Symbolism Behind The Mocking Jay and Birds


Symbolismbehind the Mocking Jay and Birds


Children’sliterature can take on many meanings, whether they are symbolic fromthe language used or within the narratives illustrated. In “TheHunger Games” (2008-2010) trilogy, Suzanne Collins includes symbolsthroughout the books, specifically the protagonist, “Katniss,”and the pin “Mockingjay,” to shed light on societal issues.Sprecher (2013) avers that the use of visual metaphors in “TheHunger Games” can compete with today’s media as the narrative iswritten for the purpose to promote social justice and to inspireyoung adults to seek social change. Furthermore, Sprecher goes on tosay that visual metaphors can encourage young readers to thinkcritically (Bradford, 2008, 36).

Incontrast to the works of Shaun Tan’s “Picture Books”(1990-2015) who uses the images of “birds” to transport the mindsof young readers into a world of surrealism and excitement (M.Lassen-Seger 2011, pg. 1). Specifically, Tan uses illustrations toexpress metaphorical meanings to encourage young learners to readbetween the lines, thus encouraging them to interpret theillustrations from their perspective.

Ina review by Moreman (2014) on Tibetan folk tales “On therelationship between birds and spirits of the dead” which is basedon Jung’s theory of human-animal studies, he explores the symbolicuse of birds as a to represent the transition between death andrebirth and that humans are inclined to deny one’s mortality(Moreman, pp. 2). Unlike the work of Tan, Moreman uses the metaphorof birds as an omen of death.

Theaim of this paper is to explore whether the symbols used in thehunger games and picture books of Shaun Tan, “Mockingjay” and“birds” respectively act as a protective figure for the intendedreader.

TheMockingjay in the Hunger Games trilogy

TheMockingjay book, as shown in the trilogy, Hunger Games, is also veryimportant and plays a paramount role in children’s literature. Thebook talks about two sisters Katniss and Prim as well as theirfriends, Gale, and Finnick. These people are trying quite hard toadjust in a highly structured system in the district 13 that is inthe underground. The district has been at the forefront ofspearheading rebellion in the Panem (Collins, 2008, 76). The childrenare caught up in the crossfire when they are forced to play a part inthe rebellion or else risk serious consequences. As a result, Katnisslacks an alternative and, therefore, decides to play a Mockingjaybird. As a result, she is basically a poster child that is used forthe rebellion. She, however, reached a deal with President Alma Coinso that he may grant immunity to all people who had taken part in theHunger Games tribute.

Thereare various ways in which symbolism has been used in the book, TheMockingjay. For example, Mockingjay has been used in a symbolic way(Curwood, and Fink, 2013, 417). The bird is usually fond of mimickingthe way people talk and as a result, there is a great level ofsimilarity between it and young people. Children are usuallyidentified to have such a habit in that they do tend to copy the waysome people do their things.

Katnissis an embodiment of change and revolution. In fact, Bogg does tellher that she is the face of rebellion because she decides to face thePresident of District 13. She is also identified to have a highpotential of creating a greater influence compared to any othersingle person and as a result, she is deemed as quite resourcefulamong her friends and her community members (Woloshyn et al., 2013,60). Because she is out to represent a much bigger cause and tobenefit the entire society, she is warned against doing things theway she feels like. She is reminded that her actions have an effecton the lives of many other people and as a result, it is important tonote that she thinks first before taking a certain practice.

Oneof the ways which indicate the intricate position that Katnissoccupies in the community is when she makes a visit to the hospitaland as such, is able to bring a lot of inspiration and consolation topeople who were wounded and were placed in the facility. Such peoplewere quite happy to see her and felt like she had come to redeemthem. The strong symbol that Katniss was also echoed quite greatlywhen rumors went around that she had died. The president of therebels argued out that whether it was true that she ahad actuallydied or was still alive, she was still the Mockingjay and wouldremain to be quite a huge, formidable force towards the high level ofchange that was expected in the country. The President also remindedpeople that in any case they reached a point where they would feellike they were about to give up, they could just think about theMockingjay and that would bring back the good memories that they hadregarding Katniss. As a result, this would be quite effective inbuilding their spirits and enabling them to achieve the things thatthey had earlier on, thought would be hard to achieve.

Anotherinstance where symbolism has been used in the book is the hunting bagand jacket that belonged to the dad of Katniss. They help to how thegreat ‘warrior’ that he was as he was able to get out to thewoods and fight various wild animals. In such an instance alone, agreat level of security is felt, given the fact that people were ableto identify the greatness of their community with the presence ofpeople who had the characteristics such as Katniss’s father.

Thehunger games by themselves also act a very big show of symbolism inthe book, which in the long run have shaped the way the story goes aswell as the effect that it achieves. For instance, Most of thecharacters seem as if they have not yet gotten over the hunger gamesmemory. They felt that the victories that they had were quitememorable, and they would wish to keep on referring to them for along period. However, Katniss finds it quite hard to differentiatebetween the past and the present. While the past was characterized byvictories and a high level of safety in District 13, the present ishighly characterized with rebellion, something that she does notfully enjoy doing, but has no other choice since she is motivated tosee a big change taking place in her community (Muller, 2012, 51). The memories of the hunger games, therefore, are quite vital as theyhelp to remind people of the immense security that they had as aresult of the victory. The symbolism used in the reference to thehunger games points to a picture of a society that was ones quiteclose-knit before it was brought apart by various cases of rebellionand lack of proper cooperation among people.

Mostof the different symbolic figures that have been used in the bookhelp to bring out the aspect of protection that was given to peoplein District 13 (Henthorne, 2012, 61). They used some of the elementsrepresented to feel that they were safe and would be in a goodposition to stand for themselves and be able to fight for theircause. For instance, the effort given by Katniss is quite immense asit gave the people a sense of security in their ability. They alsofelt that they would be strong even by just thinking about her,regardless of whether she was alive or dead. As a result, it isimportant to note that the effect that the symbols that are used inthe book in terms of being able to bring about some sense of securityand protection among the people. The symbolisms used, as a result,act as protective figures in the book as well as the entire HungerGames trilogy.

Bird’sKing in Shaun Tan’s Picture Books

Thesketches, Bird’s King, by Shaun Tan also make the use of differentsymbolisms that may be interested differently by people. Thesesketches are comprised of jottings that are made randomly as well asfirst drafts of designs for books, theatre projects, and theatre aswell as sketchbook pages. Most of the items represented in the bookshow some work that is still taking place. It brings out an aspectthat a given story is still being developed from just prose to have avisual effect, something that is quite paramount as far as enabling agiven piece of the story to have an effect upon a given group ofpeople. Some of the sketches that are included in the book appearsingly, and they were not originally meant to be published (Allan,2012, 123). It is just by mere circumstance that Tan, later on, madeplans to have such pieces be given to the public so that they may beable to appreciate the immense work that he had done. The sketchesare also followed with words which help to show the thoughts that theartist had in mind while he was developing them.

Fromthe different sketches that are identified in the book compilation,one aspect that becomes evident is the use of symbolism which triesto communicate a deep message that the artist meant to put across.One of such sketches is the Coral Tree. It represents a tree in thecountryside bearing red leaves (Tan, 2013, 102). It is slightlyslanted to the left, while on a green field with some animals are inthe background, grazing. The sketch gives out a strong message ofserenity that is accorded by the countryside. The area appears to bequite peaceful. This is a place where an individual could find iteasy to visit and be able to cool off from the various stresses oflife that people are normally passed through, from time to time. As aresult, there is a high chance that just by looking at the sketch, aperson is able to feel relieved and also use it as a way ofprotecting his mind from exhaustion that is brought about by takinglife in stride.

Anothersketch that is evident from the works of Tan is that of The EightEggs. This sketch shows a storm that has hit a given sea and ischaracterized with rising tides. There are also figures of 7 eggs inthe background while one is in the foreground. All the eggs areinside the tides. Eggs are quite delicate in nature. They arevulnerable even to the weakest force in nature. Any strong currentapplied to them could lead to the breakage of the eggs (Latin, andPavković, 2014, 361). It is, however, quite symbolic that these eggsare inside the waves, and they protect them. The very feature thatwas supposed to cause damage to the eggs is the same one that appearsto protect them. The tides in the drawing, can, therefore, beexplained to be the protective figures of the eggs. However, sincethis is just a symbolic feature, the most formidable explanationtowards such is the fact that in some cases in life, some of thethings that are usually thought to have a potential to bring in a lotof harm end up having the highest possibility of being quitebeneficial. It is such kind of items that in the long-run end upproviding the protection that people require.

Thebook also contains a sketch known as, ‘Anthropologist.’ Thissketch contains a person who is dressed as an astronaut and has justlanded on a body in space. The person is standing next to a smallmouse that also has astronaut attire (GREENFIELD et al., 2010, 26).The one element that is quite easy to identify in the sketch is thefact that the person has well protected himself in the astronautattire. He also seems to be connected to a vessel that supplies himwith Oxygen and as a result, his safety is well ensured.

Asketch of a telephone booth that has been subjected to some form ofvandalism can also be seen in the book. It, therefore, points to thefact that had such a feature been accorded proper protection, itwould not have been destroyed in such a manner. It is also quitediscouraging in that, an item that is deemed quite important in thesociety gets destroyed. It is unexpected that a booth would getdestroyed by people since most of them would be on the forefront toensure that it is well protected because it usually serves them in amajor way.

Thissketch sends a strong message of symbolism. It indicates that somethings in life are so intricate and important. It is likely thatpeople could take such items quite lightly without giving proper heedto giving them proper protection because they do not see anycompelling reason that could push them to do so (Dony, 2012, 83).However, in case such issues experience some problems, they normallyend up causing huge inconveniences in the long run. At a time whensuch a person is healthy, he may take his health for granted and failto take thorough plans to protect himself fully. It is during thetime when he does experience some problems as a result of his failinghealth that the person will begin to wish that he had taken propersteps to protect himself accordingly. At some times this situationdoes take place when it is already too late and very little could bedone to salvage the situation that I already too bad.

Otherimportant sketches that were made by Tan include the Sketches fromthe Anthropology Museum. The museum is found in Mexico City. Theyinclude an assortment of artifacts that could be made of clay if theywere to be molded. They are a range of a variety of figures. Some ofthem can easily be identified as figures of animals that are wellknown such as mice and pigs while others are quite hard to identify.There are figures of pots and some other vessels that are quite vitalfor cooking expeditions. These sketches do present one symbolism thedelicate nature of the artifacts that are put in the sketches. Inmost cases, artifacts are usually highly prone to damage or even riskof theft, owing to the huge amount of value that is usually attachedunto them. They, therefore, do require proper protection so thattheir level of safety could be assured. In the same measure, works ofart, in general, are very valuable and as a result, they need to bestored in such a way that they are not in any harm’s way. Takingproper actions to safeguard these works goes a long way in preservingthe history of people as well as honoring the artists who came upwith such works (Kurkjian and Kara-Soteriou, 2013, 2). It is usuallythe only way that an artist could be kept alive as people will beable to interact with his works even for many years to come. Tan, asa result, applied the symbolism with an aim to draw the attentioninto the protection of his works so that they may be available forfuture generations and as well, he may be remembered in the societythrough such works.


Itis concise that the symbolism that is used in The Mockingjay in theHunger Games and Birds in Shaun Tan’s picture books act asprotective figures in children’s literature. They are vital inshowing the various steps with which human beings and other elementsin the environment are well protected and as such, they are able tosurvive in different conditions in spite of how dangerous andunfriendly they appear to be. This is a great show of symbolism inchildren’s book.


Allan,C., 2012. Problematising Unity through Ex-centricity and Difference.InPlayingwith Picturebooks&nbsp(pp.123). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Bradford,C., Mallan, K.M., Stephens, J. and McCallum, R., 2008.&nbspNewworld orders in contemporary children`s literature: utopiantransformations.Palgrave Macmillan. 36

Collins,S 2008, The Hunger Games: Published by Scholastic Press, Broadway,New York.&nbsp76

Curwood,J.S. and Fink, L., 2013. The Hunger Games: Literature, literacy, andonline affinity spaces.&nbspLanguageArts,&nbsp90(6),p.417.

Dony,C., 2012. Towards a vocabulary of displacement and utopianpossibilities: Reading Shaun Tan`s The Arrival as a crossovertext.&nbspStudiesin Comics,&nbsp3(1),pp.83.


Henthorne,T., 2012.&nbspApproachingThe Hunger Games trilogy: A literary and cultural analysis.McFarland. p61

Kurkjian,C., and Kara-Soteriou, J., 2013. Insights into negotiating ShaunTan’s The Arrival using a literature cyberlesson.&nbspSANEjournal: Sequential Art Narrative in Education,&nbsp1(3),p.2.

Latin,M. and Pavković, D.A., 2014. Cherie Allan. 2012. Playing withPicturebooks: Postmodernism and the Postmodernesque.&nbspLibri&amp Liberi,&nbsp2(2),pp.361

Muller,V., 2012. Virtually Real: Suzanne Collins`s The Hunger GamesTrilogy.&nbspInternationalResearch in Children`s Literature,&nbsp5(1),p.51

Tan,S 2013, Rules of Summer: Hachette Australia, Allen &amp Unwin, WindyHollow Books, Sydney, Australia. p102

Woloshyn,V., Taber, N. and Lane, L., 2013. Discourses of Masculinity andFemininity in The Hunger Games:&quot Scarred,&quot&quotBloody,&quotand&quot Stunning&quot.InternationalJournal of Social Science Studies,&nbsp1(1),p150