Spoilers! If you haven’t read and/or seen the Hunger Games trilogy you shouldn’t read this blog post – however if you are the sort of person who doesn’t mind some pretty major plot points being given away, then go ahead and read!
I saw the final Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay Part 2, a couple weekends ago and wasn’t disappointed. Since I read the books themselves about five years ago and didn’t get a chance to re-read them prior to seeing the movie, some parts about the plot were a bit fuzzy. One issue I had with the book was how Peeta and Katniss end up together and even have children. It seemed too much of a general cliché. One of the traits that makes Katniss a strong female character is her refusal to be manipulated or used as a pawn by anyone. Yes, she will play her role if it means helping to motivate others to fight for their freedom and rid them of an oppressive ruler, but she also won’t be a puppet.
When Katniss rallies the rebellion to take down the Capitol and kill President Snow under the direction of District 13 President Alma Coin she begins to see similar traits between the two leaders. Coin’s desire for political office are not based on a desire to make a better world or to end oppression, she merely desires to replace Snow as the unquestionable dominant head of Panem. Katniss, realizing Coin will not be any different than Snow makes a move that is really not that surprising considering her character’s personality and motivation. Above all, Katniss wants a better world for the children of Panem, especially her sister Primrose. However, Prim is pointlessly killed during an ambush on the Capitol ordered by Coin. Here, Katniss could have changed course and become completely lost in seeking revenge for her sister’s wrongful death.
A prime motivating factor for Katniss in playing the role of the Mockingjay was, indeed, already revenge based – she, as a victor who represents all the victors, insisted on being the one who killed President Snow. Snow not only forced once-innocent children to take the lives of their peers, but also refused to allow any chance of happiness to game-survivors. One of the most tragic and meaningful scenes of the trilogy is the death of Finnick Odair who dies in a tunnel steps away from the ground above while being brutally mauled by human-lizard mutations. Not only does Finnick selflessly sacrifice himself while fighting to help other rebels continue their mission, he does so leaving his newlywed wife and true love Annie Cresta alone. The message here seems to suggest that the victors cannot have a happy ending as long as they are living under Snow’s dictatorship. However, Katniss soon realizes that life under the rule of Coin in place of Snow will not be an improvement but merely a copy of the same. Finnick’s sacrifice, Primrose’s death, and the deaths of all those who fought for a better, free world, would then not only be tragic but pointless. It is for these reasons that Katniss realizes she must assassinate Alma Coin.
After the deaths of Snow and Coin, the people of Panem are finally free to hold an open election and [insert happy ending]. But wait! A major subplot of Mockingjay is Peeta’s brainwashing and his uncontrollable desire to kill Katniss. Somehow, through the power of her true love for Peeta (which was actually forced upon them to begin with (or was it? Real or not real?)) Katniss is able to help him figure out the conflicting thoughts within his head. Peeta slowly transitions from Katniss’s would be murderer to her lover and, eventually, the father of her children. It’s perhaps not as clear in the movie, but the epilogue in the book shares that fifteen years pass between the end of the trilogy and the birth of their first child. Katniss, herself, only eventually agrees to have a child because of Peeta’s deep desire for them. Wait, what?? So Katniss – “The girl on fire” – the leader of a rebellion – decides to have children to please the man she loves? Not because she wanted to have them even without his prompting? I realized I had to be missing something, so I spent a decent amount of time (maybe too much) thinking about the epilogue. So here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
While on one side, their children can be seen as representing the hope for a better world, it also falls into the happy ending cliché where man and wife, after overcoming insurmountable odds, end up together and, as a bonus, have beautiful babies. This man, woman, baby cliché doesn’t fit when looked at from a narrow perspective. However, issues with the cliché aside, the ending makes sense and has more meaning than it may first seem. Katniss’s natural maternal instincts are clear throughout the movie – she cares for her little sister, she cares for Rue, she cares for Peeta even when it puts her own life in danger, she, symbolically at least, watches out for everyone in all of Panem. Once her role as their caregiver, motivator, and champion is complete – she’s free to live her own life. It’s really not all that surprising that Katniss would end up a mother. Nevertheless, something about the epilogue just seems too perfect to me – but perhaps that is exactly the point. Sometimes the parts of the story that seem the most false or unbelievable are the ones with the most reality and meaning to them. Through becoming a mother, Katniss is able to overcome one of her biggest fears – that she won’t be able to protect her children like she wasn’t able to protect Prim or Rue. Further, having children proves her belief in the possibilities for the real new world she helped to create as well as her belief in herself.