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Themes and Colors
Revolution and Its Problems Theme Icon
The Power and Danger of Symbols Theme Icon
Role-Playing, Authenticity, Television, and the Self Theme Icon
Compassion, Callousness, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trauma and Love Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Mockingjay, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Compassion, Callousness, and Revenge Theme Icon

In Mockingjay, even more overtly than in Catching Fire or The Hunger Games, Collins writes about the conflict between compassion and callousness, or, in a slightly different sense, between forgiveness and revenge.

The rebel alliance headed by President Coin commits numerous war crimes in its haste to defeat the government of President Snow: it bombs civilians, imprisons its own people, and even commits atrocities that it then tries to pin on Snow. At many times, the only moral justification that the characters supply for such acts is revenge. When the rebels are debating whether or not to bomb District 2, Gale argues that government already blew up District 12—therefore, the rebels are justified in responding in kind.

The moral problem with Gale and the rebels’ “eye-for-an-eye” philosophy, however, is that immoral actions always lead to more immoral actions: one war crime must always be balanced out with another. Katniss Everdeen struggles with the “eye-for-an-eye” philosophy throughout Mockingjay. As a result of her experiences in the Hunger Games and in battle, she’s lost much of her compassion for others—indeed, she seriously contemplates killing Peeta, one her closest friends, because he could compromise the success of her mission. Katniss craves revenge—the ultimate “eye-for-an-eye”—against President Snow: she wants to kill him because he killed her friends and blew up her home, District 12. Violence and bloodshed have trained Katniss to think in terms of revenge—that every act of violence must be responded to with another act of violence.

At the end of the novel, Katniss is in an ideal position to enact her revenge on Snow: she’s supposed to shoot him with an arrow, watched by millions of eager spectators. To everyone’s surprise, however, Katniss instead shoots President Alma Coin, the power-hungry leader of the rebel alliance. Katniss gives up her chance for personal revenge, favoring instead an ideal of justice that resists the sort of ultimate power Coin seeks to hold. Similarly, she refuses to support a further installment of the Hunger Games, Games which would be designed to “balance out” the government’s abuse of the districts of Panem.

Katniss ultimately recognizes that injustice can’t be canceled out with more injustice. Shooting Snow or supporting a new Hunger Games won’t relieve her of the sadness of losing her family and friends in battle, or of having to compete in the original Hunger Games. Even after Snow died, her pain and trauma would remain intact—there is, in short, no “quick fix” for injustice.

This certainly doesn’t mean that Katniss forgives Snow for his war crimes, or that she renounces violence altogether (quite the contrary, since she shoots Coin—who is, in her opinion, an equally evil leader). Rather, it suggests that Katniss has recognized the limitations of the “eye-for-an-eye” doctrine, and has rejected the moral callousness her friend Gale has acquired during the war. Implicitly, she trades callousness for compassion, or at least the promise of compassion. In the epilogue to the novel, set 20 years later, we see Katniss playing with her children and embracing her husband, Peeta. Revenge and moral callousness are seductive solutions to the world’s evils, Collins concludes, but in the end they’re always unsatisfying. The better, and much more challenging, solution is to embrace love and compassion.

Compassion, Callousness, and Revenge ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Compassion, Callousness, and Revenge appears in each chapter of Mockingjay. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Compassion, Callousness, and Revenge Quotes in Mockingjay

Below you will find the important quotes in Mockingjay related to the theme of Compassion, Callousness, and Revenge.
Chapter 3 Quotes

"It's just...Peeta. I'm afraid if we do win, the rebels will execute him as a traitor.”
Prim thinks this over. "Katniss, I don't think you understand how important you are to the cause. Important people usually get what they want. If you want to keep Peeta safe from the rebels, you can."

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Primrose (Prim) Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss Everdeen's friend (and sometimes boyfriend) Peeta Mellark has been kidnapped by the Panem government in retaliation for Katniss's decision to join a group of rebels. Katniss tells Primrose, her little sister, that she's afraid that Peeta will be killed if the rebels win the war with the Capitol, since the Capitol has forced or brainwashed Peeta into making a series of anti-rebel propaganda videos. Although Prim is much younger than Katniss, she's remarkably perceptive—arguably more so than Katniss. Prim correctly points out that Katniss will be able to use her influence to keep Peeta alive.

Prim's argument is both wise and naive at the same time. She sees that Peeta will be kept alive because of his relationship to Katniss, but she wrongly assumes that Katniss has genuine power over the rebel leadership. The reality, Katniss later realizes, is that the rebels will keep Peeta alive, but not out of respect for Katniss—on the contrary, they'll keep him so that they have a way of controlling Katniss. Just like the Capitol itself, the rebels will try to manipulate Katniss into obedience. The fact that Katniss hasn't considered the rebels' course of action suggests that she still believes that the rebels are very different from the government of Panem, when in reality they're virtually the same. Furthermore, Katniss's unawareness that Peeta will be kept alive proves that she's also unaware of the extent of her own importance to the rebels.


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Chapter 4 Quotes

"Punishing my prep team's a warning," I tell her. "Not just to me. But to you, too. About who's really in control and what happens if she's not obeyed. If you had any delusions about having power, I'd let them go now. Apparently, a Capitol pedigree is no protection here. Maybe it's even a liability."

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Venia , Octavia , Flavius
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

Shortly after Katniss arrives at the rebel base, ruled over by President Alma Coin, she discovers that her prep team (i.e., the people who do her makeup, hair, etc.) has been imprisoned, supposedly to punish them for stealing food. Although Katniss is able to use her friendships with Plutarch and other important officials to free her prep team, the incident sends her a clear message. As Katniss explains in the quotation, Coin wants to let Katniss know that she (Coin) is in charge. Sending Katniss's friends to prison at the drop of a hat is a not-so-subtle reminder that Coin could do the same to Katniss if she wanted; her power over the rebel base is virtually absolute.

In a broader sense, Coin's actions start to suggest to Katniss that the rebel alliance against the current government of Panem isn't really that different from the government itself. Where the Capitol, headed by President Snow, tried to blackmail Katniss into obedience by threatening her friends and family, Coin proves that she's willing to do exactly the same. And whereas the Panem government exploited the people of District 12, throwing them in jail for no discernible reason, Coin's rebel alliance reverses Snow's actions by punishing former residents of the Capitol, such as Katniss's prep team. Coin's rebel alliance is opposite and yet also identical to Snow's.

Chapter 21 Quotes

I’d certainly simplify the problem of dealing with his homicidal episodes. I don't know if it's the pods, or the fear, or watching Boggs die, but I feel the arena all around me. It's as if I've never left, really. Once again I'm battling not only for my own survival but for Peeta's as well. How satisfying, how entertaining it would be for Snow to have me kill him. To have Peeta's death on my conscience for whatever is left of my life. "It's not about you," I say. "We're on a mission. And you're necessary to it." I look to the rest of the group. "Think we might find some food here?"

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark , President Coriolanus Snow , Boggs
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

For not the first time in the novel, Katniss feels that she's being pulled back into the Hunger Games. This feeling demonstrates the extent of her trauma. Katniss has witnessed a lot of violence in this novel (not to mention its two prequels), and as Beetee says, frightening events are the hardest to forget. As a result, any new frights or surprises "trigger" flashbacks for Katniss—one death inevitably reminds her of all the deaths she's seen.

Part of Katniss's psychological torture stems from the fact that she knows very well that people are trying to torture her psychologically. Here, she's fully aware that Snow wants to weaken her by burdening her with the guilt of being responsible for Peeta's life. And yet Katniss's awareness of Snow's plan does nothing to make the plan less effective: she knows exactly how Snow is planning to torture her, and this makes her torture even worse. Despite this, she doesn't give in—she still clings to her compassion and humanity even in the face of such great horror, and she still refuses to kill Peeta.

Chapter 23 Quotes

Everything about the situation screams trap. I have a moment of panic and find myself turning to Tigris, searching those tawny eyes. Why is she doing this? She's no Cinna, someone willing to sacrifice herself for others. This woman was the embodiment of Capitol shallowness. She was one of the stars of the Hunger Games until...until she wasn't. So is that it, then? Bitterness? Hatred? Revenge? Actually, I'm comforted by the idea. A need for revenge can burn long and hot. Especially if every glance in a mirror reinforces it.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Cinna , Tigris
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:

Once they arrive in the Capitol, the team of rebel warriors (including both Peeta and Katniss) are protected by a woman named Tigris, who despises the government of Panem for ostracizing her for her elaborate plastic surgeries. Although elaborate plastic surgeries are popular in the Capitol, Tigris has "gone too far" in altering her own appearance: she's "more Catholic than the Pope"—more superficial than the Capitol.

In an unusual sense, Tigris and Katniss are kindred spirits. Tigris has been a Capitol insider, yet she secretly despises the Capitol for its cruelty and hypocrisy. By the same token, Katniss has been a Capitol star ever since she won the Hunger Games: she's met many government leaders, and been to several government cocktail parties and banquets. And yet, of course, Katniss still hates the Capitol for forcing her to fight to save her own life—she feels a constant need for revenge against Snow and his colleagues. Katniss immediately sympathizes with Tigris, and is comforted to know that Tigris has a motive to not betray the rebels: Katniss recognizes hatred when she sees it.

Chapter 24 Quotes

First I get a glimpse of the blond braid down her back. Then, as she yanks off her coat to cover a wailing child, I notice the duck tail formed by her untucked shirt. I have the same reaction I did the day Effie Trinket called her name at the reaping. At least, I must go limp, because I find myself at the base of the flagpole, unable to account for the last few seconds. Then I am pushing through the crowd, just as I did before. Trying to shout her name above the roar. I'm almost there, almost to the barricade, when I think she hears me. Because for just a moment, she catches sight of me, her lips form my name. And that's when the rest of the parachutes go off.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Effie Trinket , Primrose (Prim) Everdeen
Related Symbols: The Double Bomb
Page Number: 347
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss manages to sneak into the center of the Capitol. Just as she's about to arrive at President Snow's mansion, airplanes drop bombs on the rioting people of the Capitol. To Katniss's amazement, one of the people marching through the streets of the Capitol is Katniss's own younger sister, Primrose. Katniss watches in horror as Prim walks to the site of a bombing, hoping to help some of the survivors. Katniss recognizes, too late, that the bomb is actually a double-bomb, designed to kill the first responders to the catastrophe. The double-bomb was designed by Katniss's supposed allies in the rebel alliance—but now it's being used to kill Katniss's family members. In the most striking way, then, the quotation reminds us (and Katniss) that Katniss's supposed friends among the rebels weren't really her friends at all.

The quotation describes arguably the most traumatizing event in the novel: the death of Katniss's own sister, before Katniss's very eyes. The entire passage has a tone of utter futility. Katniss knows that Prim is about to be killed, tries to save her, and fails. In this sense, the quotation is a forecast of the trauma Katniss will be dealing with for the rest of her life: she'll always blame herself for failing to protect her family, and her mind will replay over and over the image of her sister being killed.

Chapter 25 Quotes

Deep in the water, I'm deserted by all. There's only the sound of my breathing, the enormous effort it takes to draw the water in, push it out of my lungs. I want to stop, I try to hold my breath, but the sea forces its way in and out against my will. "Let me die. Let me follow the others," I beg whatever holds me here. There's no response.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker)
Page Number: 349
Explanation and Analysis:

Moments after witnessing the death of her own sister, Primrose, Katniss goes through all the symptoms of trauma. She's experienced so much pain that her only response is to crave her own death: she'd rather feel nothing at all than feel the mixture of guilt, pain, and loss that's currently crippling her. By the same token, Katniss feels a deep sense of loneliness: even though she's actually surrounded by friends and allies (doctors who are operating on her in the hospital, well-wishers, etc.), she feels that she's alone, that all the people she loved have died or deserted her. There are few people in the world who would understand what Katniss is going through; for this reason, she believes that she's all alone in the world, metaphorically "drowning" in suffering.

Chapter 26 Quotes

"I brought you this." Gale holds up a sheath. When I take it, I notice it holds a single, ordinary arrow.
"It's supposed to be symbolic. You firing the last shot of the war."
"What if I miss?" I say. "Does Coin retrieve it and bring it back to me? Or just shoot Snow through the head herself?"
"You won't miss." Gale adjusts the sheath on my shoulder. We stand there, face-to-face, not meeting each other's eyes.
"You didn't come see me in the hospital."
He doesn't answer, so finally I just say it.
"Was it your bomb?"
"I don't know. Neither does Beetee," he says. "Does it matter? You'll always be thinking about it."

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Gale Hawthorne (speaker), President Alma Coin , President Coriolanus Snow , Beetee
Related Symbols: Arrow, The Double Bomb
Page Number: 366-367
Explanation and Analysis:

In this tense scene, Katniss reunites with her childhood friend Gale, who presents her with an arrow. Katniss is supposed to use the arrow to execute President Snow, the leader of the former government of Panem. By firing the shot, Katniss is supposed to officially end the rebels' war with Snow, ushering in a new government headed by President Alma Coin. Although Gale has known Katniss for almost her entire life, there's no trace of intimacy in his interaction with her now. On the contrary, he acts like a messenger, delivering information to Katniss on behalf of his real allies, the rebels. Gale's behavior reflects his shifting allegiances: although he's always been loyal to Katniss in the fact, he's moved away from his old friend in order to become more powerful in the growing rebel government.

The ultimate example of Gale's shifting allegiances, which Katniss alludes to in this quotation, is the bomb he may or may not have sent to the Capitol—the bomb that killed Katniss's little sister, Prim. Gale doesn't know whether or not he sent the bomb that killed Prim. But whether or not Gale personally sent the bomb, the message is clear: Gale has become hopelessly divided from Katniss. He has chosen the rebels over Katniss, and Prim's death will always be an unbridgeable chasm between the two former friends. This moment also marks the breaking of the "love triangle" between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. Where Gale turns his back on his old friend, Peeta intuitively understands Katniss's pain, and tries to help her.