Katniss feels that she is “on fire.” She’s in tremendous agony, both physical and psychological, following the bombing in the refugee area of the Capitol. She wishes she could die, but knows that she’ll be condemned to live in misery, having witnessed her own sister’s death. She passes out.
Fire imagery has been an important part of the Hunger Games books. In this opening section, Collins extends the metaphor to make a point: the life of the mockingjay, that symbol of “catching fire” for the rebel cause, is also immensely painful—fire hurts.
Katniss regains consciousness in a Capitol hospital. She becomes aware of doctors operating on her, and running constant tests on her body. A little later, she sees Haymitch walking by her bed, smiling, followed by Cinna, Delly, and, bizarrely, her own father, who is singing “The Hanging Tree.” President Coin visits Katniss and assures her “I’ve captured President Snow for you.” This satisfies Katniss, as she feels she needs to avenge her sister’s death immediately.
This section parallels the end of Catching Fire, in which Katniss wakes up in a hospital, unsure of what has happened. For the time being, Katniss is in much the same state of mind she’s been in for the last hundred pages: she wants to kill Snow at all costs—now more than ever, since she wants to avenge her sister. It’s as if the government has finally succeeded in what they’ve been trying to do since the start of the trilogy, when Effie Trinket read the names of the District 12 tributes—kill Prim.
A little later, Katniss finds herself in a room with food. She seems to be recovering, though she’s still only dimly aware of her surroundings. A messenger informs her that President Snow has been arrested by the victorious rebels, tried and convicted of treason, and sentenced to death.
In contrast to the “messiness” of the events of the previous chapters, the news of Snow’s capture comes extremely quickly: it’s as if District 13 has accomplished its mission with an air of inevitability.
Katniss slowly recovers from the injuries she sustained during the explosion. She prepares to confront Snow. She travels to a nearby jail, guarded by soldiers from District 8. Paylor, who now commands all of District 8, allows Katniss to come inside—Coin has publicly ordered that Katniss is to visit Snow, and later execute him herself.
Katniss has spent a large chunk of this novel in various hospitals, and this reminds us hat she’s never had time to entirely heal from her experiences in the Hunger Games. She keeps sustaining new injuries, both mental and physical, that send her back to where she started.
Inside the prison, Katniss finds Snow sitting in a cell, looking surprisingly calm. He tells Katniss that he’s been hoping he’d get a chance to see Katniss one more time. Katniss notices that there is a bed of red roses in his cell, whose color contrasts with Snow’s sickly, almost green skin. She also considers the fact that she has “trespassed” into Snow’s new “home,” much as he entered her home a year ago.
Once again, Collins is setting us up for an, elegant, satisfying finale, in which the narrative has come “full circle.” As Katniss notes—this would be an ideal note on which to end the war and Snow’s life.
Snow tells Katniss that he’s very sorry about her sister. Katniss is hurt and a little confused—it makes no sense that Snow would be apologizing for this. Snow urges Katniss to look at the facts: a hovercraft bombed a huge crowd of children, many of whom were Capitol citizens. If Snow himself had had access to a hovercraft, he would have used it to escape. The order to bomb the civilians, he maintains, must have come from Coin, not from him. By making it appear that Snow would attack his own people, Coin brilliantly stripped Snow of the Capitol civilians’ allegiance. Snow points out that the bombing aired live, surely the result of Plutarch’s careful planning.
Although Snow is certainly an untrustworthy and villainous figure, his logic is impeccable in this section: we’ve already seen that Coin is capable of great cruelty and brutality if she thinks it will help her gain power, and we’ve learned that Plutarch excels at propaganda. When we’re weighing Snow’s words to Katniss, we must ask, “who benefits from the bombing, and who doesn’t?” The answer fits Snow’s argument: Coin benefits enormously, and Snow doesn’t at all.
Snow concludes his explanation, urging Katniss to see Coin’s “genius.” From the beginning, it was District 13 that first rebelled against the Capitol. Later, District 13, led by Coin, encouraged the other districts to fight with the Capitol, weakening themselves enormously. Finally, Coin tricked Snow into devoting far too much time and attention to fighting Katniss, the Mockingjay. Katniss remembers the weapon she discussed with Gale and Beetee: it consisted of two bombs, and was designed to appeal to people’s compassion. Katniss, shaking with surprise and anger, tells Snow that she doesn’t believe him. Snow laughs and tells Katniss, “I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other.”
Katniss has often failed to see the “big picture”—in Catching Fire, for instance, she failed to recognize the “real enemy” until the penultimate chapter of the book, when she fired her arrow at the Hunger Games force field. Here, Katniss finally sees the big picture of the war between the Capitol and District 13: Coin used Katniss to distract Snow, not just to inspire the rebels. This discovery is paired with a more intimate, horrifying realization: Katniss recognizes that Beetee and Gale designed the bombs that killed Prim.