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Role-Playing, Authenticity, Television, and the Self Theme Analysis

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.
Role-Playing, Authenticity, Television, and the Self Theme Icon

In Catching Fire, the prequel to Mockingjay, Katniss is forced to “perform” before all of Panem. Embarking on her Victory Tour, she’s instructed to make a few speeches, smile and wave, and honor the rules of the government headed by President Snow.

In Mockingjay, Katniss, now working with a rebel alliance trying to bring down Snow’s government, is given a subtly different kind of script to follow. Just as before, a huge TV crew follows Katniss as she goes through Panem visiting the citizens of each district, and just as before, the purpose of the crew’s footage is to build support for a political group (in this case, the rebel alliance) by treating Katniss as its mascot, the Mockingjay.

When the TV crew’s footage is judged to be awkward and unconvincing, the rebels tell Katniss that she must “improvise” for the camera. Instead of following a pre-approved script, she is to follow her instincts and “be herself.” This suggests some important questions—what happens when improvisation becomes, in essence, part of the script? It is really possible to “be yourself” when the cameras are rolling?

For much of Mockingjay, Katniss blurs the distinction between “being herself” and performing for the camera. As she tours Panem, visiting the wounded and the sick, she shows genuine, unscripted compassion for others—compassion that translates into very effective footage for her TV crew. But there are also times when Katniss seems to lose sight of the difference between performance and improvisation. After she shoots down an enemy hovercraft in District 8, she is surprised to “find herself” making a bold speech about the rebellion, which inspires hundreds of people to shout and cheer. Just because this speech is improvised doesn’t mean that Katniss is being herself. On the contrary, she’s finding it harder to tell the difference between TV and reality—in short, she’s becoming the Mockingjay, the fictional role the rebels have designed for her. In a world where everything is filmed, and where the characters spend huge chunks of time watching propaganda on television, it’s not easy to be one’s “true” self—people are always performing for a camera.

Although she poses some troubling questions with regards to sincerity, performance, and reality, Collins steers Katniss toward the optimistic conclusion that it is, in fact, possible to move past the demands of the camera and be “true” to oneself. At the climax of Mockingjay, Katniss is instructed to kill President Snow in front of an audience of millions. In essence, Katniss is placed in front of a camera and told to be herself—to satisfy her desire for revenge and kill her enemy. Yet instead of following her directions, Katniss shoots President Alma Coin, the very person who organized this public execution in the first place.

Through Katniss’s action, the novel suggests that in a modern world, in which there are cameras and mass media at every turn, it is difficult but possible to be true to oneself. People must question the mass media and think critically about sources of power in society. Most importantly, they must ask themselves, “which of my desires are truly my own, and which have been passed on to me by other people?” When Katniss asks herself this question, she realizes that the rebel alliance—that Alma Coin—has craftily manipulating her thoughts and feelings, pushing her to crave revenge on President Snow all as part of Coin’s own larger effort to seize power. By declining to “play along” any more, she not only throws out the script; she throws away the camera, too.

Role-Playing, Authenticity, Television, and the Self ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Role-Playing, Authenticity, Television, and the Self appears in each chapter of Mockingjay. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Role-Playing, Authenticity, Television, and the Self Quotes in Mockingjay

Below you will find the important quotes in Mockingjay related to the theme of Role-Playing, Authenticity, Television, and the Self.
Chapter 6 Quotes

Haymitch holds up the notepad. "So, the question is, what do all of these have in common?"
"They were Katniss's," says Gale quietly. "No one told her what to do or say."

"Unscripted, yes!" says Beetee. He reaches over and pats my hand. "So we should just leave you alone, right?"
People laugh. I even smile a little.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Gale Hawthorne (speaker), Haymitch Abernathy (speaker), Beetee (speaker)
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

As Katniss prepares to begin her propaganda campaign on behalf of the rebel alliance, she brainstorms with her friends, such as Haymitch and Plutarch, about the best way to strengthen the rebels. Haymitch's conclusion is that Katniss is always at her best when she's improvising. Although Katniss is used to being filmed, she's not actually very good at acting, and there's a part of her that acts more instinctively, without any regard for the camera or the script.

The irony of Katniss's propaganda campaign for the rebels—an irony which Beetee touches upon in the quotation—is that she's being ordered to improvise in front of a camera—improvisation is the script. Although Katniss has excelled at improvising and acting "naturally" in the past, now her improvisations can no longer be, strictly speaking, "natural." The only way for Katniss to be truly natural is to turn the cameras off—and as Beetee implies, this simply isn't possible. In all, Katniss's propaganda campaign is paradoxical at its very heart: she must improvise, but also partially plan out and censor her improvisation.


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Chapter 10 Quotes

If you panic, it could spread like wildfire," explains Plutarch. I just stare at him. "Fire is catching, so to speak," he continues, as if I'm being slow on the uptake. "Why don't I just pretend I'm on camera, Plutarch?" I ask.
"Yes! Perfect. One is always much braver with an audience," he says.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Plutarch Heavensbee (speaker)
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss and Plutarch have returned to the rebel base, knowing that President Snow is about to bomb them. Katniss is ordered to run to her bunker underground, but Plutarch gives her special instructions not to panic: because everyone pays attention to her, her panic would spread throughout the rebel base almost immediately. When Katniss sarcastically asks if she should pretend she's on camera, Plutarch seems not to get the joke at all—he agrees that Katniss should act like she's being filmed.

This quotation shows Katniss struggling with the demands of being a symbol and a role model for thousands of people. She clearly resents the fact that even in the midst of a bombing she can't be herself; i..e, she has to be acting at all times. And perhaps because he's spent most of his life directing people on how to behave for an audience, Plutarch seems totally unsympathetic to Katniss's anxieties about being a role model. As far as he's concerned, playing for the audience isn't a burden at all; on the contrary, Katniss acts like a better person when she feels like she has an audience.

Chapter 14 Quotes

It's only now that he's been corrupted that I can fully appreciate the real Peeta. Even more than I would've if he'd died. The kindness, the steadiness, the warmth that had an unexpected heat behind it. Outside of Prim, my mother, and Gale, how many people in the world love me unconditionally?

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark , Gale Hawthorne , Primrose (Prim) Everdeen , Katniss’s mother
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

Peeta—previously one of Katniss's closest confidants and friends—has now been conditioned to kill Katniss, thanks to the government of Panem. Ironically, Peeta's murderousness new "self" helps Katniss appreciate his old personality even more: she's been so used to having Peeta to talk to about her trauma that his sudden change of character immediately registers.

As Katniss experiences more and more traumatic events—the deaths of children, the bombings of entire districts, etc.—it becomes increasingly important for her to talk to people who have experienced the same events. Peeta was one of Katniss's most important friends, in large part because he knew what Katniss was going through. Now that he's been programmed to hate Katniss, Katniss has no choice but to cope with tragedy on her own. As Snow surely intended, conditioning Peeta has wounded Katniss more deeply than a bomb or bullet ever could.

Chapter 15 Quotes

I know there are a couple of huge screens here on the square. I saw them on the Victory Tour. It might work, if I were good at this sort of thing. Which I'm not. They tried to feed me lines in those early experiments with the propos, too, and it was a flop.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker)
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss and her propaganda team travel to a faraway district of Panem, where they try to convince government soldiers to surrender, while also inciting the people to rise up against the government. Katniss knows from experience that she's not a compelling figure when she's reading from a script; she's at her best when she's improvising, relying on her instincts and speaking from the heart. In her current situation, then, Katniss is unlikely to be an interesting speaker: she has a clear, predetermined mission, and she's been carefully coached on what to say by her propaganda team.

The fact that Katniss is no good at "sticking to the script" suggests that she has a problem with obeying authority: she has an easier time listening to her own instincts than she does listening to other people. Katniss's inability to follow orders convincingly makes her a liability to the rebel alliance, and yet it also makes her a huge asset to the rebels. When she's improvising, Katniss is a compelling and magnetic personality, a living symbol of hope and rebellion. The rebels' challenge, then, is to encourage Katniss to improvise, hoping that they'll be able to "spin" her behavior to support their political cause.

Chapter 16 Quotes


In the twilight of morphling, Peeta whispers the word and I go searching for him. It's a gauzy, violet-tinted world, with no hard edges, and many places to hide. I push through cloudbanks, follow faint tracks, catch the scent of cinnamon, of dill. Once I feel his hand on my cheek and try to trap it, but it dissolves like mist through my fingers.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

After being shot by an angry dissident, Katniss is rushed to the hospital in the rebel base and treated with strong painkillers. As she hallucinates and dreams, Katniss imagines herself talking to Peeta. In her dream, Peeta says the word "Always."

Katniss's hallucination tells us a lot about her state of mind. Clearly, she's still attracted to Peeta, in spite of the fact that he's been programmed to kill her; the sentimental tone and romantic imagery of the quotation (the violet-tinged world, for instance) clearly suggest romantic attraction and emotional closeness. At the same time, Katniss has a hard time imagining herself in a happy relationship with Peeta—even in her own imagination, she can't conceive of a world where their love doesn't "dissolve."

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 20 Quotes

"Don't trust them. Don't go back. Kill Peeta. Do what you came to do." What did he mean? Don't trust who? The rebels? Coin? The people looking at me right now? I won't go back, but he must know I can't just fire a bullet through Peeta's head. Can I? Should I? Did Boggs guess that what I really came to do is desert and kill Snow on my own? I can't work all of this out now, so I just decide to carry out the first two orders: to not trust anyone and to move deeper into the Capitol. But how can I justify this? Make them let me keep the Holo?

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark , President Alma Coin , President Coriolanus Snow , Boggs
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

During the course of the rebel mission to infiltrate the Capitol, Boggs is killed by a bomb. His dying words, delivered to Katniss, are the ones related in this quotation. As might be expected, Katniss immediately decides not to follow Boggs's advice to kill Peeta—she still loves and values Peeta too much. Katniss is puzzled about what Boggs meant by "don't trust them," however—who is the "them" she isn't supposed to trust?

Katniss's confusion about the meaning of Boggs's dying words reminds us that Katniss doesn't really know who her own friends are. As the novel moves on, it becomes increasingly obvious that the people Katniss trusts, including Coin and Plutarch, have been manipulating her for their own ends. Even Gale, Katniss's lifelong friend, can't be totally trusted anymore, since he often callously ignores the value of human life. Katniss is a puppet, being cynically moved around Panem for the good of her supposed allies. It's a mark of how thoroughly Katniss has been manipulated that the "them" in Boggs's sentence could refer to dozens of people, both enemies and apparent allies.

Chapter 22 Quotes

"Can't help him!" Peeta starts shoving people forward. "Can't!" Amazingly, he's the only one still functional enough to get us moving. I don't know why he's in control, when he should be flipping out and bashing my brains in, but that could happen any second. At the pressure of his hand against my shoulder, I turn away from the grisly thing that was Messalla; I make my feet go forward, fast, so fast that I can barely skid to a stop before the next intersection.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark (speaker), Messalla
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

As they draw closer to the Capitol, Katniss and the rest of her team are ambushed by an army of mutts (genetically-bred government warriors). To Katniss's great surprise, however, Peeta  (who's previously been conditioned to attack Katniss at the smallest psychological provocation) isn't "set off" by the ambush. On the contrary, Peeta and Peeta alone remains calm in the midst of the crisis. The quotation is important because it suggests that trauma need not be psychologically crippling. Sometimes, the people who've endured the most trauma, such as Peeta and Katniss, are the calmest and most "put together" in times of danger. For an emotionally scarred warrior like Peeta, a surprise attack by mutts is the norm; barely even a surprise at all. Peeta's reaction to the attack also reminds Katniss of why she loves Peeta (when he's acting like his true self): they've been through the same traumas in the Hunger Games. Katniss, herself a role model for thousands, looks to Peeta as a role model for how to deal with pain and move forward.

Chapter 27 Quotes

Peeta and I grow back together. There are still moments when he clutches the back of a chair and hangs on until the flashbacks are over. I wake screaming from nightmares of mutts and lost children. But his arms are there to comfort me. And eventually his lips. On the night I feel that thing again, the hunger that overtook me on the beach, I know this would have happened anyway. That what I need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that. So after, when he whispers, "You love me. Real or not real?" I tell him, "Real."

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark (speaker), Gale Hawthorne
Page Number: 388
Explanation and Analysis:

In the last passages of the Hunger Games Trilogy, Katniss informs us that she truly falls in love with and spends the rest of her life with Peeta. (In this passage, she vaguely describes the first time they have sex.) Katniss chooses to marry Peeta because they have so much in common: even if Katniss hasn't known Peeta for as long as she's known Gale (the other vertex of the "love triangle"), Peeta intuitively understands the person Katniss has become—a traumatized, emotionally scarred woman—and he has the compassion, empathy, and common experience to help her.

Katniss's parting thoughts about Peeta suggest that she's turned her back on the principle of "an eye for an eye." For months, she believed that her trauma would go away if she could avenge her loved ones' deaths. But as the novel comes to an end, Katniss comes to realize that revenge solves nothing—she'll always feel the pain of her sister's death, no matter who she kills.

For his part, Peeta also finds a true partner in Katniss, and they "grow together." The final lines of this passage recall the game Peeta used to play after he was brainwashed by the Capitol: a game to clarify what is and isn't "real." Now that game becomes a romantic line for Peeta, but it also suggests that Katniss is the central aspect of his new life and reality: he needs her as much as she needs him.