1. “He means there’s only one future, if I want to keep those I love alive and stay alive myself. I’ll have to marry Peeta.”
This realization strikes Katniss after she tells Haymitch about President Snow’s visit to her house, and it ties into the theme of fighting for control that runs throughout the novel. During his visit, President Snow threatens to harm Katniss’s loved ones, singling out Gale in particular, if she fails to convince people that she and Peeta are in love. Only by making people believe that fiction can the Capitol act as if Katniss’s and Peeta’s threat of suicide at the end of the Hunger Games was just the act of two love-crazed teenagers rather than open defiance. As President Snow explains, if people think Katniss was deliberately defying the Capitol, it could encourage others to do the same, possibly leading to uprisings in the districts. Katniss agrees to do what she can, but what she gradually comes to understand is that there will be no end point to the lying. To keep her loved ones safe, she’ll have to continue acting publicly as if she’s in love with Peeta indefinitely, which means they’ll eventually have to get married to avoid raising questions.
Katniss is distraught over this realization, but not because the thought of marrying Peeta is so terrible to her. What she despises about the notion is the Capitol controlling her for essentially the rest of her life. She recognizes that at no point in the foreseeable future will the Capitol leave her alone, and that she’ll always be looking over her shoulder to see if she’s being spied on. Moreover, she’ll have to think through every public gesture and action to make sure it doesn’t offend the Capitol. A single wrong move, even if it’s committed out of carelessness and not defiance, could mean her friends or family being hurt or killed in retaliation. The marriage is just one more way that the Capitol will have control over her and everything she cares about.
2. “A mockingjay is a creature the Capitol never intended to exist.”
Katniss has this thought as she and Madge talk about the mockingjay pin Madge gave her before the Hunger Games, and it hints at the symbolic meaning of the mockingjay in the novel. The origins of the mockingjay represent a lapse of control for the Capitol. During the first rebellion, the Capitol had genetically engineered a bird called the jabberjay, which could memorize and repeat long strings of words. It used them to spy on the rebels, but the rebels then began using the birds to misinform the Capitol. The Capitol tried to eliminate the birds, but they had already started breeding with wild mockingbirds, resulting in the mockingjay. It’s a sign of failure on the part of the Capitol, and the bird is for that reason an appropriate symbol for the current rebellion.
But the quote takes on an additional meaning in the context of Katniss’s discovering that she’s the symbol of the rebellion. Katniss, like the original mockingjay, also represents a lapse of control for the Capitol. When she had the idea to threaten suicide at the end of the Games, knowing the Capitol wouldn’t let her go through with it, she took back control of her life from the Capitol, even if just momentarily. In addition, that this event occurred during the finale of the Hunger Games when most of Panem was watching made it highly symbolic. The Capitol’s attempt to control Katniss essentially backfired and turned Katniss into a symbol of defiance. Like the mockingjay, Katniss became a symbol the Capitol never intended to exist.
3. “Why did you do it anyway?” he says.
“I don’t know. To show them that I’m more than just a piece in their Games?” I say.
In this snippet of conversation, Katniss replies to Peeta when he asks why she decided on her blatantly rebellious demonstration to the Gamemakers. Notably, the quote recalls something Peeta said in the first novel of the series before he and Katniss competed in the Hunger Games. In that instance, he was saying he didn’t want the Games to change his character and change him into a killer. He wanted to maintain his integrity and humanity. It was a form of rebellion against the Capitol and the Games, which dehumanize the tributes by turning their slaughter into entertainment. Katniss echoes that rebellion here, though her reasoning is different. What she did in her demonstration was pretend to hang a dummy with the name of the previous Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane, written on the front. Seneca Crane was executed after Katniss’s and Peeta’s suicide stunt at the end of the Games, and the act was intended to remind the Gamemakers of his fate and suggest that they could suffer the same. Katniss’s act, in other words, was an attack on the Gamemakers and wasn’t about maintaining her personal integrity.
Maybe more importantly, it was also intended to show them that they couldn’t control her. The Capitol strictly regiments everything that occurs in Panem using the threat of violence to keep people in line. The Games are perhaps the best example. They exist to remind the districts that the Capitol can crush them at will and to make them feel powerless. It’s that control that Katniss and many of the people in the districts rebel against. Katniss’s demonstration showed that she wasn’t afraid of displease them and displayed a contemptuous disregard for their control. When Katniss tells Peeta she did it to show them she’s more than a piece in their Games, she means quite literally that she wanted to make it clear that they can’t determine how she behaves.
4. “My prep team. My foolish, shallow, affectionate pets, with their obsessions with feathers and parties, nearly break my heart with their good-bye.” (p. 247)
This quote appears as Katniss’s prep team finishes her hair and makeup just before she does the tribute interview with Caesar Flickerman. It reveals the mixed feelings Katniss has about the team and the people in the Capitol more generally. Katniss feels consistently shocked by the superficial concerns of her team since her concerns, and those of everyone in the districts, are far more consequential. While her prep team worries about parties and how they look, Katniss worries about the safety of her family and friends and whether they have enough to eat. At the same time, however, Katniss knows her team genuinely cares about her, and she’s come to feel real affection for Venia, Octavia, and Flavius. She looks down on them for their shallowness, but she also recognizes that they’re just a product of the Capitol. They’ve never known the sorts of hardships that she and the people in the districts endure on a daily basis.
The quote ties directly into the theme of the ignorance of the privileged. At various times in the novel we see how the people of the Capitol live oblivious to the suffering of the people in the districts. The most notable example is the feast at President Snow’s mansion. On learning that people in Capitol make themselves vomit so they can continue gorging, Katniss’s thoughts turn immediately to the many people she knows are starving in her home district. She finds the thought anyone would waste food in such a way when others are in such desperate need appalling and insulting, because they show no regard for the suffering going on outside the Capitol that could be alleviated with the food they’re wasting. The Hunger Games themselves are another example of the ignorance that the privileged enjoy. It’s easy for the people in the Capitol to view the Games as entertainment because it’s not their children who are competing. They quite literally don’t know the anguish the Games cause for the families of the children who are chosen because they never have to experience it firsthand. Katniss’s quote acknowledges this sort of ignorance, but it also suggests that her prep team and the people in the Capitol more generally aren’t entirely responsible for it. They’re products of their environment. If Katniss didn’t take this detail into account, she most likely wouldn’t feel any affection for her prep team.
5. “The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of the rebellion.” (p. 387)
Katniss has this epiphany at the end of the novel, after Plutarch Heavensbee explains to her why the rebellion needed to keep her alive through the Quarter Quell. She suddenly realizes the significance of several events tied to the idea of the mockingjay and for the first time understands how they’re all connected. The bird refers to the mockingjay that represents her. The song is what the old man in District 11 whistled, the same one Katniss and Rue used to communicate with one another through the mockingjays. The pin is the mockingjay pin Madge gave her that she wore through the Games and came to be associated with. The berries are the ones she and Peeta threatened to eat to commit suicide, and in doing so made Katniss a beacon of defiance to the districts. The watch is the one Plutarch Heavensbee showed her with the vanishing mockingjay on its face. The cracker is what the refugees from District 8 held out to her with the mockingjay stamped on it. The dress refers to the one Cinna created for her that burned away, leaving her wearing the mockingjay costume.
At that moment Katniss recognizes that a vast movement has been underway to bring down the Capitol, and without even knowing it, she has been its symbol. She herself is represented by the mockingjay that, like herself, the Capitol never intended to exist and survived despite the Capitol’s plans. And like the mockingjay, she’s also become something the Capitol can’t control. As Katniss puts all these pieces together, she comes to other realizations as well. She recognizes that the rebellion has reached further than she ever imagined if Plutarch, the Head Gamemaker, is part of it. She also understands that Haymitch has known all of this information all along and not shared any of it with her. The thought causes her to feel immensely betrayed, since he’s long been one of the few people she believes she can trust. Instead she feels used by Haymitch for the sake of the rebellion. As a result, she doesn’t feel any joy about these revelations, only betrayal. In essence Haymitch and Plutarch used her image for publicity without allowing her any control over it, in a similar vein to how the Capitol has used her image to promote the Hunger Games.