This article contains plot spoilers for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II
“I am done being a piece in his game.” So says Katniss Everdeen, the Mockingjay, in the last instalment of The Hunger Games movie franchise. She is done with corruption, with manipulations, and with being a pawn.
Done, too, with reactionary violence, undertaken to stay alive or in retaliation to the violence of others.
Mockingjay Part II (2015) draws The Hunger Games film series to a conclusion. Throughout, Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) has been an unpredictable heroine, who refuses to be typecast.
Over the course of her journey through violence, rebellion and political power, she serves as an example of the Beatitudes in today’s society.
The Beatitudes, from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12 ), have historically been seen as the essential moral theology of Christianity. In the 5th century Augustine wrote of the Beatitudes as tools for living perfectly, embodying Christian ethics:
If anyone will piously and soberly consider the sermon […] on the mount […] I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life.
The 14th Dalai Lama has drawn parallels between the Beatitudes and Buddhism, emphasising concepts of compassion and respect for human life.
But are these relevant for us today, in a society where it seems that religion and beliefs are either used as weapons, or powerless in the face of oppression and violence?
I think they are. Katniss Everdeen represents the strength of living the Beatitudes against injustice. Through Katniss we gain a glimpse of how to live well, in the face of oppression, violence and corruption.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those that mourn
Katniss signals hope for the oppressed, those “poor in spirit”. She mourns and represents grief that channels action. Her shock at seeing rebels harm fellow citizens, in seeing citizen against citizen, galvanises her.
Katniss grieves for the loss of solidarity among the Districts and for the lack of respect for human lives. She steps forward, and rallies others to action. She symbolises hope:
We all have one enemy! He corrupts everyone, and everything! He turns the best of us against each other. Tonight, turn your weapons, to the Capital! Turn your weapons, to Snow!
The poor in spirit lack hope. We need leaders in our community to have empathy in grief, in the face of global violence, and to move beyond grief to action.
Blessed are the meek
Gone is the Katniss that lashes out, whose primary concern is for her family. In Mockingjay Part II we see Katniss’ strength in control, her identification with, and concern for, the marginalised.
It’s in this film that Katniss names an armed rebel as one of President Snow’s workers. He angrily retorts, “I’m not a slave.” Katniss quietly and simply acknowledges the truth in reply: “I am.”
It is this strength under control that makes the most powerful statement. It is recognition of our chains in connection with others who suffer that builds our communities, through strength and solidarity.
Blessed are the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Katniss “hungers and thirsts for righteousness” and is a “peacemaker”, albeit an active peacemaker in refusing to support yet another corrupt government. When we hunger and thirst for what is right, we care less for our own material gain and care more for the good of others.
Katniss’ thirsts for what is right. She refuses to be bullied and made into a victim, even under the new government of the rebels under President Coin. She opts for that which is good, giving freedom a chance, and makes her own choice against injustice and for righteousness. She defines a new future for herself, for her family, and community.
Katniss highlights the role of peacemakers in society. She takes risks in the name of peace. She seeks resolution. She effects change by changing her narrative, and the narrative of her District.
And she makes sure, in that plaintive final scene, that atrocities against human freedom will not be forgotten. Can we do the same, in contemporary society?
Blessed are the pure of heart
In the final scene of the movie, Katniss comforts her child after she wakes from a nightmare:
Did you have a nightmare? I have nightmares too. Someday I’ll explain it to you. Why they came. Why they won’t ever go away. But I’ll tell you how I survive it.
I make a list in my head. Of all the good things I’ve seen someone do. Every little thing I could remember. It’s like a game, I do it over and over. It gets a little tedious after all these years. But there are much worse games to play.
In this exchange, we see the another Beatitude personified: blessed are the pure in heart. Katniss is “pure in heart” in her actions and desire in wanting to overthrow President Snow, and in her final act of defiance in the removal of power hungry President Coin.
She seeks justice and freedom from oppression for the community, rather than political power for herself. We see in the real world that the motive for action often determines the outcome; not much good comes from “help” that ravages the helpless.
Katniss is acting out of pure and selfless motives.
The relevance of belief, of ethical and moral choices for the good of self and others, of the Beatitudes, in our contemporary lives is signified. They have meaning, in a society that should seek to overturn injustices.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II is in cinemas now.