Sunday, May 20, 2012

Healing in MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Colllins


MOCKINGJAY is the third and final book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy.


After the Quarter Quell, Katniss finds herself in District 13 with her mother, Prim, Gail, Haymitch, and Finnick. Peeta, Johanna, and Enobaria have been captured by the Capitol, but eventually District 13 is able to rescue Peeta and Johanna.

It quickly becomes apparent that Peeta has been hijacked by the Capitol, meaning that his memories of Katniss have been altered and entwined with fear. When Peeta is reunited with Katniss in District 13, he shocks everyone by springing at Katniss and attempting to strangle her. Peeta is treated by the medical team in District 13 and eventually reaches a point where he can begin to separate his real memories from the memories altered by the Capitol.

The rebel districts succeed in overthrowing the Capitol, but not without great loss of life on both sides. Prim and Finnick are among the dead. Alma Coin, the President of District 13, becomes President of Panem, but Katniss kills her because Coin's way of staying in power is too similar to that of the cold and calculating President Snow, who was President of Panem for decades.

Katniss finally returns to District 12, where she marries Peeta. Katniss and Peeta eventually have two children in the new and more gentle world that has emerged from the overthrow of the Capitol.


When one has been out of touch with reality, it is helpful to ask a trusted person for help. Peeta does this as he tries to sort out which of his memories are real and which have been hijacked. He states what his memory is telling him, and then asks, "Real or not real?" The trusted person's answer helps him reconnect with reality.

Peeta's reconnection with reality reminds me that there are different ways to frame what happens to us. The way we frame what happens to us creates our reality. People we trust can suggest different frames. For example, two frames through which illness has been viewed are (1) that illness is a punishment from God and (2) that illness comes from natural physical causes, such as germs or aged-related degeneration.


Healing of trauma is possible, but it isn't always complete. Perhaps it is never complete. But life can go on and can bring joy.

Katniss and Peeta marry and have two children. Twenty years after the defeat of the Capitol and the end of the Hunger Games, Peeta still sometimes has flashbacks, and Katniss still sometimes has nightmares. But Peeta and Katniss also take joy in each other, in their children, in their friends, in their memory book, and in nature. They know that the flashbacks and nightmares won't ever completely go away. But that's okay.

On some days, Katniss says that "it feels impossible to  take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away" (page 390). When Katniss feels this way, she says, "I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've seen someone do" (page 390).

A catalog of goodness, a catalog of gratitude--this is a wonderful healing idea. I think Katniss is saying: I will anchor myself in the reality of goodness as this temporary wave of despair washes over me.


Here are the ways that Katniss and Peeta find healing:

  • Asking trusted people for reality checks
  • Mentally cataloguing goodness and gratitude
  • Recognizing feelings of despair, including flashbacks and nightmares, as the temporary waves that they are--waves of despair in an ocean of goodness
  • Anchoring in the reality of goodness when a temporary wave of despair arises
  • Taking delight in each other, their children, their friends
  • Keeping the memory book of the beloved dead: Prim, Katniss' father, Peeta's father, Cinna, Finnick, Boggs, and so many others
  • Spending time outdoors in nature

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