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Katniss processes Coin’s threat, resenting being once again used in someone else’s game. Flavius, Octavian, and Venia begin preparing Katniss to shoot her propos as the Mockingjay. Gale attempts to smooth things over with Katniss and asks how their work is going. He and Katniss argued when he tried to defend Coin’s threat, and things between them are still tense. The two of them head down to the Defense Level where Beetee Latier, who was also rescued from the arena by District 13, is working on some new weapons. Beetee has used his electronics expertise to create a new bow for Katniss that responds to her voice commands and fires incendiary arrows. Katniss is in a better mood once it is time to start shooting her first propo, but she struggles with line delivery and feels unnatural in the costume and makeup. After one particularly bad take, Katniss waits in silence. They are interrupted when Haymitch Abernathy, Katniss and Peeta’s mentor during the Hunger Games, scoffs at her performance. This footage, Haymitch says, will kill their revolution.
Katniss still holds a grudge against Haymitch for saving her instead of Peeta in the arena. Haymitch gathers a group to brainstorm a new strategy. They discuss moments when Katniss made them feel something real. The common thread in these moments is that they saw Katniss unscripted. Haymitch suggests putting Katniss into combat to capture her reactions for their propos, instead of giving her lines to read. When Boggs, Coin’s second in command, worries Katniss will be killed, Coin agrees to send her to a safer zone with a guard squad. The group disperses, until just Haymitch and Katniss are left. They reconcile, each acknowledging the guilt they feel and the blame they place on each other. Finnick arrives, still wearing his hospital gown, and he asks to accompany Katniss and the squad. Katniss calms him down, telling him he must first train with his new weapon, a trident Beetee has been working on. Boggs is impressed with how Katniss handled the situation, and Katniss begins to see Boggs as a potential friend, despite his outward loyalty to Coin.
The squad departs for the safe zone in District 8. Katniss recalls what Plutarch explained about the current conflict. All of the thirteen districts apart from District 2, which supplied weaponry and the armed Peacekeepers, is warring with the Capitol. Should the rebellion succeed, they will reestablish democracy in Panem.
A hovercraft leaves Katniss, her guard squad, and a camera crew in District 8. The area was bombed the day before, and the wounded are being taken to a makeshift hospital under the direction of Commander Paylor. Gale questions Paylor’s decision to gather the wounded in one place, but Paylor has no better options. Paylor is young and seems unimpressed by the appearance of the Mockingjay, but she shows the squad into the facility. Katniss presses forward through the carnage, knowing that her presence inspires the survivors. However, she is ashamed to accept their condolences over her miscarriage, which was fabricated to cover up the lie about her pregnancy. As the crowds eventually disperse, Katniss finally understands the power she holds and the responsibility it carries. Cressida and Messalla, the propo director and her assistant, are pleased with the footage they got.
The squad congratulates Katniss, but they are interrupted when Boggs tells them they need to leave. Capitol bombers are headed their way. Despite direct orders to stay hidden, Katniss finds higher ground and watches bombs fall on the hospital. Gale follows, and the two of them manage to take down several hovercrafts with Beetee’s arrows. To their dismay, one lands on the hospital. Katniss rushes to the site, but it is destroyed. Cressida, whose crew has begun filming again, asks Katniss to speak. Katniss describes what the Capitol has done, and she declares that it will do the same to the rest of the rebels if they lay down arms. She directs her last words to the Capitol, promising mutually assured destruction.
Once the squad is safely back in its hovercraft, Boggs assesses their injuries. Katniss is taken to the hospital, and her mother finally learns where Katniss has been. Later, Katniss is taken into Command. The cameraman, Castor, introduces himself and his brother Pollux, the other cameraman. Pollux had his tongue cut out by the Capitol. The propo has been aired and rerun several times, thanks to Beetee hacking into the Capitol’s airwaves, and the team is pleased with the final cut. Coin halts their celebration. She questions the decision to put Katniss into combat and urges Plutarch to be more careful in the future. The next propos will feature interviews of the other tributes.
Finnick and Katniss eat dinner together so they can watch the new propos, but the broadcast is interrupted by another interview with Caesar and Peeta. Katniss is shocked at the changes in Peeta. Katniss can see he is being tortured, and her concern grows. In the interview, Peeta speaks directly to Katniss, imploring her to use her influence to stop the war. Plutarch and Fulvia worry that about Katniss’s reaction, but Finnick and Katniss pretend they stopped watching before the interview even began.
The powerful symbol of the Mockingjay is juxtaposed against the reality of Katniss’s lack of control. Katniss realizes that, once again, people in power want to use her as a pawn for their own purposes. Katniss herself is tightly controlled. Other people choose where she goes and what she does so that they can film her and shape the narrative of the rebellion. She also cannot do the things she actually wants to do—save Peeta and kill President Snow. In contrast to Katniss’s lack of power, her presence alone as the Mockingjay has the power to inspire the fighters in District 8.
The theme of interdependence emerges as Katniss relies heavily on her team, recognizing that she cannot do much alone. Katniss hears the voice of Haymitch, and she knows that Haymitch is back and that the team, minus Peeta, is together. Haymitch helps the propo team realize and appreciate Katniss’s passion for people, which is far more powerful than a scripted scene. Boggs makes choices to help keep Katniss safe. Beetee creates weapons that work for the teams’ strengths. Cressida and Messalla give Katniss the room to fulfill the roles of Mockingjay in a genuine way. Ultimately, Katniss is only successful with the help of the people around her.
The importance of interdependence is particularly evident in the way she relates to Haymitch. In fact, they need to reconcile and depend on each other again to be successful. They both blame the other for losing Peeta, while feeling guilt themselves. Nonetheless, they both have hope for him because they have seen he is alive through the Capitol propos, and they are willing to do what it takes to see him rescued. Only after Haymitch is by her side does the team work with Katniss’s strengths and sees her fulfill the role of Mockingjay. Without Haymitch’s help, Katniss would have failed and Coin likely would have followed through on her threat toward the other victors.
Plutarch’s description of the war establishes the setting of the conflict and provides hope for a positive outcome in the war not seen from Katniss’s limited narrative. The description of the setting provides a surprisingly hopeful tone since all of the districts except for District 2 are fighting against the Capitol. In addition to the optimistic possibility of outnumbering the Capitol, the prospect of re-establishing a democratic society in Panem reveals a glimmer of hope for the future. The hopeful description of the war effort offsets the hopelessness Katniss portrays through the seemingly unachievable goals of saving Peeta and killing President Snow.
Collins illustrates the tragedy and horrors of war through foreshadowing the bombing of the injured soldier in District 8 and Katniss’s clear description of mutually assured destruction. Gale and the propo team see that gathering the injured in one place makes for an easy target, which proves to be correct when the Capitol hovercraft later destroys the hospital. Killing the injured, while shocking, is a reality of the war they are in. Katniss acknowledges the heinous act, repeating Peeta’s words that the war will result in mutually assured destruction. The death and destruction reminds the reader that war is more than political moves, such as creating the symbol of the Mockingjay—war costs people’s lives.
The novel focuses on the state of humanity by contrasting the larger brutality of the war and the evilness of the world with the effects of war on the individual level. Katniss’s life alternates between fighting to protect the people she loves to end the tyranny of the Capitol and returning to District 13, where life goes on and she spends time with her mother and sister. The shift between fighting a war and living everyday life reveals that both aspects occur simultaneously. As important as fighting in the war is, Katniss has to keep moving forward. Katniss’s interaction with her mother after returning from District 8 reveals a mother worried about her children, as opposed to loftier ideals like ending tyranny and re-establishing a democracy.
Parallels are drawn between Peeta and Katniss as they are both manipulated for political purposes. District 13 broadcasts the propo of Katniss in District 8 urging the rebels to fight. She also reveals the Capitol’s vicious tactics. Similarly, the Capitol broadcasts a propo of Peeta asking Katniss to stop the war. Political powers use both characters for their own ends in the war effort, both sides threatening carnage if the other does not yield.