Friday, June 15, 2012

Mockingjay - 'dangerous games'

It's actually been a while since I've finished Mockingjay but just haven't had time to write up my thoughts. I know a lot of 'fans' were disappointed by it but I think it is because they went into it with the wrong expectations. Like I've said before, the 'young adult' novel thing is a guise. This is quite a serious piece of dystopian literature. Look at 1984, The Handmaid's Tale, Brave New World, The Road etc. all end in a bleak or ambiguous fashion - things go on, and you're not sure if they will be better or worse or merely the same. And  it's not a cop-out or anti-climax because that is the point. Credit is due to Suzanne Collins for being brave enough to take the course that made the most fundamental sense.

So any sense of a heart-breaking, emptiness is a commendable literary achievement. This third book is driven by a political binary, but it's not as simple as freedom vs state. There is no certitude over which side is better of whether both are as corrupt and manipulative as each other. And that's where Katniss and Gale fall apart I think. Because he is very single minded in the fight against the Capitol while she is always questioning it and uncomfortable at her position. Because "in some ways, District 13 is even more controlling than the Capitol". Gale's reckless tactics of war ultimately result in the death of Primm and many other innocent children. It is not that he has killed them but that his focus meant that he failed to consider how they could be used. That was possibly the most harrowing scene of the entire series: 

"A hovercraft marked with the Capitol's seal materializes directly over the barricaded children. Scores of silver parachutes rain down on them. Even in this chaos, the children know what silver parachutes contain. Food. Medicine. Gifts. They eagerly scoop them up, frozen fingers struggling with the strings. The hovercraft vanishes, five seconds pass, and then about twenty parachutes simultaneously explode."

"This is what they've been doing. Taking the fundamental ideas behind Gale's traps and adapting them into weapons against humans. Bombs mostly. It's less about the mechanics of the traps than the psychology behind them. […] Gale and Beetee left the wilderness behind and focused on more human impulses. Like compassion. A bomb explodes. Time is allowed for people to rush to the aid of the wounded. Then a second, more powerful bomb kills them as well."

Because this isn't really a series of books chronicling a love triangle. Katniss's love for her sister has always been the dominant force, and Prim would always have been her choice:

"He waits for me to deny it; I want to deny it, but it's true. Even now I can see the flash that ignites [Prim], feel the heat of the flames. And I will never be able to separate that moment from Gale. My silence is my answer."
It has always been about survival, and a way to carry on:

[…] 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. (27.62)

I know some critics argued that Collins failed to tie up many loose ends but isn't it quite fitting? Loose ends generally don't get tied up, nothing comes in neat packages, the Hunger Games will continue to haunt and torture them for the rest of their lives. Peeta may be the one who's left but he is no consolation, he has always been the most dependable and constant and a symbol of endurance so, for me, that ending is beautiful. With a revolution you're not sure if what's coming is better than what's been, you only know it will be different. So there's a kind of socio-political accuracy in Mockingjay as well as a literary and symbolic fortitude. This is probably why I got so much grim pleasure from it, that it stuck to its guns, it didn't lose its focus and it followed through, refusing to simply satisfy immediate appetites, it becomes something you can dwell on, and should dwell on.

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