District 13 and the Capitol, Panem
Parallels Between the Capitol and District 13
When we first opened Mockingjay, we breathed a sigh of relief: Whew! Katniss is safe in District 13! But then we started to feel a little weird. And uncomfortable.
Did you start feeling a bit of déjà vu? In District 13, Katniss is once again performing a role. The acting, the scripts, the costumes, the make-up, the cameras… For President Snow's (very public) execution, Katniss even has her prep team and Effie Trinket back. Man, Katniss might as well be in the Capitol, prepping for the Hunger Games or a victory tour. Has anything changed?
The thing is, both governments are up the same tricks, using Katniss and the other victors to their own ends. Both governments rely heavily on staged media and propaganda. They aren't televising the truth, they're putting on a performance to sway their audiences.
Sure, one group is all about luxury and excess and the other is about strict rationing, but aside from that, they aren't so different. Here are a few similarities we came up with:
- Both are controlling. Katniss even says, "In some ways, District 13 is even more controlling than the Capitol" (3.22).
- Both are all about media image.
- Both use and manipulate the victors.
- Both condone the killing of innocent children.
- Both are run by authoritarian figures and are power hungry. To conquer one is to win the war: "The rebels want the Capitol, just as the Capitol wanted 13" (18.71).
Can you come up with any other similarities?
The Capitol is the beautiful and exclusive center of Panem, where the richest of the rich and the celebrities live. People in the other districts work hard to serve and provide luxuries for the citizens of the Capitol.
It's also a powerful entity in its own right, not just a place: the Capitol tortures people, the Capitol has it in for Katniss, and the Capitol was manipulating her and Peeta. Sometimes the Capitol seems like an extension of Snow. It's like an evil and creepy ruler who's determined to crush the heroine and the hero.
The Capitol is also reminiscent of the Hunger Games, which all took place in the arena within the Capitol. Nowhere is this emphasized more than when the rebels finally plan to attack the Capitol and examine their special holographic tools. Right away, Katniss and Finnick realize the Capitol itself has become a giant Games arena:
[…] only a victor would see what I see so immediately. The arena. Laced with pods controlled by Gamemakers. Finnick's fingers caress a steady red glow over a doorway. […] "Let the Seventy-sixth Hunger Games begin!" (18.15-16)
District 13 is the lost district, which in the first two books of the trilogy seemed to not even exist. It was supposedly destroyed in a battle with the Capitol years before the Hunger Games began, and it nearly was. However, its people rallied and used the limited power they had gathered – because they lived in a nuclear weapon production zone – to stay alive and slowly, but surely, plan a revolution. Everyone lives underground, though:
From the air, 13 looks about as cheerful as 12 [which was bombed], the way the Capitol shows it on television, but there's next to no life aboveground. (2.6)
By the time Katniss gets there, 13 has really evolved. Katniss realizes how big the district is:
The Hangar. The dungeons. Special Defense. Somewhere food is grown. Power generated. Air and water purified. "Thirteen is even larger than I thought." (6.57)
District 13 has rebuilt itself, but it's turned into a stern, unhappy place. Everyone has a clear role in the community and strict schedule to follow. There isn't a single luxury to be found here. Even the food is boring, yucky (but nutritious) slop. So, while District 13 has thrived, but it's also pretty creepy. Katniss doesn't think of it as home, and when the other refugees have a chance to return to their own districts later in the book, they jump on it.