The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 19 – 22)

Have you guys ever watched the movie Shrek? Sometimes when I’m reading certain scenes in complicated books, I remember the conversation Donkey and Shrek have about onions. Onions have layers. Cakes have layers. Books have layers. It’s ridiculous, but as I kept reading chapter nineteen through twenty-two, I kept saying that over and over again. 

Because dang… The Hunger Games has layers. 

The amount of detail Suzanne Collins put into this book just continuously blows me away. All of the relationships are so complex and realistic that it shocks me. Katniss comes across as one hundred percent real to me. I find myself nervous during this series as if everything were actually happening. I’m continuously transported into this vibrant and dangerous world. It’s some of the best writing I’ve ever read and, even though it’s been critically acclaimed, I think it might deserve even more acclaim. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Still, if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Chapter Nineteen Thoughts

My first question after the Gamemakers announce the rule change is always how long the people of the Capitol will be satisfied with the drama. How long will the idea of an ill-timed love affair placate them? Will it provide enough entertainment to hold off more deaths? Or will they go back to screaming for blood immediately? I’ve read the book before so I partially know the answer, but it’s still interesting to think about how viewers will react to budding love in a normally bloody, violent television show. 

It’s also strange to think about the fact that all these events are really just a show for them. They’re entertainment. The deaths of children are prime time entertainment. 

But I’m starting to understand the point of all that. 

Lives in the districts are gruesome. People spend their entire existence grueling away in horrible conditions with very, very little food. They need a distraction from how horrible everything is and hoping that children from their districts survive is a powerful one. They won’t think about rebellion if their focus is constantly drawn back to the lives of their children. If the Capitol is okay with killing children normally, what would they do to all of the children in all of the districts if they were to rebel again? 

And, of course, the games serve a purpose in the Capitol as well. Their lives may be more stable than the ones outside of the district, but it seems as if their every need is provided for. Very few people in the Capitol have to work very hard to take care of themselves. Their lives have very little meaning. But every year they can distract themselves with the games. The tributes are celebrities to them. They’re interesting. They provide something different than the monotony of their lives. Plus, it gives them insight into how much worse their lives could be. They can’t complain to the government of Panem about their problems because, in comparison to the districts, it could always be worse. 

But, spoiler alert for future chapters, why would they reverse this rule change after putting it into place? I get that President Snow probably wasn’t happy with the Gamemakers, but it still would make more sense to keep the game change in effect. Changing it after all the other tributes die comes across more as stupid and short-sighted than it does a well placed plot twist. They are a government organization running a show, not just an ordinary reality tv show. They shouldn’t make mistakes like that.  

Announcing a rule change after allowing the audience to fall in love with Peeta and Katniss would never inspire viewers, it would hurt them. No wonder the districts began to rebel so soon afterwards. The Gamemakers made it obvious that the government of Panem is dishonest and manipulative. People in the districts have nothing to hope for. Even love could not survive the Capitol’s cruelty. More blame should be put on their actions than Katniss’s for inciting the rebellion. If they had just allowed love to go on the subsequent rebellion may never have occurred. 

However, that’s almost besides the point at this stage in the series. Finding Peeta during this specific chapter is awesome. It’s just great. The fact that he could so thoroughly disguise himself in the mud is endlessly impressive to me. He’s probably one of my favorite characters. Of course, the fact that he’s so completely in love with Katniss does improve my opinion of him as well. It’s close to insane that she hasn’t realized the true depth of his emotions yet. Peeta isn’t faking his adoration of her for the audience’s behalf. He genuinely cares for her. 

But maybe she just doesn’t want to realize it. Falling in love is complicated at the best of times. Can you imagine doing so at a time when your life is being threatened regularly? Can you imagine trying to figure out your feelings for the only person you don’t have to kill on sight? Peeta is the only person Katniss has left to her in the games. 

And of course if you add in the fact that Gale can see everything she does… It’s just too complicated to figure out. They may not have a real romantic relationship (Gale and Katniss), but their relationship is deep enough to muddle the waters between her and Peeta. How can she tell how Gale feels about all of this? 

It’s all just very confusing. I can’t imagine dealing with such intricate relationships during the biggest fight for my life at twenty two. Katniss is six years younger than me. It sounds impossible.

What else is interesting in this chapter, though, is her relationship with Haymitch. I personally adore Haymitch. He is so insightful that it stuns me at times. It’s mind boggling that he completely understands Katniss’s perspective on things and that Katniss perfectly understands what he’s saying when he sends her items from her sponsors. They know how to motivate each other. I don’t personally have any relationship with that level of ease of communication. Do you?

Chapter Twenty Thoughts

Can you imagine having to take care of a sick individual while in the middle of fighting for your own life? I can’t even begin to comprehend how hard it must be. Peeta is essentially defenseless. He has blood poisoning. He might die before either of them encounter another tribute.

Meanwhile, Katniss has a million things to worry about. How will she take care of herself? How will she find food? How will she protect Peeta? How will she avoid other tributes? Should she find them? How will she keep the sponsors happy? What does Haymitch want from her? It must be so confusing to try to navigate all of the different problems facing her. My only real question is: How is Katniss not panicking 24/7? I would be. Sometimes even one problem is too much for me, let alone the dozens she has. 

Thankfully, Katniss is more well educated in regards to survival skills than I am. And by a little, I do mean a lot. She is more than capable of providing for herself in the first. Beyond her obvious talent with a bow and her knowledge of the woods, she also has a limited understanding of medical care. Prim and her mother’s job really help her care for Peeta this chapter. I wouldn’t have even known what blood poisoning is. 

In a manner of speaking, Katniss is made for the hunger games, more so than even the career tributes. She is capable of tackling attacks on behalf of other contestants, starvation, and wounds. Her areas of expertise are far reaching. Career tributes only really seem to focus on killing. As I’ve said before, that narrow-minded lesson plan is to their detriment. Why not teach them more survival skills than just skills at war?

While Katniss and Peeta struggle to survive this chapter, I’ve always wondered what the career tributes and other tributes are up to. The high heat during the day and low temperatures at night must create grueling conditions for them. I don’t know how they’re equipped to handle that, let alone everything else. I’ve always particularly wondered about what Foxface does. How is she staying alive? How does she keep warm? Where does she sleep? I’ve really wanted to know more about her all along. She is so insanely smart that it’s strange to think she’s living in the same conditions, but could be living a completely different life. Has she killed anyone? Or just avoided everyone? And what does she need so badly from the Cornucopia feast? Foxface seems to have the least needs out of all the contestants. Every time Katniss interacts with her she seems to be one step ahead of everyone else.

Chapter Twenty-One Thoughts

When the Gamemakers announce the feast available at the Cornucopia, it’s always implied to me that Katniss and Peeta’s love isn’t enough for the audience. They want blood. But now that I’m rereading it for the hundredth time, I know that’s not the case. They love Peeta and Katniss. They want to give them a fighting chance to survive. Without that medicine, Peeta would never have survived the games. 

Of course, it could be a mix of the two. I know if I was a viewer (and this was just a normal television show and not a real life event), I would be absolutely hooked. It’d feel like the ultimate cliffhanger to promise epic confrontations the next day. Who could possibly survive the inevitable clashes? Would my favorite tributes live or die? Would everyone in the games go or would some people refuse to budge from their locations? Could the Gamemakers force everyone to go? It would be so exciting. Considering the fact that if Katniss doesn’t make it back from the feast both tributes from District 12 will likely die, it’s a pretty high stakes event. Needless to say, all viewers would be tuning in even if it wasn’t mandatory to watch.

If it was real, I doubt I’d feel the same way. I’d probably be more nauseous than anything else. Imagine watching your children fight through such a horrible situation. How does Katniss’s mother and Prim feel? Are they capable of watching?

I’m also wondering if feasts and the like are a common occurrence for the Hunger Games. Do they always throw in plot devices to force interactions between tributes? Or do they usually stick to attacks to motivate tributes to come closer together, such as Katniss and the fire earlier on in the book? Is offering additional aid unique to the 74th annual Hunger Games? ‘

I’m unsure. Part of me thinks that it is. I can’t remember what Katniss learned from previous games now that I’m rereading it. Had Haymitch received help from the Gamemakers during his game? 

I always thought that the scenes leading up to the inevitable fight at dawn were horribly daunting. How can Katniss bear the wait? It’s so bitterly cold and miserable in the arena. She can’t risk falling asleep. Thinking about how Gale is reacting to it all just seems like it would make the night worse, not better. There is little to no comfort in thinking about someone who might be furious with you. The unknown of how Gale feels plus the terrifying hand she’s been dealt must make her more nervous than anything else. 

And then the next morning is just as gruesome. I remember being extremely worried for Katniss during her trek to the Cornucopia my first time reading The Hunger Games. A lot of classic dystopic fiction ends with the main character dying horribly or losing their entire identity. I didn’t know if a more modern version of dystopia would end the same way. Could Katniss die before the end of the book? Would the rest of the book be about Peeta, or worse one of the Career tributes? I had no idea how this would go. 

Plus, Katniss’s interaction with Clove is just all around disgusting. Clove is a heartless, vicious killer. She was raised to be absolutely lethal, and she is, but she takes such a sick and twisted pleasure out of it that it disgusts me. Clove genuinely looked forward to slowly killing Katniss. She wanted to provide a show for the audience. It is horrible to see such a young woman make light of a horrible death. The fact that she would wish such pain and suffering onto Katniss is sadistic. Clove is a sadistic, horrible child. She is exactly what Panem made her into. 

It’s surprising to me that the audience enjoys tributes like that. What is the benefit of having a cold-hearted victor? Why love a person who has no soul left to her? Without a doubt, Clove has sponsors that love her for her cruelty. A world that wants that is not a world I’d want to live in. 

However, the moment where Thresh spares Katniss’s life always gives me chills, especially in comparison to Clove’s heartlessness. the fact that he spared her life in exchange for how she took care of Rue is both tragic and powerful. The Hunger Games is not an event made for the merciful. It is meant for horrible, sadistic people like Clove. How do you think the audience reacted to Thresh’s sense of honor? Did they think he was a powerful and noble human being? Or did they think he was weak?

Chapter Twenty-Two Thoughts

Poor, poor Peeta. Can you imagine being knocked out by the girl you love and then waking up to her beside you covered in blood? The poor guy probably almost had a heart attack. Katniss really puts him through it with her dangerous endeavor. But, of course, the medicine did help him so it was probably worth it. 

However, this chapter really accentuates the differences between Katniss and Peeta. Peeta doesn’t understand Katniss. He doesn’t understand what drove Thresh to spare Katniss’s life. Katniss does. People who grow up without anything respond very strongly to anything they are given. Thresh didn’t want to owe Katniss for helping Rue so he spared her life in return. His debt to her is paid and he won’t have to live with it on his conscience.

But Thresh sparing Katniss isn’t necessarily a one hundred percent good thing. A life debt means a lot. It would be very hard for Katniss to kill Thresh after he spared her. Even a moment’s hesitation in the future could cost her her life. What if they were the last two standing? 

I also don’t understand how Katniss still doesn’t understand that Peeta’s feelings for her are real. His story about why he cares about her is so genuine. Is she purposefully being obstinate? Even when she starts to feel doubt about her insistence that Peeta’s feelings are for the sake of the audience, she pushes that thought away.

At the same time,  though, it must be next to impossible to think about love while participating in the Hunger Games. How do you know if your feelings are real in such a high-stress, falsified environment? Almost everything they do is to either stay alive or benefit the audience. How can you fall in love while fighting for your life? 

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