Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 12 – 14)

Honestly, I don’t have a ton to say during this intro. I’ve covered a lot of my broad topics and I’m having a major brain fart about what to bring up. I guess the main thing I found myself thinking about during these chapters is our own future. What does the future have in store for us? What will the world look like in a hundred years? I hope it will be much, much different from the world in The Hunger Games series.

But will it?

I think a lot of that depends on us. The world could look like Panem if we let some of our worst characteristics take over. If we fail to acknowledge real modern-day problems as problems, we might be more like them than we know. I’ll cover that thought more though, particularly during my thoughts about chapter twelve.

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 Twelve Thoughts

As always, when Katniss is describing people dying of starvation in District 12, I always find it shocking. It’s hard to imagine a future where people still don’t have enough food to eat. Right now, we produce more than enough food to feed the world. More people die from eating too much than eating too little. I usually only picture a world where everyone has full bellies. The Hunger Games series reflects a very, very, very different future for the world. The majority of the population lives on the edge of starvation. 

But that isn’t necessarily unbelievable either. In fact, it might be more realistic than my picturesque imaginings of a better world. Thinking about the consequences of global warming by itself, starvation may be closer than anyone wants to admit. My illusion that we are on the edge of solving world hunger might be just that – an illusion. We could all starve if we don’t solve real problems that could harm our ability to produce food. 

And perhaps that’s why Panem exists in general. I don’t really know the background story for Panem. What happened to cause its creation? Why did the United States of America fall? Who hurt Canada? Does Collins ever mention it during the series? Why did Panem form to begin with? Was it famine? Or war? Or just time? 

When I Google it (thanks Google, the bare bones explanation suggests that it was a mix of ecological disasters and global conflicts. Out of the ashes of fallen nations arose a new nation, a different nation. Panem. A complete totalitarian wreck of a nation if you ask me. 

In a manner of speaking, I did enjoy this super basic explanation about how the United States of America and Canada fell. It felt like almost anything could happen. The problems we ignore today could be the reason our country falls tomorrow. The lack of details made the fall of these two nations come across as more believable. 

However, that being said, I really wouldn’t mind a future series from the perspective of someone who lived through the fall of the US and Canada. What was it like to be alive while the world changed? What happened to other countries? Is Panem the last man standing?

Although I’ve got to say I’m way more excited to read A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes than I would be a book before the time of Panem. Learning about President Snow from his perspective sounds thrilling. I’m so excited to read it! I’ve just barely been able to stop myself from taking sneak peaks at it. Does he know he’s the evil villain? Or does he think he’s the good guy? How can I resist diving straight in and finding out?

Rereading this series beforehand is awesome, but still painful when I want to read Collin’s new book so badly. Katniss’s story is nothing to shake your finger at, but I’ve read it a dozen times. Of course, her theatrical marriage to Peeta always interested me. Reading about her prepping for it during this chapter always entertain. It’s almost a shame we don’t get to see it happen. Even just hearing about her beautiful dresses was awesome. 

And yet, I still find new things to be surprised about during each reread of this series. The fact that President Snow continues the facade of Katniss’s marriage right up until the last minute always shocks me. Even as district after district rises up in rebellion, he insists on continuing the show. It seems like a drain on already limited resources and a poorly done one at that. While people like Flavius, Octavia, and Venia might be convinced by it, anyone with brain cells won’t. The growing discontent in the districts was obvious throughout Katniss and Peeta’s Victory Tour. 

That is perhaps my only source of discontent with this series, however. I just don’t find President Snow’s handling of the uprising situation to be believable. He is too smart to be so completely overwhelmed by rebellion. I don’t think he would be stupid enough to underestimate his entire country. I understand him underestimating Katniss, a teenage girl, but the entire country? No. A couple of correct steps could have prevented this all from happening. 

It is also insane to imagine he allowed such a weak system to continue unaltered throughout his reign as President. President Snow knew the entire time he was in office that the country existed as a fine tuned balancing act. The success of the nation depended entirely on keeping everyone in line. And he knew that. He knew that if the districts rebelled, all at once, he would have little power to stop them. 

And yet he did nothing to prevent it. Instead, President Snow made conditions worse and gave people more of a reason to rebel. It’s stupid.

It’s a small thing to find annoying if you consider the larger series though. Plus, it couldn’t easily be remedied without changing the entire series. You can’t have a rebellion without a broken system. Where is The Hunger Games without rebellion? Probably on the book shelf, ignored.

Hearing about the rebellion in other districts on behalf of a citizen of the smallest, arguably weakest district also adds to the atmosphere. Katniss really has such little power to fight for or against the rebellion. Everyone in District 12 would need to rise up against the Capitol or it would mean nothing. Her influence in Panem is limited by the size of her very small district. She can’t really influence the rebellions in any way. 

In part, maybe the shots of Katniss’s wedding gowns were supposed to help discourage rebellion. Maybe President Snow thought if he showed the world a tamed Mockingjay, they’d stop rebelling against him. I think for the most part her dresses were for the sake of the Capitol though. He wanted to distract them from the decreasing availability of luxury products. We don’t want a rebellion in the Capitol, after all. 

But when you consider that in conjunction with President Snow’s next announcement, the entire idea seems ludicrous. Why would you promise the Capitol a beautiful wedding just to immediately take it away? You’d think that that would create some type of resentment for President Snow. People would want to see Katniss and Peeta get married. His announcement that he would be sending previous victors of the Hunger Games into the arena for the Quarter Quell is just idiotic, especially considering it happened moments after showing the whole nation Katniss’s wedding dress. It’s not like the announcement was a surprise for Snow. It was probably his idea. 

It just seems so pointless to me. 

Why send Katniss back into the arena? How is that supposed to discourage rebellion? By making things worse for the people at home? Pfft. It’s a stupid idea, President Snow.

Chapter Thirteen

Katniss’s shock at the idea of being sent back into the arena is a very real, tangible thing. The description of how shefeles really resonates with me. The horror, the fear, the shock… It’s all very well described to us. And it make me outraged on her behalf. 

How could President Snow do this to her? Because she managed to survive his brutal games? Because the country is rising up against him? How can you treat the lives of your people as completely worthless? Katniss’s life is a bargaining chip, a tool to use against the districts to try to stop the rebellions. It is meaningless to him. How can a person be so evil?

And how can the Capitol just allow this to happen? The tributes may be children, but they’re not real to the people of Panem. They’re just tributes, not people. The victors are. They’ve gotten to know and to love their victors. How can they allow them to be slaughtered? They aren’t just names to the people of Panem anymore. They have faces, stories, families. The Capitol has years to get to know them. 

Plus, like I’ve said many times, this move always come across as stupid to me. Punishing the districts for rebelling obviously wasn’t working. More were rising up. More people were getting angry. Why does Snow think that this final offense would be enough to make the districts stand down? It is so naive. I don’t think that kicking people while they’re downtrodden will make them more content with their lives. 

You have to give the people some amount of hope. They need a reason to stay alive. Even in the most classic dystopic novels, the horribly corrupt and overly controlling governments usually give the people something to live for. Panem isn’t offering much. They just make things worse.

From Katniss’s perspective, I can understand how this move would have looked effective though. As a teenager I thought her death would solve all of Snow’s problems. As an adult, I think it’s the only real flaw in an otherwise amazing series. It’s just too harsh in a universe that is already too harsh and too cruel towards its citizens. It doesn’t make sense through a logical, would-this-happen-in-real-life lense, or through the lense of what other dystopian universes do to prevent uprisings. Of course, any other dystopian world would have some widespread form of mind control already implemented. 

All jokes aside, this one section of the book just doesn’t sit right with me anymore.

It’s completely made up for by the next section though. When Katniss realizes that it’s not only her entering the arena, but also Haymitch or Peeta, my sense of horror is renewed. How can the President expect her to kill one of them? How can she decide who would be better to enter the arena with? Who can she live without? I’m not surprised when the answer is Haymitch. Peeta is a part of Katniss. She loves him, even when she won’t admit it. Losing Haymitch would be dreadful, but it would never compare to the pain of losing Peeta.

Her deal with Haymitch to keep Peeta alive if they both enter the games does always surprise me a little bit. One of Katniss’s defining traits is her own sense of self preservation. She wants to live. Of course, her selflessness and bravery does tend to get in the way of that. Volunteering for the games to begin with was a direct violation of her own desire to survive. But it’s still crazy to think that she would die for Peeta and yet still doesn’t fully realize that she loves him.

It would be worse to be Haymitch right now though. Katniss might lose Peeta, but Haymitch might lose twenty three of his friends. He has had years to get to know the other victors. Katniss and Peeta only know each other. Can you imagine so many of your friends being killed all at once? 

However, I do think it’s naive of Katniss to think that saving Peeta’s life in the arena is the only real spark for the subsequent rebellion against the Capitol. I think that animosity had been brewing in the districts for decades. If she hadn’t been the spark for it all to happen, something else would have been. The Capitol wasn’t giving the districts enough reason not to rebel. In some districts, things couldn’t have possibly gotten worse.

Chapter Fourteen

Sometimes I wonder why Prim and Katniss’s mother never asked her to try to survive the Quarter Quell. Did they know that she planned to die in exchange for Peeta’s life? They had to have. Prim asked her to try to win during the first games. Neither of them asked during this one.

In a way, I feel like that’s an oversight on Collins’ behalf. I think someone should have asked Katniss to try to live. Peeta may be her great love, but he’s also her first love – publicly at least. Is it really worth dying on behalf of your first love? This isn’t Romeo and Juliet. Her mother should have begged her to try to live. She wouldn’t have viewed Peeta as worth losing her daughter.

It is absolutely sickening that the Capitol finds good sport in all of this sadness. Even their sorrow at the fate of Katniss and Peeta, the “star-crossed lovers,” is misplaced by their excitement over the games. One broadcaster even says that they will be the best ever. These are people that they have gotten to know. How can they bear it? It would feel like losing a friend.

I bet that many can’t. I bet that many people, even people who live in the Capitol, are positively outraged. I still can’t believe that President Snow thought that this was the best move. I’ll try to stop repeating myself. 

When Katniss and Peeta begin to watch Haymitch’s game, I get a little shiver of excitement besides myself. Imagining how he won is brutal on the heart, but so interesting in the brain. How could Haymitch possibly win a game? He is so beaten down by life. 

Learning about his victory, though, always gives me a new sense of appreciation for Haymitch. He is so overwhelmingly clever. I’ve always wanted to know how he figured out that everything in his arena was poisonous. Did he refuse to trust the dreamlike surroundings of his game? What told him to be wary of it all? 

And his idea to use the edge of the arena against other contestants is pure genius. No wonder Gamemakers discourage tributes from getting too close to the edge of the arena now. Haymitch used their own design against them. He made them look stupid.

And then he made them look merciless, kind of similar to Katniss. His refusal to leave his ally alone to die is heartbreaking. Haymitch’s persona in the game was rough and arrogant and rude. But even he showed that other tributes are worth caring about. What makes the tributes of District 12 so different from the tributes of other districts?

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