Friday, October 16, 2015

Mockingjay Part 2 Countdown: The Girl in the Lemon Coat (Chapter 24)

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Chapter 24

*Spoilers! Well, I don't say it outright but just to be safe...

If there is any chapter that defines what this series is truly about, it is Chapter 24 of Mockingjay. In it you will find some of the most gruesome and horrifying scenes ever to grace the pages of a young adult series. When I started getting into The Hunger Games, I read somewhere that Suzanne Collins doesn't write kids books, she writes about war for kids. War and PTSD was something she dealt with as a child, and wanted to give kids an idea of what war is truly like especially for those in need of understanding it. Not just the horrible unimaginable stuff, but aftermath, closure, PTSD, grief, guilt, and frankly, reality. This is what these books are about, and it is this chapter that fully encompasses what a battlefield is truly like.

Before shots are fired, Katniss and Gale are disguised and walking with displaced refugees towards Snow's mansion. Funny how five years after Mockingjay was published the current relevancy of this scene. Katniss then slows down because she catches the eye of a little girl in a lemon coat. This little girl repeatedly sticks in Katniss' mind, which is something I too always remember most about this scene. I've always thought the girl in the lemon coat was a nod to the little red coat girl in Schindler's List. Seemed oddly appropriate given the themes of war and oppression in The Hunger Games. It's this reference (which I'm not even sure was done on purpose) that inspired my above graphite drawing. The lemon coat girl is an omen for Katniss. She is scared that this little girl knows who she is and their cover will be blown. Actually, it is this precise moment that the rebels break through and cause the gun fire and panic. They're not shooting people on purpose, they are aiming for the peacekeepers. But the casualties are tremendous. The battlefield has begun and the innocent civilians are caught in the middle. The lemon coat girl bends over her companion who has been shot. As Katniss sees this, the girl is gunned down and the image of her little lemon coat covered in her own blood is a horrifying image that Katniss has trouble shaking repeatedly. The constant implication that the rebels are not the good guys, that this little girl probably reminds her of Prim, and the societal truth that Panem is covered in the blood of its children are all things that run through Katniss' mind in this moment. Unfortunately, it's just the beginning.

After the gunfire, three pods go off in succession as Katniss and Gale are traversing through the streets as fast as possible. The first is a boiling hot substance that basically liquefies everyone in its path, and the second occurs right when Katniss and Gale turn a corner, which they narrowly miss. It's a purple light that causes people's blood to explode out of their orifices. Actually, it's not too far off from chemical warfare. Lastly, right before Katniss reaches the City Circle the ground gives way. Katniss describes the smell as many corpses on a hot summer day, and anyone not smart and/or strong enough to hold onto doorknobs fall helplessly into the abyss. As Katniss finds refuge on a light post, that's when she sees the shield made of Capitol children. The hovercraft, the parachutes, the “undersized body parts”, the medics, HER, and then the snare trap. And it's over.

How will Francis Lawrence deal with all this gruesome violence and war? As accurately as a PG-13 film in 2015 will allow is my guess. Francis is a big believer in honoring the text Suzanne wrote and he understands the importance of the story of war being told. This chapter is understandably upsetting, but it is sadly the reality of war and these kinds of things have happened. The scores of rotting corpses, chemical warfare, refugees, civilian casualties, these are all real. Francis will honor the books without being too gratuitous, but I think the horror and violence portrayed will be enough to serve its purpose.

Next week..... The aftermath....