About the Book

Book Protagonist: Coriolanus Snow
Publication Date: 2020
Genre: Action and Adventure, Dystopian, Teen and Young Adult

Themes and Analysis

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

By Suzanne Collins

'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes' by Suzanne Collins follows the story of Coriolanus Snow, 64 years before Katniss is chosen as a tribute.

The novel has several intriguing themes, including control, the nature of war, and the role of the government. The novel uses a simple and prosaic writing style as well as several symbols to get its message across.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Themes and Analysis

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Themes


The novel revolves around the theme of chaos and control. The protagonist, Coriolanus, struggles with the question of control throughout his journey. He concludes that for chaos to be bridled, there needs to be absolute control in the hands of the government. 

The Effects of War

Though the events of this novel take place ten years after the war, the devastating effects of war can still be felt. It is not just the districts that are struggling with the after-effects of the war – it is the Capitol as well. The Capitol is trying to rebuild itself from the ashes, but it is a difficult task with the shortage of resources. Families across the nation have lost loved ones in the war, as well as bread-earning members. The Snow family, which was once the head of a great munitions Empire, has been brought to poverty.

The Government

Coriolanus tries to understand the role of the government in the making of the nation. In the beginning, he is under the impression that the government will do everything in its power to protect its people. However, he soon realizes that this is not the case. The Government of Panem will do everything in its power to protect itself. This means putting innocent people in harm’s way, including Coriolanus himself.

Analysis of Key Moments in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

  1. 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is assigned as a mentor to the female tribute from district 12, Lucy Gray Baird.
  2. During the reaping, Lucy Gray puts a snake down another girl’s dress and sings a song.
  3. Coriolanus goes to meet Lucy Gray at the station. He is taken with her and the other tributes to the zoo at the Capitol.
  4. Sejanus Plinth feeds the tributes at the zoo. Coriolanus gets to know his tribute.
  5. Dr. Gaul, the Head Gamemaker, sets the students an assignment to make the Games more interesting.
  6. Arachne, a fellow mentor, is killed by her tribute for taunting her with food.
  7. Coriolanus finishes the assignment and his classmate Clemensia claims credit for it. She is punished by Dr. Gaul with snake bites.
  8. The mentors and tributes go to stake out the arena. A rebel bomb goes off, killing several of them. Lucy Gray saves Coriolanus’ life.
  9. At the TV interviews before the Games, Lucy Gray sings a song about her ex-lover.
  10. The Games begin, and Lucy Gray emerges victorious.
  11. Coriolanus is forced to become a Peacekeeper for his underhanded actions in the Games and transfers to District 12.
  12. Sejanus Plinth joins him a week later. Sejanus hatches a plan to escape with the rebels and tells Coriolanus about it. Coriolanus records the conversation and sends it to the Capitol.
  13. Coriolanus catches Sejanus planning with the rebels. He kills Mayfair, the Mayor’s daughter, who overheard them. A rebel is also killed in a brawl.
  14. Sejanus is hanged for treason. Coriolanus decides to run away with Lucy Gray before he is apprehended for the murder of Mayfair.
  15. Lucy Gray has lost trust in Coriolanus for betraying his friend. Coriolanus drowns the weapon he used to kill Mayfair and attempts to kill Lucy Gray as well.
  16. He returns to the Capitol and studies at the university. Several months later, he poisons the Dean of the Academy, who was responsible for the birth of the Hunger Games.

Writing Style and Tone

Suzanna Collins has adopted a simple narrative writing style for this novel. The novel is written from a third-person limited point of view, from the perspective of the protagonist, Coriolanus Snow. The story is a basic narrative broken down with dialogues.

Eat the others,” he urged, nodding to the second packet. 

She shook her head. “No. I’ll save these for Jessup. He’s my ally now.” 

“Your ally?” Coriolanus was perplexed. How could one have an ally in the Games? “Uh-huh. The tributes from District Twelve are going down together,” said Lucy Gray. “He’s not the brightest star in the Dipper, but he’s strong as an ox.”

As is evident from the passage above, Collins uses figurative language (with similes and metaphors) to provide depth to her characters. The tone of the writing is gloomy and macabre, which matches the morbid themes of the novel. Several times, the author also presents the thoughts of the protagonist as an internal monologue.

It was true. They’d been close enough to recognize him. But they’d hunted down him and Sejanus — Sejanus, who’d treated the tributes so well, fed them, defended them, given them last rites! — even though they could have used that opportunity to kill one another.

Analysis of Symbols


Roses are a symbol of affluence for the Snows. The Grandma’am grows them on the terrace and is extremely protective of them. She allows Coriolanus to have the roses only on special occasions. They are of different colors, and Coriolanus comes to be associated with the smell of roses.

The symbol of roses continues into The Hunger Games trilogy as well, with President Snow masking the smell of blood from his mouth sores with genetically enhanced roses.


Lucy Gray is one of the few tributes from the district who wears colorful clothes. As a part of the traveling troupe, the Covey, whose middle names are all the names of different colors, Lucy Gray sports a rainbow-colored dress that she inherits from her mother in the arena. Colour is used to distinguish Lucy Gray and the Covey from the rest of the people in the districts. Coriolanus recognizes the importance of color in Lucy Gray’s life and gifts her an orange scarf.


Music forms an integral part of the novel. This is why the title of the novel is “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” Lucy Gray is a singer and songwriter and makes a living by giving shows at the Hob in District 12. She writes songs about her life and the people around her. In a world where the districts are unable to express what they feel, she can express a broad range of emotions through her songs. Lucy Gray’s songs live on over the years, and they are sung by Katniss Everdeen during her time. The Hanging Tree, the song that Lucy Gray composes for her lover Billy Taupe, becomes the anthem of the rebellion in Katniss’ time.


Is Tigris from Mockingjay President Snow’s cousin?

Yes, Tigris from Mockingjay is President Snow’s cousin. This is revealed in the prequel and spin-off to the Hunger Games Trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

How old is Snow in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place 64 years before the first Hunger Games book. Here, we see a young Coriolanus Snow at 18 years old, about to graduate from the Academy and enter University.

What is the fourth Hunger Games book?

The fourth Hunger Games book is a prequel and a spin-off called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The prequel follows the story of the antagonist, Coriolanus Snow as he becomes the mentor to the District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird.

What is President Snow’s first name?

President Snow’s first name is Coriolanus. When he was young, he used to go by the nickname, Coryo. However, at the end of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Snow sheds the use of his first name as a sign that he lost his innocence.

Neesha Thunga K
About Neesha Thunga K
Neesha graduated in 2020 with a degree in MA English. Before that, she has spent several years teaching English and writing for various organizations. As a lover of English literature, she truly believes that crafting stories through words is the greatest achievement of mankind. She is now pursuing her passion for literature as an Expert on the Book Analysis team.
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