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Catching Fire

Suzanne Collins

Chapters 16-18

Chapter 13-15

Chapter 19-21

Summary: Chapter 16

Reeling from the shock of seeing Darius as an Avox, Katniss has terrible nightmares all night. In the morning she goes down late to breakfast, where Haymitch starts going over their strategy for the first day of training. He says they have to keep up the love the act, and they have to find or create a pack, because otherwise they’ll be at a serious disadvantage. In training Katniss manages to strike up a friendship with the tributes from District 3, Wiress and Beetee, who are both inventors. At one point they notice a slightly shimmering patch in front of the judges who are watching. They say it’s a small gap in the force field protecting them. Later Katniss talks to Peeta and tells them she wants Wiress and Beetee as allies. He says some of the others make fun of them and call them “Nuts and Volts.” Katniss doesn’t care. She wants them on her side. The other person she wants to team with is Mags, the old woman from District 4. Mags’s speech is garbled, leading Katniss to believe she’s had a stroke, but she’s also friendly and volunteered to save a young woman from her district. Katniss heads to the archery station and shows off her lethal skill with a bow. That evening, Haymitch tells her he’s gotten requests from half the tributes to team with her.

The next day the tributes are all supposed to demonstrate a skill for the Gamemakers privately. Katniss and Peeta talk just before their turns and agree they don’t want to kill anyone. When Katniss is called, she isn’t sure what she’ll do. She sees Plutarch Heavensbee, who won’t meet her gaze, and she has an idea. She ties a noose from a length of rope and puts it around the neck of a target dummy. Using berry juice, she writes a name on the front, then steps away to show the Gamemakers. It says “SENECA CRANE,” which is the name of the former head Gamemaker who was executed for the debacle of Katniss’s and Peeta’s victory.

Summary: Chapter 17

Katniss is pleased with the surprise she’s given the Gamemakers. At dinner Haymitch asks Katniss and Peeta what each did. Peeta reveals that he painted a picture of Rue after she’d been killed. Everyone at the table is startled. Katniss then explains her audience with the Gamemakers, and the shock is even greater. Peeta adds that they don’t want to partner with anyone. Later, Katniss and Peeta talk about what each did and why they did it. Katniss wanted to show the Capitol that she’s more than a piece in their games, and they agree that at least they will die fighting. The following day they learn their coaching sessions have been canceled, meaning they have a whole day free. They order some food and go up to the roof, where they spend the hours happily talking, playing Games, and lying on a blanket together. At one point Peeta says he wishes he could freeze that moment, and Katniss jokingly says she’ll allow it.

The day after all the tributes are scheduled to appear on Caesar Flickerman’s show. Katniss’s prep team can hardly keep from crying as they get her ready. Katniss will be wearing a wedding dress, and she learns President Snow commanded that she be put in a specific dress. It’s not the one she and Cinna would have chosen. She notices it’s very heavy, and Cinna says he made some alterations. He tells her to make sure she twirls in it though. Peeta, meanwhile, is dressed in a tuxedo. The tributes, each in their own way, vent their rage about the Quell, and the audience, who has come to know all of them over the years, is distraught. Finally, Katniss tells Caesar she’s sorry he won’t be able to go to her wedding, but she’s glad he saw her dress. When she twirls in it, the dress catches fire and burns away, leaving Katniss in an outfit made of feathers. She realizes she’s dressed as a mockingjay.

Summary: Chapter 18

It’s Peeta’s turn to be interviewed. He’s obviously feeling upset, and to Katniss’s surprise, he tells Caesar Flickerman that the two of them are already married. It’s not official, but there’s a marriage ritual in District 12 that they did, and in their minds they’re as married as they could ever be. Caesar says it’s better that they had some time together before the Quell, but Peeta says if they’d known about the Quell they wouldn’t have done it, because now Katniss is pregnant. The audience bursts into an uproar as people cry and shout, and before they can be calmed the tributes spontaneously begin reaching for each other. A moment later they’re all standing together in a row holding hands in the first show of unity among the districts since the last rebellion, called the Dark Days. Afterward Peeta asks Katniss if he was wrong to do it, but she says he wasn’t, and she thinks no matter what happens, the tributes have staged their own sort of rebellion.

Katniss and Peeta return to the Training Center where they see Haymitch. He tells them about the chaos outside. He won’t see them again after that night, so they say their goodbyes. Before he leaves, he tells Katniss to remember who the enemy is. Katniss and Peeta sleep in the same bed, but they have to part when they wake because each tribute enters the Games alone. With Cinna, Katniss boards the hovercraft that takes her to the arena. She dresses in the uniform they give her, a jumpsuit made of a thin material, a belt coated in plastic, and nylon shoes with rubber soles. He kisses Katniss’s forehead as she steps onto a large metal plate, around which a glass cylinder comes down. Without warning three Peacekeepers burst into the room and beat Cinna with metal-studded gloves, opening cuts all over. Katniss bangs on the glass but can’t do anything, and then the plate lifts her up into the arena. All around she sees only water.

Analysis

A great deal of the action in this section centers on rebellion against the Capitol’s control, and Katniss contributes to the theme with her own revolt. The most notable of these occurs during her audience in front of the Gamemakers, when she’s supposed to show off a skill. Nearly everything about the Games is designed to take control away from the tributes. It reinforces the point that the Gamemakers are in control and that the tributes are just part of the entertainment. Katniss very cleverly rebels by pointing out to the Gamemakers that their feeling of control is false through her mock-hanging of the dummy. Seneca Crane, the former Head Gamemaker, was executed because he essentially lost control of Katniss in a way he couldn’t anticipate. Katniss reminds the Gamemakers that their own control is just as limited, and they’re also at risk if things go badly. In her conversation with Peeta later, she says no matter what happens in the Games, she wants to show the Capitol that she isn’t their pawn. While she isn’t certain how she’ll do it yet, she is determined to prove that she isn’t simply their puppet.

The Capitol, meanwhile, does everything in its power to show Katniss how much control it has over her life. Assigning Darius to be one of her and Peeta’s servants in the previous section was an example of this effort, and Cinna’s beating at the end of this section is another key example. It was staged so that Katniss was literally unable to do anything but watch. The timing is also deliberate. In the arena she needs to be completely focused in order to survive, and the Capitol uses Cinna’s punishment to distract her and throw her focus off just before she enters. A less flagrant instance of the Capitol’s attempt to demonstrate its control is President Snow’s selection of the dress Katniss will wear for the tribute interviews with Caesar Flickerman. Again, it’s a reminder to Katniss that the Capitol can do almost anything it likes and she has to submit.

Peeta also rebels against the control of the Capitol through two specific acts. The first is the image of Rue covered in flowers that we learn he painted when he was supposed to be demonstrating a skill to the Gamemakers. Peeta says he painted it to hold the Capitol “accountable” for killing Rue, and it was undoubtedly a clear sign to the Gamemakers that he finds the Games and the whole system they’re part of detestable. But the more explosive act of rebellion was his lie that he and Katniss were already married and have a baby on the way. The strategy is clever because it turns the Capitol’s own control against it. The Capitol is essentially responsible for Peeta’s and Katniss’s huge popularity with the audience, since without the Games they would be unknown, and without the Capitol’s constant promotion of them and the Games they would be forgotten. The Capitol is also responsible for creating the Quarter Quell that will guarantee Katniss, Peeta, or both are killed. Peeta, rather than fight against the Capitol’s control, points out to the audience that it’s the Capitol’s control that created this incredibly unjust situation, and so the audience has nowhere to turn its anger but toward the Capitol.

The other tributes and Cinna also stage their own forms of rebellion. Many of the tributes rebel in much the same way Peeta does: by acknowledging that the Capitol, and specifically President Snow, is in control of the situation, thus making it clear that the Capitol is to blame for the unpopular premise of the Quarter Quell. But the more subversive move comes at the end of the interview, when the tributes, lined up on stage, hold hands in a show of solidarity. One way the Capitol maintains control of Panem is by keeping the districts separate and by pitting them against each other in the Games. A show of unity by the tributes, who represent the districts, is a dangerous symbol in the eyes of the Capitol. The means of revolt Cinna uses is different but no less effective. He knows that everyone in the districts will be watching the interview, and having Katniss’s dress burn away to leave her dressed as a mockingjay, which is the emblem of the rebellion, is practically an open call for people to revolt. Between Cinna’s actions and those of the tributes, the televised interview serves as a provocation to the people of the districts to come together and rise up against the Capitol.

Katniss’s choice of allies emphasizes a notable trait of her character and puts her character in direct contrast with that of the Capitol. Katniss immediately gravitates toward the less imposing tributes, namely Wiress, Beetee, and Mags. The reason isn’t because she feels intimidated by the others but because she feels a desire to take care of those she sees as less powerful than herself. That same instinct is why in the first novel she volunteered in Prim’s place to be in the Games and why she teamed with Rue. Katniss actually refers to that instinct at one point, when she thinks that some of the tributes she’s met are so damaged that her “natural instinct would be to protect them.” The Capitol, on the other hand, constantly tries to exercise its power to subdue every person or group that is weaker than it, and its inclination is always to oppress so that it can maintain control. The methods it uses to achieve control are brutality, via the armed Peacekeepers, and its wealth and the Games themselves. These things are all the aspects of the Capitol that Katniss and most of the people in District 12 detest.

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