Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (End of the Book)

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This morning I woke up thinking about how different The Hunger Games series would be if it was written by a different author. Really, how any book would be so different. For example, can you imagine a version of The Hunger Games written by an author like Stephen King? It would segway into a horrifying psychological thriller with a strong focus on fantasy elements. Perhaps a somewhat long-winded one. 

And any changes to a book like Catching Fire probably wouldn’t be to its benefit. The Hunger Games series is a modern classic. You don’t want to mess with it too much. Plus, the series tackles some pretty gruesome ideas. It’s essentially a series of war stories targeted at a relatively young audience. Without the absolutely brilliant writing style of Suzanne Collins, it may not have been welcomed into the popular literary scene with open arms. Not everyone would know about and enjoy these books. Instead, it would probably fill some type of niche section of literature. There definitely wouldn’t be an entire successful movie franchise based on them. 

However, it would definitely be interesting to see these same stories, or really any story, written by multiple different authors. The same story at its core, but with different takes on essentially the same characters. Maybe with different scenes and different takes on dialogue. Personally, I’d love to see a series like that – all of my favorite authors showing me their own take on the same story. 

I mean, can you imagine getting to know all of the different versions of Katniss? Can you imagine getting to know a selfless and brave Katniss inspiring rebellion in Panem alongside a version of Katniss that is perhaps more likely to give into President Snow’s desires? Or even one that is more involved with inciting rebellion? Katniss, as a character, could be very open to interpretation in the eyes of different authors. 

If they only determined that certain aspects of the original tale have to be included – the games, the set-up of the districts, the survival of both tributes from District 12, and the subsequent rebellion – they could end up with a million different versions of the same story. Some could be popular dystopian fiction books targeted towards young adults, some could be dynamic works of science fiction, and some could be grisly horror stories. Can you imagine meeting the ghosts of games past? 

Not that any of these would necessarily be better than the original. It’s just something I was thinking about as I was getting ready to wind down with the end of the book. The Hunger Games is, afterall, a work of art by itself. 

Back of the Book ( Amazon | Goodreads )

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 Twenty-Seven

At the beginning of chapter twenty seven, we are reunited with Katniss after she targets the arena’s forcefield with her electrified arrow. The world seems to be falling apart around her. Trees are aflame and fireworks are going off above the arena. It seems almost as if the world is ending to a biblical proportion.

When she dazedly ponders the chance that the Gamemakers never actually intended for there to be a winner to the seventy-fifth Hunger Games, I’m almost shocked by how much I agree with her. Somehow I had never before noticed this statement, but it makes complete sense. Why would they allow one of the victors to live? The goal of this Quarter Quell was to express to the districts that none of them, not even the strongest of them, could evade the Capitol’s control. Even the most powerful people in the districts, the victors, live only at the will of the leaders of Panem. 

Considering the deadly extremes of the arena for this game, I wouldn’t be surprised if the original intent of the founders was to have every victor in this game die. I had been shocked in previous chapters by how much more deadly this arena was than any before it. Perhaps Snow had only altered the games to make the tributes who were all supposed to perish previous victors – an obvious punishment for Katniss and Peeta’s crime of surviving the previous games. 

It would even make sense that President Snow wouldn’t announce that there would be no victor. What tribute would bother killing others if their own demise was promised? There’s no point in compromising your values for nothing. Plus, I could envision President Snow allowing whatever victor to live up until the time of their after-game interviews and then executing them to prove a point. There’s seemingly no rules or reasons behind many of the executions or punishments that take place and President Snow seems to take a particularly large amount of pleasure in causing pain and suffering in others. 

Of course, the fact that this possible scenario makes sense is particularly sick and twisted, and I’m not entirely sure how effective it would be to implement. Even the founders of the games have to have known that the victors give the people hope. Without any degree of hope, what would prevent rebellion? There has to be a threat that things can always be worse. Killing off everyone and leaving no victor would obliterate any hope in the districts. But perhaps that loss of hope could be pushed aside. It’s a Quarter Quell, not a normal game. It might even make the districts grateful that anyone survives in a normal year. 

And it’s obvious that this being a horrible, immoral idea wouldn’t stop the founders from coming up with it. The leaders of Panem love pushing moral boundaries. They prove to us time and time again that they have absolutely no limits. Creating the games in general was a horrible, morose idea. Who can justify killing dozens of children, every year nonetheless?

When Katniss is brought up to the hovercraft, I’ve never been able to get past the immediate hatred I feel for Plutarch Heavensbee. Seeing him always makes me unreasonably angry. Even knowing that he is a key part of the rebellion, this has always been the moment where my feelings for him turn from disinterest to dislike. Somehow, he came across as less slimy and less needlessly cruel when he was just a cog in the machine. Knowing that he despised the idea of the games and was fervently working against them from the inside, but allowed the deaths of dozens to occur before stepping in, really bothers me. 

However, I do understand that his ability to prevent deaths from occurring was limited. There would be something very, very wrong with a Quarter Quell that has no deaths occur for the first few days. Someone had to die to keep attention away from the plans to rescue the tributes. And, yet, there could have been a better way to do it.

This feeling is furthered by the fact that Plutarch’s actions don’t seem to come out of a genuine desire to save people’s lives or a need to help people in the districts. Instead, they come across as a power grab. It’s obvious that Plutarch runs in the same circles as President Snow. The fact that Snow has been so adept at maintaining power in Panem has probably helped to prevent Plutarch from moving up to the position he so obviously desires: President. 

And I know I’ve never been alone in that feeling. When the books first came out, this scene in Catching Fire where Katniss encounters Plutarch made almost all of my friends stop and question Plutarch’s involvement in the rebellion. When our suspicions are later confirmed that he wants the presidency for himself, no one was surprised. He’s almost as snakelike as the President and, like the President, used deaths and torture to his advantage. It’s disgusting.

But when Katniss encounters Haymitch in the hovercraft? I’m sorry, but that will always break my heart. I never fail to get an overwhelming feeling of betrayal.  Knowing the end of the book as I do, it’s surprising that I feel the same hurt every single time I read Catching Fire. While it’s obvious in that moment that Katniss has not been captured by the Capitol, and instead was saved by the uprising, it’s a horrible scene to have to realize that Haymitch has been involved in things without informing Katniss or Peeta. The depth of his distrust in her abilities to fool the Capitol hurt me. It’s painful to think that our strong and noble main character was kept so completely out of the loop. 

It’s worse that they chose to share this information with people from other districts. d to tell her that there was a plan to break the victors out of the arena during the Quarter Quell. People from 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 11 had some degree of knowledge each, but Peeta and Katniss from District 12 were told nothing. They went into the games feeling as if they were about to die at any moment, not realizing that plans were in place to save them. While I understand the reasoning why, it’s still terrible that Haymitch put them through that. Plus, their insistence on saving Katniss before anyone else is a direct violation of the promise Haymitch made to Katniss that he would protect Peeta instead of her. 

I think that the assumption that as long as Katniss lives, the rebellion lives is a bit… naive, perhaps? I’ve always thought that was a silly concept. The rebellion might even be better served by Katniss’s death. She would be turned into a martyr, a battle call. Her death could inspire people to fight, having realized that there is no way life in the districts could get worse. 

As a result of that, I’ve always felt like the rebellion made a bad call in choosing Katniss over Peeta – logically speaking. Peeta is a powerful public speaker and, according to the masses, he’s the love of Katniss’s life. He might have been more vital to their movement than they could have realized, especially if Katniss had died during the games or been taken by the President. The death of the Mockingjay wouldn’t have meant the end of the movement.

Not that I want Katniss to die. I’m just saying… 

When Haymitch discloses that Peeta was picked up by the Capitol alongside Johanna and Enobaria, my heart always drops. How can they separate Peeta and Katniss? Throughout it all, they have been near each other, supporting and fighting for each other. Katniss in District 13 and Peeta in the possession of the Capitol is hard to make sense of, even after a dozen reads of this series. Her subsequent physical attack on Haymitch is the only thing that makes sense during this scene. How dare he give her such horrible news? How dare he protect her instead of Katniss? He had promised to take care of Peeta. 

I’m still mad about it years later. Peeta deserved better. Katniss deserved better. I deserved better because I desperately wanted Haymitch to be honest.

And to be honest I’m also still mad at the ending of Catching Fire, no matter how much I loved it. It was just so tragic. The loss of Katniss’s sanity is a horrifying way to end this book. The loss of Peeta has caused her to lose touch. She refused to eat, to speak. Everything blended together. Gale was the only thing that managed to drag her out of her stupor, but even that was tainted with bad news. The Capitol destroyed District 12. 

2 thoughts on “Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (End of the Book)”

  1. There’s a good chance you’ve already heard of it, but you might want to check out Battle Royale by Koushun Takami for an alternate take on The Hunger Games! It’s essentially the same exact concept but the themes and tone are completely different. Definitely more of a horror bent then The Hunger Games haha.

    Like

    1. Sorry for taking so long to get back to you! I actually have not and will definitely have to check it out. I’ve been on a reading hiatus, but I think I’m *finally* in the mood to get back to reading.

      Like

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