A Question about Katniss Everdeen

Warning: this post will contain major spoilers regarding The Hunger Games trilogy. Enter the arena at your own risk.

Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games series, didn’t work for me as well as the first two novels, but Suzanne Collins picked up the pace after a meandering beginning.  I dug the bleak climax and conclusion, which made it clear that Collins wasn’t critiquing totalitarian societies per se, but rather a culture of death that can infect anyone and any society.

The rebel leaders prove no more respectful of life than the high and mighty of the Capitol.  Peeta begs for a violent end to remove him as a threat.  Katniss assassinates Coin on a hunch.

I’m curious to know how readers interpreted Katniss’s vocal support of a final hunger games as an act of vengeance against Snow and the Capitol.  On first reading, I took Katniss to have fully succumbed to her world’s all-consuming enmity, but my wife thought she was bluffing to stay a player in Coin’s inner circle.  I looked again at the text and agree with my perceptive spouse.  The basis of support that Katniss gives–Prim–makes no sense given her suspicion that Coin and Gale were responsible for her sister’s death.  As a bluff, however, it makes perfect sense.  Her weighing all her option, thinking “everything through,” staring at the rose throughout the vote, and wondering how well Haymitch understands her also suggest deception.

Collins doesn’t spell out exactly what her heroine is up to, though, so there’s some room for multiple interpretations.  How did you read this scene?

(Image via George Takei)

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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8 Responses

  1. I read the scene the exact same way. It makes no sense to me other than as a bluff.

  2. Will Truman says:

    I read it as being indicative of how moral systems collapse when surrounded by blood. Katniss’s explanation didn’t make sense, which I sort of considered to be the point.

  3. Stillwater says:

    I thought it was a bluff along the lines you – or your wife I guess – suggested. That Coin would even suggest such a thing was perceived by Katniss as a perpetuation of the same craziness she was drafted into to defeat. So she was trying to stay close to her friends, but closer to her enemies.

    • Patrick Cahalan says:

      This is buttressed by her internal monologue about Haymitch. She is worried that he will mess up her plan.

      So she obviously has one.

  4. 22209 says:

    I also think it was absolutely a bluff. When Coin admitted that it was her idea to hold another Hunger Games, Katniss realized that Snow had been right in saying that Coin’s plan had always been to take over Snow’s position — that Coin wanted Snow’s power, not to help build a better country.

    When Katniss was considering what Snow had said immediately after her conversation with him, she wondered why Coin would need to blow up the children since she had already essentially won the war. Then she realized that Coin still hadn’t won her support. She says “Did Coin do it, hoping that losing Prim would push me completely over the edge? Or, at least, firmly on her side?”

    When Katniss realized that the country would not be better under Coin’s presidency, she decided to try to prevent that from happening. In order to do that, she needed to make sure that Coin thought that her plan to win Katniss over had succeeded. So Katniss told her that she was on Coin’s side because of Prim.

    Haymitch knew that Katniss had realized something important, because she had come to try to talk to him. They didn’t get to have the conversation, so it was up to him to figure out that she had a plan and whether or not to support her. He did, and that’s why he said “I’m with the Mockingjay” rather than “I vote for holding another Hunger Games.”

  5. Kelly says:

    I agree it was a bluff. I have many, many issues with Hunger Games, and I would be interested in hearing what you have to say. It appears that Collins was using alchemy to tell her tale, but was Katniss really “gold” at the end? I find it odd that she believes the most evil person in the story (Snow) in deciding to off Coin. I also don’t like that the only way forward for the characters is murder (except for Haymitch and Annie, and look what it got them), it seems unimaginative.

  6. Brandon says:

    The big issue, I think, is simply when to pinpoint the time at which Katniss realizes that, remarkable as it may be, the one thing Snow would not do to her is lie (he had never lied to her, and had nothing personal to gain from lying). The major obstacle to putting it as early as the vote is that Katniss repeatedly presents herself as not quite believing Snow, and the most natural reading is that she has the realization as she is standing there preparing to kill him (if she doesn’t, the scene is considerably less dramatic). It also seems to be made clear throughout the trilogy that Katniss, while a calculating opportunist when she has to be, is simply not all that sophisticated as a planner: her plans are almost always concerned with whatever is her immediate concern at the time — which, leading up to this, for the most part has been to kill Snow — and she is perfectly willing to throw them out when the opportunity arises. The mention of Prim seems to me to be the strongest argument on the other side, but its being so depends crucially on Katniss already being convinced by Snow at that point.

    I think, however, we have to consider the actual choice offered, which was not to have a Hunger Games or not, but to have a Hunger Games or execute all the citizens in the Capitol; and Katniss, unlike Peeta, is perfectly capable of choosing the less evil of two evil options and also, unlike Peeta, is perfectly capable of remembering what is the actual alternative on the table. ‘Bluff’ is not the right word here (although I can see why one would use it): it’s an actual vote, and whatever her reasons and whatever she has up her sleeve, her vote is quite deliberate — she is not bluffing about voting for a Hunger Games, she actually, deliberately, does it, even if as part of a strategem. She had no way to guarantee that she could stop that process once it started. My suspicion is that either she does it simply to guarantee that Coin will let her kill Snow, or she’s simply biding her time to kill whoever is ultimately responsible for Prim’s death. (I tend to the latter; it’s a very Katniss sort of plan, and much more plausible than thinking that Katniss, who seems very vague on politics, had some sort of political masterplan for destroying tyranny, and the motive of vengeance is repeatedly highlighted throughout the book; but the rose adds weight to the former.) That she so unhesitatingly tried to take the suicide pill would then be a sign that she intended to kill herself after avenging Prim anyway.

  7. chris says:

    It is a bluff, but more significant is that it signifies Katniss finally playing the game better than Peeta. Throughout the stories Peeta has consistently been one step ahead of her. But when Peeta vocally objects to the idea of a Hunger Games for capitol kids, he has lost himself, and probably Coin’s graces. Katniss however, is still “in the arena” with her bluff. Finally at the end of the trilogy, she learns to play the game, ensuring she gets a chance to kill Coin. Its the final development of her character. Brilliant stuff