Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 18)

My allergies have hit me in full force this year and, to be honest, it’s just not a great year for having allergies. I’m constantly coughing or sneezing, my head hurts, and I sound like death. Every time I go out into public, I’m uncomfortable and worried about what everyone else thinks of me. Is she sick? Will I catch it? How dare she be out in public? It’s hard to explain that I’m just incredibly allergic to trees and it feels like I’m either explaining or avoiding explaining that fact every five seconds. 

So, all in all, I’ve spent the last week in bed avoiding all forms of social contact. Hence the lack of posts. I haven’t felt like reading at all. Between the anxiety of having a cough to begin with and the headache that comes naturally with allergies, I just haven’t wanted to do anything except sleep. Thankfully, my allergy medicine is FINALLY starting to do its job and I can exist again! 

And the fact that my head has finally stopped hurting means I’m finally willing to pick up a book! We don’t give allergy medicine nearly enough credit for the good work it does. I’d be useless for the next two months without it. 

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 Eighteen Thoughts

Sometimes when Katniss is interacting with minor characters, I wonder about what their lives look like outside of their conversations. Caesar in particular really interests me. What does he look like when he’s not on screen? What is he involved with outside of the games? Does he have a family? How deep does his influence go in Panem? What access does he have to new information? After Katniss’s transition from bridal to bird during their interview, Caesar’s eyes flash in a way that makes it clear he understands all of the implications of her transformation. The Mockingjay isn’t just Katniss’s token; it’s a symbol of rebellion. How does Caesar know that?

And who tells him? 

A large part of me likes to assume that Caesar is very, very well-informed. You don’t get to where he is and stay there without some level of inside knowledge. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had some type of relationship with President Snow himself. Perhaps the protection of Snow is what keeps Caesar safe. 

Plus, I’m almost positive Caesar must have some degree of importance outside of being the interviewer for the games. The games are such a small part of the show and Caesar is so well-known and well-liked throughout the districts. I can’t imagine just anyone getting the right to have everyone in Panem know their name considering how closed off and hostile the world is. I’d love to know more about Caesar and what he does to try to figure out how he ended up in the position he is in. 

Caesar’s interactions with Peeta did nothing to dissuade me from wanting to know more, of course. Caesar comes across as so intensely kind and generous. He’s intuitive. He tries to bring out the best in each tribute. Plus, his banter with Peeta is appealing even when you know most of it has to be for show.

Speaking of Peeta, he always blows me away in this chapter. He is normally such a quiet and calm character. His presence in Catching Fire almost always relaxes me – even when he’s being Katniss and Haymitch’s drill sergeant. The fact that he was capable of dropping such a huge bomb on the entire nation in less than three minutes is just astounding. He’s shocking. 

And starting off slow with the announcement that Katniss and him were already married was pure genius. We were all rooting for them! We all loved them! How could anyone genuinely want to doom such beautiful young love to death in the Quarter Quells? How could anyone stomach it?

And then… Peeta makes it worse. It’s the announcement that Katniss is pregnant that genuinely blows me away every single time I read this book. It is such a calculated move on Peeta’s behalf. Even knowing it’s going to happen, I never really feel prepared. 

Why? Because the concept is just so horrifying. The idea of The Hunger Games in general is horrible. Having children fight each other to the death as a form of entertainment is degrading to the sanctity of human life. But having a pregnant woman involved in these games? That’s a new level of cruelty. Even Panem, a nation that cheers when watching children as young as twelve prepare for their death, cannot possibly allow a pregnant woman to compete and die in their brutal yearly ritual. 

Unsurprisingly, the audience watching this is blown away and horrified. Part of me understands the horror obviously. It’s a horrendous thing. But another part of me does find their reaction a bit hypocritical. Even when I was younger, reading these books, I was shocked at how strongly they felt over Katniss’s alleged pregnancy. I understood why, but it still felt hypocritical. They had no problem killing people off, adults and children, but an unborn child is a completely separate thing. They want to protect that, not kill it.

Of course, in my opinion, that makes Catching Fire feel far more realistic. The complexities of the human mind are insane to think about. Wanting to see a strong, healthy, young tribute fight with other tributes to the death is one thing. Watching a pregnant woman struggle to survive in a violent atmosphere is another. Yes, yes, both are bad, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying one is far worse. 

Especially if you consider that the worst part of the games, the youngness of the tributes, can be somewhat ignored during the Quarter Quells. All of the tributes for the Quarter Quells are adults. They are victors. They have fought and lived before. In normal games, the average tribute is barely more than a child. None of them have had the chance to live their lives. Children as young as twelve years old die. Morality wise, that’s an even grayer area between having a pregnant woman fight for her life and a twelve year old child fight for theirs. Most of Panem had probably never even really considered their tributes to be what they are: children. 

So in a way that makes me hope that Peeta made them think about it more. I’m sure he did. You don’t hear an announcement like his and forget about it. It was a smart move to force Panem into questioning the legality and morality of the Quarter Quell. I swear if Peeta weren’t doomed to be a tribute in the games, he’d make an excellent politician. 

At the end of the chapter, Snow does retaliate against Katniss for all of this. He has Cinna killed right before her eyes just as she is descending into the games. Once again, I fail to be impressed by the idea of a grown man mentally torturing a teenage girl, but I suppose that’s not the point of this scene. It’s to horrify me. And it does.

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