“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.