In the fourth chapter of Mockingjay, we learn more about the captive prep team, Gale and Katniss get to hunt, and then the rebels discover they’ve traded one tyranny for another. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay.
The stink of unwashed bodies, stale urine, and infection breaks through the cloud of antiseptic. The three figures are only just recognizable by their most striking fashion choices: Venia’s gold facial tattoos. Flavius’s orange corkscrew curls. Octavia’s light evergreen skin, which now hangs too loosely, as if her body were a slowly deflating balloon.
HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE. I LITERALLY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. Also, I wish Cinna were with them. WAIT. Ok, I don’t wish Cinna were being held captive because I LOVE CINNA, but I mean that I wish his fate hadn’t been given a single sentence. At least if he was here, I’d know he was still alive. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE. I am not wishing that Cinna be tortured.
Ok, back to awfulness: Flavius and Octavia are so frightened they actually shy away from Katniss, as if she is going to hurt them. WHAT.
“What happened, Venia?” I ask. “What are you doing here?”
“They took us. From the Capitol,” she says hoarsely.
WHAT. WHY. WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS.
“We thought it might be comforting for you to have your regular team,” Plutarch says behind me. “Cinna requested it.”
Oh, no. No. I do not accept this line of reasoning at all.
“Cinna requested this?” I snarl at him. Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Cinna would never have approved the abuse of these three, who he managed with gentleness and patience. “Why are they being treated like criminals?”
RIGHT???? What the fuck is going on?
“I honestly don’t know.” There’s something in his voice that makes me believe him, and the pallor on Fulvia’s face confirms it.
And then it clicked: Plutarch is not on even ground with the leaders in District 13. In hindsight, that does seem incredibly obvious, but I assumed (wrongly) that they’d treat him as one of their own. I’m beginning to see just how difficult this situation is turning out to be.
“We had to restrain them after an altercation over some bread,” says the guard.
Venia’s brows come together as if she’s still trying to make sense of it. “No one would tell us anything. We were so hungry. It was just one slice she took.”
WHAT WHAT WHAT ARE YOU DOING. District 13, LOOK AT YOUR LIFE. LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES. I get it. You have rules. They have kept you alive for decades. You also just took in THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THOSE ARE.
“This seems extreme,” says Plutarch.
UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR.
“It’s because they took a slice of bread?” asks Gale.
“There were repeated infractions leading up to that. They were warned. Still they took more bread.” The guard pauses a moment, as if puzzled by our density. “You can’t take bread.”
What we’re seeing here is the clash of cultures, of a group of people desperately fleeing the tyrannical grasp of the Capitol, who sought refuge with the only people they felt safe around and who could provide them protection, and now they’re dealing with a brand new culture and society. And certainly one that has its obvious downsides to it.
Seriously, bravo, Collins. This is fascinating.
Katniss, like the BADASS she is, demands that the guard unchain her prep team to the guard’s utter bewilderment. Her dedication to her prep team is goddamn fantastic. There. I said it. I know that what they do can certainly be viewed as antagonistic, privileged, and an active supporter in oppression. I won’t argue with that. You’re right. But STILL Katniss believes in them and supports them in turn and I love her for it.
But we’ll get to that in a second when we spend time with Gale. First, Katniss takes her trio to the hospital ward, where we learn more about how Katniss’s mother has assimilated into the culture there:
My mother was welcomed into the hospital, but she’s viewed as more of a nurse than a doctor, despite her lifetime of healing. Still, no one interferes when she guides the trio into an examination room to assess their injuries. I plant myself on a bench in the hall outside the hospital entrance, waiting to hear her verdict. She will be able to read in their bodies the pain inflicted upon them.
I think there’s a neat subtext to this that I want to bring up. Katniss and her mother have had a troubled relationship for a long time, but I feel like this is a sign of how much Katniss truly respects who her mother is, not only for her capacity to excel at her skill, but as a sign that she supports her and what she’s gone through. We saw how she grew to understand why her mother had shut down after her husband died and now it seems she enjoys that her mom has a found a place where she can feel comfortable and necessary.
Just a thought.
Katniss takes this opportunity in the hallway to make a frightening point about the situation they’d all gotten themselves into:
“Punishing my prep team’s a warning,” I tell her. “Not just to me. But to you, too. About who’s really in control and what happens if she’s not obeyed. If you had any delusions about having power, I’d let them go now. Apparently, a Capitol pedigree is no protection here. Maybe it’s even a liability.”
Touche. I’d agree with this.
“There is no comparison between Plutarch, who masterminded the rebel breakout, and those three beauticians,” says Fulvia icily.
And here’s Katniss, ready with a fantastic retort to the concept that Fulvia and Plutarch are important to the rebellion:
“Of course you are. The tributes were necessary to the Games, too. Until they weren’t,” I say. “And then we were very disposable—right, Plutarch?”
I wanted to say OOOOOH, SICK BURN, but then I realized no one wins in this situation.
Let’s move on to Gale and Katniss hunting. I love that it’s a longer section without dialogue and I think the two of them needed. So much of their day now involves talking and planning and scheming and here, they get to interact in complete silence. It’s a great parallel to The Hunger Games, when we first meet the two of them, and we understand how seamless and natural their relationship is. It’s interesting how, like their time in District 12, this is also an act of freedom, a chance for them to feel open and limitless, even if just for a couple hours. The symmetry is impressive.
When they do finally begin to talk, Gale surprises Katniss by asking her why she cares so much about her prep team. On a superficial level, I understand Gale’s disgust at the idea. As he puts it, “…they’ve spent the last year prettying you up for slaughter,” which is sort of hard to argue with. Katniss tries to defend them because their privilege essentially clouds them from ever knowing what they’re actually doing.
“They don’t know what, Katniss?” he says. “That tributes—who are the actual children involved here, not your trio of freaks—are forced to fight to the death? That you were going into that arena for people’s amusement? Was that a big secret in the Capitol?”
Damn. Touche, Gale. But. They’re nice? And clueless? Katniss is also confused as to why she’s so defensive and Gale makes an ever better point:
“But I don’t think Coin was sending you some big message by punishing them for breaking the rules here. She probably thought you’d see it as a favor.”
BUT BUT BUT. I want to be part of some ~sinister conspiracy~
Back at District 13, everyone is preparing for Coin’s assembly, where she’ll announce that Katniss has agreed to be the Mockingjay. As they head into the Collective, the giant room that can hold all of the residents of the underground district, Katniss spots Finnick. He stands in a daze, tying and untying knots in a thin rope, ostensibly part of his therapy. As they talk, Finnick happy to see a familiar face, he states that he’s glad that Katniss is asking for immunity for the other tributes because he hopes that Annie will be spared.
OOPS KATNISS FORGOT ABOUT ANNIE. And so she rushes to make sure Coin adds the name to the list and Coin is a fuckbag when she finds out who this woman is:
“Oh, the mad girl. That’s not really necessary,” she says. “We don’t make a habit of punishing anyone that frail.”
SHUT YOUR ABLEIST TRAP. YOU SHUT IT.
Ugh. I DO NOT LIKE HER. And it only gets worse as Coin continues with the assembly, announcing that Katniss has agreed to be the Mockingjay as long as the four people she named are pardoned.
The president allows a few moments of unrest, and then continues in her brisk fashion. Only now the words coming out of her mouth are news to me. “But in return for this unprecedented request, Solider Everdeen has promised to promote herself to our cause. It follows that any deviance from her mission, in either motive or deed, will be viewed as a break in this agreement. The immunity would be terminated and the fate of the four victors determined by the law of District Thirteen. As would her own. Thank you.”
In other words, I step out of line and we’re all dead.
FUCK YOU, COIN. JUST FUCK YOU. This is seriously FUCKING HORRIBLE.
I can’t. I just can’t.