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Revolution and Its Problems Theme Analysis

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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
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Revolution and Its Problems Theme Icon

The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan argued that there was a contradiction built into the word “revolution.” A political revolution, in the minds of most, is a sudden, monumental change—a great leap forward. At the same time, “revolution” can also mean a complete, 360-degree turn, right back to one’s original position. Thus Lacan concluded that revolutions don’t always lead to the great changes they promise. Often, things just stay the same. Or as the band The Who put it, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

In Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins slowly reveals the depressing possibility that the rebel cause fighting against the Capitol isn’t at all morally superior to the status quo government headed by President Snow. The president of the rebel alliance, Alma Coin, orders her own people to be imprisoned and tortured, or to go off and be killed in battle. Moreover, she treats Katniss almost exactly as President Snow treated her—as a mascot to be used to further her own cause. Thus, she manipulates Katniss into playing the part of the “Mockingjay”—going around Panem, supporting rebel armies, and filming propaganda—by appealing to Katniss’s feelings for her loved ones (Peeta, her mother and sister), just as Snow manipulated Katniss into traveling around Panem in support of Snow’s regime. In all, Coin’s rebel cause isn’t tremendously different from Snow’s tyrannical government—as Collins wittily suggests, the rebels and the government of Panem are merely two sides of the same “Coin.”

During a television interview with Caesar Flickerman, Peeta claims that the war between the rebels and the government of Panem is pointless—no actual progress will come from it, meaning that its results will be only violence, destruction, and death. It’s difficult to tell if Peeta is saying this because the government is pressuring him to do so, or because he sincerely believes it. In the same way, it’s difficult to tell if Collins believes her own words—is a violent rebellion ever justified, or will it merely be “revolution” back to where we started from?

At the end of Mockingjay, the rebel uprising has resulted in a new form of government – one that Katniss has ensured neither Snow nor Coin will lead. This new government is vaguely described as being “democratic,” but Collins doesn’t give many other details about how this new government works, or, crucially, if it’s more or less just than President Snow’s. She makes it clear that one concrete change has been enacted, however: the Hunger Games have been banned. Nevertheless, Collins also indicates that the new government has only banned the Hunger Games because it’s a savvy political move. Collins acknowledges that revolution can sometimes result in “moral” progress, but she also makes it clear that moral progress isn’t always enacted for moral reasons. The goal of a government is to stay in power. If staying in power requires violating human rights, so be it. If it involves honoring human rights, all the better. On this frustrating, surprisingly adult note of compromise and disillusionment, Collins ends the Hunger Games trilogy.

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Revolution and Its Problems Quotes in Mockingjay

Below you will find the important quotes in Mockingjay related to the theme of Revolution and Its Problems.
Chapter 1 Quotes

No one will fully understand—how it's not just a flower, not even just President Snow's flower, but a promise of revenge—because no one else sat in the study with him when he threatened me before the Victory Tour. Positioned on my dresser, that white-as-snow rose is a personal message to me. It speaks of unfinished business. It whispers, I can find you. I can reach you. Perhaps I am watching you now.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), President Coriolanus Snow
Related Symbols: Roses
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Shortly before the beginning of the novel, Katniss's hometown, District 12, is bombed by the Panem government headed by President Snow in retaliation for Katniss's acts of rebellion. When Katniss walks through the ashes of her town, she's surprised to find a rose in the remains of her house. Although there's no message attached to the rose, Katniss has no doubt about who placed it there, or what it means: she's positive that President Snow sent the rose to remind Katniss that he's watching her at all times, and will try to hunt her down and kill her.

It is interesting that we're not told if Katniss is correct in her interpretation of the rose. Her thought process seems reasonable—President Snow is famous for waging psychological warfare on his enemies. And yet Katniss has been wrong before when she tries to interpret ambiguous symbols (in the prequel to Mockingjay, she completely misinterpreted Plutarch Heavensbee's watch, a "symbol" that helped to save her life). We're reminded that signs and symbols—of which the rose is certainly an example—can never be understood with complete certainty. In the end, the quotation says as much about Katniss's current state of mind as it does about President Snow. Whether Snow placed the rose in District 12 or not, Katniss has become paranoid, frightened, and constantly anxious, haunted by her traumatic past.


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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.

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.

The president allows a few moments of unrest, and then continues in her brisk fashion. Only now the words coming out of her mouth are news to me. "But in return for this unprecedented request, Soldier Everdeen has promised to devote herself to our cause. It follows that any deviance from her mission, in either motive or deed, will be viewed as a break in this agreement. The immunity would be terminated and the fate of the four victors determined by the law of District Thirteen. As would her own. Thank you." In other words, I step out of line and we're all dead.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), President Alma Coin (speaker), Peeta Mellark
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss has used her influence and power to strike up a bargain with President Alma Coin: Coin will spare the lives of Katniss's friends (including Peeta), in return for which Katniss will devote herself to the rebel cause. Katniss must earn her friends' lives by making propaganda videos and speaking out in favor of the rebels. Here, Coin confirms the bargain by announcing it to the rebels under her control: if Katniss breaks her promise, everyone in the alliance will know about it (and the same is true of Coin).

Coin's agreement with Katniss tells us a lot about Coin's personality, and about the style of government she favors. Much like her rival, President Snow, Coin wants to use Katniss as a political puppet—a famous, instantly recognizable symbol who can be manipulated to suit the needs of the rebel alliance. And much as President Snow pressured Katniss into obedience by threatening to hurt her friends, Alma Coin is now implicitly threatening Katniss in precisely the same way—a threat that Katniss understands perfectly.

Chapter 5 Quotes

And now Coin, with her fistful of precious nukes and her well-oiled machine of a district, finding it's even harder to groom a Mockingjay than to catch one. But she has been the quickest to determine that I have an agenda of my own and am therefore not to be trusted. She has been the first to publicly brand me as a threat.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), President Alma Coin
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss considers the agreement she's just struck up with President Coin, according to which Katniss will take part in the rebels' propaganda campaign, in return for Coin's protection of her loved ones (such as Peeta). Although Katniss proposes this agreement in order to protect the people she cares about, Coin tries to persuade her people that Katniss is a potential threat to the safety of the rebel alliance: i.e., because of Katniss's ties to the government of Panem, she can't entirely be trusted.

As the quotation makes very clear, Coin takes steps to paint Katniss as untrustworthy because she understands that Katniss's interests don't align with the rebels' on all issues—for example, Katniss wants to protect Peeta, whereas most of the rebels want him dead. Coin's steps to "brand" Katniss a threat—essentially, to control the "public relations" side of their agreement—shows us that Coin is a worthy opponent for Katniss. As much as President Snow or Katniss herself, Coin understands the importance of public perception, and she maintains power by controlling how her people perceive her, her allies, and her enemies.

Chapter 17 Quotes

We spend a couple of hours quizzing each other on military terms. I visit my mother and Prim for a while. When I'm back in my compartment, showered, staring into the darkness, I finally ask, "Johanna, could you really hear him screaming?" "That was part of it," she says. "Like the jabberjays in the arena. Only it was real. And it didn't stop after an hour. Tick, tock." "Tick, tock," I whisper back. Roses. Wolf mutts. Tributes. Frosted dolphins. Friends. Mockingjays. Stylists. Me. Everything screams in my dreams tonight.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Johanna Mason (speaker), Peeta Mellark , Primrose (Prim) Everdeen , Katniss’s mother
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:

Johanna and Katniss prepare for their mission into the Capitol. To prepare for the mission, they're exposed to psychological stimuli designed to make them frightened and anxious (in another rather heartless move by the rebels). In the quotation, Johanna and Katniss discuss their hallucinations, referencing their common experiences in the Hunger Games. Katniss's depiction of her nightmares illustrates the irrational nature of trauma. There's no rhyme or reason in her recollections of violence: her flashbacks can't be rationalized or understood, just experienced again and again and again.

The passage shows Katniss bonding with a friend over trauma, pain, and fear. In part, Katniss is bonding with Johanna, a woman whom she never liked much, because Peeta isn't available for her. Katniss needs someone to talk to—preferably someone who understands the traumatic flashbacks she's been experiencing. Johanna, who's witnessed just as much violence as Katniss, is a natural choice.

Chapter 18 Quotes

I don't think they quite know what to do with the three of us, particularly me. I have my Mockingjay outfit with me, but I've only been taped in my uniform. Sometimes I use a gun, sometimes they ask me to shoot with my bow and arrows. It's as if they don't want to entirely lose the Mockingjay, but they want to downgrade my role to foot soldier. Since I don't care, it's amusing rather than upsetting to imagine the arguments going on back in 13.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker)
Related Symbols: Mockingjay, Arrow
Page Number: 260
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss has been recruited for a top-secret mission to the Capitol of Panem, where the rebels are planning to overthrow President Snow. At first, Katniss was forbidden to participate in the mission. Now, however, she's convinced her superiors that she'd be a valuable addition to the team. Nevertheless, it's clear that Katniss's commanders don't really know what to do with her. They don't know if she should be a propaganda star (stay out of danger and try to inspire rebels across Panem) or a legitimate soldier (face real danger and risk her life).

The rebels' confusion about how to use Katniss on the mission reminds us that, for the majority of her time with the rebels, Katniss wasn't a proper soldier at all. She walked through battle-torn districts, and even saw some active combat, but her purpose was never to fire a gun or kill her opponents. Katniss was always more valuable as a symbol of the rebel cause. A foot soldier can kill only a few enemies, but a symbol can inspire thousands of new allies at once.

Chapter 19 Quotes

"Sometime in the near future, this war will be resolved. A new leader will be chosen," says Boggs. I roll my eyes. "Boggs, no one thinks I'm going to be the leader." "No. They don't," he agrees. "But you'll throw support to someone. Would it be President Coin? Or someone else?" "I don't know. I've never thought about it," I say. "If your immediate answer isn't Coin, then you're a threat. You're the face of the rebellion. You may have more influence than any other single person," says Boggs. "Outwardly, the most you've ever done is tolerated her.”

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Boggs (speaker)
Related Symbols: Mockingjay
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:

Boggs, one of the rebel soldiers who's commanding Katniss on her mission to the Capitol, offers some advice about the future of the rebel alliance. As he explains to Katniss, President Coin will try to maintain her power after defeating President Snow; she'll try to become the leader of the new government. In order to gain power, Coin will have to eliminate her rivals and, even more importantly, people like Katniss who don't particularly like her.

The fact that Katniss hasn't thought about the future of the rebel alliance—who will be the leader of the new government, for example—reminds us that she's still incredibly modest and naive about her own power as a symbol of the rebel cause. Katniss has been a celebrity for over a year now, but she's still not entirely used to this role. As a result, she's genuinely puzzled when Boggs tells her that she has more influence than almost anyone else in Panem. In general, Katniss conforms to one of the classic heroic archetypes: the "reluctant leader"; i.e., a heroine who doesn't know her own strength. 

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 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.