Ok, so by now, everyone’s read Mockingjay, and I can just talk about it to my heart’s content without anyone getting themselves all twisted because I spoiled the ending, right?
If you haven’t read it, and don’t want to hear what happens in the end, the click away now. After this, all I can say is that you were warned, and DAMN. You don’t follow directions all that well, do you?
So, being the product of a women’s college education (BMC HOLLA), I am eternally excited to see novels of any kind with a empathetic female protagonist, especially those novels directed at young adults, which in these days of growth-hormone laden milk, I am assuming to start somewhere in the 8 or 9 year-old range. Although, as I remember having read the entire Nancy Drew cannon at around that age, perhaps four years at a Seven Sisters college had absolutely nothing to do with it (although I was also very pro-Barbie. My contradictions, let me show you them).
Anyhoo- Katniss is, despite her endless waffling about should she or shouldn’t she, a pretty strong character- she hunts, she fights, she’s by turns tender and tough, she stands up for the things she believes in, she makes mistakes and rectifies them- these are lessons I’d feel super comfortable having my child, boy or girl, learn via reading an engrossing story. The entire Hunger Games trilogy is intense, and I read each one in a weekend, although I will say that Hunger Games is by far the best one of the three, with Catching Fire sort of falling flat there, in the middle- as if Collins didn’t have the stomach to write either Hunger Games or Mockingjay into a 700-page oeuvre, a la JK Rowling (although she could have- if Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that kids and adults will hang with you through doorstop-heavy books, if the story is interesting enough).
Mockingjay moves along at breakneck pace- even though, I do have to admit, there were a couple moments where I caught myself thinking as I read: “Am I really enjoying reading this, or am I tearing through it just so I can finally know what happens?” And then, at the end, I closed the book and felt… underwhelmed. That’s it (OK, SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, I AM ABOUT TO TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END)?
She just… marries Peeta and has 2 kids? And we never hear what happens to Gale (the cynic in me is tempted to think this is Collins’ set up for a spin-off series)? And somehow, after all that she’s been through, and all that she learned, and everything she showed the people of Panem was possible, she just… quits?
I am gonna have to disclaimer like hell here, because it’s gonna sound like I think being a stay-at-home mom is nothing, or not hard, or not worthy, or not work, or whatever, which is totally not the case. I know moms who stay home, I’d actually like to be one, myself, so PLEASE, PLEASE, believe me when I say that it’s not that Katniss ends up being “just” a mom in the end- it’s that Collins makes this choice for her when she’s, what, seventeen? The three books take place over the course of less than a year (I think, and I don’t feel like getting up off my ass to check), so let’s assume that at the end of the revolution and destruction of the Capitol, Katniss is, AT BEST, closing in on 18, which still makes her quite young, despite the growing up the Arena must certainly have caused her to do. And indeed, having just reread the last chapter, a significant portion of time passes before she has kids, but the essence remains- she checks out completely and becomes a shell of her former self, until she is restored to fulfilling life by the hand of a gentle and caring man? OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THAT NOVEL HAS BEEN WRITTEN A THOUSAND TIMES OVER.
Could she not have become President? Struck off and comandeered District 14? Developed a Panem-wide initiative to teach young girls to hunt in order to care for their families, and called it Young Mockingjays, where there would be hideous green uniforms and patches worn on a sash (with apologies to the Girl Scouts)? Of the million of possible endings Collins could have dreamt up, one where the young female firebrand is broken down by the system and revived by the love of a good man is so deeply unoriginal I’d find it laughable if there wasn’t an entire sociological cannon telling our (well, your) daughters that this is exactly the best they can expect for themselves.
Again, I am in no way diminishing any INDIVIDUAL woman’s choice, but we still live in a society where women as a whole are judged based on what they can offer to men, and THE LAST THING young women need is even more pop-culture reinforcement that even SPARKING A REVOLUTION is not enough to bring personal fulfillment.
I must now pause to wipe the spittle off my computer screen.
It just rankles, in the end, you know? I do believe you can be completely fulfilled as a wife and mother, but I strongly disagree that women are incapable of much else, or that eschewing either choice diminishes some essential part of womanhood. I also believe that there will NEVER be a shortage of strong cultural reinforcement for what is termed “traditional” female roles such as primary caretaker of children, and that ANY piece of pop culture that subverts this dominant paradigm is a win for young women everywhere, regardless of the choice they finally make in regards to their own, personal, lives.
Ya coulda done better, Collins.
For a completely different and unrelated read on Katniss, see this article, via @shriekhouse.