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.
Revolution and Its Problems ThemeTracker
Revolution and Its Problems Quotes in Mockingjay
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.
"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."
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.”
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.
"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."