New Interview With Author – Suzanne Collins Talks ‘Mockingjay’
What does [the Mockingjay] have to do with Katniss?
Symbolically, I suppose, Katniss is something like a mockingjay in and of herself. She is a girl who should never have existed. And the reason she does exist is that she comes from District 12, which is sort of the joke of the 12 districts of Panem. The Capitol is lax there. The security is much less. The peacekeepers, who are the peacekeeping force, are still the law, and they’re still threatening, but they intermix more with the population in District 12 than they do in other districts. And also things like the fence that surrounds 12 isn’t electrified full time.
Because of these lapses in security and the Capitol just thinking that 12 is not ever really going to be a threat because it’s small and poor, they create an environment in which Katniss develops, in which she is created, this girl who slips under this fence, which isn’t electrified, and learns to be a hunter. Not only that, she’s a survivalist, and along with that goes a degree of independent thinking that is unusual in the districts.
So here we have her arriving in the arena in the first book, not only equipped as someone who can keep herself alive in this environment—and then once she gets the bow and arrows, can be lethal—but she’s also somebody who already thinks outside the box because they just haven’t been paying attention to District 12. So in that way, too, Katniss is the mockingjay. She is the thing that should never have been created, that the Capitol never intended to happen. In the same way they just let the jabberjays go and thought, “We don’t have to worry about them,” they thought, “We don’t have to worry about District 12.” And this new creature evolved, which is the mockingjay, which is Katniss.
Your books send a strong message that grown-ups have messed up the world big-time, and kids are the only hope for the future.
Absolutely. I can’t remember how much we talked about Theseus and the Minotaur the last time we spoke, but Theseus and the Minotaur is the classical setup for where The Hunger Games begins, you know, with the tale of Minos in Crete….
Right. As punishment, Minos ordered the Athenians to throw seven young men and seven maidens into a labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur—until Theseus finally kills the monster. I remember you telling me that as an eight-year-old, you were horrified that Crete was so cruel—and that in her own way, Katniss is a futuristic Theseus.
But once the “Hunger Games” story takes off, I actually would say that the historical figure of Spartacus really becomes more of a model for the arc of the three books, for Katniss. We don’t know a lot of details about his life, but there was this guy named Spartacus who was a gladiator who broke out of the arena and led a rebellion against an oppressive government that led to what is called the Third Servile War. He caused the Romans quite a bit of trouble. And, ultimately, he died.
This is a minor point, but I’m curious: Why does President Snow’s breath smell like blood?
Oh, I can’t tell you that. [Laughter] I see what you’re doing. You get me going, and then you have this list of book-three questions you’re trying to slip in.
Actually, the entire interview has been carefully leading up to that very question.
[Laughter] Well, I absolutely cannot tell you. No, I really can’t. But you’re right. That will be answered in book three. I’ll tell you that, OK? That can be your header.
Read the full interview at School Library Journal!