Peeta volunteers to clean up Haymitch, who is drunk and has fallen in his own vomit. While Katniss sits in her room, she wonders why Peeta did this, then realizes he may just be kind. She decides this is more dangerous to her than an unlikable Peeta and determines not to get any closer with him. When she throws the cookies his father gave her out the window, they land in a field of dandelions, and she remembers gathering dandelions with Prim after she realized she would have to feed her family. Her mother, who is an apothecary, had a book describing plants that can be used for healing, and in it she found notes, made by her father, about which plants were edible. The next day, she went into the woods alone for the first time and began hunting and foraging regularly to keep her family alive. What she caught or collected that she didn’t need, she would trade or sell at the Hob. One day, she noticed some katniss, the plant she’s named after, in a pond. She dug up the edible roots, and that night she and her family ate till they were full. Her mother began to return to normal as well. Katniss, however, never fully forgave her weakness and their relationship was never the same. Katniss wonders what her mother and Prim are doing at home and falls asleep.
In the morning she goes to the train’s dining car. Effie, Peeta, and Haymitch are there. Haymitch is already drinking, and Peeta gets angry with him because he’s supposed to be advising them. He slaps the drink out of Haymitch’s hand. Haymitch punches him, and Katniss stabs her knife into the table between his hand and the liquor bottle. Haymitch wonders if he’s got fighters this year and asks Katniss what else she can do with a knife. She pulls it out of the table and throws skillfully into the wall. If they don’t interfere with his drinking, Haymitch says he’ll help them. His first piece of advice is that whatever the stylists do to them, they shouldn’t resist. The train finally arrives at the Capitol. Katniss and Peeta are amazed at the grandeur and strangeness of it. The people all have bizarre hair and painted faces. Peeta waves to the people gathered to see the tributes coming in. He says he’s waving because some of them may be rich, and Katniss realizes he may be planning a way to survive the Games, making him a threat to her.
In the Capitol, a team of people wax Katniss’s body hair to prepare her for her stylist, Cinna. Cinna is quiet and modest. It’s his first year working as a stylist for the Hunger Games, and to Katniss’s surprise, he requested the tributes of the impoverished District 12. It is typical for the tributes to dress in a style that reflects their district, and Cinna says since District 12’s industry is coal mining, Katniss’s and Peeta’s costumes will reflect coal’s main function, which is to burn. Her costume will be lit with a synthetic flame, and Cinna calls her “the girl who was on fire.” In their matching costumes—an unusual touch as tributes are rarely made to match—Katniss and Peeta are escorted to a main plaza in the city, where they will go before the huge audience. The other district’s tributes all have their turns, then just before Katniss and Peeta emerge, Cinna lights them and tells them to hold hands. They emerge and are instantly a sensation. The crowd loves them, and because of Cinna’s work, they are the most memorable tributes of the night.
At the Training Center, where the tributes stay until the Games begin, Effie Trinket talks enthusiastically about Katniss and Peeta. Katniss, meanwhile, is in awe of how luxurious her room is. It’s larger than her house and has all sorts of automated features, notably in the shower and closet. Katniss finds everyone, including the stylists, in the dining room for dinner. The servers are all young people dressed in white tunics. Katniss, who has had some wine, says she knows one of them, a girl with red hair, then realizes this person is associated with a bad memory. Effie snaps at her, saying she can’t possibly know an Avox. Haymitch explains that an Avox is someone who committed a crime and had their tongue cut out. Katniss says it must be a mistake, and Peeta covers for her by saying the Avox girl resembles someone from there school. Everyone talks about their success at the ceremony, then Haymitch tells Katniss and Peeta to go get some sleep. Their training begins the next day.
Katniss and Peeta go to the roof, where they can speak without being overheard. There’s an electrified field around it so tributes can’t jump off, and Peeta leads Katniss to a garden where wind chimes and the wind will cover their voices. Katniss says she and Gale were hunting in the woods one day when they saw a ragged-looking girl and boy running in terror. A hovercraft appeared and captured the girl in a net. It hauled her up instantly, then shot the boy through with a spear that had a cable attached and hauled his body up too. Then it disappeared. Katniss says for a moment, before the girl was taken, she locked eyes with her, but Katniss did nothing. The memory haunts her. They go back inside because it’s cold, and Peeta asks Katniss if Gale is a relative. He also asks if Gale came to say goodbye when she left. She says he did, but so did Peeta’s father. Peeta mentions that his father knew Katniss’s mother. They said goodnight, and in her room Katniss sees the redheaded Avox. She asks the girl to take some clothes to Cinna, and as she falls asleep, wonders if the girl will enjoy watching her die in the Games.
The clash between Katniss’s poor upbringing and the wealth of the Capitol continues throughout these chapters. In Chapter 4, we see how Katniss learned to forage, and she describes how, after the meal of katniss roots she gathered, she and her family felt full for the first time in months. A few paragraphs later, the story returns to the present, and Katniss sits down to a large breakfast of eggs, ham, fried potatoes, bread, and other things. The theme continues in Chapter 5, when Katniss meets with Cinna. At the press of a button, Cinna summons a giant meal, prompting Katniss to consider the literally days of effort it would take to prepare the same meal herself at home. The scene highlights exactly how much the people of the Capitol have compared to those in the districts, particularly the poorer districts like District 12.
The theme of the importance of appearances has a significant role in this section. Chapter 5 is devoted entirely to Katniss’s preparation for the tributes’ introduction ceremony and the look Cinna creates for her. The costumes the stylists create make Katniss (and Peeta) exceptional, rather than just two more tributes taking part in the Games. In the context of the story, it’s important for Katniss and Peeta to stand out because that helps them to attract sponsors, who can give them useful gifts during the Games that may ultimately mean the difference between survival and death. But it also demonstrates that appearance can be more important than reality in any media spectacle. The stylists’ costumes turn Katniss and Peeta into media sensations, and the people watching the Hunger Games prefer this manufactured spectacle to the reality of the situation, that Katniss, Peeta, and the other tributes are mostly just frightened children. The costumes and ceremony essentially hide reality in entertainment.
In addition, the way Haymitch and the stylists tell Katniss and Peeta to present themselves in this section becomes part of a strategy to control what the other tributes think of the pair, again emphasizing how important appearances can be. Their matching costumes and their holding hands make them appear to be an allied couple, an unusual approach given that only one person can win the Games and they will essentially be enemies once inside the arena. By contrast, the other tributes are presented as individuals, even if they are from the same district and appear together during the opening ceremony. It is unclear, at this point, what the ultimate purpose of this strategy is, but the intent is clearly to give Katniss and Peeta an advantage in the Games.
The Avoxes in Chapter 6 further highlight the brutality and totalitarian nature of Panem’s government. The Avoxes are considered criminals, and when Haymitch explains that the redheaded Avox that Katniss recognizes is probably a traitor of some sort, it suggests that their crimes are against the state (rather than against another citizen, as in a theft). Panem punishes them brutally by cutting out their tongues, literally and symbolically silencing them, and essentially making them slaves. They are isolated from those around them as well and only spoken to when being given an order. It’s unclear what crime this Avox committed, but simply that she is a young girl suggests the punishment was excessive. The boy Katniss saw the Avox running away with was punished just as savagely and shot through with a spear.
The section also elaborates on Katniss’s backstory and provides more insight into her character. Katniss began venturing under the fence to hunt and forage in the woods, then to trade in the Hob, when she was still very young. From her retelling of that period, she was clearly very afraid, yet she forced herself to do what was necessary to survive and keep her family fed, suggesting tremendous inner strength and resolve. Moreover, she’s intelligent, as she was able to learn everything she needed to find food with the help of the book she found with her father’s notes. The story makes it clear that Katniss is a character with impressive resourcefulness, and though it’s uncertain at this point how these traits will help her in the Hunger Games, they are undoubtedly assets she will rely on.
Katniss’s inner conflict regarding Peeta continues to mount in this section. Peeta’s kindness toward Haymitch initially makes her wonder if he has some ulterior motive, but when she realizes he may just be kind she finds this idea even more difficult to tolerate. She knows she may have to kill Peeta at some point, and thinking of him as a kind person only makes that thought more repulsive. She determines to have no more contact with him, even throwing away the cookies his father gave her, in an effort to distance herself from him as much as possible, but by the end of the section she has only drawn closer to him. He helps her out of her situation with the Avox by lying and saying the Avox looks like someone in their school, thus ingratiating himself with her even more. At the end of the night, rather than pull away, she ends up confiding in him about the Avox girl, and he lets her use his jacket when she gets cold, a gesture that suggests he cares about her. Katniss accepting his jacket carries its own message: she has let her guard down and let Peeta in.