The Hunger Games

by: Suzanne Collins

Chapters 7–9

The next morning, Katniss meets with Cinna. He puts her in a dress covered in jewels that, in the light, give the impression of little flames. He asks if Katniss is ready for her interview, but she says she’s awful. He tells her to be herself, since everyone already loves her spirit, and generally comforts her. The time for the interviews comes. Each tribute gets three minutes. Katniss’s turn arrives and she goes up on the stage. The host is Caesar Flickerman, who does the interviews every year. Katniss does very well, coming off as very charming and even girly. The crowd loves her. When she’s done, she watches Peeta go on next. Caesar asks if he has a girlfriend, and Peeta says no but there is a girl he’s had a crush on as long as he can remember. Caesar says she can’t turn him down if he wins, but Peeta says winning won’t help him. The girl he’s thinking of came to the Games with him.

Analysis

Katniss’s training continues in this section, and again emphasizes the importance of appearances. Katniss’s instruction this time is not on weapons or survival techniques, but on how she should present herself. If she is to have a good chance at surviving the Games, she must win over the public and the sponsors, who can give her gifts that may prove critical during the Hunger Games. Internally, she despises the Hunger Games and everyone who views them as entertainment, but she knows it’s best to follow Haymitch’s instruction and keep those feelings hidden. Moreover, she needs be likable in every regard: not just in what she says, but also in how she looks and comports herself. Effie even instructs her on such niceties as posture, hand gestures, sitting properly, and how to smile. Haymitch also makes sure Katniss and Peeta are always seen as a pair rather than individuals, and at the end of the section, when Peeta reveals that he has had a crush on Katniss for years, Haymitch’s reasons for keeping them together all the time start to become more clear.

The spectacle surrounding the Hunger Games, notably the interviews Katniss, Peeta, and the other tributes must give, again treat suffering as a form of entertainment. The tributes are treated as if their selection for the Hunger Games were an honor. But the unspoken reason for their popularity is people know that all but one of them will be dead within a matter of days or weeks. The implied reason for even having interviews with the tributes is that the death of an anonymous competitor is not as compelling as the death of a person whom the audience has gotten to know. The Games are actually more entertaining this way. Because these interviews are only entertaining if the tributes appear happy (a tribute distraught over his probable death would likely not be fun for an audience to watch), the tributes are expected to be cheerful and polite. Unhappy tributes also don’t win sponsors, so as a result, the tributes must suppress whatever negative emotions they’re feeling for the sake of keeping up the entertainment of the Games.

We also see more examples of the inequality between rich and poor in this section. The Career Tributes, those tributes from wealthy districts who have been trained for years to take part in the Hunger Games, have several advantages over the tributes from poorer districts. First, they are well-fed, making them noticeably healthier and stronger than most of the other tributes. Second, they are trained to use the weapons the tributes may find in the arena. During the public training session, Katniss even points out how clumsy the normal tributes seem with many of the weapons contrasted with the Career Tributes, who handle the weapons easily and competently. The result of this inequality between the wealthier districts and the poor districts is that the tributes of the wealthier districts seem far more likely to survive, and even for those that don’t, their lives were likely to have been less difficult leading up to the Hunger Games.

Ironically, however, the hardships Katniss has had to navigate growing up give her her own distinct set of skills, which may, in the end, put her at an advantage. For the past five years, Katniss has had to hunt and forage to feed herself and her family. It is not certain how the skills she’s acquired as a result may help her during the Games, but the presence of the station on edible plants during the public training suggests the tributes will likely have to know how to find food in the wilderness. Katniss, then, would have a better chance at survival than a tribute whose family was wealthy enough to simply buy food. Katniss also notes that, while many of the other tributes from the poorer districts are bigger than her, they also look a bit sickly, whereas she is in very good shape from the daily work of hunting. Perhaps most importantly, Katniss’s hunting experience makes her an expert with a bow. While she might not be able to physically overpower the other tributes, she could certainly defend herself or kill from a distance.

This section provides more insight into Peeta’s character as well. For instance, we learn what strengths he possesses that might be of use to him during the Games: He is physically strong, he’s an excellent wrestler who excels at hand-to-hand combat, and he’s also adept at camouflage. In addition, we find out that he’s been paying attention to Katniss for a long time. He remembers the incident when he gave her the loaves of bread, and he’s aware of her hunting skills because he’s often eaten the squirrels she’s sold his father. When he tells Haymitch that Katniss has no idea of the effect she can have, we also get a hint that he may have a romantic interest in her. This suspicion is confirmed at the end of the section, when Peeta tells Caesar Flickerman that the girl he’s had a crush on for years is the same one who came to the Hunger Games with him. (Notably, it’s not clear why he asks to be trained separately, as this desire seems to contradict his feelings for Katniss.)