Katniss stands in the snow, pointing her bow and arrow at the two 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. Suspicious, Katniss orders them to come closer, very slowly. They do so, and Katniss sees that they’re young. The woman carrying the cracker introduces herself at Twill—Katniss notices that she looks to be about 35 years old—and her companion introduces herself as Bonnie. They say that they’ve run away from District 8, and that they stole a dead Peacekeeper’s uniform and gun. The gun now lies on the ground where Bonnie dropped it—Katniss quickly picks it up.
The mockingjay, as we’ve already seen, can symbolize any number of things. Here, it would seem to be a symbol of friendship or solidarity, though why is left unclear. Katniss seems confused about whether or not to trust the women, and her reasoning is clear enough: Snow and the media have confused her so thoroughly that it is only practical to second-guess everything she hears.
Katniss asks Bonnie and Twill about the cracker. Bonnie seems surprised—she mutters to Twill that Katniss might not know “any of it.” Instead of explaining herself, Bonnie tells Katniss that she and Twill are heading to District 13—the district that was supposedly blown up 75 years ago. Katniss senses that Bonnie and Twill are telling the truth, though she keeps Bonnie’s gun for herself. Remembering that escapees are often hunted down by hovercrafts, she asks Bonnie and Twill if they’re being followed. They insist that the government thinks they died in a factory explosion.
Bonnie and Twill’s story is implausible—so implausible that it’s probably true. It’s strange that Bonnie and Twill were able to avoid detection, since the government has a reputation for keeping meticulous track of all its citizens. But perhaps this suggests that the government isn’t as powerful and efficient as it likes to pretend: it merely projects such an image to discourage people from rebelling.
Katniss tells Bonnie and Twill to follow her into the cement house. They do so, and inside, Katniss realizes that they have been trying to survive by boiling water over a fire. District 8 is mostly urban, Katniss remembers—it’s amazing that Twill and Bonnie have survived in the wild for so long, she thinks. Katniss gives Bonnie and Twill some of the food that she packed. As she presents them with food, Katniss remembers feeding Rue during the Hunger Games.
Katniss confirms her resourcefulness here. While most people in Panem never leave their comfort zones and explore nature (breaking the rules in doing so), Katniss’s poverty has compelled her to be comfortable surviving in the wilderness. Thus, her supposed weaknesses have actually made her stronger.
Bonnie and Twill explain themselves to Katniss. They were textile workers in District 8. Twill was also a schoolteacher, and Bonnie was one of her students. Twill and her husband were working with a secret group of rebels. The day that Katniss came to District 8, the rebels were preparing for an uprising. Later, when Peeta proposed to Katniss in the Capitol, the rebels used the celebration as a pretext for organizing outside. They used their vast numbers to overtake District 8. But within a few days, Peacekeepers arrived to reclaim the city, and the Capitol refused to send the district food. After only a few more days, the rebellion had been halted, and Bonnie and Twill were back to work at the textile factory. One day, they were late to their factory shift. Because of this, they narrowly avoided an explosion at the factory, which killed Twill’s husband and Bonnie’s family.
Bonnie and Twill’s relationship is another example of an “artificial family,” not unlike the kind that Collins depicts between Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch. The efforts of the people of District 8 to rebel illustrate the limitations of direct confrontation with the government. While such action sends a message and often accomplishes a great deal, it also leads the government to send brute force, quelling the rebellion quickly and violently. Katniss’s efforts to dismantle the government from the inside may prove more effective in the end, because they use the government’s own power against it.
Bonnie and Twill continue their story. Twill had stolen Peacekeeper uniforms from the factory before it was blown up. Using these uniforms, she and Bonnie were able to leave District 8 in a cargo train without being stopped. They decided to head for District 13. When Katniss protests that this district is nothing but rubble, Twill explains that the government always shows the same footage of rubble on television—there 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 hiding something. She adds that the people of District 13 might have moved underground after their home was destroyed. She says that they used to specialize in nuclear technology. Katniss finds it hard to believe that there is a community in District 13—even if there were, she thinks, the people there must be selfish for refusing to help the starving in other parts of Panem.
Much like Katniss herself, Bonnie and Twill are talented at seeing through the media and its version of reality. We get another potential meaning for the mockingjay here as well, as it seems to symbolize the tiny “flaws” in the government, or at least in its propaganda—chinks in its armor, related to the later motif of the imperfect force field in the Hunger Games arena. This also corresponds to the small but precise ways that Katniss has used her mockingjay to oppose the government’s authority. Katniss’s reaction to the “selfishness” of District 13 suggests that she’s growing more morally conscious: she’s concerned with the welfare of all of Panem, not just those in her own district.
Bonnie tells Katniss that Katniss is a beacon of hope for District 8, and her act of defiance during the Hunger Games inspired thousands of rebels. Katniss realizes the truth about President Snow: he never seriously believed that Katniss’s good behavior could quell a rebellion in District 8. He only wanted to prevent Katniss from joining the rebellion, thereby making it far stronger.
Bonnie confirms what we’d already suspected about Snow: he was never trying to send a direct message to Katniss, but only trying to confuse her and distract her, focusing her attention away from uprisings of any kind. Snow’s strategy demonstrates how powerful Katniss can be if she sets her mind to the rebel cause.
Katniss tells Bonnie and Twill that she needs to leave them. She walks away from the concrete building, stashes her weapons in their usual hiding place, a hollow log, and approaches the fence around District 12. She is surprised to hear a familiar buzzing sound: for the first time in a while, the fence has been electrified.
Katniss’s parting here seems rather abrupt, but perhaps this indicates that she needs to think about all the information she’s just received. We’re also given another indication that the government is always watching—when Katniss goes to the fence, it’s as if someone has noticed that she is missing.