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Catching Fire

Suzanne Collins

Study Questions & Essay Topics

Key Facts

Quiz

Study Questions

1. How do Katniss’s feelings toward the Capitol and Haymitch change over the course of the novel?

Though she doesn’t like the Capitol by any means, Katniss is not committed to bringing about its fall at the start of the novel. Her main concern is keeping her family safe, and she tries to keep her promise to President Snow that she’ll work to convince the public she’s in love with Peeta. As the Capitol begins to target her and her loved ones more directly, her attitude quickly changes from trying not to anger the Capitol to wanting to punish it. The change is most evident by looking at Katniss’s feelings before and after Gale is whipped. Before the whipping, she wants her family and friends to try to run away. She has no interest in attacking the Capitol and just wants them to avoid it. After Gale’s whipping, however, she no longer wants to flee. She determines to stay and cause as much trouble as she can. Her resolve is only strengthened when she thinks of how the Capitol might go after her family. She realizes then how much suffering the Capitol has already inflicted on them and decides she can’t stand by without acting any longer.

Katniss’s feelings toward Haymitch take much longer to shift, but when they do the change is very abrupt. For much of the novel Katniss confides in Haymitch, believing he’s one of the few people she can fully trust. She even comes to feel a sense of kinship with him after seeing the tape of his Games and realizing he won in a way that still defied the Capitol’s control, much like she did. But when she finds out at the end of the novel that he’s been withholding information about the rebellion from her, even lying to her at times, and that he’s essentially been using her and Peeta, she feels deeply betrayed. The sense of trust she felt switches immediately to distrust, and she’s so angry she goes so far as to physically attack him.

2. Why does Peeta lie about he and Katniss being married and Katniss being pregnant during the tributes’ interview with Caesar Flickerman, and why is the lie effective?

Peeta’s lie is the safest and most effective means he has to publicly attack the Capitol. He knows he can’t openly denounce the Hunger Games and the Capitol without risking punishment, and he’s also aware that the Capitol wouldn’t hesitate to harm his family. Moreover, anything he does that undermines the Capitol’s control could be extremely dangerous, because that also risks him or his family being hurt. Instead, Peeta finds a clever way to use his and Katniss’s popularity as a weapon and makes it clear that the Capitol is the party in control. The audience is distraught thinking that either Peeta or Katniss will have to die in the Quarter Quell, and it has nowhere to turn its anger but toward the Capitol.

The reason the lie is so effective is because it plays into things the audience cares about and reminds them that it’s the Capitol that’s to blame. If Peeta began shouting about how hard life is in the districts, it’s not likely the audience would respond. As we see throughout the novel, people in the Capitol are mostly interested in the tributes as entertainment. Peeta understands this unfortunate fact, so he creates an imaginary storyline he knows the audience won’t like and will find incredibly unjust. What Peeta is counting on is that the audience recognizes that the Capitol controls the Quarter Quell. Rather than fight against the Capitol’s control, he emphasizes it so that the audience recognizes that the Capitol created this very unpopular situation.

3. Why is the mockingjay an appropriate symbol for Katniss and the rebellion?

The Capitol’s main objective is to control everyone and everything in Panem. But as Katniss explains, the mockingjay was a creature that the Capitol never intended to exist, and thus it represents a lapse of control by the Capitol. Notably, the bird came about after the jabberjays, which the Capitol created to use against the rebels, actually backfired and became a tool that the rebels were able to use against the Capitol. The Capitol tried to destroy the jabberjays, but they had already started breeding with wild mockingbirds, creating mockingjays. As a result, the mockingjay is a reminder to the Capitol of its failing against the rebels and is a physical embodiment of the fact that the Capitol can’t control everything, making it a perfect symbol for the rebellion.

It’s also a perfect symbol for Katniss herself. Katniss’s significance to the rebel movement is something that, like the mockingjay, the Capitol never intended to exist, and it became about because their own weapon, the Hunger Games, backfired against them. The point of the Games is to remind the districts that the Capitol has complete control over them. But in the Games, Katniss was able to take back control by threatening suicide. It was suddenly her who was making the decisions, not the Capitol. The Games showed that a single girl could defy the Capitol, and they consequently turned her into a symbol for the rebellion. She essentially became the modern-day version of the mockingjay, reminding the Capitol that it couldn’t control everything.

Essay Topics

1. How are Katniss’s relationships with Peeta and Gale similar, and how are they different?

2. What is significant about the way Haymitch won the Hunger Games?

3. How does the way Katniss treats power and vulnerability contrast with the way the Capitol treats them?

4. What effect do the Games have on the tributes who survive them?

5. At the start of the novel, does Katniss do more to suppress the rebellion, as President Snow demands, or to encourage it?

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