Katniss runs from the fire. It is so large that she knows it was the Gamemakers, not the tributes, who started it. They probably thought the audience was getting bored. She is choking on the smoke and begins to vomit uncontrollably, and just as she’s recovering, a fireball explodes nearby. She runs, dodging the fireballs, but comes to a stop when she begins retching again. A fireball brushes her calf, scalding her. She manages to put the fire out, but her hands and calf are seriously injured. Eventually the attack ends and Katniss walks until she finds a small pool. The water soothes the burns. She knows she should keep going, but the pain is too great when she takes her leg out of the pool, so she spends the day there recovering. In the afternoon, however, she hears footsteps, and without any alternative she finds a tree and climbs as quickly as possible.
It’s the five Careers and Peeta. Katniss calls down to them, knowing they’re too heavy to climb to where she is. Katniss notices that a girl named Glimmer has the bow and arrows from the Cornucopia. A large and dangerous looking boy named Cato begins climbing up after Katniss, but he falls out of the tree. Glimmer goes up next, but she doesn’t get far before she must stop. She fires an arrow at Katniss, but she’s incompetent with the bow and her shot misses. The group decides to wait Katniss out. Unable to go anywhere, Katniss prepares her bed in the tree. As night falls, she recognizes Rue, the girl tribute from District 11, in a nearby tree, and she realizes Rue has been there the whole time. Rue points at something above Katniss’s head.
Katniss looks up and sees that Rue is pointing to a wasp’s nest higher up. Katniss thinks it is probably a tracker jacker nest. Trackers jackers are another mutation created by the Capitol during the war with the districts. They will follow anything that disturbs them and try to kill it. Katniss thinks her only chance of escaping may be to drop the nest onto the tributes below. To avoid drawing the wasps to herself, she decides to saw the branch off during the anthem, which always plays before the dead tributes of the day are projected in the sky. When the anthem starts, Katniss climbs up and saws at the branch holding the nest, but the anthem ends before she finishes so she decides to wait until morning. When she gets back to her sleeping bag, she sees a gift that Haymitch must have gotten from her sponsors and sent during the anthem. It’s a burn ointment, and it instantly soothes Katniss’s hands and leg. Grateful, she falls asleep.
When she wakes, her burns have improved dramatically. She alerts Rue that she’s going to drop the nest, and she hears Rue moving away by jumping from tree to tree. Katniss is stung a few times as she finishes cutting the branch, but the nest crashes to the ground and the group of tributes is immediately swarmed. Most of them run to the lake, but Glimmer is stung too many times and dies there, while another girl staggers off weakly, unlikely to make it very far. Katniss climbs down and runs back to the pool. The areas where she was stung have swelled and she submerges them in the water. Suddenly she remembers the bow Glimmer had, and she runs back to get it. She has to struggle to get the quiver of arrows free, and she hears someone crashing through the trees. Just as she raises the bow to defend herself she sees that it’s Peeta. She thinks he’s going to kill her, but he yells at her to run and shoves her. As she goes, she sees Cato arriving. Charging through the trees, Katniss begins to hallucinate badly from the venom, until finally she collapses in a hole and blacks out.
Katniss eventually awakes and realizes that a day or two has passed. Then she remembers that Peeta saved her life and wonders why he did it. She also remembers that she got the bow and arrows, and finally she feels like she has a chance in the Games. She goes in search of water, and within an hour, locates a stream. She is able to clean up and rest a little and hunt. As she sets her kill to cook, she hears a twig snap. It’s Rue. Katniss asks if she wants to be her ally and invites her to eat. In return, Rue removes the venom from Katniss’s stings with a remedy she knows involving the leaves of a plant. Rue tells Katniss about District 11. It’s the agricultural district, but the workers aren’t allowed to keep what they harvest. They’re whipped if they’re caught.
Katniss and Rue lay out all their equipment to take inventory, and Rue tells Katniss that what Katniss thought were sunglasses are really night-vision glasses. She tells Katniss how a mentally disabled boy in her district was killed for taking a pair. They climb a tree to sleep, and since Rue has nothing to keep her warm, they share a sleeping bag. Katniss tells her about Peeta saving her, and Rue points out that he’s no longer with the Careers. She’s been spying on their camp by the lake. The Careers have everything they need at their camp, so even though Katniss and Rue can feed themselves in the forest, it doesn’t give them an advantage. Katniss says if the Careers’ supplies were gone they wouldn’t last long, and she starts devising a plan.
The fire attack on Katniss and the other tributes again brings up the theme of suffering as entertainment. Katniss suspsects the Gamemakers started the fire because no tributes had died in some time and the audience at home would be getting bored. The Gamemakers, she believes, wanted to push the tributes together so they would be forced to fight. In that case, the Gamemakers intend to please their audience by causing the tributes greater distress, even though many of the tributes were already wounded and suffering by that point anyway. Katniss also believes that the fireball attack stopped before it killed her deliberately, because killing her would limit her entertainment value. She would no longer be a competitor and the audience at home wouldn’t be able to see her struggling to survive, and ideally, battling the other tributes. In essence, the Gamemakers choose to prolong her suffering as a way of prolonging the entertainment of the audience. In each case, the tributes are treated essentially as commodities, rather than people, the purpose of which is to entertain.
Katniss is always aware that an audience and the Gamemakers are watching her, and she comments repeatedly in this section on what she imagines they’re thinking. After the fire attack, she imagines what the Gamemakers’ motivation was for halting the assault, and she realizes that there must be another tribute near. Her logic proceeds from having watched the Hunger Games over the years and recognizing that the fireballs weren’t necessarily intended to kill her but to push her into the vicinity of another tribute in order to create a fight. She also thinks the Gamemakers deliberately chose fire for the attack as a reference to her, “the girl who was on fire.” Notably, Katniss even plays to the audience at home. When the Careers and Peeta arrive at the base of the tree she has climbed, she calls down to them as she thinks to herself that the audience at home will love it. Behind this awareness is the knowledge that, again, the Games are foremost entertainment for those watching at home. Though she certainly doesn’t like it, Katniss understands this about the Games and it is never far from her mind.
We additionally learn about what life is like in another of the districts, District 11, and we see more examples of Panem’s brutal treatment of its citizens. Katniss learns about life in Panem’s agricultural district, District 11, from Rue after they’ve allied with one another. To Katniss’s surprise, life in District 11 is as hard, if not harder, than life in District 12, where Katniss is from. Perhaps the greatest surprise to Katniss is that, much of Panem’s food being grown in District 11, many of the inhabitants still don’t have enough to eat. As Rue explains, the government doesn’t allow the people to keep any of the food they harvest, and to ensure that people don’t steal, the government publicly whips anyone caught taking food. The government is so brutal, in fact, that Rue says it killed a mentally disabled boy who took a pair of night-vision glasses, like the type Katniss found in her backpack. Katniss had assumed that, because her district was the poorest, life would be better in the other districts. What she learns is that the government of Panem makes life difficult everywhere.
Katniss’s recovery of the bow and her new alliance with Rue mark a turning point for her in the Games. For the first time since the Games began, she feels somewhat secure. Having the bow makes her confident, and she thinks to herself that she is no longer prey for the other tributes. She even welcomes the thought of Cato attacking her as she knows she could easily take him down. Moreover, having Rue to talk to clearly brings her a sense of emotional comfort. Rue, as Katniss has noted since she first saw her, reminds Katniss very much of Prim, her little sister. She reminds Katniss of home, and she also provides the companionship Katniss has been missing without Peeta or Gale. With her burns healing and the knowledge that she and Rue can feed themselves without help from anyone else, Katniss comes to recognize the advantage she and Rue have over the other tributes. The only reason their experience hunting and foraging hasn’t given them a distinct upper hand over the Careers is because the Careers have been given all the supplies they need at the Cornucopia. At the end of the section, Katniss comes up with a plan to put their advantage into effect somehow (she hasn’t revealed how at this point) and decides to go on the offensive, a move that illustrates her newfound confidence.
Katniss’s understanding of Peeta takes a new turn in this section and becomes more complicated when Peeta saves her life. Katniss had lost her trust in Peeta when she realized he had allied with the Careers. She assumed he was helping them to find her in exchange for remaining alive longer himself. But when Peeta found Katniss weakened and disoriented by the wasp venom, he saved her rather than choosing to kill her or lead the Careers to her. Peeta clearly still feels a sense of loyalty to Katniss, and he likely has genuine romantic feelings for her. Katniss, however, doesn’t trust him, and as a result, she has difficulty understanding why he chose to help her. To this point, she has struggled at times to know when Peeta was being honest with her, about his romantic feelings for instance, and when he was playing to the audience as part of a strategy to get more sponsors. When Rue tells Katniss that Peeta’s feelings weren’t an act, Katniss assures her that they were an act and that Peeta had worked the strategy out with Haymitch. She can’t bring herself to trust Peeta despite all the evidence in front of her.