Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 3 – 4)

Going back and forth between Iain Reid’s deeply philosophical novels (Foe and I’m Thinking of Ending Things) and Catching Fire sounds more difficult than it probably is. These books seem so completely different. But I’m starting to notice a trend in the books I enjoy the most. They all make me question things about my society and myself.

Having just read Foe (twice!) it’s more fresh in my mind during this section of reading Catching Fire. It’s hard to imagine that such distinctly different dystopic worlds both exist in the minds of authors. The things they come up with can be unbelievable! I know they’re written by different authors (duh), but Iain Reid’s got me caught up in pondering the human mind and honestly… the things we can think up are out of this world.

To be honest, I’m constantly blown away by Suzanne Collin’s world. The universe of The Hunger Games series is just so well thought out. Every small detail feels important and realistic. No wonder it’s such a bestseller!

But, of course, I’ve talked about that before. Why don’t we talk about something new?

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Three Thoughts

It’s hard to believe that Katniss thinks it’s going to be difficult to convince people she’s in love with Peeta. Peeta is a very lovable guy. If anything, she should be more worried about not actually falling in love with him. (Ha ha.)

But of course Katniss is more private with her emotions than President Snow would like her to be. Even if she were completely in love with Peeta, it could be hard for her to publicly express that emotion. Katniss is more worried about survival than her feelings. She can come across as combative.

And it must be extra hard to know how to present yourself as in love when no one in your universe focuses on love. It’s not like there’s any stories of great romance in Panem. Katniss and Peeta are utterly unique. All of their popular media focuses more on violence than love. Even familial love or love of your country is deprioritized in comparison to fear, blood, and death. 

I wonder if Katniss has even read about a great romance. Do children in Panem schools learn about love? Do they read Shakespeare? Or do they just learn what they need to know to perform their district’s work? It’s hard to say it’d be worthwhile to teach a miner about classic literature, not if you don’t prioritize them as people and only see them as production quotas.

I find it somewhat strange that President Snow doesn’t see that he could’ve used Katniss and Peeta to his benefit, however. Panem constantly wants to boast the strengths of the Capitol in comparison to the districts. Why do they never boast the mercy of the Capitol? Or the generosity? Fear is a great tool to unite a country. Love is far better. Love prevents rebellions. If he had used this moment properly, the moment where Katniss and Peeta were spared a horrible death, he could have been the most beloved president in Panem history. Instead, he’s the one who ruled during the beginning of the uprisings. A huge mistake on his behalf. 

The timing of the Quarter Quell is perhaps unfortunate for his political career as well. Following Katniss and Peeta’s games, there must be a lot of pressure to make the Quarter Quell exciting. You would almost wish that their games had occurred during a Quarter Quell originally. He could have made the survival of dual victors into something that sounded intentional, not accidental. 

Of course, the way he handles the Quarter Quells is also a mistake. But we’ll get into that later.

When Katniss is getting made over by her stylist team this chapter, I’ve always admired the fact that she understood she may have been more like them had she been raised in the Capitol as well. Compared to people in the districts, people in the Capitol live a life of ease and constant luxury. They’re spoiled. They act in a shallow manner and enjoy the deaths they see take place during the annual Hunger Games. They delight in them, actually. But it’s hard to say you wouldn’t be just like them if you were raised to be exactly like them. 

Thankfully, all these dark thoughts are interrupted by a good amount of comedic relief: Katniss’s talent. The idea of her designing clothes is laughable. Can you imagine her even trying to do so? I think it’d make her downright furious to spend her time doing so.

However, her anger at designing clothes would never compare to how she must have felt being told that she would love Peeta for the rest of her life. She would always be watched. Forever. Can you imagine being forced to love someone? I can’t. I know it happens in the real world, but it sounds next to impossible. Love just can’t be forced. It has to come naturally. Perhaps it can emerge in an arranged relationship, but it doesn’t sound easy.

Chapter Four Thoughts

The idea of Katniss being forced to marry Peeta is one thing. It’s horrible, but not completely awful. Peeta is a super nice genuine person. He loves her. She could do worse.

But the idea that Panem could force her to have children is disgusting to me. Her body should belong to herself. The government shouldn’t be able to take that right from her. It’s disgusting to think about, particularly because women have been reduced to bearing children they don’t want for centuries. Having it happen to Katniss would be dreadful. 

And it would be particularly bad because the Capitol rigs the drawings for the annual Hunger Games so that the children of victors compete more often than not. Katniss and Peeta’s children would be practically guaranteed to have to compete. The child of two victors? Imagine the drama. 

It’s horrible.

Everything about The Hunger Games universe though is awful. I have a particular distaste for the Victory Tour. The idea of flaunting the victor in front of the families of the dead children is so horrible. It must be absolutely traumatizing. It’s even worse that the Capitol forces the family to celebrate the victor’s win. 

Arriving at District 11 is daunting for Katniss and for the reader. Rue was from District 11. How will they react to seeing Katniss, her biggest ally in the games? Will anyone comment on the fact that Thresh spared Katniss’s life? Do they love her? Or do they hate her? The first time I read Catching Fire I was more caught up in being nervous over this event than spending my time looking at any of the small details. 

But now that I’ve read this book so many times it’s the small details that blow me away. District 11 is HUGE compared to District 12. There are thousands of people. Katniss and Peeta had no idea the sheer size of the district. In part, this feels unfair. How can a small district, like 12, be expected to provide the same number of tributes (1) as such a large district? Their children have a far higher chance of being forced into the Hunger Games than a child from another district. But it is also unfair that a larger district requires more direct control from Peacekeepers. They have fewer freedoms than people in a smaller district. Is it worth dying to live with some level of freedom?

Viewing Rue’s family makes me feel like it is. If anything, these are people who deserved to fly free. They don’t deserve to spend their lives in tightly controlled cages, subject to the whims of selfish and cruel people, used as a plot device to control a nation. They are humans. They are a family. They deserve so much better. How can anyone in the Capitol look at them and not think of the injustices they have done?

At least Peeta can. His gift to the families of Rue and Thresh has never been done before. No previous victor has given away part of their earnings. The fact that he wants to give away prize money to anyone, especially anyone outside of his district, is utterly remarkable. 

It’s also exactly what the Capitol discourages. They do not want any signs of unity between the districts. In my opinion, this lack of nationalism is partially to their detriment, but I understand it is meant to dissuade the districts from seeing each other as allies. If everyone is the enemy of everyone else, no one can stand up to the power of Panem. 

Similarly enough, I don’t believe any victor has ever addressed another district like how Katniss did. Has anyone ever shown that they are remorseful over the deaths of other tributes? Has anyone ever thanked another district for their own sacrifices? I don’t think so. The Capitol wants victors to be boastful. They want their victors to rub it in the faces of others that they have won. They don’t want them to show that they’re sad that these deaths occured. 

Probably because it makes them look bad. Definitely because it makes them look bad. Who am I kidding? The Capitol wants to look powerful and strong, not like a bunch of power-crazy jerks who kill kids for the heck of it. 

District 11 giving Katniss the three finger salute gives me chills every single time I read this book. It’s a powerful moment. The idea of giving a victor a very public salute is treasonous, but they all do it anyways. They show her a huge sign of respect and love without fear for the consequences. Considering how harsh their district is, they had to have known the risks. They had to have known what the Peacekeepers would do to them.

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