushed when Prim was killed, but did not see that as a reason for Katniss to vote for the final Hunger Games. It wouldn't be any different to punish the children of the Capital as the Capital punished the children of the Districts.

    Although the ending was a nice one, I thought it was really just added to make readers happy. It was quick and not really detailed. Although I wanted them to end up together, I would have understood after the hijacking if they did not get together.

    Great discussion!! Putting aside my dislike for parts of the series, I'm happy that I read them and even more excited that my husband has read the first book and is excited to read the other two on vacation. I have also already purchased our tickets to see the movie opening weekend :)

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    1. What a great way of putting things! I agree with your sentiment completely - the excitement was gripping, but the believability not so much. So true! And I am thrilled that there is someone else who agrees with me about the love triangle! I feel so much better having a kindred spirit on this mater. :)

      And I completely agree about Katniss. She is very believable as a necessary "spark" for the rebellion, and it makes sense that they would use her for their propaganda, but anything beyond that is a stretch. Like you, my heart broke over Prim and the final Hunger Games. It really seemed like Katniss and the others were repeating the cycle of violence that had hurt so many in the first place.

      I think you're spot-on about the ending - Katniss needed to end up with someone (I couldn't imagine the uproar if she didn't), and I definitely think Peeta was the right choice. I'm also glad that their relationship was still very clearly problematic - they didn't get out clean, and I appreciated that they had to live with their scars.

      Like you, I'm totally glad I read the books. They have given me so much to think about and talk about, and I love that! This discussion here has been great, and reading the series for that reason alone was worth it! I'm glad your husband's reading them with you now! I was actually really upset when I found out Jordan read them before me. He was all, "Oh yeah, read those a long time ago - did I not mention that?" And I totally have my tickets for opening weekend as well! Yay!

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    2. I just had to laugh out loud on the part about your husband already reading the books! Chris finished the last two books during out weekend getaway this weekend and agreed with so many of your point made as well. Can't wait to see it come to life and am interested to see how they will break up the books to make 4 movies instead of 3.

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  4. Alrighty here, Miss Allison. Let us break it down.

    First off, let us all just agree that Katniss is so aggravating. Dumb as dirt, (um hello Johanna is not trying to kill you, the president knows what you are up to, you can't have Peeta AND Gale, you say you love your sister so much, but forget a lot about her in the 3rd book etc.)

    You couldn't be more right about the believability aspect. If the Capitol didn't kill her directly after the berry incident, they would have done it mere pages into the 2nd book. Unrealistic! You are on point about the disjunction between Katniss sparking the revolution but not being important enough to be killed off. Also, I'm a huge Haymitch fan. HUGE. I don't however, get Cinna. He is no better than the other stylist/helpers and is just as plotting as Haymitch. I think Katniss just likes him because he makes her look beautiful and gets her a lot of attention. Which brings me to my second points about Katniss.

    I think that Katniss' most obvious character trait is her selfishness. She uses Haymitch, Cinna, Peeta, and my beloved Gale, Finnick, Johanna and the rest of the lot for her own purposes. If she really loved Gale, she would let him go or she would choose him. None of this wishy-washy leading on (which she does the WHOLE time with Peeta) She just uses people, for pity's sake! The only time she really thinks about Peeta is when she is lonely and is scared to sleep by herself. It's not very nice to use Peeta like that.

    I was hanging with the book for the most part for the whole time. Not a fan of the battle/mission scenes. Did you find them hard to follow? I, however, thought that the ending basically ruined the whole thing. Everything that they fought for was completely undone by having another Hunger Games. It means that so many people died for nothing. Absolutely nothing. And it means that Katniss is no better than The Capitol by killing people for the sport of it.

    Al, what do you think of Gale at the end, with the bombings regarding Prim?

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    1. Oh Emily, we broke it down.

      Your feelings about Katniss - spot on, my dear. I think the words vindictive and selfish sum her up pretty nicely. And I'm so glad you agree about the believability aspect. I knew a smart girl like you would.

      And yes, the third book was incredibly hard to follow because it was so rushed. I kept feeling like I missed something because things were happening so fast. It was jarring. And the ending to me made the whole series pointless. It's a very sad way of viewing the world - after all of that horror, people still don't do the right thing. It's like good isn't in anyone.

      OK, I appreciated that Gale was more of a character in the third book, but he freaked me out. He's the epitome of stone-cold violence - ends justify the means, and who cares who dies along the way? If I have to kill a few innocent people, what of it? I will say, though, I wish there had been more about his thoughts concerning the bombing that killed Prim. I actually think that, given that it was essentially his idea, he had the capacity to change. I don't think he's responsible for Prim's death, but I think seeing where his line of thought could lead may have snapped him out of his violent mentality. If Collins had actually explored that transformation, I would have appreciated Gale so much more. But I still stand by my belief that he has no place in the novel as a love interest. He's all for you. ;)

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  5. i just finished mockingjay a week or so ago & agree with you on many points. i did not love these books & the only redeeming thing about them for me is the fact that they were page turners. a book has to be really captivating for me to stick with it since i have so many other things demanding my attention, ya know? anywho, mockingjay was he easiest of the 3 books for me to stomach because maybe by then i was callused to the brutality & gore of the series.

    i am pretty excited for the "Hunger games" movie... but not so excited to see a "mockingjay" movie.

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    1. That is so true! The books are the definition of "page turner," and that really got me through to the end. I think I finished the first book in two days - I couldn't put it down! And yes, I was pretty callous and over everything by the time I got to Mockingjay. I think any problems I had with the first two books were more frustrating, not because they were bigger but because I was more invested in them. Mockingjay, not so much.

      But yes, I am so excited for the movie! Cannot wait till Friday!

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  6. Excellent post and great comments all and all. Looking back on my reading experience of this series I realize there was only one reason I finished, momentum. I read them all in the span of a few days and I certainly had a lot of momentum coming off of the first book which carried me the slow beginning of the second. Then of course we met one of may favorite characters, Finnick, and the awesome second hunger games carried me into the third. But the third? Well I lost all momentum and just barely made it across the finish line.

    For me Katniss herself was the downfall, she had servered her purpose by the end of the first book, and the other books would have really benefited from a different narrator. Plus if we didn't have Katniss as a narrator, maybe we wouldn't have had to follow her on her idiotic tramp through a warzone for the sole purpose of getting my favorite character killed... No. I am not bitter.

    I also really like your point about Haymitch and Cinna. There seems to be no real logic to Katniss' whims and who she does and does not like. The only semi real relationship I fell like Katniss had in the entire series was was with Rue. She just selfish and can't really connect with anyone.

    This was a series that had so much potential, but ultimately got dragged down by its main characters and flaws in the execution of an interesting concept.

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    1. I should have read them like you because I definitely lost my momentum between books, and that made it much more difficult to finish! You're much wiser than I am. :) And boo - I'm still sad about Finnick. I wanted to stop right then and there.

      Oh yes! The second and third books should totally have had different narrators! I am with you completely on that one. Katniss was great in the first book, not so much in the next two. Plus, there are so many other interesting characters I would have rather heard from. And yes, I'm bitter about her mission through the warzone.

      And I agree - the Rue/Katniss relationship seems to be the most pure and logical. It makes sense and it works, in great part because I think Rue dies before Katniss can complicate things. (OK, that sounds just terrible.)

      Like you, I'm still bummed that these books didn't live up to their potential. They had so much going for them, and then, nothing. Poor execution.

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  7. I completely disagree on a few points. BUT - I may be reading too much into SC's "motives" behind some of the things in the book. For one, I really enjoyed that at times, I didn't even like Katniss. Confusing much? But really, I think she made her a very relatable character. How many friends do you have that you can honestly say you like absolutely everything about them? I can't even say that about my husband! So it's refreshing to me to read about a character who has flaws. Who is selfish and irrational at times, who doesn't always magically have the answer. She's also only 17, and I'm glad she's written as 17. I've yet to meet any teenage girls who aren't angsty and hormonal at times.

    Second, I feel that the capitol was aware of the brewing unrest at the time of the berry incident, and knew if they openly did anything to Katniss it would add fuel to the fire. So they went with the "crazy in love" angle to try and distract everyone. Including Katniss. They just needed to buy some time to prepare for the impending revolution. I don't think they ignored it, I think they were just buying time. I mean, they did ultimately decide to completely wipe out 12 in the end. I think justice was only delayed, not forgotten.

    I also liked this love triangle because in a sense it served a purpose for girls to really weigh their options before jumping in. Gale seems all fiery and passionate in the beginning, but later you see that he's really selfish, pretty darn heartless when it comes to achieving his goals, and not very respectful overall. I think it's easy to jump in too fast into a relationship, and then suddenly you're confronted with who that person really is and feel like you're already in too deep. Here, Katniss was able to see Gale's true colors, and they weren't too pretty. And Peeta, well, she had to lose Peeta's unconditional love in order to really appreciate it. She hasn't had anyone love her that way since her father died (since her mom went cray-cray) and really needed to see it for what it was, not blinded by outsider's agendas.

    cont. below

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    1. Thanks for your great response! You definitely bring up some very good points. I agree that characters have to be flawed to make them interesting, believable, and relatable, and I think Collins achieved this more clearly with Katniss in the beginning. She's flawed, and I liked that. I think my problem is that she doesn't grow, she actually devolves as a character. She's gets more angry and hormonal and less mature as the books go on, and that, to me, isn't very believable and didn't accomplish anything really.

      And that's an interesting view about Capitol. I'm still not sure I totally buy it - if there is brewing unrest, I think they would have definitely nipped all of that in the bud. But you're very right about District 12 - to Capitol, I'm sure that seemed like justice.

      I really appreciate your view on the love triangle. I guess I just wasn't interested in it, so I didn't pay much attention, but I like the idea that it can serve as a powerful model for young women today. They don't just have to choose the obvious guy - they can go out their and explore options, and that's an important thing for young women to realize. Great point!

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  8. On Haymitch: Collins said that Katniss hated Haymitch at times because they were so much alike. It's kind of like a father/daughter relationship, without the benefit of joined blood. Katniss saw the worst of herself in Haymitch, and didn't like it. I think it was the same for him. I think that's why she had a double standard with him. She understood him better than anyone, and he her, but there were times when they just could not stand each other. I think that happens to family a lot. That's why I didn't think it odd that she found Cinna's pushing more bearable than Haymitch's. Besides, sometimes you just need someone to blame so you can cope for a while. What's the psychological term? Displacement? Something like that. I think she displaced her shame and guilt onto Haymitch for a while.

    Lastly, I don't think Katniss really voted for another Hunger Games. I don't think it mattered what she said at the time, her mind was already made up to kill Coin. Because she says over and over in the narrative that Coin is just another Snow, and that defeats the whole purpose. I think she voted yes to throw Coin off and make her think she supported her, when really she was already planning to off her when given the chance. I thought it was nicely done to paint the rebellion as hypocritical, because mankind has constantly been repeating its own mistakes. Rebellions can often turn into worse governments than the regimes they overthrow. Coin was on that path, and Katniss saw it. She saw that Gale really didn't even get the point of why they needed a revolution in the first place. Which is why she let the friendship die.

    Anyway, there's what I thought. I agree that Mockingjay was the weakest of the 3, but I still really liked reading it. The whole series really, because they're really thought provoking. But, I may just be giving Collins credit for a lot deeper thought than she really put in there. I'd love to hear some of her interviews and delve a little deeper into why she wrote things that way.

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    1. And yes, I think you hit the nail on the head - Katniss totally displaces so much on Haymitch. It's throughout all of the books, and I think it just becomes less believable and time goes on and Katniss seems more and more fickle. I just wish Collins had allowed Katniss to develop the ability to examine herself critically and grow from her mistakes. To me, her relationship with Haymitch shows how little Katniss has truly grown as a character, and that's frustrating to me.

      I think it's interesting to rationalize that Katniss voted for the Hunger Games to throw Coin off. I wish that if that's what Collins intended, she would have developed that more. I just don't think it's clear enough say definitively that that's the answer. But even if it is, I think the moral is still depressing: horrible violence is justified when the ends require it. Whatever Katniss' motives are, Capitol's children will still have to go into the final Hunger Games, and to them, they won't care if the tributes who voted did so for the right or wrong reasons. They'll still be dead, and that's a tragedy no matter how Katniss justifies her vote. She's still a part of continuing the cycle of violence.

      And I totally agree with you - the series is so thought-provoking, and I so appreciate that! So many people have read the series and have had the chance to think through some very important and series issues, and that's what literature is supposed to do. I very much applaud Collins for doing that, even if I do find the series frustrating and flawed.

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  9. I think the unbelievability aspect works to undermine my pleasure in the books in a different way. I think the series has some basically good surface logic to the plot (and oh, are they plotted!), but you're right that the moment you poke at it, it falls apart.

    I think it's this lack of real integrity in the world Collins built that underlies the fact that I simply can't bear the brutality of these books. I'm not a wimp when it comes to this stuff, it's almost the opposite: violence is so real to me and so frightening and unpleasant, that you better have a pretty damn good reason to subject your reader's empathy to that kind of torture. Dark and disturbing content is fine, even exceptional, if it helps the reader access real experiences in their world, but you've got to earn it. There has to be a reason why you're killing off your characters, or if the violence is to be taken metaphorically, you have to frame it in a way that makes this clear. For example, Native Son by Richard Wright. I still think about the disturbing aspects (i.e. the murders) a lot, because they were meaningful on many different levels. They were necessary to help the reader understand the world of another human being.

    If your world is only surface-level coherent, then I'm sorry, you haven't earned something as sick as The Hunger Games. Conceivably, there is a nuanced plot that would make the introduction of these games more necessary, but I can't think of one. (Maybe it's in Battle Royale?) It's horrible, horrible, horrible. Ugh. And the promotional tie-ins with the movie are even sicker. Did you know there's nail polish? A Hunger Games work-out and diet?!

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    1. Laura, I want to hug you right now. I agree 10000% with you. I'm OK with violence and dark and disturbing content - I've done more work on literature that deals with sexual violence than probably any person should, and I know this kind of literature is important and can be so incredibly beautiful. But Collins seems to display violence for violence's sake.

      I think the books started out with the potential to critique our society for "spectacles of violence." The Hunger Games are nothing if not one giant condemnation about what it means to treat horror and human tragedy as entertainment. And yet, the series devolves into little else by the end. We're not taught something powerful or important or given some call to action or new way to think. No, we're given violence because that's what Collins thinks we demands. And that's inexcusable.

      Have you read Saidiya Hartman's Scenes of Subjection. It changed my life in terms of thinking about spectacle of violences - it is an incredibly powerful book, and I highly recommend you check it out. Plus, Hartman is brilliant.

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  10. Allison, I could not agree more with all of your statements!! I wanted to wait until I finished the third book before I read your review, but I will be honest I am only about half-way and I am losing interest. After reading the first book in less than 24 hours, it has taken me almost a month to read the final installment because it is almost as though it has been written by someone else purely for commercialisation?

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  11. While I had some reservations about MJ, they're not the same as yours. I didn't get the impression that Snow let Katniss get away with the berries incident. Snow couldn't kill Katniss and Peeta outright because of their popularity with the Capitol citizens. That it could trigger an all-out rebellion would have been a possibility too. Hence, the Quarter Quell which quite conveniently reaped its tributes from the pool of victors with only Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch available from District 12. If District 13 hadn't intervened a likely outcome would have been the deaths of either Katniss or Peeta or both.

    The Mockingjay was needed to unite the districts. Remember there was no travel and no communication allowed between districts and it was believed that District 13 had been destroyed. Plans for a rebellion may have been simmering for a long time in District 13 but it doesn't follow that it was the case in the remaining districts. The Mockingjay united them all in a common cause and served as a rallying point.

    Just because District 13 isn't convinced by Katniss's commitment to the cause, it doesn't follow that the other Districts think that too. It's about perception, not reality.

    I agree that the rebellion seemed to be over very quickly and there was little detail about how the districts organized themselves and each other but I think that's partly due to first-person POV. We only hear what Katniss is interested in and perhaps a 17 year old wasn't privy to all the ins and outs of how the rebellion unfolded.

    I disagree with your assessment on Katniss voting 'yes' to another Hunger Games. Boggs had warned Katniss that if she wasn't with Coin then she was a threat. Katniss had to be seen to be giving Coin her support as Coin could have withdrawn her agreement for Katniss to execute Snow at any time. Haymitch knows Katniss has something up her sleeve. That's why he votes 'yes' with 'the Mockingjay'. And then she kills Coin (responsible for Prim being in the Capitol, probably responsible for the bomb, and for wanting to have another Hunger Games) 'for Prim'.

    I thought that Gale was very believable in his attitude to the enemy. In war, cities are bombed and civilians are killed - thought to be for the greater good by shortening the duration of the war. Collateral damage it's called. Think of Truman and the atomic bomb.

    Katniss is harder on Haymitch than Cinna for keeping things from her due to the outcome. Cinna said that when he rebels he does it in such a way it only hurts himself. And indeed, the only person who (arguably) suffers, is himself. Haymitch's actions leads to Peeta being captured by the Capitol. I think Katniss' anger is partly based on the fact that if she and Peeta had been told, they would have taken more care not to be separated. Katniss is also resentful because she had mentioned to Haymitch the possibility that District 13 was still around and that she wanted to start an uprising and been dismissed on both. I think Katniss had a lot more reason to be angry with Haymitch than she did with Cinna.

    Katniss' role as the Mockingjay wasn't needed once the rebellion was underway. Boggs is suspicious about Coin's motives regarding Katniss. She sends Peeta to join their group when Peeta is still unstable and likely to harm Katniss. Boggs tells Katniss not to trust Coin, not to go back and to do what she came to do. The implication is that Katniss would be killed if she returned to District 13. That Finnick gets killed is tragic. But that's war. If only the people we don't care about were killed, it wouldn't be realistic.






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