Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 5 – 6)

I’m going to be perfectly honest: I did not feel like reading today. I’ve been feeling super groggy and bloated lately. I think it’s my allergies acting up, but allergy pills make me sleepy so that’s a no go from me. 

Thankfully, though, I was super content once I started reading again. I absolutely love the universe of The Hunger Games. It’s just so well thought out. Plus, I’ve been reading a lot of psychological thrillers and horror stories lately and, while the content of Catching Fire isn’t necessarily light reading material, it’s definitely a nice break from all of that. I spend less time looking for hints and clues at what this book is trying to say and more time appreciating it for what it is. It’s a different writing style and a different reading style.

Similarly, after watching that fiasco of a debate (Biden v. Trump), it’s been interesting to think about The Hunger Games versus real life. The debate felt more like an argument from a reality television show than a debate between two well educated world leaders. In fact, it didn’t really feel like two politicians talking to each other at all. There was no sense of decorum or mutual respect. They didn’t even answer half of the questions. 

It also makes me kind of feel like we’re headed more toward Panem-style policies where governments release more distractions from the real problems than actual information about the real problems. They’d rather make us all hate each other than have us turn our attention on them. They don’t want the people to be educated about what’s really happening in our world. Feeding us misinformation (or lies) is easier. That’s scary. 

Of course, I don’t think we’re exactly going to be feeding children to the frenzy like they do in The Hunger Games. That’s a whole new level of sick and twisted. But it sure doesn’t feel like our world leaders, even our president and ex vice president, really care about anyone. Even kids. They only care about themselves and their own interests. They only care about making the other person look bad.

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 Five Thoughts

How does President Snow explain away what just happened in District 11? The recently crowned victors of the Hunger Games, giving speeches and giving away parts of their prize money, saluted by a crowd of rebellious citizens who are then shot and killed… At least the first sections were caught on camera. The whole country saw it happen. How did President Snow spin that to his advantage? Is it possible? 

Personally, I don’t believe that it is. How could the President of Panem use rebellions against Panem to his advantage? Maybe I’m not politically savvy enough to consider all of the various options, though. Of course, I do think he made a mistake right from the beginning. His anger at Katniss and Peeta both surviving the games blinded him from the opportunities they presented to him. He could’ve made himself out as a merciful, kind president. He could have been universally loved instead of despised. 

At the very least, President Snow could have quelled the rebellions in a way that didn’t rely on the performance of a teenage girl in order to succeed. Expecting a grand display of love to placate very real frustrations was just him being willfully blind. How can telling people that Katniss wasn’t acting out of rebelliousness solve their actual problems? They’re not rebelling because Katniss and Peeta survived. They’re rebelling because their people are being maimed and killed, controlled, and starved. President Snow should have shown the people of Panem that he was willing to help them – even to a small degree. Punishing them obviously wasn’t working. 

And it isn’t working for him now either. More than ever I’m noticing how things are spiralling out of control for the leaders of Panem during the beginning of Catching Fire. Katniss is humiliating them without even trying. She is inspiring loyalty from the loyalless, and bravery from the formerly fearful. 

Again, if president Snow was smart, he would have capitalized on this degree of devotion. He would have tried to extend the same sentiments towards himself. Instead, he just treats it like a slight and punishes the entire nation for it. From a marketing standpoint, his treatment of Katniss and the other victors in future chapters is just plain old stupid. He should have bought into a growing trend instead of trying to crush it. 

It’s especially odd considering the fact that President Snow is probably well-read and educated. He likely knows the history of Panem as well as the history of the countries that came before it. Quelling rebellions has never completely worked. Even if they are temporarily delayed, change will eventually happen. Fire is catching.

Of course, I am worried, in real life, that the nature of rebellions and their degree of success may be changing. Like I’ve said in previous posts about this series, advancements in military technology make me worried about how the average citizen can protect their rights. How can we protect our rights if we can’t even protect ourselves? You can’t fight fire with nothing. 

There are real world implications for the offset in power between the people of Panem and the government. Compared to our own society, we have very little we can defend ourselves with. The comparison is not flattering for us. Considering that I tend to read dystopic fiction more than any other genre, that makes me a little bit anxious for how our government treats us and how they will treat us in the future. 

But that’s besides the point. Kind of.

Back to the book! I also find it strange, during this chapter of Catching Fire, how blind Effie is to everything. She is absolutely shocked at the sound of gunfire. She assumed that the guns being fired outside belonged to lunatics, not Peacekeepers. It made me wonder if they allowed citizens of the Capitol to buy guns or if she was just being silly. 

Of course, even if the people of the Capitol could buy guns, what would make her think that someone from the districts could? The people of District 11 can’t even feed themselves. Obviously they don’t have guns. Her thought process is absolutely ridiculous almost to the degree of being offensive. 

However, Effie was also surprised by the level of involvement the Peacekeepers had in daily life. Any interactions between her and them were met with offense and shock. Katniss and Peeta weren’t surprised because Peacekeepers were a normal part of their life. At first, I thought her surprise was due to the fact that there aren’t Peacekeepers in the Capitol, but that didn’t seem right. I remember Peacekeepers being in the Capitol during the first book. 

After thinking about it for a while, I think that this difference in understanding is more due to the fact that interactions between Peacekeepers and citizens of the Capitol have a different vibe than their interactions with people in the districts. There’s a different power exchange. People in the Capitol have rights; people in the districts don’t. 

Even then, it seemed outrageous that Effie was so shocked. She was a trainer for the Hunger Games. This isn’t a peaceful, loving event that rewards compliance. It’s a punishment that kills children to reinforce the power of the Capitol. Did she really think that the people of the twelve districts willingly sent their children to be publicly killed off? There has to be some level of a police force and violence in order to get the general public to comply with such a horrible mandate.

It’s crazy how naive the people of the Capitol are encouraged to be. They don’t understand anything about how hard life is in the districts. Effie’s reactions to these things are almost shameful if you compare her to Katniss. Effie is supposed to be the adult out of the two of them. Katniss is a child. And, yet, Katniss better understands the world around her and how it treats people.

Katniss also better understands the actual people themselves. That could be part of the reason why Panem loves her. She understands their struggles. I’ve never completely forgiven Effie for how she reacted to Katniss and Peeta’s table manners in the first book. She was extremely impressed that they knew how to eat without their hands. She described her previous tributes as savages and looked down on them, even after their brutal deaths. Katniss knew that both of the previous tributes hadn’t had enough food a day in their life. Can you imagine judging a starving child for how they eat?

Honestly, Effie’s behavior really disgusts me. I know she doesn’t get it because she never lived it, but you have to give other people some degree of respect. The fact that she can look on an obviously starved child and pass negative judgements on them is disgusting.

But it isn’t without its realism. The same thing happens all the time in the real world. I was watching a Tik Tok video the other day about a challenge rich kids do. In these videos, they have ten fingers up and they put them down every time they have a privilege someone else does. It’s almost like “never have I ever,” but with things like “put a finger down if you vacation in Aspen every wing” or “put a finger down if your dad bought you a million dollar car at sixteen.” 

For someone who grew up struggling, trends like this really bother me. How can you brag about how much better you have it than everyone else? Do you know that other people, people your age, are really struggling right now? Do you know that millions of people don’t go to bed with enough food in their stomach while you brag about having an expensive car and a paid for life? It’s insane. It’s disrespectful. It’s out of touch. 

Plus, it’s particularly annoying that these same kids probably read The Hunger Games and agreed that Effie was annoying. How can she judge a starving child? But then they turn around and brag about their possessions. How hypocritical can you get?

Anyways, a couple of pages into this chapter, Katniss starts to explain to Peeta the severity of their problems. He had no idea that President Snow had met with her. She explains that the President had threatened her and her family if she didn’t make the entire country, including himself, believe that she loves Peeta. Him giving the tributes of District 11’s families money was a mistake. They need to be trying to quell rebellions, not hand them a torch. 

Her explanation to him and his reaction always, always, always makes me cringe. Can you imagine having to spell it out for someone, word for word, that your affection for them is an act? Or, worse, that you’re being forced into it? Yikes. Considering that Peeta’s feelings for Katniss are real, it must hurt him a lot to hear that. 

Emotional pain, in my opinion, is a very physical thing. It burns straight up the center of my chest. I get dizzy. My wrists and ankles get very, very sore. It’s really weird and really painful. I feel so bad for Peeta that he has to feel that type of pain. I can’t really imagine being in his mind. 

Speaking of, does anyone else wish that Suzanne Collins would rewrite The Hunger Games from Peeta’s perspective? That book would be amazing! Why did we get Midnight Sun from Stephanie Meyer and not a remake of The Hunger Games

I would love it. 

I would also love to hear more about Haymitch’s perspective on things. I adore Haymitch. But everything in his life is always kind of bad. He had to compete in the games during a year where double the normal amount of tributes were involved. He had to spend years training tributes just for them all to die. He had his entire family killed off. Can you imagine being so alone for so long? Haymitch has no one.

No wonder he’s an alcoholic. We’re lucky he’s survived this long.

Chapter Six Thoughts

After Peeta proposes to Katniss during one of their many attempts to convince the nation that they’re genuinely in love, President Snow pays them a visit to congratulate them. During this visit, he communicates to Katniss that she didn’t do enough. The nation isn’t convinced. He isn’t convinced.

But to be honest that’s such BS. What did he expect them to do? The idea of placating an entire nation with a love story is lunacy. The districts are rebelling because of what Panem is doing to them. Katniss may have helped inspire them to rebel, but how did President Snow expect a story to calm them down? They’re angry because they have real problems that haven’t been addressed. Love just isn’t enough. The entire idea was ridiculous. 

I also kind of think that the idea of Katniss and Peeta getting married is ridiculous too. Aren’t they a little bit young to get married? Or do people in the districts really get married at sixteen/seventeen? I thought most citizens were in school until eighteen and then joined the workforce, or sometimes went to school while working until they turned eighteen. I didn’t notice any mentions of young marriages so far. 

It could be normal, though. From what I can tell, the life expectancy in the districts is short. People live in dangerous, horrible conditions and don’t get enough food. I’m sure many people die young. They’d have to marry young as a result.

It’s hard to figure out for sure though.

And this chapter didn’t help me figure it out. A lot of it went into detail about the crazy party President Snow threw in honor of Katniss and Peeta. While he may be a sadistic freak, his parties sound like a great time. I want to try all of the different foods they have. They sound delicious.

However, how the Capitol acts during these parties do really turn me off to them. I don’t think I could handle the idea of throwing up just to keep eating. It is partying to excess and kind of reminds me of the crazy parties from True Blood when the Maenad was around. Children in District 12 starve to death while the people of the Capitol eat too much food and vomit it back up. They force themselves to throw up just so they can eat more.

And if that isn’t a commentary on the excesses of our own society… I don’t know what is. Our own excesses really disgust me at times too. I won’t go into that too much right now though. 

Learning about Katniss’s friendship with Madge always helps to distract me from being fully disgusted with Panem in general. It always made me sad earlier in the series that her only friendship was with Gale. Everyone needs friends. Only having one must be lonely. 

That distraction does get pushed aside by the end of the chapter, however. Katniss hearing about the ongoing uprising always makes my stomach turn. What will President Snow do to her for failing?