Katniss has just shot President Coin. Snow, who was supposed to be her victim, can only laugh. He coughs up blood and bends over, choking. Katniss, knowing that she’ll surely be punished for murdering Coin, turns to the pocket on her shoulder—which contains a poisonous pill—and tries to bite into it. Before she can, however, Peeta’s hand blocks her—“I can’t let you go,” he tells her.
Coriolanus Snow has been totally defeated, but at least he helps bring down his enemy with him. He can only laugh at the gruesome irony of Katniss killing Coin with the arrow Coin gave her. Surprisingly, we identify with Snow here: we, too, must laugh at the dark, bitter irony.
Guards seize Katniss and roughly take her to her home, where she’s blindfolded and handcuffed. The hours drag on, and Katniss wonders why she hasn’t been executed for her act of treason. It occurs to her that the new government might not kill her after all—perhaps they’ll try to torture her instead, or “remake” her into a more loyal figurehead. She resolves to kill herself before obeying the government ever again.
In this brief section, Katniss reveals what she’s learned in the last few pages: to be a symbol and figurehead means abandoning ones instincts, one’s compassion, and one’s freedom. While she began this novel by agreeing to be the Mockingjay for Coin, Katniss now sees the error of her ways.
A few days later, Haymitch visits Katniss, who is still under house arrest. Haymitch explains that Katniss’s trial is over. He takes her into a hovercraft, where Plutarch is sitting, looking very happy. On the hovercraft, Haymitch explains that Katniss’s assassination of Coin caused chaos. Coin died, and Snow did, too, though it’s unclear if he choked on his own blood or if he was crushed in the ensuing crowd. In an emergency election, Paylor become the president, and shortly thereafter, a trial was held for Katniss. The defense successfully presented Katniss as a traumatized, borderline-insane warrior, who shouldn’t be punished any further. Plutarch has been appointed the new government’s Head of Communications. He explains that he’ll use his power to ensure that people “forgive and forget” Katniss’s crime.
Collins has a dark sense of humor, and the manner in which she describes Snow’s death is a perfect example. Katniss has been planning to kill Snow throughout the novel, but after giving up the chance to kill him in front of thousands of people, she now suffers the indignity not only of not being the one to kill him, but also of not knowing exactly how he died. Collins hasn’t given us much information about Paylor, so it’s left up to us to conclude (optimistically) that she will be better than Snow or Coin, or (pessimistically) that she, too, will be corrupted by power. It’s notable that Plutarch saves Katniss by again designing an “image” for her, albeit an image of insanity. Propaganda got Katniss into this mess—it’s only fair that propaganda should get her out. Haymitch and Plutarch were clearly not big supporters of Coin either.
The hovercraft is taking Katniss and Haymitch back to District 12. Haymitch explains that the government has no place for him, either, so he’s being sent back to his old home. He informs Katniss that her mother has moved to District 4 to work in a hospital, and she wants to talk to Katniss as soon as she’s ready. In the meantime, Haymitch is to be Katniss’s guardian.
The fact that there is no place for Haymitch in the new government is a bad sign. Haymitch, in spite of his flaws, understood both Katniss and Peeta, and was crucial to the success of the rebel cause. By expelling Haymitch, the government loses a sympathetic leader and its one link to Katniss.
The hovercraft arrives in District 12, and Haymitch and Katniss return to the large houses that have been built for them. The next few days are slow and uneventful. Then Peeta returns to District 12. He explains that the government wants nothing more to do with him, and adds that Gale has gotten a “fancy job” in District 2.
In this short section, Collins “wraps up” the story of one of her most important characters, Gale, on a very dark note. Gale has shown himself to be cold and capable of murder, and it’s telling that the new government gives him a “fancy job.” This suggests that Gale’s callousness will fit in with the new government’s style, while at the same time ending the “love-triangle” aspect of the plot for good.
The weather has grown warm again, and Katniss notes, bitterly, that the “old Katniss” would have loved to go hunting. Now that she and Peeta can live in District 12 in peace, they “learn to keep busy together.” Katniss begins hunting again, and Peeta pursues his love of baking. Together, they help cure one another of their nightmares and traumas—Peeta has flashbacks to his torture, and Katniss still remembers the sight of her sister dying. Katniss realizes that she doesn’t love Gale, and that his passion and energy are, deep down, motivated by hatred. Instead, she needs gentleness and goodness—and these, Peeta can provide her. One day, he asks her, “You love me. Real or not real?” She replies, “Real.”
It’s as if Katniss has been so active for the last two years of her life that she hasn’t had a moment to study herself and reflect on how much she’s changed—until now. The major takeaway of her self-analysis is that she’s been deeply traumatized by her experiences in the last two years, both in the Hunger Games and in the war. It’s only fair, then, that she ends up with Peeta, rather than Gale. At times, Katniss has shown signs of callousness and also fiery anger—like Gale—but ultimately, it becomes clear that Katniss needs someone who is gentle and compassionate, and someone who has dealt with the same kind of traumas that she has while keeping his humanity. With Peeta, Katniss finds someone who understands her pain and can help her live with this pain. They are both broken by trauma, but they start growing whole together. Katniss is often seen as a feminist hero, but it has also always seemed inevitable that she would end up with either Gale or Peeta—implying that having a love interest is an inherent part of being a female protagonist. Now that conflict is finally decided, as she (rather anti-climactically) ends up with Peeta.