In the second chapter of Mockingjay, we learn just how difficult the situation is for Katniss, the rebels, and, surprisingly, Peeta. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay.
I really want to applaud Collins for making this all so uncomfortable.
I think I expected an unrealistic reality when I finished Catching Fire; I thought that things would be much more hopeful for Katniss when she was picked up by Haymitch and Plutarch at the end of the Games. I knew she’d be upset by Peeta being captured. I didn’t even remotely predict the environment that Mockingjay opens up with.
The thing is, I don’t feel hope right now. And yes, this might seem strange, but this is pretty goddamn awesome. It feels far more realistic that Katniss has shut down due to trauma and depression than if she suddenly went all gung-ho to fight the rebellion.
Gale sits next to me. “Pretty bad down there?”
“Couldn’t be much worse,” I answer. I look in his eyes and see my own grief reflected there. Our hands find each other, holding fast to a part of 12 that Snow has somehow failed to destroy. We sit in silence for the rest of the trip to 13, which only takes about forty-five minutes. A mere week’s journey on foot.
I’m interested to see how this plays out. Like I said towards the end of the last book, I finally started to believe the Peeta/Katniss pairing. It seemed real, and their mutual respect for each other grew to something genuine and touching. And yet, Gale and Katniss just feel so natural together. There’s no pretension or grandeur to their interaction, as this scene shows us, and I wonder if this is going to affect who Katniss ends up with by the completion of the trilogy.
Bonnie and Twill, the District 8 refugees who I encountered in the woods last winter, weren’t so far from their destination after all. They apparently didn’t make it, though. When I asked about them in 13, no one seemed to know whom I was talking about. Died in the woods, I guess.
Yeah, so back on that theme of awfulness. Collins doesn’t seem reluctant to make everything terrible right from the get-go.
Let’s move on to District 13, something I was essentially drooling about all throughout Catching Fire. We finally get our first look at it here in chapter two and, like everything else, it’s not quite what I anticipated. Everything is essentially built underground, as we already knew, and from Katniss’s narration, I’m guessing that 13 is somewhere near Washington, D.C.:
There was already a substantial underground facility here, developed over centuries to be either a clandestine refuge for government leaders in a time of war or a last resort for humanity if life above became unlivable.
THIS IS TOTES UNDER CONGRESS OR SOMETHING. Or the Pentagon, maybe? I’M CALLING IT. Though I suppose it’s actually unimportant to the actual story, it’s funny to guess all of this since we don’t get a hard-coded map from Collins.
District 13 itself was indeed the byproduct of the last uprising during the Dark Days, when the rebels took control of the nuclear weapons housed by the Capitol. I didn’t expect the reveal that there are nuclear weapons on the west side of the country, though, and I’m worried of oncoming nuclear warfare. IN WHICH EVERYONE DIES. RIGHT? Because you always lose against a nuclear bomb. I have a feeling Collins isn’t going to include this detail and then never deal with it again.
I think the most surprising (and, admittedly, upsetting) aspect of District 13 is the system by which they organize themselves. Katniss describes the rigid routine and I’m not too thrilled with how this might affect future events:
You can go outside for exercise and sunlight but only at very specific times in your schedule. You can’t miss your schedule. Every morning, you’re supposed to stick your right arm in this contraption in the wall. It tattoos the smooth inside of your forearm with your schedule for the day in a sickly purple ink. 7:00—Breakfast. 7:30—Kitchen Duties. 8:30—Education Center, Room 17. And so on. The ink is indelible until 22:00—Bathing. That’s when whatever keeps it water resistant breaks down and the whole schedule rinses away. The lights-out at 22:30 signals that everyone not on the night shift should be in bed.
The thing is, I understand why they have such a schedule. Being allowed to live outside of Capitol rule is a HUGE thing, something that can’t be loss due to a lack of organization. I think this sort of rigidity makes total sense. I see this being a huge problem for all of the refugees who escaped one set of rules to replace them with another. (I also can’t deny that it must inversely be comforting for other people to leave the chaos of District 12 and find this, so I don’t want it to seem like I’m completely against it.)
It doesn’t work for Katniss and I’m not surprised. She is not a particularly chaotic person and she’s certainly the type to have a routine. But after the events of the last year or so, she’s mostly abandoned a lot of her old mainstays. The image of her sleeping in hidden areas around District 13 only suggests how bad her unrest is. I did derive some joy from this moment, as Katniss did too:
Fortunately, the people of 12 have never been wasteful. But once I saw Fulvia Cardew crumple up a sheet of paper with just a couple of words written on it and you wouldn’ve thought she’d murdered someone for the looks she got. Her face turned tomato red, making the silver flowers inlaid in her plump cheeks even more noticeable. The very portrait of excess. One of my few pleasures in 13 is watching the handful of pampered Capitol “rebels” squirming as they try to fit in.
I’d probably enjoy this. MARK HATES RICH PEOPLE lol
Then I take a deep breath and open the door. My mother and sister are home for 18:00—Reflection, a half hour of downtime before dinner. I see the concern on their faces as they try to gauge my emotional state. Before anyone can ask anything, I empty my game bag and it becomes 18:00—Cat Adoration. Prim just sits on the floor weeping and rocking that awful Buttercup, who interrupts his purring only for an occasional hiss at me. He gives me a particularly smug look when she ties the blue ribbon around his neck.
I’m perfectly fine if, in chapter five, both nuclear bombs go off and somehow, Buttercup is the only living thing left on the planet and we just follow him around for the remainder of Mockingjay. 100% ok with that.
Gale and Katniss head to Command, the room where the leaders of the rebellion use their technology to keep track of the uprising. One of the tools they have is a feed of what the Capitol is broadcasting on television sets across Panem, and I was fascinated by their use of propaganda, war footage, and ominous warnings from President Snow. POINTS TO COLLINS FOR THE SMALL DETAILS.
So it’s almost entertaining to see Caesar Flickerman, the eternal host of the Hunger Games, with his painted face and sparkly suit, preparing to give an interview. Until the camera pulls back and I see that his guest is Peeta.
WHAT THE HOLY HELL.
Collins continues to keep me on my toes, as Peeta’s interview with Caesar is one surprise after another:
Peeta looks healthy to the point of robustness. His skin is glowing, flawless, in that full-body-polish way. His manner’s composed, serious. I can’t reconcile this image with the battered, bleeding boy who haunts my dreams.
At first, this also made no sense to me. Why would they present Peeta as if they’d done nothing to him? But upon asking myself that question, it started to make sense: they’re using him as a mouthpiece.
The interview is just straight-up odd. I can’t read Peeta at all and I had a hard time determining what he actually believes and what the Capitol is trying to use as propaganda. He’s clearly confused about the last night in the arena and the realization that he and Katniss were pawns for the rebellion.
Here’s the first moment that confuses me. Caesar asks Peeta to describe that final night in the arena and Peeta doesn’t hesitate to be open and candid about it. He discusses how horrifying and claustrophobic it is, how the very concept of the Hunger Games is inconceivable, even a second time around.
“As bad as it makes you feel, you’re going to have to do some killing, because in the arena, you only get one wish. And it’s very costly.”
“It costs your life,” says Caesar.
“Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people?” says Peeta. “It costs everything you are.”
Heavy philosophy aside, I can’t figure out why the Capitol would be ok with someone speaking about the Hunger Games this way. There’s no possible positive connotation to this that I could figure out.
“You were too caught up in Beetee’s plan to electrify the salt lake,” says Caesar.
“Too busy playing allies with the others. I should have never let them separate us!” Peeta bursts out. “That’s when I lost her.”
This, on the other hand, seems genuine, an actual expression of anger and disappointment on his part.
“I can only remember bits and pieces. Trying to find her. Watching Brutus kill Chaff. Killing Brutus myself. I know she was calling my name. Then the lightning bolt hit the tree, and the force field around the arena…blew out.”
Holy shit, Peeta actually killed someone? What the FUCK? It’s made even worse when Caesar suggests that perhaps Katniss was on the rebels’ side all along:
Peeta’s on his feet, leaning in on Caesar’s face, hands locked on the arms of his interviewer’s chair. “Really? And was it part of her plan for Johanna to nearly kill her? For that electric shock to paralyze her? To trigger the bombing?” He’s yelling now. “She didn’t know, Caesar! Neither of us knew anything except that we were trying to keep each other alive!”
And now we’re back to a genuine statement from Peeta that doesn’t seem to benefit the Capitol at all. I DON’T GET THIS.
When Haymitch is brought up, Peeta is quick to share his distaste for him, especially since Haymitch deceived both him and Katniss in order to satisfy his agenda. And while I am a big fan of Haymitch as a character, I’m glad that both Katniss and Peeta are openly defiant towards being pawns in all of this, especially since none of this was done with their consent. This is also when we learn what happened to Haymitch:
I haven’t seen Haymitch since I attacked him on the hovercraft, leaving long claw marks down his face. I know it’s been bad for him here. District 13 strictly forbids any production or consumption of intoxicating beverages, and even the rubbing alcohol in the hospital is kept under lock and key. Finally, Haymitch is being forced into sobriety, with no secret stashes or home-brewed concoctions to ease his transition. They’ve got him in seclusion until he’s dried out, as he’s not deemed fit for public display. It must be excruciating, but I lost all my sympathy for Haymitch when I realized how he had deceived us.
I get it. I do. But I know, as an alcoholic many years ago, that becoming sober is incredibly painful and difficult, so while I do support the general idea of Katpee’s hatred for Haymitch, maybe she’s going a bit too far.
Peeta drops the first bit of what I would think is Capitol propaganda when Caesar asks him how he feels about the war:
“I want everyone watching—whether you’re on the Capitol or the rebel side—to stop for just a moment and think about what this war could mean. For human beings. We almost went extinct fighting one another before. Now our numbers are even fewer. Our conditions more tenuous. Is this really what we want to do? Kill ourselves off completely? In the hopes that—what? Some decent species will inherit the smoking remains of the earth?”
On a pacifist level (AND I AM A BIG PACIFIST I have never even punched someone in the face), Peeta’s speech is neat, but it feel entirely written by the Capitol as a ploy to get the rebels to lay down their arms so they can be SMASHED BY THE STATE. I don’t trust it. I don’t like it. And it makes me sad that Peeta said it.
As the voices in Command turn to name calling Peeta, referring to him as a traitor and a liar and WHO IS COIN. I mean, I know who she is, but something isn’t quite right with her. I can’t figure her out either, so when she tells Katniss, “You have not been dismissed, Soldier Everdeen,” I just want to yell YOU’RE NOT MY MOTHER! And then storm out of the room, stomping upstairs so I can get emo to Linkin Park.
Gale follows after Katniss, having suffered a bloody nose due to the elbow of one of Coin’s guards. It’s great to hear them joking between each other, just because it reminds me that these two are friends, that they come from a similar place and they are there to help each other out.
This is one of the few good things about 13. Getting Gale back. With the pressure of the Capitol’s arranged marriage between Peeta and me gone, we’ve managed to regain our friendship. He doesn’t push it any further—try to kiss me or talk about love. Either I’ve been too sick, or he’s willing to give me space, or he knows it’s just too cruel with Peeta in the hands of the Capitol. Whatever the case, I’ve got someone to tell my secrets to again.
Huh. Maybe there is a chance of a Gale/Katniss future. OH WAIT, I PREDICTED GALE WOULD DIE sadness forever :/
But for now, I’m glad that Katniss has someone that understands her, that she’s not entirely alone in all of this. It helps for her to have someone to talk all of this through, someone who knows what’s happened, and someone who trusts her enough to respect how she feels. They openly discuss Peeta’s interview, and Gale comes to a disturbing conclusion:
“My guess is he made some kind of deal to protect you. He’d put forth the idea of the cease-fire if Snow let him present you as a confused pregnant girl who had no idea what was going on when she was taken prisoner by the rebels. This way, if the districts lose, there’s still a chance of leniency for you. If you play it right.” I must still look perplexed because Gale delivers the next line very slowly. “Katniss…he’s still trying to keep you alive.”
That certainly explains more of this. So Peeta is possibly acting entirely out of selfish desire to keep Katniss alive. (Or wait. Is that selfish? I suppose it’s only selfish if he expects to live himself, right?) THIS IS NOT GOOD. Peeta, you could seriously fuck this up with that kind of narrow interpretation of events. I still think it’s noble of him to do what he can to keep her alive, but possibly put an entire nation at risk for that? THAT’S WEIRD, RIGHT?
Katniss agrees and suddenly stands up aside Gale in a haste.
“He doesn’t know what they did to Twelve. If he could’ve seen what was on the ground—“ I start.
RIGHT? RIGHT??? I AGREE WITH YOU, KATNISS.
What am I going to do?
I take a deep breath. My arms rise slightly—as if recalling the black-and-white wings Cinna gave me—then come to rest at my sides.
“I’m going to be the Mockingjay.”
WHAT!!!! Badass conversion IS ABOUT TO BEGIN. FUCK YEAH.