8

At the end of Mockingjay,

Primrose Everdeen

dies. What can we learn from their death? What does this teach us, from an out of universe point of view?

6

This death is probably the single most significant event in the entire series, with the possible exception of "I volunteer as tribute!" in book one. It completely changes every single aspect of the ending of the story, as well as significantly changing the history of Panem. First, let's look at just those changes:

  • The death of Coin. This is the most obvious consequence of Prim's death: it opens Katniss's eyes to the true nature of President Coin, and inspires her to assassinate this new leader. Ironically, Coin sealed her own fate by her actions - if she hadn't ordered those parachutes dropped, Katniss wouldn't have been motivated to kill her, at least not until she'd made her despotism more clear and Katniss was no longer in a position of power.

  • The loss of Gale. The love-triangle subplot also found its final resolution in Prim's death. Although we the readers could have guessed long ago that Katniss would end up with Peeta over Gale (Peeta was so much more significant in the story, got so much more page time), Gale had been gaining advantage throughout Mockingjay, being there for her while Peeta was kidnapped and then psychotic. Then, suddenly, the person Katniss loved most is dead and Gale could be partly to blame. Boom, end of romantic tension, Everlark for ever.

  • A bittersweet ending. The whole series is full of death, by the very nature of the Hunger Games and of war - Collins doesn't stint on showing us the brutality of both. But this death strikes much closer to home. If it hadn't been for this, Katniss and her nearest and dearest might have been able to make themselves a life almost as before in Twelve: living with her mother and sister, with Peeta, Gale, and Haymitch close by. Now it's very clear that nothing will ever be the same again. Nothing would anyway, for Katniss, after all she's been through, but with Prim gone this becomes even starker, and we appreciate more clearly how broken Katniss is and how long it takes her to stitch her life back together again after the war is over.

So that's the effect on the story, from an out-of-universe point of view. The death of this one innocent girl brings about a massive change in the jurisdiction and history of Panem, a clear resolution to the romantic subplot, and clarifies the bittersweetness for Katniss of the 'victory' in Panem by breaking the plot armour which those closest to her have so far enjoyed.

But you were asking about what we can learn from her death, what lessons or morals we can draw from this part of the story. I'm not exactly sure what kind of thing you're looking for, but here's a few obvious conclusions and how they relate to Prim's death.

War is hell.

I said above that Collins doesn't stint on showing us the gritty reality of war. This comes out in so many ways throughout Mockingjay: the prominence of propaganda in the war effort, the casual killing of civilians, the isolation in ignorance of one team of soldiers from the rest, ... and now this.

Nobody is safe, even the innocents. Prim is surely the person we'd have least expected to die in this story. She's not a soldier; she's not (as far as we knew up to this moment) part of the war effort at all. Her main role in the story seemed to be someone Katniss loved unconditionally - a less complex relationship than with Peeta or Gale or her mother - and as a motivation, a reason for Katniss to keep fighting and to want a better Panem (more on this later). Her death seems more horrendous than any of the soldiers, and gives us a face for all the untold innocents suffering in this war.

Neither side is as rosy as it makes out. I don't think I need to go into much detail about this, as it's the whole point of the business with Coin. Just as Katniss learns that Coin would be almost as bad a dictator as Snow, so we, the readers, realise that both sides committed atrocities - and Prim's death is the catalyst for that realisation. This is an important lesson in terms of real war too: it's never "good against evil"; that's just what they (your country, or the victors, or whoever) want you to think.

In a sense, from a narrative point of view, Prim 'had' to be killed. Somebody close to Katniss needed to die, to remind us that you can't get through war without losing anyone and to show us how difficult it is for her to piece her life back together at the end; and it couldn't be Peeta or Gale, because that would end the love triangle in the wrong way. But there's another reason why it had to be Prim ...

It's all about Prim.

Prim's death brings the story full circle. It was Prim who started everything off, by being reaped as a tribute forcing Katniss to volunteer. Every step of the way, Katniss has been fighting for Prim: when she volunteered to be part of the Hunger Games, when she promised Prim that she'd try to win and come back home, when she promised Snow to play along with the romance facade after her family was threatened, even when she fought for a better Panem. She doesn't get much page time, but she's always there in Katniss's thoughts, "the only person in the world I'm certain I love". Perhaps we needed reminding of that, and here's our reminder: Prim lying dead and Katniss (who's been having a nervous breakdown almost every other chapter in Mockingjay) finally, totally, broken.

It seems fitting to end this by quoting from perhaps the only SE answer that's made me tear up:

It's always been for Prim. Not for the Capitol, not for the rebels, not for the hunger games. For Prim.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I was oddly unmoved by it. I'm torn, because a happy ending would have felt forced, while this ending felt unsatisfying. It should have felt world-ending, while to me it seemed more of a straw-camel's-back type thing. Perhaps it's the nature of the Young Adult genre: you can't depart too far from the expectations without seeming to say, "Look at me, I'm subverting your expectations". I really loved the books, and have read them three times, but the last book as a whole never seemed to get where it needed to go. – Joshua Engel Aug 15 '17 at 15:28
  • 1
    @JoshuaEngel It was always the scene with the cat that broke me. Katniss had so many breakdowns through Mockingjay, I see what you mean about the straw-camel's-back thing, but ... "She's dead, you stupid cat. She's dead." tears Same in the film series - so many emotional moments, but that was where I broke down. BTW, I do like their decision to turn Mockingjay into two films. Even if it was motivated by profit, there was way too much crammed into that book, the plot needs more elbow-room, and it feels natural to have two chunks about the Games and then two about the war. – Rand al'Thor Aug 15 '17 at 15:33
  • In general I'm OK with movie-splitting. Movies (at least this kind of plot-driven movie) often feel rushed to me. The audio book takes a dozen hours; why chop it to cram it into two hours of film? – Joshua Engel Aug 15 '17 at 15:51
  • I also caught Mockingjay on audio book, and yeah, the narrator was fantastic at that moment. It seemed like she was struggling with the sheer amount of one-more-thing... but yeah, Collins nailed that. – Joshua Engel Aug 15 '17 at 15:57
2

I quite like Rand al'Thor's comprehensive answer and will only add that the simple answer may be:

  • The senselessness of war

Not in terms of what might incite the sub-optimal condition of war, which, in some cases, can be justified, but that many events and many deaths can be regarded as senseless (i.e. having no good reason.)

The reason I focus on this as the simple answer is that the death in question occurs after victory has been achieved. It's senseless because there is no reason to continue the fighting. This is compounded in that the victims in this case were non-combatants.

For parallels, I might look at Sam Fuller's The Big Red One, based on Fuller's experiences in WWII. (The opening scene touches on this very subject.)

This is also a major theme of the more recent Letters from Iwo Jima.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    See also: all the soldiers who died in WWI between Germany's decision to surrender and negotiate an armistice (Sep-Oct 1918) and the actual armistice whose signing was chosen to be at a symbolic moment (11 am on 11/11) rather than as soon as possible to minimise the number of deaths. – Rand al'Thor Aug 17 '17 at 22:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.