Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 19 – 20)

To be perfectly honest, I had to force myself to stop reading yesterday. I really wanted to read chapter after chapter of this book. But something about the end of chapter eighteen made me say “take a break, make one post about that, read more tomorrow.” It was just a complete overload of information and events. It felt like everything that could happen was happening. The announcement Peeta made, the subsequent reaction of the Capitol, and ending with the attack on Cinna? It was a lot to process and I didn’t want to overdo it in a single post.

Plus, I felt like the beginning of the 75th annual Hunger Game deserved it’s own nook on my blog. It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for this entire time. Katniss is back in the arena, ready to fight for her (and Peeta’s) life. Can you imagine going into something like completely expecting to die? And then having to do it again the next year? It’s horrifying. 

Of course, that’s the point, but still. I’m always blown away by how impossible this situation feels without coming across as unrealistic. The characters and scenarios they are put in are absolutely unbelievable, but I still believe them. It’s the mark of a good writer to make me feel like the unrealistic is approachable, believable, and even worthy of acclaim. Even though The Hunger Games series in general has received accolades for it’s writing, all of the books could use a little bit more. They’re just that good. 

And the movies really aren’t bad either now that I think about it.. Although, again, to be honest, I haven’t actually finished all of them. I still need to see the last movie! I rewatched the others while rereading the first book, but felt like I should say ‘Mockingjay Part 2’ for after I reread the last book. Maybe I’ll make a party of it! What could I do for themed foods? Poison berries? Lamb stew? Heck, I could even serve katniss herself. 

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 Nineteen Thoughts

At the beginning of chapter nineteen, Katniss is left reeling after the attack on Cinna. She has just entered into the arena for the Quarter Quell after watching a group of Peacekeepers brutally attack the poor man. Having seen them drag Cinna away, of course she’s frantically trying to figure out what President Snow plans on doing to him. Undermining the President’s desire to have Katniss displayed as a disheartened bride, and turning her dress into a symbol of rebellion instead, was masterful work, but it also put Cinna in grave danger. 

Will he become an avox? Will he be tortured? Or will he just be killed outright? And how will they use whatever they do to Cinna against Katniss going into the future? Having read the series many, many times, I know that Cinna is (spoiler alert) dead or soon to be dead.

What I never found out, through all of my rereads, is whether or not he truly expected that to be the punishment for what he did. I know he planned for his death to happen, at least in part, at least theoretically. He made too many plans for after his death to not expect it to some degree. But did he truly believe he would die? Or was he hoping for another outcome?

And if he did truly expect to die soon then why did he do it? I am dying to know more about Cinna’s background. I understand that he probably wanted to punish the Capitol for their horrible behaviors and nonchalant attitude towards torture and death, but most citizens in his shoes don’t even notice how cruel Panem is. Even if they do, they fear President Snow too much to do anything about it. How did Cinna get the guts to stand up to President Snow? How was he brave enough to make a show of rebellion, fully knowing he could die for it? Cinna is possibly the bravest out of everyone. I wish he had survived this series. 

In a way, the terror of Cinna’s death does detract from the terror of the beginning of the Quarter Quell in my opinion. My fear at him being attacked overshadows my fear for Katniss instead of adding to it. However, I could see it amplifying the fear and excitement for other readers. Katniss has barely a minute to process the attack on Cinna before being plunged head-first into the games. Personally, I would never be able to pull myself away from the anguish of watching Cinna be attacked in time to make a headstart to the Cornucopia before the other tributes do. 

Thankfully, Katniss has stronger survival instincts than I do. Before the gong has been struck, she has analyzed the situation to the best of her ability. She knows she will have to swim, she knows that she will be swimming in salt water, she knows where the other tributes are, and she knows she absolutely needs to get her hands on a weapon as soon as possible. There is no room for mistakes. When every tribute is a victor of a previous game, everyone needs to act like a career tribute. 

So when the gong is struck, she swims. 

Having arrived at the Cornucopia at the same time as Finnick Odair, the tribute from District 4, Katniss is put in a tough position. She can either fight it out with Finnick in an arena that seems to cater to his strengths… or she can make an alliance with him. At first, it seems like they’re going to fight, but when Katniss sees a flash of gold on Finnick’s wrist, she realizes that Haymitch wanted her to ally herself with him. 

Even though I’ve read Catching Fire many times before, I’ve never fully understood why Haymitch chose Finnick to be Katniss’s ally. Perhaps it’s that he knows Finnick’s affection for Mags will wear down Katniss’s walls. Or perhaps it’s Finnick’s easy access to Capitol secrets that appeals to Haymitch. I’ve never been able to imagine that Haymitch and Finnick were close friends in the same way that Haymitch befriended other tributes like Brutus. It’s also been slightly confusing to me that he wouldn’t choose a friend to ally with Katniss, even knowing how brutal his friends are. Considering the events that take place later in the book, why couldn’t he trust his friends? I don’t remember any clear explanation for that. 

Another part of me thinks that the arena plays to Finnick’s strengths on purpose and that Haymitch knew it would. Finnick is the darling for many people in the Capitol. They love him. Perhaps forcing the tributes to swim was meant to give him an advantage. Many people must be rooting for him to survive. Who knows?

Not me.

I’m also not crystal clear on why the Gamemakers made the decision to only include weapons at the Cornucopia. Most years they provide food and some tools for survival. On one hand, I think the failure to provide those things was a smart movie from an entertainment perspective. It would add some diversity to the games. Instead of everyone focusing on killing each other all the time, everyone would at some point have to focus on finding food and water. It wouldn’t just be a constant bloodbath. 

But on the other hand… The Gamemakers have made their distaste for Katniss readily apparent. They made her a target by giving her an impossibly high score. President Snow, also very obviously, wants her dead. Every person in Panem knows that Katniss can take care of herself. Finding food would never be a problem for her. Why not provide other tributes with food and tools that they could use to their advantage? They probably aren’t as adept at hunting as she is and even slight advantages can mean the difference between life or death in the arena. At least four of them, coming from districts where they trained as career tributes, could probably use the help getting food. They were trained for battle, not to hunt. 

The battle scenes somewhat distracted me from this train of thought, but to be honest I mostly glaze over battle scenes in general. They don’t hold the same appeal to me as they do to others. I find them interesting, but not necessarily comment worthy. I always spend the majority of my time reading them looking for clues about a book’s storyline. In Catching Fire, I’m always looking for clues about what President Snow is trying to do, or looking for interesting plot devices, not necessarily for blood. 

When Katniss and Finnick begin fighting with the other tributes, I’m mostly disinterested. At least until Finnick offers to save Peeta from the dangerous water and uses Katniss’s “condition” as an excuse. Finnick is extremely intelligent. He is cunning. In a manner of speaking, he almost reminds me of Foxface from the first book in the series. He must know that Katniss’s pregnancy is a ruse Peeta told Panem to get them upset about the Quarter Quell. Playing that up is smart of him. It may get them more support from sponsors. 

And then, when Katniss and her newly made alliance (Mags, Finnick, Peeta) enter the jungle, she starts thinking about how little the interviews the night before impacted the actual events of the game. Even though the tributes had made a grand display of unity by interlocking hands, they were still killing each other in the arena today. From her perspective, their moment of unity meant very little. They didn’t show any reluctance to kill each other when they came down to it. They didn’t throw down their weapons or curse the Capitol. They killed. Violently. 

While I completely understand where she’s coming from with this thought process, it’s impossible to say I wouldn’t do the same as victors. When it comes down to life or death, a lot of people will choose life. Even if it means killing someone else. I also wouldn’t say that their display of unity was meaningless just because they fought in the arena. It wasn’t meaningless at all. It was one of the first steps in showing a connection between the citizens of Panem, especially between people from separate districts. The Hunger Games were specifically designed to make people from different districts hate and distrust each other. The moment where every victor locks hands is one of the first moments of unity between districts since the uprising that caused the games to be invented. It shows that the games are not a perfect way to inspire hate and distrust between people. Even if they turned around and attacked each other the next day, it’s a moment of progress. 

However positive that is, it’s not what Katniss realized. Instead, she realized she should probably kill Finnick while he’s defenseless. Getting attached to him could cost her her life in the future. Thankfully, Finnick knows where her mind went during their trek. He understands what she’s thinking and puts himself in a defensive position. His mind probably went to a similar place considering he follows it up with an explanation that no one in the Quarter Quell, except for possibly Peeta, was a victor by mistake. Their moment of unity the night before meant something, but would never prevent people like the victors from doing what they have to do to survive. What they do in the arena may not necessarily reflect what would happen in the real world. 

While they’re seemingly calculating the amount of risk involved in killing the other person, Peeta steps in between them. Katniss seems to believe that he did it on accident, not knowing what the two of them were thinking about, but it was definitely on purpose. Peeta may be kinder and more compassionate than the other victors, but he isn’t stupid. He’s amazing at reading body language and probably wanted to prevent violence between their alliance. 

Chapter Twenty Thoughts

When Peeta collides with the forcefield at the end of chapter nineteen, his heart stops and mine does too. When I first read Catching Fire, I really thought he was going to die. I was shocked that Collins would kill him off, especially so quickly, but it kind of tied right into classic dystopic fictions. In the classics, a corrupt world will take everything from you so I wasn’t necessarily surprised that a modern dystopic fiction would go the same route. It didn’t feel unrealistic or without precedent. 

However, it didn’t feel right. Catching Fire and The Hunger Games series in general is far more upbeat than most classic dystopian fiction. Their universe goes extremely far in the pursuit of creating a perfect world for people of the Capitol to live in, but it doesn’t go as far as other universes do. For example, there’s little in the way of completing altering and changing everyone’s mind through direct mind controlling technologies or through extensive drugging. The idea that Collins would fail to include those facets of a dystopian world, but would take Peeta from Katniss felt somewhat far-fetched. She couldn’t kill him. It was just a little too dark for the world she had created.

That’s part of why it’s so relieving when Peeta survives. Finnick saves his life, thus creating a newfound trust with Katniss that will likely prevent future violent clashes. 

When Katniss begins to sob after Peeta is restored to life, it’s the first moment where the whole world gets to see how she genuinely feels for Peeta. While a lot of their romance had been a show for the sake of the audience, Katniss genuinely loves Peeta. It isn’t all an act. She cares for him deeply. The idea of losing him terrifies her. Even Finnick, who questioned their love affair from the get-go, seems confused by her display of love and fear for Peeta’s life. He wasn’t expecting it to be anything but an act.

A large part of me wants to see what President Snow was thinking during all of this. Did any part of him feel regret for putting Peeta and Katniss in such a terrible position? Did he pity them at all? Or did he feel encouraged by a sign that Katniss loved Peeta? He wanted her to show Panem that her act of defiance was one of love, not rebellion. He finally got that. Was it enough to satisfy him or did he still want more out of them?

And how did he react to Finnick’s involvement in saving Peeta’s love? It’s difficult to justify saving the life of another tribute in the games. President Snow had to have known that there was something more to Finnick’s heroic deed. Did he ever expect the rebellion to involve themselves in the Quarter Quell? And if he didn’t… Why didn’t he? For someone so intelligent, President Snow always comes across as one step behind. He underestimates his opponents to his own detriment. He focuses more on killing Katniss and ruining her image than on solving the readily apparent problems in his country.

Not a very good move for a president if you ask me. 

When Katniss realizes that Peeta’s token is a mockingjay necklace meant to emulate her own pin, I’d love to see Snow’s face then as well. It takes any amount of progress their moment of love might have made with the rebellion and very likely turns it into encouragement of the rebellion. Was he enraged? Did he throw things? 

Of course, I’d also like to know why Katniss is even bothered by the idea of death any more. Both her and Peeta seem to be taunting President Snow at times. At this point even Peeta has to realize that Katniss has turned into a symbol of rebellion. Everything she touches is tainted by her affiliation with the uprising, the mockingjay symbol in particular. So why did he wear it?

For the most part, I think that Peeta wore the symbol because he wanted to be a part of the rebellion, even in a small way. More than any other tribute described in the series, Peeta didn’t want the games to change who he was. He also wanted to hold the Gamemakers accountable for the terrible acts performed in their game. Of course he’d want to be a part of a rebellion against all of these horrible things, even a little bit. 

And of course it made him feel more connected with Katniss and isn’t that just the cutest thing ever? 

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 15)

Again, not a lot to say during this opener. I only had time to read one measly chapter today – I’m hoping for more time this weekend. Let’s get into 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 Fifteen Thoughts

I feel like too few people really understand the amount of work emotional labor is. Feeling things is hard. Dealing with other people’s emotions can sometimes be even harder. When Katniss is discussing how difficult it is for her to get through her prep time with Flavius, Venia, and Octavia, all I’m thinking about is how exhausting that must be. Can you imagine having to painstakingly prepare for your own death, let alone having to listen to everyone else cry about it? The closest picture I have in my head to how horrible that sounds is having to work in a retail job and obviously that’s not even close.

Retail does suck though.

Speaking of, fanfic idea: Katniss works in retail. Will she help the customers or argue with them? Find out on the next episode of The Hunger Games Grocer Edition!

Anyways, all jokes aside, it is so flabbergastingly immature of Katniss’s prep team to make her potential death all about them. People from the Capitol never fail to surprise me with how selfish they are. They make other people’s death all about themselves. Considering the fact that I’m pretty sure all of Katniss’s prep team is five to ten years older than her and it kind of makes me angry on behalf. 

In a manner of speaking, all of the people of the Capitol are children compared to her. At least mentally. Even the individuals who come across as decades older than her (how old is Effie?) are emotionally stunted. They’re grown children, not adults. But somehow they are the same people who are expected to lead the entire country. 

Personally, I don’t understand how that works. How can these be Panem’s leaders? Or raise Panem’s future leaders? On one hand, I think we must be misinformed on how the Capitol works. The majority of the population is far too childlike to lead a country. There must be some type of divide between the class of people who wear pretty clothes and party all the time versus the people who spend their lives making tough calls. Perhaps they drug anyone who isn’t in the ruling class. I don’t know how it works, but I’d love to. There has to be something going on. Maybe A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will tell us. 

Even as much as I don’t appreciate how the people of the Capitol act, it does make for some interesting ponderings. Plus, I do appreciate the obvious clue towards how people of the Capitol feel about the Quarter Quell. I never thought the majority of people would be excited to see their previous victors fight to the death. Even now, dozens of times after the first time I’ve read this series, I appreciate the confirmation. It’s like they’re losing friends, not strangers. The fact that President Snow didn’t think that would be a problem confounds me.

And I also appreciate the little bit of foreshadowing on behalf of Cinna’s comment to Katniss: “…I always channel my emotions in my work. That way I don’t hurt anyone but myself.” I’ve never really recognized that for the foreshadowing that it so obviously is. How have I never noticed? 

Knowing what I know now, however, I wish we had gotten more time with Cinna. He is such an exceptional individual considering that he comes from the most conceited, selfish, horrible society on earth. How is he so different from everyone else from the Capitol? How did he grow a conscience? I want to know more about him. 

Plus, I’m dying to know how he comes up with his outfits for Katniss. The description of her outfit for the opening ceremonies of the games always gives me chills. I don’t think that the Catching Fire movie did it justice because in the book Katniss sounds absolutely godlike. She is unforgiving and wrathful. She is powerful. 

I wonder why more stylists didn’t take an angrier approach with their own designs. Maybe it was too close to treason. Katniss’s outfit is obviously a statement about her hatred towards the games. However, considering how obvious most of the victor’s anger over this decision is… it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to play that up. The Capitol has wronged them.

I’d also have loved to learn more about Finnick somewhere in the series. We had far too little time to explore the recesses of his mind. He is perhaps one of the most dynamic characters in the series and I loved him from the moment Collins introduced him. But I don’t feel quite as upset about the lack of information as I do with Cinna. We got way more information about Finnick than him. Cinna is somewhat of a mystery.

When the ceremony starts, Katniss and Peeta obviously decide to hold hands on the chariot. Why wouldn’t they? Once more, they are going into the games as a team. Even though I had just gotten chills over Katniss’s outfit, I got them again over this moment where they lock hands. It’s amazing, but also slightly annoying because it is way too cold out today to be getting chills every five seconds. Does Suzanne want me to freeze to death? I’m shaking!

But really it’s just very good writing and I cannot seem to emphasize enough how impressed I am with The Hunger Games series. Even after reading it so many times, I love it. Moments like these never fail to captivate me. Do you have any books or series like that? I can think of a few more. Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore are definitely another. I also love books like The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. 

Back to Catching Fire though. When Katniss starts to describe the outfits of other victors, I am once again surprised that their stylists couldn’t come up with anything better. These people are supposed to be the best of the best and, yet, their designs are utterly lacking. How can they even compare to stylists like Portia and Cinna? Are stylists in limited supply or something? They could do better.

Thankfully Collins quickly makes up for the let-down when Katniss begins speaking to Seeder, a woman from District 11. The families of Thresh and Rue survived the riot that took place during Katniss and Peeta’s Victory Tour. They weren’t killed by the Capitol. I wonder if that was supposed to be one of Panem’s great mercies or just meant to be kept as a tool to use against Katniss. 

Considering the involvement of Darius as one of Katniss’s avoxes, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the latter. President Snow loves to use mind games against her. It’s kind of sickening when you consider the fact that he is a grown man and she is barely more than a child. And once again that really ties into how much maturity the people of the Capitol lack. How have we all failed to acknowledge that the biggest thorn in the President of Panem’s side is a sixteen or seventeen year old girl? It’s honestly unbelievable. 

President Snow is a grown man fighting with a child. Ugh. 

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 10 – 11)

It’s hard to choose what to focus on while reading Catching Fire. So much is happening in such few pages. Should you focus on the budding rebellion? The complicated love story? The details of day-to-day survival? It’s hard to decide. 

In a way, that makes this book that much better to reread. Each time you read it, you find yourself catching new details and analyzing new things. During these chapters, I was newly surprised by something as simple as what plays on tv. Do they really have so few options?

That really makes me wonder what people in the Capitol do to pass their time. I always thought of them as an entertainment district so to speak. They make clothes and hairstyles. They throw parties. I kind of thought they made television shows as well. Apparently not though. 

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 Ten Thoughts

When Katniss enters the forest at the end of the previous chapter, she encounters a woman dressed in a white Peacekeeper uniform. The woman is out of place. She stands out against the backdrop of forest ground. When Katniss aims her bow at the woman, the woman shows her a cracker with Katniss’s mockingjay stamped inside the center of it. At the beginning of chapter ten, the unknown woman explains that the stamp means she is on Katniss’s side. 

She, and a young girl who emerges from a cabin in the forest, explains that they’re on their way to District 13, the district that was supposedly destroyed in the rebellion that caused the Hunger Games to be created in punishment. They tell Katniss that they believe District 13 still exists because the Capitol replays the same footage every year about it being destroyed. Ironically, a mockingjay in the right corner is what clued them in. It’s always there. 

They also explain the details behind the uprisings in District 8. Katniss had only heard vague stories about them prior. They tell Katniss that discontent in the district had been growing since the previous Hunger Games and that her actions during the games inspired people to take action against the Capitol, instead of just talking about how much they hate their lives. The people of District 8 rehearsed their rebellion while Katniss visited District 8 during the Victor’s Tour. They began rebelling the day Katniss announced her engagement to Peeta, using the live broadcast as an excuse to be in public spaces. 

Can you imagine hearing that your actions have caused a full-out rebellion against the government? One small choice, thousands dead. It sounds especially stressful if you consider the fact that the forest is supposed to be Katniss’s safe place. It is her escape from the stress of Panem and the games. Personally, I would be utterly overwhelmed. Putting myself in Katniss’s shoes always sounds like too much to me. 

And it gets worse from there.

The women explain how the rebellion in District 8 ends. A flood of Peacekeepers enter District 8. The Capitol even bombs rebellion strongholds. People barely survived and, instead of this being a victory against the Capitol, it turned into a fight to stay alive at all. Instead of winning their freedom, most of District 8 is on lock down for two weeks. Even after the lockdown, the Capitol bombs their own factories where they believe the ideas of dissent emerged. 

It’s hard to imagine a country that is completely willing to bomb its own people. Towards the beginning of this year, I watched a Netflix series about Waco. During the Waco siege, a government agency shot at and killed members of a cult. It is unsure who started firing first, the government or the people inside. Even that turned my stomach completely.

Panem takes that to a new extreme. They kill unarmed, innocent people just to discourage the idea of dissent. They bomb their own cities. They kill thousands. A government that doesn’t know the worth of human life isn’t a government worth having. 

The fact that, in the case of the Capitol, they prioritize luxury goods and high standards of living over the lives of their citizens is especially disgusting. They would rather make sure a certain percentage of the population lives in luxury than make sure everyone is well-fed. No one is equal. 

I completely agree with Katniss when she begins to muse about President Snow treating her like a fool. There is no way that a love story could actually solve the problem of uprising in the districts. Like I’ve said before, people aren’t upset that her and Peeta survived. Resentment had been building up for a long, long time. 

However, I don’t think she fully understands the point of the wedding. While it will definitely help distract people in the Capitol, I don’t think that is it’s only purpose. It will also create a divide between her and the people in the districts. President Snow’s hope is that if he shows the nation how well she’s living in comparison to them, they’ll resent her too and maybe step away from the idea of rebelling. 

Chapter Eleven Thoughts

When Katniss goes to leave the woods and return home, she finds that the fence has been electrified. She wonders if it was intentional. Did Thread, the new Head Peacekeeper of District 12, want an excuse to arrest her? Or is it just to make his rule of the district more strict? How will she get back inside? And how did they know she had left for the woods to begin with? The timing of when electricity was restored to the fence couldn’t be a complete coincidence. 

I don’t know if I agree with her idea that there are cameras built into the districts, though. If there were, the Capitol would have found out about the possibility of an uprising in 8 long before they did. I also don’t think it would be worth the investment to stock a poor, underdeveloped district with a ton of cameras. 

I do, however, think that there might be cameras locked onto Katniss at all times. Considering Panem’s technological feats, I wouldn’t be surprised if she were constantly tracked by hard to detect cameras. They could be as small as a speck of dust in the air. How else would President Snow have learned about Gale and her kissing, deep in the forest? Is anyone brave enough, or sneaky enough, to follow two well-trained hunters, completely undetected?

When Katniss arrives home, our suspicions are confirmed. Peacekeepers are waiting for her to arrive. They knew she had entered the woods. Someone must have been watching her. However, it’s not confirmed how. I still doubt the fact that a spy could be following Katniss 24/7 undetected. Cameras feel more likely.

Which makes me wonder about what would have happened had Katniss really tried to leave District 12. Would they have been detected instantly? Perhaps it’s a good thing Gale wasn’t into the idea of leaving. They all would have been punished as traitors to the nation, assuredly in some type of sadistic and cruel way.

Can you imagine how stressful it would be, though, waiting for Katniss to return? Peeta and Haymitch were also in the home when Katniss arrived. No one had any real idea of where Katniss went. She didn’t tell her mother. The dread of having to sit there and wait for hours must have been absolutely dreadful. 

What’s also dreadful is what the Capitol considers appropriate television. It seems like their only forms of entertainment are propaganda clips for the Capitol and clips from previous Hunger Games. Any other type of television show seems nonexistent. Perhaps they want to avoid the creation of celebrities. If they share power with famous people, they’ll have less of a monopoly on power. 

However, that may be stupid on their behalf. They make tributes the only type of celebrity there is, giving people who suffer in the districts and under the abuse of the Capitol the only other type of power people of Panem have: fame. Everyone knows and loves their victors. Is it a mistake to give power to people you’ve hurt? Obviously so. If they didn’t give victors so much power, they may have avoided the rebellion.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 7 – 9)

Sometimes I find myself wondering what characters from books would be like if you met them in our world. Would they be the same people in their hearts if they didn’t have to go through whatever they go through that’s interesting enough to write a book about? Who are they if they don’t have to live their lives?

I ask myself that question a lot during Catching Fire. Who would Katniss be if she wasn’t raised in Panem? What would her character traits be? Would she still be as strong and as passionate as she is during The Hunger Games series? How much does the world around her shape her personality?

That exact line of questions is probably the reason why fan-fics are so popular amongst readers. They want to know what their favorite characters would look like if they lived lives more similar to their own. I’ve never really been able to get into fan fiction though. The characters I love so much seem unrecognizable when I read about them in different storylines. Their story is an integral part of who they are. 

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 Seven Thoughts

To be honest, I wish we learned more about Madge sometime during this series. The information we get about her just isn’t enough. Her relationship with Katniss allows the reader to take a tiny glance at how the other part (the more well off part) of District 12 lives. Compared to the starvation and constant neglect most citizens of District 12 experience, Madge’s life almost seems like a life of luxury and glam. She has enough food to eat and that’s huge.

Of course, compared to the lives of people who live in the Capitol, Madge’s life isn’t glamorous at all. Madge could even still be entered into the game. Her father being mayor doesn’t exempt her from the possibility of having to fight for her life. The divide between the people who are starving in District 12 and those who have food may seem gigantic, but it’s more of an illusion than anything else. They’re all the same in the eyes of the Capitol. Madge is still a citizen of District 12. 

I do wonder, however, if Madge has ever visited the Capitol herself. Do mayors and leaders in the districts sometimes get to take part in the nonstop festivities in the Capitol? Do they get to experience some of the plentiful luxuries available to citizens of the Capitol? Somehow I doubt it. While Madge does seem better educated about the Capitol than others, I think that’s just because her father has access to more information than the average citizen. I don’t foresee anyone in the Capitol wanting the mayor of District 12 at their parties. They consider the people of District 12 to be barbaric and uneducated compared to themselves. I can’t envision Madge or her family in the Capitol itself.

I also wish I knew more about Madge because, in a way, she was the spark behind the entire rebellion. Her gift of the mockingjay pin to Katniss is what inspired Rue to trust Katniss and form an alliance with her. Because of this alliance, and Rue’s close resemblance to Prim, Katniss grew to love Rue. She saw her as a real person, a child, not a threat or just another tribute. She cared about her. Katniss’s treatment of Rue was one of the largest driving factors in starting widespread uprisings against the capital. 

The gift of the mockingjay pin has one of the largest butterfly effects in the series. Every choice we make impacts the world around us. Even small decisions can have huge impacts. Would a rebellion have even started if Madge hadn’t given Katniss her mockingjay pin? I don’t know. For such a small character, and such a small moment, it has huge consequences for the entire series.

And to be even more honest I’d rather focus on Madge than the rest of the chapter. I don’t know why, but I always want to skip over scenes with Gale. His emotions are too intense and feel almost forced to me. It’s almost like he feels like he has to love Katniss. Even now, trying to analyze each chapter, I had to stop myself from skipping over his confession of love. Once I got past a few pages of barely skimming the material, I realized what I was doing and stopped and went back and read. 

But I just don’t even know what to say about it. I’ve never really enjoyed their triangle. It feels too complicated and difficult when Katniss has so many other things to worry about. She’s focused on the uprising of a society; Peeta and Gale are just too much right now. They’re too much for me and I’m just a reader! The poor girl has no time to worry about love when her entire world is on the edge of falling apart.

I don’t really blame Gale and Peeta for that though. It’s easy to forget that they’re all still teenagers. It’s easy to lose track of what’s really important when you’re young. Keeping focus on uprisings and rebellions and nonstop threats sounds impossible. Plus, they’re just not as educated as Katniss is about how dire things are in Panem. She always finds out new information far before anyone else. 

Personally, I can’t imagine being her. She has a lot on her plate. And she doesn’t really have anyone to talk to about this. Her interactions with even Gale and Peeta are so consumed by other concerns, like ill-timed romantic confessions.

And I know a lot of people really enjoy the break from all of the stress Katniss undergoes. The romance is a nice break from all of that. I know a lot of readers really enjoyed the romance part of The Hunger Games and focused more on that than the actual storyline. To me, that felt like a disservice to the book. How can you get distracted by romance when children are getting murdered and citizens are being starved? You’re doing exactly what President Snow wants the people of Panem to do! But I get it. It’s a crazy love story. And I’m Team Peeta… obviously.

I’m also not really a revolutionary. The idea of dying scares me too much. I used to spend hours every night thinking about the fact that we all eventually die and feeling scared about it. That makes it hard for me to relate to Gale. Like Katniss, I’d probably want to vanish into the woods, never to be seen again. While I admire Gale for wanting to stay and fight against a corrupt Capitol, I’d just never want to do the same and I can’t relate to him. We’d all like to say we’re fighters, but I know I’m not. I can relate more to Peeta’s fierce love of people and desire for peace than I can Gale’s passionate pleadings for war.

Somewhat ironically Gale seems to suffer the consequence of his rebelliousness almost immediately. The public whipping in the yard is violent and disturbing, but definitely ironic. Will he still want to fight after being whipped? Without a doubt. They’re just going to make him mad (if he lives…)

Knowing what I do about the series, I know that Gale’s public lashing is a part of a plan on behalf of President Snow to squash the rebellions. He thinks that if he exercises more control over life in the twelve districts, he will prevent future uprisings. People will be too scared or too weak to fight. He thought if a love story couldn’t placate them, strict punishments would. 

Plus, if he carried out this plan while flaunting how happy Peeta and Katniss are, maybe the districts would turn against them. They might not be convinced that they truly love each other, but they could be convinced that they’re living happy lives while everyone else in the twelve districts are suffering. I know he wants to reduce their loyalty to Katniss.

However, I’ve never thought this plan was the smartest way to crush the rebellion. People throughout the twelve districts have never had happy lives. They work hard and have very little food. Their lives are difficult. If you take away what little they had left to them, they’ll just have nothing to lose if they rebel. How much worse can their lives get?

While we don’t get to see the inner workings of this decision during the book as much as we do during the movie version of it, I think the movie had it right. I don’t think this decision was made without outside influence, possibly Plutarch. Whoever told President Snow that punishing the districts was the right way to proceed knew that this would help drive people to rebel. I think it was Plutarch because Plutarch is very, very smart and knows how to work horrible situations to his own benefit. I think he encouraged President Snow to punish the nation so that the nation would rise up against President Snow in rebellion, leaving the seat of leader for himself. He wants power at any cost. Even at the cost of the thousands upon thousands of lives that would be lost during a real rebellion against the leaders of Panem. 

Chapter Eight Thoughts

When Katniss jumps in front of the new Head Peacekeeper during the very beginning of this chapter, she receives a lashing directly to her face. The pain at the strike is unimaginable. It burns. I’ve always wondered if the Peacekeepers laced their whips with something to cause the victim additional pain. It seems unimaginably cruel so I don’t think it’s entirely likely. It could have just hurt Katniss so much because the strike across her face was a head injury.

But what if it was laced with something? I wouldn’t really be surprised by that either. Panem is unimaginably cruel.  Peacekeepers and the Capitol in general have little to no regard for the sanctity of human life. They don’t respect people in the districts as fellow human beings. They don’t care if they die, especially if it serves a purpose. The death of Gale in particular would serve multiple. It would, one, be a reminder not to rebel against the Capitol’s power. Two, it would dishearten and possibly break Katniss.

And yet, it’s all still horrible. Can you imagine whipping someone to death over poaching in a forest that is never used? The Capitol doesn’t care about wild game. They just want to keep the people of Panem starved and weak. Hungry people are easier to control than people with full bellies.

It’s also strange to think that Peacekeepers come from the districts, not from the Capitol. We find this out later in the series, but it’s especially pertinent to this scene. While the new Head Peacekeeper of District 12 may never have experienced the same degree of hunger and need as the people of District 12 have, he should still be capable of feeling sympathy for them. The Capitol still looks down on him. He still isn’t a first class citizen in Panem. He’s a slave. Why does he glorify in hurting people that are just like himself?

From my perspective, he does it so he can feel some level of power. The actions of the Peacekeepers remind me of the Stanford Prison Experiment. People in positions of power will use their power against others just because they can. They will get satisfaction from it. They also look down on people less powerful than themselves, developing an “us versus them” mentality.

 Of course, the police force of Panem does this to an extreme. Even old Cray, the previous Head Peacekeeper, liked to use his power for his own gain. He lured young women into his bed with money, promising them a way to feed their families. I’m sure he then looked down on the women for having to accept his offer. He was a lecherous, disgusting old man. But was he better than the new one who prefers sick and twisted punishments to sexual manipulation? It’s hard to say what’s worse: torture or coercion.

And once again, this series makes me wonder what these Peacekeepers are like outside of their horrible, disgusting storylines. Even the worst character has a background story. Are they always terrible? What would they be like if Panem didn’t give them the power to hurt people?

Chapter Nine Thoughts

Thankfully, the beginning of this chapter takes a departure from me being constantly horrified by Panem. Even when everything is terrible, I absolutely love getting to see Peeta. He is so wholesome.  He is so completely devoted to Katniss and his quiet loyalty really makes this series so much better. He will even protect Gale for her, knowing their confused emotions for each other. I love him. I just love him.

And I want a better world for him. I don’t know what would have happened for him had he developed feelings for Katniss is a normal world, though. Would she ever have had the opportunity to view him in the same way? Or, without the existence of the games, would she never have fully noticed him? Or, worse, thought of him as weak and sheltered?

It’s strange to think that love is partially based on the world around us. Who we choose as partners depends on more than who they are and somewhat relies on when we meet them and what happens while we get to know them. You could love or hate the same person. It all depends on when and how you meet them, what you experience together, and what you yourself are feeling and experiencing as you get to know them.

Another strange thought, I’ve never thought it was inspirational that Katniss was spurred to action by Gale’s whipping. During this entire series, I never really got the urge for her to join the rebellion. I wanted her to be tucked away somewhere safe with her family. I didn’t want her to have to suffer anymore than she already has. I was worried for her, not excited that she wanted to fight against the overwhelming power of the Capitol. 

Does anyone else feel like that sometimes? Like you’d rather your favorite characters be safe than have exciting, dangerous storylines? I get so attached to some characters that I don’t want them to risk getting hurt. I’d rather the storyline and plot be hurt than them.

Towards the end of this chapter, I’ve always been surprised by how willing the Capitol is to treat the people in the districts poorly. They are willing to cause thousands upon thousands of people endless suffering as long as it means they can continue to live in luxury. It’s disgusting. I almost feel like they should have to apprentice in the districts in order to be allowed to continue to live their lives as normal. They obviously have no understanding of real suffering or pain. It should be mandatory for them to learn what they subject other people to. How do they justify starving out entire communities as punishment? 

Of course, I know that part of the reason why District 12 is allowed to starve week after week is because of uprisings in other districts. People are refusing to work. If people don’t work, there won’t be food. But even in that case it feels like the people should have been given something more than rotten leftovers. Did Panem never come up with a back-up plan for food? Plagues and pests can kill crops just as easily as rebellion. I’m surprised that they didn’t have a good amount of food stores.

But that kind of reminds me of the beginning of the coronavirus situation in America. Grocery stores ran out of seemingly everything. I couldn’t find bread or flour, most canned goods, bottled water, toilet paper, or laundry supplies for weeks. I was surprised then that we didn’t have a real emergency plan regarding household supplies and food in the case of catastrophes. Maybe we aren’t so different from Panem as we think.