Altered Symbolism in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games

Image: (c) Sydney Gobeil, 2017.

Sydney Gobeil

When Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games, she created a story focused on the extreme measures that a political system will go to eradicate any idea of rebellion, and maintain control of its citizens. As the novel continues, it becomes a story about how all it takes is one person to ignite a rebellion. In the novel’s case,  that one person is Katniss Everdeen (Fisher 27). Her actions in the games inspire the districts to fight against the oppressiveness of the Capitol. In the novel, the mockingjay pin Katniss wears becomes a symbol of rebellion. However, as a result of remediation, the pin takes on a different sort of meaning in the film adaption.

In the book, the mockingjay is a political weapon. The novel describes the origins of the mockingjay, stating that it was a combination of the mockingbird and the jabberjay. The jabberjay was a genetically altered bird created by the Capitol, which was used to record conversations of rebels during the first rebellion of the districts. When the rebels caught on and began spreading false information through the birds, the Capitol shut down the program, and the birds mated with mockingbirds (Collins 42-43). This resulted in the creation of mockingjays, which Katniss describes as being “something of a slap in the face to the Capitol” (Collins 42). They represent the true lack of power that the Capitol possesses. This contrasts the power that they claim to hold over the districts, which they demonstrate by forcing the district’s children to fight to the death each year.

As Katniss receives the pin from Madge, the mayor’s daughter, the mockingjay becomes   even more of a political symbol in the novel. As the pin is given to Katniss by a political figure, the mockingjay begins to symbolize the district’s disapproval of the Capitol’s oppressive political system.  Madge asks Katniss to “[p]romise [she’ll] wear it in the arena” (Collins 38). She is well aware that the Capitol will be watching each of the tributes, and will see the mockingjay as a sign that the district is not complacent in their acceptance of the Hunger Games and the political choices of the Capitol.

The political statement and rebellious connotations of the mockingjay pin are lost as a result of the remediation of The Hunger Games. Instead, it becomes a reminder for Katniss to keep fighting so that she can return home. This is largely due to the removal of Madge from the movie, which is a result of the need to condense the storyline. As movies are generally around two hours long, they are not capable of containing the entirety of a novel in exact detail. In order to fit within the time constraints placed upon films, parts of the story that were in the novel must be removed. In The Hunger Games, Madge appears very infrequently. As she is not in the book much, her storyline is easy to remove. The director can focus on including more scenes of Katniss and other main characters, which is more of a draw for moviegoers. In the film, Katniss buys the pin, and gives it to her sister, Prim. She promises that “as long as [she] has it, nothing bad will happen to [her]” (Ross, The Hunger Games). This turns out to be untrue, as Prim is reaped, but Katniss volunteers in her place. Prim gives the pin back to Katniss before she leaves, telling her it’s “to protect you” (Ross, The Hunger Games). To further condense the film, the origin of the mockingjay is completely left out, which contributes to the change in symbolism. The pin now becomes a reminder for Katniss that she needs to have faith in herself to win the games, so that she can return home to her sister.

As a result of remediation, the mockingjay pin worn by Katniss in The Hunger Games has different meanings in both the novel and film. This is a result of the need to condense the storyline and remove characters. In the novel, the pin represents the discontent of the districts with the Capitol’s actions. It also becomes a symbol of defiance in the face of an oppressive political system (Fisher 28). However, in the film, the pin symbolizes Katniss’ desire to return home to her sister, who is the person she cares for most. In both versions of the text, the mockingjay is a symbol of hope, but each medium portrays it as different sort of hope. The novel illustrates the mockingjay as a symbol of hope for rebellion, whereas the film displays the pin as a symbol of hope for Katniss to make it through the games alive.

Works Cited

Collins, Suzanne L. The Hunger Games. New York, Scholastic Inc., 2008.

Fisher, Mark. “Precarious Dystopias: The Hunger Games, In Time , and Never Let Me       Go.” Film Quarterly, vol. 65, no. 4, June 2012, pp. 27–33.

Gobeil, Sydney. “The Hunger Games Cover”. 2017. JPEG file.

Ross, Gary. The Hunger Games. Dir. Gary Ross. Alliance Films, 2012. DVD.

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