Mark Reads ‘Mockingjay’: Chapter 23

In the twenty-third chapter of Mockingjay, the survivors of the mutts’ attack regroup and try to find a way to escape Capitol detection and get to President Snow before it’s too late. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay.

Five chapters left. That’s it. Somehow, this all has to come together in that amount of time. I can’t do it. I cannot figure out the endgame to this series. That is really exciting, sure. It’s also really stressful. This book is stressful. Also, I can’t believe I am so close to being done with all of this. What.

But let’s deal with a dead body first, shall we? Because Katniss just shot an arrow through a stranger’s heart. Turns out we don’t know who this woman is and, strangely, there’s no one else in the apartment with her. She was alone. I breathed a sigh of relief, but that was quickly gone once Katniss finds out where she is.

I go to a window that overlooks the street, and when I peek through the blinds, I’m not faced with Peacekeepers but with a bundled crowd of people going about their business. During out underground journey, we have left the evacuated zones far behind and surfaced in a busy section of the Capitol.

Wait, what??? See, I was under the impression that there wasn’t much left of the Capitol, but I was wrong. There’s still a safe zone in the center of town where business continues as usual. The thing is, as awful as it seems, Katniss recognizes that this is a chance for them to escape.

One glances at my companions tells me this is not time for a stealth attack on Snow. Gale’s still losing blood from the neck wound, which we haven’t even cleaned. Peeta’s sitting on a velvet sofa with his teeth clamped down on a pillow, either fighting off madness or containing a scream. Pollux weeps against the mantel of an ornate fireplace. Cresside stands determinedly at my side, but she’s so pale her lips are bloodless. I’m running on hate. When the energy for that ebbs, I’ll be worthless.

Easily the most depressing passage in all of Mockingjay. They have all lost someone. They are all in pain. They are all exhausted. And yet it doesn’t stop. They can’t stop at this point. Not only are they so close to Snow, but Snow is so close to them.

So Katniss knows they have to keep moving, so her and Cressida search the closets of the apartments they are in to come up with outfits the remaining survivors can wear so they can go out into the Capitol and try to find where to go next. Concealing themselves in Capitol wear, make-up thickly applied to their faces, they move out into the streets. The plan thankfully works and Katniss asks Cressida where they could possibly go. Confused at first, Cressida comes up with a plan and takes the group to a dilapidated store a couple of blocks over.

Collins doesn’t resist the chance to continue to add to the unbearable tension of the situation when she introduces us to Tigris. The entire situation just feels so wrong to me, and Katniss picks up on this immediately.

Behind the counter sits the strangest person I’ve ever seen. She’s an extreme example of surgical enhancement gone wrong, for surely not even in the Capitol could they find this face attractive. The skin has been pulled back tightly and tattooed with black and gold stripes. The nose has been flattened until it barely exists. I’ve seen cat whiskers on people in the Capitol before, but none so long. The result is a grotesque, semi-feline mask, which now squints at us distrustfully.

Ok, the person doesn’t feel wrong to me. I’ve come to accept that people in the Capitol simply look different. There’s nothing to distrust in this by itself. But Cressida asks Tigris for help and when Tigris doesn’t respond, Cressida says, “Plutarch said you could be trusted.”

Oh, wonderful. So she’s associated with Plutarch? That’s reassuring.

No, Tigris’s shop is not ideal, but it’s all we have at the moment.

Thus, Katniss doesn’t have much of a choice at this point. As Tigris looks at this haggard group, Katniss pulls down her scarf and removes her wig, hoping that Tigris will recognize her. She does and directs them to a small door hidden in the wall; it seems there is a long stairway hidden below the shop.

Everything about the situation screams trap.

I mean…right??? This is seriously shady, but what choice does she have?

“Did Snow ban you from the Games?” I ask. She just stares back at me. Somewhere her tiger tail flicks with displeasure. “Because I’m going to kill him, you know.” Her mouth spreads into what I take for a smile. Reassured that this isn’t complete madness, I crawl through the space.

Well, it’s a small sign, but maybe this will work for them. But what if she smiled because Katniss just told Tigris exactly what she needed to hear so she could notify Snow? Ugh, I don’t even want to think about that possibility. Besides, there are more important things to think about. The stairway leads to a small cellar, doorless and windowless, and just the right size that most people wouldn’t even think it was possible. Just after Katniss’s group joins her down stairs, the panel is slid back closed and now they really don’t have a choice about hiding out here.

Katniss begins work on doing a rough job stitching up Gale’s neck as best as she can as Cressida and Pollux find a way to make suitable sleeping mats out of the pelts in the cellar. She moves on to Peeta to help him with the cuts on his wrists from the handcuffs and a moving, surprise game of Real or Not Real breaks out.

“You’ve got to keep them clean, otherwise the infection could spread and—“

“I know what blood poisoning is, Katniss,” says Peeta. “Even if my mother isn’t a healer.”

I’m jolted back in time, to another wound, another set of bandages. “You said the same thing to me in the first Hunger Games. Real or not real?”

“Real,” he says. “And you risked your life getting the medicine that saved me?”

“Real.” I shrug. “You were the reason I was alive.”

“Was I?” The comment throws him into confusion. Some shiny memory must be fighting for his attention, because his body tenses and his newly bandaged wrists strain against the metal cuffs. Then all the energy saps from his body. “I’m so tired, Katniss.”

I can’t even imagine how these people feel. The last few hours have been an utter nightmare, but the last couple years haven’t been all that great either. At this point, they have to be exhausted to a point of terror, and Peeta’s admittance of being tired just made me incredibly sad. I just want this to be all over for these people.

At the very least, it’s nice that they all realize that standing guard is pointless, so it’s not long before they all drift to sleep. I didn’t really find Katniss’s dream all the significant, but once she mentioned Effie, it made me wish she was still around. :/

If anything, though, this chapter is about accepting loss and death, and that’s the first thing Katniss does the next day when she wakes up. In her head, she goes over the eight people killed in the last twenty-four hours, and feels personally responsible for the six who died below ground. They died because of her, in a way, since she lied to them about her mission from Coin.

When everyone finally awakens, I confess. How I lied about the mission, how I jeopardized everyone in pursuit of revenge. There’s a long silence after I finish. Then Gale says, “Katniss, we all knew you were lying about Coin sending you to assassinate Snow.”

Ha, was she really that obvious?

“Do you really think Jackson believed you had orders from Coin?” Cressida asks. “Of course she didn’t. But she trusted Boggs, and he’d clearly wanted you to go on.”

“I never even told Boggs what I planned to do,” I say.

“You told everyone in Command!” Gale says. “It was one of your conditions for being the Mockingjay. ‘I kill Snow.’

Well, touché, Gale. But that still brings up another point…why did Boggs say exactly what he said before he died? And why did he insist that she kill Peeta?

Regardless, Gale has a point. He even points out that, casualties aside, their mission has actually proven to be kind of successful, since they’ve infiltrated the Capitol undetected. Katniss, however, doesn’t believe anyone until she asks Peeta what he thinks.

“I think…you still have no idea. The effect you can have.” He slides his cuffs up the support and pushes himself to a sitting position. “None of the people we lost were idiots. They knew what they were doing. They followed you because they believed you really could kill Snow.”

Peeta’s statement is one of faith and trust. (I love the call back to the last time this was said.) Maybe, subconsciously, that’s what Katniss sees in this, because she immediately realizes the only way to pay back the debt of what has happened in the past day is to go forward with her plan to kill Snow.

That’s much easier said than done, of course, as the five survivors can’t seem to come up with a realistic plan to kill Snow. After Finnick’s revealing speech earlier in the book, it seems Snow doesn’t make many public appearances. Katniss suggests offering herself up to be a prisoner in the hopes that Snow will execute her publicly, giving Gale a chance to assassinate him. Peeta’s quick to point out that there are way too many things that could go wrong with that plan, and Gale agrees it’s far too extreme to start off with.

Still brainstorming, the group hears Tigris close up the shop above them and then open the panel to invite them up to eat what little food she has. There, they watch a Capitol broadcast that names the five of them as the actual survivor of the previous days’ events, which makes their efforts even harder. They’ll have to try even harder not to be recognized once they leave the shop.

It’s unsettling that there is no answer to this conundrum by the end of this chapter. They are no closer to a solid plan than at the start, though Katniss does agree that they should try to infiltrate the President’s mansion before Katniss offers herself up for bait. But besides that? They are completely stumped.

To make matters more complicated, that night, Katniss wakes up to overhear a conversation between Peeta and Gale. Unsurprisingly, that conversation is about her.

There’s a long pause before Peeta speaks again. “That was funny, what Tigris said. About no one knowing what to do with her.”

“Well, we never have,” Gale says.

They both laugh. It’s so strange to hear them talking like this. Almost like friends. Which they’re not. Never have been. Although they’re not exactly enemies.

I suppose it’s something they would eventually have to talk about, right? I think Peeta honestly doesn’t see Gale as a threat to him and I found it kind of funny that both dudes had a healthy sense of self-deprecation masking their conversations. Peeta believes that Katniss truly loves Gale, while Gale is convinced he could never match up to what Peeta has done for her. It’s kind of a strange conversation, though, because I feel like it almost addresses the reader’s thoughts a bit too much, as if Collins is acutely aware of the audience reading her books.

“I wonder how she’ll make up her mind.”

“Oh, that I do know.” I can just catch Gale’s last words through the layer of fur. “Katniss will pick whoever she thinks she can’t survive without.”

This worries me because I fear Katniss actually won’t get to make this choice, that Collins is fully prepared at this point to kill off either Peeta or Gale. And how fucked would it be if she finally “chose” who she wanted and that one died?

I don’t even want to think about it, honestly. It’s simply too distressing for me. I am kind of ticked off at the idea that Gale and Peeta are saying this sort of stuff while she’s in the room, as it’s a tad presumptuous, but either way, shit is about to get real and I just want to hide. NOT PREPARED.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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