Major Themes and Symbols

by Stephanie Seales

This chapter is a free excerpt from Quicklet on Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire.

When I hear the screams of the crowd, I think it’s because I must look stunning. Then I notice something is rising up around me. Smoke. From fire. Not the flickery stuff I wore last year in the chariot, but something much more real that devours my dress... For a split second I’m gasping, completely engulfed in the strange flames. Then all at once, the fire is gone... I’m in a dress of the exact design of my wedding dress, only it’s the color of coal and made of tiny feathers... except for the white patches on my sleeves. Or should I say my wings. Because Cinna has turned me into a mockingjay.

  • The Mockingjay: by far the most weighty theme on the Hunger Games trilogy. The symbol of a mockingjay first comes into play early on in The Hunger Games when Madge gives Katniss a mockingjay pin that we later learn was worn by her aunt who died in the Hunger Games in which Haymitch was the victor. At the end of the Hunger Games, when Katniss defies the Capitol by making them believe they will both commit suicide by eating poison berries rather than kill each other, Katniss, and her pin in turn, become symbols of resistance. In Catching Fire, we see the mockingjay as a hologram on a pocket watch, stamped into a wafer, and on Peeta’s locket. While it is obvious that in the Capitol the mockingjay is being worn as a fashion statement, in the Districts it is the symbol of rebellion. By the end of Catching Fire, Katniss releases this, even if she has not accepted her role in the resistance. This author counted the word “mockingjay” mentioned at least 25 times in Catching Fire alone. The mockingjay has a even deeper reason to be used as a symbol of rebellion. After the Capitol realized their Jabberjays had been infiltrated, they left the birds in the wild to die. Having never lived outside of captivity and being an all-male, the birds days were numbered. However, before they became extinct, the Jabberjays mated with mockingbirds, creating mockingjays. This example of the Capitol’s creation backfiring and creating something they never anticipated makes the mockingjay an ideal symbol for resistance against the Capitol.
  • President Snow’s Roses: Every time we see President Snow, he is said to be wearing a rose in his lapel. This, in itself, is not noteworthy, but Katniss tells us that the rose has an extra-strong scent, that is more likely genetically enhanced, and mixes with a scent of blood that she finds is on his breath. Snow’s roses are no doubt symbolic of his outward demeanor as a kind grandpa that mask his true ruthless self.
  • The Three-Fingered Salute: This salute is something first seen inThe Hunger Games and described as a sign of respect. In the first book, Katniss gives this salute as her final goodbye after Rue’s death. In Chapter 4 of Catching Fire, we see the entire crowd of District 11 citizens give Katniss the three-fingered salute after her speech about Rue and Thresh.
  • Rue: the 12 year old girl from District 11 that Katniss befriended and allied with in the 74th Hunger Games. Rue was murdered and in what was Katniss’ first public defiance of the Capitol, she decorated Rue’s body with flowers and gave her the three-fingered salute. Rue is mentioned numerous times in Catching Fire and often in connection with Katniss’ grief over her death. Katniss has always associated Rue with her sister, Prim. The girls are both small, slight, and quick, and represent purity and innocence.
  • Districts: All of the 12 Districts exist to produce goods for the Capitol. However, Districts 1, 2,3, and 4 are known to be richer than the higher numbered districts, with their inhabitants having a slightly higher standard of living. This is why the Careers come from these Districts. Additionally, there are class structures within, at least, District 12, with the merchant class (predominantly blond haired and blue-eyed) living in town and the actual coal miners and their families living in a slum called the Seam. Below is a list of each District’s main product:
  • District 1: Luxury items
  • District 2: Stonework
  • District 3: Technology
  • District 4: Fishing
  • District 5: Unknown
  • District 6: Unknown
  • District 7: Lumber and Paper
  • District 8: Textiles
  • District 9: Unknown
  • District 10: Livestock
  • District 11: Agriculture (including orchards, grain, and cotton)
  • District 12: Coal mining
  • District 13: Destroyed. According to the Capitol, this District was obliterated at the end of the Dark Days. However, the rumor that District 13, whose product was nuclear weapons, has gone underground (literally) is confirmed at the close of Catching Fire.

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When I hear the screams of the crowd, I think it’s because I must look stunning. Then I notice something is rising up around me. Smoke. From fire. Not the flickery stuff I wore last year in the chariot, but something much more real that devours my dress... For a split second I’m gasping, completely engulfed in the strange flames. Then all at once, the fire is gone... I’m in a dress of the exact design of my wedding dress, only it’s the color of coal and made of tiny feathers... except for the white patches on my sleeves. Or should I say my wings. Because Cinna has turned me into a mockingjay.

  • The Mockingjay: by far the most weighty theme on the Hunger Games trilogy. The symbol of a mockingjay first comes into play early on in The Hunger Games when Madge gives Katniss a mockingjay pin that we later learn was worn by her aunt who died in the Hunger Games in which Haymitch was the victor. At the end of the Hunger Games, when Katniss defies the Capitol by making them believe they will both commit suicide by eating poison berries rather than kill each other, Katniss, and her pin in turn, become symbols of resistance. In Catching Fire, we see the mockingjay as a hologram on a pocket watch, stamped into a wafer, and on Peeta’s locket. While it is obvious that in the Capitol the mockingjay is being worn as a fashion statement, in the Districts it is the symbol of rebellion. By the end of Catching Fire, Katniss releases this, even if she has not accepted her role in the resistance. This author counted the word “mockingjay” mentioned at least 25 times in Catching Fire alone. The mockingjay has a even deeper reason to be used as a symbol of rebellion. After the Capitol realized their Jabberjays had been infiltrated, they left the birds in the wild to die. Having never lived outside of captivity and being an all-male, the birds days were numbered. However, before they became extinct, the Jabberjays mated with mockingbirds, creating mockingjays. This example of the Capitol’s creation backfiring and creating something they never anticipated makes the mockingjay an ideal symbol for resistance against the Capitol.
  • President Snow’s Roses: Every time we see President Snow, he is said to be wearing a rose in his lapel. This, in itself, is not noteworthy, but Katniss tells us that the rose has an extra-strong scent, that is more likely genetically enhanced, and mixes with a scent of blood that she finds is on his breath. Snow’s roses are no doubt symbolic of his outward demeanor as a kind grandpa that mask his true ruthless self.
  • The Three-Fingered Salute: This salute is something first seen inThe Hunger Games and described as a sign of respect. In the first book, Katniss gives this salute as her final goodbye after Rue’s death. In Chapter 4 of Catching Fire, we see the entire crowd of District 11 citizens give Katniss the three-fingered salute after her speech about Rue and Thresh.
  • Rue: the 12 year old girl from District 11 that Katniss befriended and allied with in the 74th Hunger Games. Rue was murdered and in what was Katniss’ first public defiance of the Capitol, she decorated Rue’s body with flowers and gave her the three-fingered salute. Rue is mentioned numerous times in Catching Fire and often in connection with Katniss’ grief over her death. Katniss has always associated Rue with her sister, Prim. The girls are both small, slight, and quick, and represent purity and innocence.
  • Districts: All of the 12 Districts exist to produce goods for the Capitol. However, Districts 1, 2,3, and 4 are known to be richer than the higher numbered districts, with their inhabitants having a slightly higher standard of living. This is why the Careers come from these Districts. Additionally, there are class structures within, at least, District 12, with the merchant class (predominantly blond haired and blue-eyed) living in town and the actual coal miners and their families living in a slum called the Seam. Below is a list of each District’s main product:
  • District 1: Luxury items
  • District 2: Stonework
  • District 3: Technology
  • District 4: Fishing
  • District 5: Unknown
  • District 6: Unknown
  • District 7: Lumber and Paper
  • District 8: Textiles
  • District 9: Unknown
  • District 10: Livestock
  • District 11: Agriculture (including orchards, grain, and cotton)
  • District 12: Coal mining
  • District 13: Destroyed. According to the Capitol, this District was obliterated at the end of the Dark Days. However, the rumor that District 13, whose product was nuclear weapons, has gone underground (literally) is confirmed at the close of Catching Fire.
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