Okay, so I was reading Catching Fire last night, and in the chapter when Katniss models the wedding dresses right before the Quell announcement, she tells us about a nightmare she has after trying on the dresses, where she’s running through the woods wearing the wedding dress with the pearls, but she’s having a hard time making her escape because thorns keep catching onto her and slowing her down. (I’d include the exact quote, but the Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader is informing me I’ve reached my limit for devices I can download the book on. What are you trying to tell me, Amazon? That I have a Hunger Games addiction? Pffft.)
AT ANY RATE, this particular dream sequence really stood out to me this time, most notably because a) this is the very same dress Katniss wears during the interview, that turns into the Mockingjay dress, and b) the line about the thorns struck me as being a symbol for Gale Howthorne.
So, like I said above, the dress is the same dress Katniss is forced to wear during the scene when Caesar interviews her, and her dress burns away to reveal the Mockingjay dress below. Katniss tells us that the dress is covered in pearls. And what is it that later comes to symbolize the love that’s developed between Katniss and Peeta? The “beauty that rose out of pain?” The love that survived despite what the Capitol attempted to throw at it, in order to make it stop? That’s right. The pearl.
The silk wedding dress itself symbolizes the act they have had to put on for the Capitol, because President Snow is forcing them to do so, attempting to control them and make them do something against their will, even if they don’t want to do it themselves. The dress is the not real. But the pearls on the dress are what’s real, because despite the complexity of the act, Katniss and Peeta do, indeed have true romantic feelings for each other. Even if Katniss can’t and won’t acknowledge it for a long, long time.
So the dream is interesting, because at this point Katniss is overwhelmed by all of it: the horror of what President Snow is pushing her into, possible romantic feelings for Peeta, and Gale’s pressure not to hold those feelings for Peeta, but instead have feelings for him. All of this happening, and the only thing the old Katniss, the “coward” Katniss wanted was to never marry at all, and to be left alone. She’s running through the woods in her dream trying to escape this trap, and dealing with Gale and his feelings toward her just slows her down more, thus the part about the thorns.
Fast forward again to the interview, and Katniss has developed quite a bit since that dream. By the time the interview rolls around, Katniss is actually beginning to open herself up and give in to her feelings for Peeta. She isn’t fighting it anymore, which automatically brings it out of Snow’s control. He can’t “punish” her with this relationship if she wants it herself, and by giving in to the fact that she does want Peeta, she’s beginning to form her own autonomy over her life. And that’s why it’s so pointed that the dress burns away during the scene, because only the pearls survive. The ‘not real’ part of the relationship has burned away, and the true love that exists between Katniss and Peeta remains. And all of this happens as she stages her own rebellion, along with the other Victors-turned-Tribute, on the stage. President Snow tried to crush their love, and everything it and they inspired in the nation, and this is the moment where he fails. Because despite his best efforts to use it against her, the balance falls completely into Katniss’s favor when she accepts her feelings for Peeta, and takes power over her own life. That is when she becomes truly uncontrollable.