Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 1 – 2)

Getting back into a Hunger Games mood after reading I’m Thinking of Ending Things was a little bit hard. I was stuck in reminiscing about human life and whether we are all really alone, not thinking too much about corrupt governments, the impact celebrities have on regular people, and huge violent clashes between characters. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is definitely more philosophical and subtle than The Hunger Games. I mean, they’re obviously completely different books. You definitely shouldn’t relate the two.

It wasn’t too hard though. There was only a couple days in between me reading The Hunger Games and starting Catching Fire. It was just a completely different mindset than the one I spent hours analyzing. Iain Reid’s debut novel is a work of art – I definitely recommend it. 

But, of course, I’m not writing this post about his book. I’m writing about Catching Fire. And I’m excited to do so! Catching Fire is perhaps my favorite in the overall Hunger Games series. I’ve always loved the horror and excitement of watching victors being sent back into the arena. It’s morbid. It’s the ultimate betrayal on behalf of Panem. But all of the characters have such strong reactions, it’s hard not to love the book! 

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 One Thoughts

The fact that the government of Panem puts so much effort into rubbing the annual Hungers into the faces of the districts kind of blows me away every time I read this book. Can you imagine someone killing your child and then sending you letters about it every year from jail? Panem flaunts their victors in front of the districts where the dead tributes were from. They say ‘look at this person, admire them, they killed your children and hurt your district.’ Their behavior is kind of reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter’s sick and twisted mind in Silence of the Lambs now that I think about it. Every death inflates their overgrown ego. They delight in torturing children. 

It’s horrible. It’s sadistic. It’s disgusting. It’s what they do every year. It’s normalized.

The Victory Tour is possibly the worst part of the games for that reason. It might even be more traumatic for the families than actually watching the Hunger Games take place. They spend the entire time imagining how different their lives would have been had their child or brother or sister been the one to survive. The hatred they must feel towards the victor is unreal.

But, of course, that’s exactly the point. If people from the districts spend so much of their energy hating the winner of the games, they’ll spend less time hating their government. It’s a distraction from who their real oppressor is. It’s not the victors fault. It’s the fault of Panem. Realizing that is the hard part. 

It’s hard to believe that the best part of the games, the money, is such a hardship for Katniss during the first chapter of this book. She doesn’t know what to do with it. Gale won’t take any of it, even to keep himself out of the mines. Hunting feels almost like a waste of time. 

It’s curious how deeply her relationship with Gale has degraded since her involvement in the Hunger Games. I’ve always thought his reaction to her coming home was a bit awful. Would he rather her have died? Does he not understand that, at least on her behalf, most of her interactions with Peeta were tainted by the knowledge that the audience is always watching? The depth of his ingratitude and his discomfort always made me annoyed. She survived the Hunger Games and was the only victor to ever save the life of another. She deserves better than his discomfort. 

Reading this section of the first chapter regarding the winner’s money does make me wonder if Katniss receives the full benefits of being a victor. Does she receive the same financial incentive as any other victor? Or does her prize have to be split with Peeta? They obviously each received their own home, but that was easy enough considering the abundance of available homes in District 12’s Victor’s Village. However, I doubt they would even notice if their prize had been split. People in the twelve districts seem to avoid discussing their finances. Anything would be an improvement over poverty. 

Perhaps Gale disagrees though. Maybe he views Katniss’s prize money as blood money. He might think of it as immoral. It was only earned because other people died. He’d rather work twelve hours a day, six days a week in dangerous conditions than accept some of her abundant money. It comes across to me that he doesn’t want to accept it because he’s mad at her for her relationship with Peeta though. It’s a petty thing not to accept the money, not an honorable thing. What do you think?

Plus, he probably shouldn’t care if Katniss dates Peeta. After all, he’s only Katniss’s cousin. At least, according to most of Panem. I always thought it was funny that he was too handsome and male to be Katniss’s best friend so the reporters turned him into a family member. The first mention of that takes place during chapter one of Catching Fire and it’s a great source of comedic relief from the dread of the Victor’s Tour. Again, small details are what make this series really shine. Suzanne Collins tried to cover it all.

Not only has Katniss’s relationship with Gale suffered, her relationship with Peeta has as well. Their interactions during this first chapter are awkward and stunted. They act like polite strangers, not lovers or even friends. The fact that they’re going to have to present themselves to Panem as in love seems impossible during their first conversation. How can they be in love when they barely look at them?

However, I do personally think it’s unfair that they have to pretend to be happy and in love. President Snow’s later demands come across as odd to me. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have them be in recovery from the results of the games? They wouldn’t have to pretend to be in love if they presented themselves as hurt or overwhelmed by the memories of the games. It doesn’t seem like trauma is something victors haven’t had to overcome in prior years. Panem seems to be fine presenting other victors as addicts or alcoholics. Why not have them show, to some degree, that they are shell-shocked and recovering? 

Chapter Two Thoughts

Seeing President Snow in Katniss’s home renewed my excitement for Suzanne Collin’s new book, A Ballad of Songbirds and Snake. I’ve avoided reading anything about it, but I’m pretty sure it has to do something with President Snow. He’s the biggest snake in the series! 

Plus, it’s hard to admit, but I’m dying to know more about him. He seems so sadistic and awful that it’s hard not to want to find the good in him. There has to be a reason for the way he acts. Maybe he thinks he’s even a good guy. I don’t know, but I want to find out. 

And I want to find out more about life in the Capitol in general. It seems so different from the rest of the districts. Everything there is about flashy colors, celebrities, and awesome parties. It almost feels like asking normal people today how the one percent lives. We have an idea of it being amazing and wonderful, but what is it really like?

Without a doubt it must be better than starving to death.

The death of Seneca Crane was never shocking to me, but it did always come across as unnecessary. The government of Panem wouldn’t have looked weak if they hadn’t taken back their rule change. If they had just kept it, they probably would’ve presented any opportunity for rebellion. Giving small amounts of hope back to the districts isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Hope kills people alive. I don’t think it would have been a bad idea to give them some type of affection for their capital. 

It also seems unnecessary for President Snow to clue Katniss into rebellion throughout the districts. Why give her any information about the other districts? Based on her own actions, I would think it too risky to mention. What if she decided to give in to her own rebellious sentiments? For such a smart man, President Snow makes a lot of mistakes.

But of course I still wouldn’t want to play chess with him.