In the twenty-fifth chapter of Mockingjay, we learn of the terrifying ramifications of the Capitol bombing of the City Circle. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay.
It’s taken me nearly a day to write this review. I’d assumed that those nowhere near the Capitol would be safe. But the pieces were set up chapters ago, with Prim stating that she was in training to be a medic. And now she’s gone, dead by a trap designed by Gale and somehow stolen by the Capitol to be used against them.
This chapter completely fucked with my expectations. I’m still waiting to see how the final chapters after this unfold before judging Collins’s endgame, but my preliminary feelings are that, so far, THIS IS REALLY STRANGE. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, for the record, but chapter twenty-five opens with Katniss being physically and mentally removed from what ends chapter twenty-four. Katniss is burning from the bomb blast and her consciousness takes her to a place where all of the places she’s been assimilate into a mish-mash of images, people, events. She’s a bird, her wings burning, and she falls into Finnick’s ocean. Collins weaves in the hallucinatory images through Katniss’s narration, and, at first, I believed that Katniss had died, that what we were witnessing was a narrative sleight of hand, that all along, Collins had planned for this to happen. What’s even more horrifying to me is that had Katniss died that day during the Capitol attack and had this opening section been her recollection of that, it would have been much easier to handle and much less frustrating to read.
Instead, we witness, through Collins’s words, Katniss realizing just how painful the past two years of her life has been, how many people she has lost, and how she has to say goodbye to her lonely, loving sister.
The small white bird tinged in pink dives down, buries her claws in my chest, and tries to keep me afloat. “No, Katniss! No! You can’t go!”
But the ones I hated are winning, and if she clings to me, she’ll be lost as well. “Prim, let go!” And finally she does.
I guess I had a small hope that Prim would be alive after all of this, but that’s not Collins’s style. In the greatest irony, one of the people Katniss trusts the most seems to have inadvertently created the very weapon that has harmed Katniss so badly, and has taken her sister away from her. So many people lost over the course of this series.
But Katniss survives. The girl on fire (how ironic is that name now?) survives.
In the dazzling white Capitol hospital, the doctors work their magic on me. Draping my rawness in new sheets of skin. Coaxing the cells into thinking they are my own. Manipulating my body parts, bending and stretching the limbs to assure a good fit. I hear over and over how lucky I am. My eyes were spared. Most of my face was spared. My lungs are responding to treatment. I will be good as new.
She won’t. She won’t ever be fine, will she?
When my tender skin has toughened enough to withstand the pressure of sheets, more visitors arrive. The morphling opens the door to the dead and alive alike. Haymitch, yellow and unsmiling. Cinna, stitching a new wedding dress. Delly, pratting on about the niceness of people. My father sings all four stanzas of “The Hanging Tree” and reminds me that my mother—who sleeps in a chair between shifts—isn’t to know about it.
God, Cinna. Poor Cinna. I miss his fierceness already. I’m sad he also didn’t get a goodbye, but it seems Collins moves her books along at a frantic pace and sometimes, there’s no time to grieve.
One day I awake to expectations and know I will not be allowed to live in my dreamland. I must take food by mouth. Move my own muscles. Make my way to the bathroom. A brief appearance by President Coin clinches it.
“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’ve saved him for you.”
Holy shit, the rebels won???? What?
The doctors’ puzzlement grows over why I’m unable to speak. Many tests are done, and while there’s damage to my vocal cords, it doesn’t account for it. Finally, Dr. Aurelius, a head doctor, comes up with the theory that I’ve become a mental, rather than the physical, Avox. That my silence has been brought on by emotional trauma. Although he’s presented with a hundred proposed remedies, he tells them to leave me alone.
If anything, most of what chapter twenty-five deals with is trauma: the physical trauma of the war against the Capitol, and the mental anguish and terror it’s brought everyone. For Katniss, she’s experienced so much that I’m not at all surprised that her mind has reacted to it like this.
It’s sort of Collins’s trademark in this series to rush through summaries of what happened recently, and I was reminded of the summary Haymitch gave Katniss at the end of Catching Fire here. We finally learn what happened after the Capitol bombed their own children.
On the war: The Capitol fell the day the parachutes went off, President Coin leads Panem now, and troops have been sent out to put down the small remaining pockets of Capitol resistance. On President Snow: He’s being held prisoner, awaiting trial and most certain execution. On my assassination team: Cressida and Pollux have been sent out into the districts to cover the wreckage of the war. Gale, who took two bullets in an escape attempt, is mopping up Peacekeepers in 2. Peeta’s still in the burn unit. He made it to the City Circle after all. On my family: My mother buries her grief in her work.
So much information all at once! I’m surprised that none of the other main characters died, and I’m surprised that Katniss did not succeed in her mission to reach Snow. I expected the end of this book to be one giant showdown between them. But Collins has a thing about taking my expectations and punching them right in the face.
As someone who has suffered from abuse, from post-traumatic stress disorder, from many years of depression, and from some fairly life-stopping moments of tragedy, I want to give Collins credit where credit is due. I don’t want to insinuate that my experience with tragedy or pain is universal, or that it applies to anyone else. For me, though, I felt a strange and growing sense of respect for the way in which she portrays Katniss’s mental state in the many days after the end of the war against the Capitol. For example:
I take to my old habits from District 13. Wandering unauthorized through the mansion. Into bedrooms and offices, ballrooms and baths. Seeking strange little hiding spaces. A closet of furs. A cabinet in the library. A long-forgotten bathtub in a room of discarded furniture. My places are dim and quiet and impossible to find. I curl up, make myself smaller, try to disappear entirely.
When my father died, I became Katniss’s mother. I buried my grief in work. I only took a half day off, the day I found out he died. It seemed cliché to return to work the next day, but I did it. And it helped, at least, to distract myself.
But in the past, detachment worked the best. It worked when I was being abused, it worked when I was being bullied, it worked when I was dumped, it worked during times of ridiculously absurd stress, and it still works for me to do. Hiding from the world and, inevitably, my problems. I don’t know that Collins has ever experienced anything like this before, but I felt a strange kinship in these pages with Katniss, that even a fictional character like this somehow knew how I felt, knew what I’d experienced.
She even seems to nail down visual triggers so well, too:
Patches of my former self gleam white and pale. I’m like a bizarre patchwork quilt of skin. Parts of my hair were singed off completely; the rest has been chopped off at odd lengths. Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire. I wouldn’t care much except the sight of my body brings back the memory of the pain. And why I was in pain. And what happened just before the pain started. And how I watched my little sister become a human torch.
What’s so distressing is the thought that Katniss’s own body will now become her own unique trigger to that day in the City Circle. And I hate President Snow for making it a reality.
The time draws near, although I could not give you exact hours and minutes. President Snow has been tried and found guilty, sentenced to execution. Haymitch tells me, I hear talk of it as I drift past the guards in the hallways. My Mockingjay suit arrives in my room. Also my bow, looking no worse for wear, but no sheath of arrows. Either because they were damaged or more likely because I shouldn’t have weapons. I vaguely wonder if I should be preparing for the event in some way, but nothing comes to mind.
With this, Collins finally shifts to the evil, sadistic mastermind behind all of this: President Snow. It seems Katniss will finally have her day to kill him, and I really adore that Collins has made it so that none of us feel victorious about it. To Katniss, it’s meaningless. Snow took her sister and Peeta. He’s already won, despite that the Capitol is no longer and power. What joy could possibly come from such violence?
Days pass until Katniss wanders off into a part of the mansion she’d not been to before, a quiet area with thick, cushy carpets. When the smell of roses overwhelms her, she almost loses it, believing mutts to be coming to attack her. When they don’t, she moves closer down the hall towards the doorway that holds the roses. It’s guarded by two rebel guards, who refuse her entry on President Coin’s orders.
That’s when Commander Paylor, the woman from District 8, orders the guards to let her in to the room of the roses:
“On my authority,” says Paylor. “She has a right to anything behind that door.”
I didn’t understand what this meant, initially. Did Paylor mean that anything in Snow’s former residence belonged to Katniss? She enters the room, the smell so strong she almost can’t smell anymore, and looks upon row after row of colored roses. It’s her goal to send an ironic and necessary message to Snow on his death, and she finds the agent to send that message her in that room: a white rose.
“That’s a nice one.”
My hand jerks, the shears snap shut, severing the stem.
“The colors are lovely, of course, but nothing says perfection like white.”
I still can’t see him, but his voice seems to rise up from an adjacent bed of roses.
And Paylor’s comment now makes sense: this is where Snow is being held. Katniss has every right to him.
He’s as well groomed and finely dressed as ever, but weighted down with manacles, ankle shackles, tracking devices. In the bright light, his skin’s a pale, sickly green. He holds a white handkerchief spotted with fresh blood. Even in his deteriorated state, his snake eyes shine bright and cold. “I was hoping you’d find your way to my quarters.”
Well, I guess I’m getting what I expected from this chapter, but in a context I couldn’t have dreamed up in a million years. It’s the confrontation between President Snow and Katniss in his mansion.
“There are so many things we should discuss, but I have a feeling your visit will be brief. So, first things first.” He begins to cough, and when he removes the handkerchief from his mouth, it’s redder. “I wanted to tell you how very sorry I am about your sister.”
Oh, fuck you, Snow. My god. Even now, possibly days away from his death, he’s still interested in psychological fuckery. Ugh, the way he uses that slimy tone of his to pretend he’s sorry is awful.
“So wasteful, so unnecessary. Anyone could see the game was over by that point. In fact, I was just about to issue an official surrender when they released those parachutes.” His eyes are glued on me, unblinking, so as not to miss a second of my reaction. But what he’s said makes no sense. When they released the parachutes?
Wait a goddamn second. What the hell are you talking about, Snow? Are you trying to skirt responsibility by blaming the bombing on someone else in your ranks? I DON’T BUY IT.
“Well, you really didn’t think I gave the order, did you? Forget the obvious fact that if I’d had a working hovercraft at my disposal, I’d have been using it to make an escape. But that aside, what purpose could it have served? We both know I’m not above killing children, but I’m not wasteful. I take life for very specific reasons. And there was no reason for me to destroy a pen full of Capitol children. None at all.”
What is he saying. What. I mean, it could have been a last-ditch effort to swing the war in the opposite direction, right? To distract the rebels by killing children??? Right????!?!?!
“However, I must concede it was a masterful move on Coin’s part. The idea that I was bombing our own helpless children instantly snapped whatever frail allegiance my people still felt to me. There was no real resistance after that. Did you know it aired live? You can see Plutarch’s hand there. And in the parachutes. Well, it’s that sort of thinking that you look for in a Head Gamemaker, isn’t it?” Snow dabs the corners of his mouth. “I’m sure he wasn’t gunning for your sister, but these things happen.”
I am so heartbroken right now. They did it on purpose. They tricked me. They tricked Katniss. I should have known; the rebels had control of the Hovercraft. Just because there was a Capitol seal on the bottom did not mean it was the Capitol’s doing.
I feel so betrayed by this all. The rebel leadership is now no better than President Snow: they both murdered children in order to gain power.
I can’t. I just can’t.
“But I wasn’t watching Coin. I was watching you, Mockingjay. And you were watching me. I’m afraid we have both been played for fools.”
I refuse for this to be true. Some things even I can’t survive. I utter my first words since my sister’s death. “I don’t believe you.”
Snow shakes his head in mock disappointment. “Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other.”
Heartbroken forever. I was never, ever prepared.