Catching Fire

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Mockingjay Symbol Analysis

Mockingjay Symbol Icon
The most important symbol in Catching Fire is the mockingjay. (The third volume of The Hunger Games is actually called Mockingjay.) Katniss Everdeen first receives a mockingjay pin from her mother, and then wears it during her Victory Tour of the twelve districts. During the tour, Katniss’s pin inspires many in the Capitol to wear mockingjay pins of their own. To these people, Katniss is a model contestant in the Hunger Games, and a “fashion icon” to be enthusiastically imitated. Yet Katniss’s pin also inspires rebels who defy the government’s authority. To them, Katniss is a defiant Hunger Games contestant, one who openly disobeys the government’s rules. The mockingjay thus points to the problem with symbols themselves: because their meaning is, by definition, not explicit, symbols can be said to “mean” any number of things, some of them contradictory. One of Katniss’s principle challenges in Catching Fire is to interpret ambiguous symbols of this kind, like President Snow’s expressions, Haymitch’s ambiguous advice, and the parachutes she’s sent during the Hunger Games. Only with care, intelligence, and, in many cases, trial and error, does Katniss get these symbols’ meanings “right.” In another sense, the mockingjay is a symbol of Katniss. Mockingjays are the descendants of jabberjays—genetically engineered birds that the government sends to act as spies. The Mockingjays, then, represent the tendency for the government’s efforts to maintain control to have unintended consequences. Much like a mockingjay, Katniss has grown strong by taking care of herself, despite (or because of) the fact that society has largely ignored her, since she’s a young woman and from a poor family. Even more importantly, Katniss appears to be an agent of the Capitol—participating in the Hunger Games and later the Victory Tour—when in reality, she is whole-heartedly against the government. Katniss’s fame was created by the government, but that fame gives her power, too.

Mockingjay Quotes in Catching Fire

The Catching Fire quotes below all refer to the symbol of Mockingjay. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scholastic Press edition of Catching Fire published in 2013.
Chapter 6 Quotes

There was something strange about it. Almost clandestine. But why? Maybe he thinks someone else will steal his idea of putting a disappearing mockingjay on a watch face. Yes, he probably paid a fortune for it, and now he can’t show it to anyone, because he’s afraid someone will make a cheap, knockoff version. Only in the Capitol.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Plutarch Heavensbee
Related Symbols: Mockingjay
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

At the "meet and greet" for the year's new edition of the Hunger Games—in which both Katniss and Peeta are being forced to compete—Katniss meets the new designer of the Hunger Games, a man named Plutarch Heavensbee. Plutarch flashes Katniss his new watch, which is adorned with the image of the mockingjay. The mockingjay was also the symbol Katniss chose for herself during her previous Hunger Games, and lately it's become a popular symbol of Katniss herself.

At Katniss describes the scene, Plutarch's mockingjay watch is a symbol, which she tries with difficulty to interpret correctly. Katniss's interpretation of the watch is that Plutarch is an arrogant man, and he's trying to show it off to Katniss without giving away the idea to his peers. Katniss's interpretation of the watch reflects her opinions about the people of the Capitol themselves: that they're arrogant, materialistic, and superficial.

It's not until much later that Katniss realizes the truth: Plutarch is secretly an ally to Haymitch and other rebels, and a friend to Katniss. By showing Katniss his watch, he's actually trying to give her a hint that he's on her side, and cluing her in about the nature of the upcoming Hunger Games; namely, that the arena is designed to resemble a watch. Katniss's confusion in interpreting the mockingjay—supposedly a symbol of rebellion, or even of Katniss herself—illustrates the strangeness of all symbols. Seen from different points of view, Katniss—herself a living symbol—can be interpreted as a mascot for the Capitol, or its worst enemy.

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Chapter 7 Quotes

The jabberjays were muttations, genetically enhanced male birds […] The jabberjays were left to die. In a few years, they became extinct in the wild, but not before they had mated with female mockingbirds, creating an entirely new species.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker)
Related Symbols: Mockingjay
Page Number: 91-92
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Katniss explains where mockingjays—a futuristic form of mutated bird—come from. Because the mockingjay is explicitly described as being a symbol of Katniss herself, it's fitting that Katniss's explanation is full of symbolic allusions to Katniss's own personality. As Katniss explains, the mockingjays are natural survivors: their very existence is a testament to their ancestors' cleverness and strength. Furthermore, the mockingjays' nature is deeply divided: half mockingbird (a peaceful, natural bird) and half jabberjay (a brutal, government-bred animal). In much the same way, we might say that Katniss's own personality is resilient and deeply divided. Katniss is a natural survivor, who manages to win the Hunger Games due to her speed and skill. She's also a conflicted young woman: in part, she's peaceful and gentle, but she's also capable of acts of incredible brutality. Above all, the comparison between Katniss and the mockingjay reminds us that Katniss is partly—but not entirely!—a tool of the government. While she's been partly "bred" by the Capitol, she's also abandoned her role and rejected the Capitol, in much the same that the mockingjays have rejected the jabberjays' mission to help the government that created them.

Chapter 14 Quotes

Effie doesn’t know that my mockingjay pin is now a symbol used by the rebels. At least in District 8. In the Capitol, the mockingjay is still a fun reminder of an especially exciting Hunger Games.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Effie Trinket
Related Symbols: Mockingjay
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

As Katniss prepares to compete in her second round of the Hunger Games, she reunites with her publicist, Effie Trinket. Effie is strangely oblivious to Katniss's "cult status" as a mascot for the revolution against the government—as far as she's concerned (or so Katniss believes), Katniss is just an especially popular victor. Effie's cluelessness is reflected in her adoption of the mockingjay pin: Effie wears this pin on her body, unaware that for some people, the pin is a symbol of rebellion against the very government she serves.

More broadly speaking, Effie's adoption of the mockingjay pin points to the basic ambiguity in Katniss's role as a national celebrity. Because Katniss is forced to speak in allusions and riddles (rather than denounce the government directly), many of her remarks can be interpreted as either pro- or anti-Capitol. Katniss herself is a symbol—an instantly recognizable national celebrity—and like any popular symbol, she can be interpreted in more than one way. Katniss hates the government, but she's still unsure if she wants to commit to the dangers of becoming a revolutionary. In all, the ambiguity of the mockingjay pin reflects Katniss's uncertainty about her own identity and her future.

Chapter 18 Quotes

A shadow of recognition flickers across Caesar’s face, and I can tell that he knows that the mockingjay isn’t just my token. That it’s come to symbolize so much more. That what will be seen as a flashy costume change in the Capitol is resonating in an entirely different way throughout the districts. But he makes the best of it.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Cinna , Caesar Flickerman
Related Symbols: Mockingjay
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:

As Katniss prepares to begin the Hunger Games, she's forced to give a series of TV interviews with Caesar Flickerman, a popular TV personality. Although the interviews are intended to be glossy and mindlessly entertaining, Katniss uses them as an opportunity to speak to her rebel supporters across Panem while also conducting a traditional interview. Mostly with the help of her designer, Cinna, Katniss manages to play both sides of the field by wearing her symbol, the mockingjay. To mainstream fans of the Hunger Games, Katniss seems no different from any other victor. To rebels, however (and to Caesar, who clearly knows about the significance of the mockingjay), Katniss's mockingjay is a sign of solidarity and support; a gesture of disrespect and even outright rebellion against the government.

Yet Katniss's hidden resistance is uneven and unpredictable: there's no guarantee that it'll inspire any real rebellions, since her mockingjay could easily be interpreted as a normal victor's "costume." But her hidden resistance is also the safest and arguably the most powerful way to oppose the government, considering that the government is powerful and all-seeing. Instead of firing shots at Snow and then trying to hide, Katniss uses her mockingjay to hide in plain sight.

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Mockingjay Symbol Timeline in Catching Fire

The timeline below shows where the symbol Mockingjay appears in Catching Fire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
...prepares to leave for her tour, her mother gives her a pin shaped like a mockingjay. Effie shouts that it’s time for Katniss to leave. Katniss remembers her conversation with Snow,... (full context)
Chapter 6
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
...of pride and surprise, that some of the people of the Capitol have imitated her mockingjay pin and wearing pins of their own. She notes with great pleasure that this must... (full context)
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
Surveillance and Manipulation Theme Icon
...As Plutarch says goodbye, Katniss points out that he’s wearing a beautiful wristwatch with a mockingjay on its face. Plutarch responds that his watch is “one of a kind,” and walks... (full context)
Chapter 7
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
Surveillance and Manipulation Theme Icon
Women, Femininity, and Sexism Theme Icon
During her conversation with Madge Undersee, Madge complimented Katniss for her mockingjay pin, and they discussed the history of mockingjays. Long ago, the government genetically engineered male... (full context)
Chapter 8
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
Pain, Pleasure, and Self-Control  Theme Icon
...all along with knowing it—by threatening to kill herself with poisonous berries, by wearing a mockingjay pin, and by speaking out about Rue. She whispers to Gale that she’s sorry, and... (full context)
Chapter 10
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
...mysterious figures. The woman is holding out a small object—a cracker, it seems—on which a mockingjay has been drawn. The woman insists that she and her companion are on Katniss’s side.... (full context)
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
Surveillance and Manipulation Theme Icon
...must be something else going on there. Twill adds that she has noticed the same mockingjay flying through District 13 in TV footage of the area, proving that the government is... (full context)
Chapter 11
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
Surveillance and Manipulation Theme Icon
...13, explaining that the area is too irradiated for any life. But Katniss notices a mockingjay flying in front of the Justice Building, just as Twill has described. Katniss realizes that... (full context)
Chapter 14
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
...and Effie in the train. Effie mentions that she’ll be wearing dresses to match Katniss’s mockingjay pin. Katniss realizes that most people in the Capitol have no idea that, for the... (full context)
Chapter 17
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
Surveillance and Manipulation Theme Icon
...revealing its true form. Katniss is now wearing a dress designed to look like a mockingjay. (full context)
Chapter 18
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
Katniss has just displayed her dress, which Cinna has designed to resemble a mockingjay. Katniss explains to Flickerman, her interviewer, that the mockingjay is the bird on her pin.... (full context)