Katniss considers how to destroy the Careers’ supplies while Rue sleeps beside her and thinks how the Careers’ lifetimes of being well-fed will work against them. In the morning, she wakes to the sound of the cannon. Another tribute has died. While Katniss and Rue hunt, Katniss gets all the information she can out of Rue about the Careers’ camp. The food, she learns, is all left in the open, with only one boy guarding it, which sounds suspicious to Katniss. Katniss also learns about Rue. Rue is the oldest of six children, and more than anything she loves music. She sings at work in the orchards, and when the flag is raised to signal the end of the workday, Rue alerts the other workers through a song that she spreads with the mockingjays. By the afternoon, Katniss and Rue have a plan to eliminate the Careers’ supplies. While Rue builds three separate campfires to divert the Careers, Katniss will attack the camp. Rue teaches Katniss her song for the mockingjays. There are mockingjays all over the arena, and she says if Katniss hears the song she’ll know Rue is okay.
Katniss makes her way to the Careers’ camp and hides where she can observe without being seen. There are four tributes, including Cato and a boy from District 3. Most of the supplies sit in a pyramid set at a distance from the camp, and Katniss thinks it must be booby-trapped. Cato shouts to the others and they begin arming themselves. They have seen one of Rue’s campfires. They argue about leaving the boy from District 3, and Cato says nobody can get to the supplies anyway so they should take him. Peeta isn’t a concern because Cato cut him badly, and even if he’s still alive he’s in no shape to raid their camp. Katniss waits a long time after they leave before acting. She sees a girl tribute she calls Foxface run out from the woods and carefully pick her path to the supplies, and Katniss realizes the ground is full of landmines. The boy from District 3, Panem’s manufacturing hub where even explosives are made, must have planted them. After Foxface leaves, Katniss sees a bag of apples on the pyramid and has an idea. She moves into the open, and with three arrows, she tears the bag open. The apples detonate the mines, and Katniss is blown off her feet in the ensuing explosion.
Katniss is too dizzy after the blast to walk. She also can’t hear out of her left ear. Hiding her fear because she knows the cameras are on her, she crawls as quickly as she can back to her hiding place and gets there just as Cato and the others return. All the supplies have been destroyed, and Cato is furious. He snaps the neck of the boy from District 3. Katniss hides there the whole day. When night falls, the Careers go into the woods in search of whoever blew up their supplies, and Katniss, still recovering, decides to sleep where she is. In the morning, she can hear in her right ear again but her left remains deaf. She sees Foxface scavenging in the remains of the pyramid, but a noise from an ominous-looking area beyond the camp frightens her away.
Katniss heads back to the rendezvous point she established with Rue, but Rue isn’t there. Katniss cleans herself up and decides to wait, but after several hours she decides to look for Rue. At the site of the third campfire, she gets the sense that something went wrong. The wood is arranged but was never lit. Katniss hears a mockingjay singing Rue’s song, and she follows the trail of song. Suddenly, she hears a girl scream. She takes off running, and as she emerges into a clearing, she finds Rue tangled in a net just as the boy from District 1 stabs her with a spear.
Katniss immediately shoots the boy from District 1 and kills him. She cuts the net around Rue and sees that Rue is too badly wounded to survive. Rue grasps her hand and tells Katniss she has to win for them both, then she asks Katniss to sing. Katniss, thinking how much Rue is like Prim, sings a lullaby from her district. Slowly Rue’s breathing shallows, and finally ceases. While Katniss collects anything useful from Rue and the boy from District 1, feelings of rage toward the Capitol build in her. Thinking of what Peeta once told her, she wants to show the Capitol that Rue was more than just a piece in their game. She covers Rue’s body in flowers, and when she’s done, she puts her fingers to her lips and holds them out in a gesture of respect used in District 12. For hours after, she walks aimlessly, hoping to bump into the Careers. As she’s about to make camp that night, a gift arrives. It’s a loaf of bread, the kind Peeta taught her is from District 11. She thinks of the people from District 11 without enough to eat, pooling their money to give her this, and she thanks them aloud.
In the morning, Katniss hardly wants to get up. Only the thought of Prim watching her at home motivates her. She’s low on food, so she goes hunting. She thinks of Rue and hopes she’ll bump into the other Careers, whom she no longer fears. As the day goes on she replays the events of Rue’s death in her head, and she realizes the boy from District 1 is the first person she’s deliberately killed in the Games. She thinks of his family and friends at home and their grief and anger. Suddenly trumpets sound, signaling an announcement. Katniss expects a feast, which is a tactic the Gamemakers have used in the past to lure the tributes into the same area for a fight. But instead they announce a rule change. Under the new rule, tributes from the same district will both be declared winners if they are the last two left alive. Katniss, realizing that she and Peeta can both survive, immediately calls out Peeta’s name.
The inequality between Panem’s rich and poor, which had previously been an advantage to the Careers, ironically becomes a vulnerability for Katniss to exploit in this section. The Careers, because they grew up wealthy, have no experience hunting or foraging in the wild, and Katniss thinks the Careers will have a very difficult time feeding themselves without their supplies. Moreover, Katniss thinks their not being accustomed to hunger as she and Rue are will also work against them. She notes that the times in the past when non-Career Tributes have won the Games have generally been those in which the Careers didn’t have a stockpile of supplies to rely on, suggesting that destroying their supplies could provide the advantage Katniss needs to eventually win. The Careers, of course, are aware of how critical their supplies are and defend them. They set mines all around the supply pyramid, but in yet another irony, it is these mines that offer Katniss a means of destroying the pyramid quickly and completely. Had the supplies not been surrounded by mines, Katniss likely would have found it much more difficult, perhaps impossible, to eliminate everything in a single attack.
Rue’s death in this section brings to an end the brief sense of security Katniss had begun to feel, leading Katniss to a complete emotional upheaval. With Rue as a companion, Katniss doesn’t feel isolated, and for the first time since the Games began she has started to feel relaxed and content. As Katniss and Rue become closer, Katniss starts to treat Rue as a substitute for Prim, her little sister. When Rue wonders how they’ll destroy the careers supplies, for instance, Katniss pokes her in the belly and jokes that maybe they’ll eat it, thinking as she does so that she behaves that way with Prim. Katniss abruptly loses this security when Rue dies, and Katniss feels devastated as a result. What little serenity she felt turns immediately to rage, leading her to disregard her own safety as she recklessly goes in search of the Careers (this disregard doesn’t have any negative consequences since Katniss doesn’t encounter anyone). It then turns to despair and depression, and Katniss feels so depressed the next morning that she can hardly force herself to get up and make an effort to survive.
The main force driving Katniss after Rue’s death is actually the knowledge that Prim is watching her on television, and indeed through the section Katniss never forgets that the cameras are on her at all times. Even in extraordinarily stressful situations, such as when she’s blown up after detonating the mines around the Careers’ supplies, Katniss remembers she is being watched and makes it a point not to show fear. Katniss says explicitly that she hides her fear for Prim’s sake. She doesn’t want her little sister worrying about her so she tries to remain composed. But she has also suggested earlier in the novel that she considers how the audience and potential sponsors see her as well. In the past, tributes who have appeared weak have been unpopular and have not earned many benefactors, and Katniss realizes letting her emotions show might cost her sponsors whose gifts could mean the difference between life and death for her. Thus Katniss’s awareness of the cameras and her unshakable composure act as part of her survival strategy.
Katniss’s decorating Rue’s body is an act of defiance against the Capitol, and it recalls Peeta’s desire to show the Capitol he’s not just a pawn in their game. The Hunger Games, by their nature, dehumanize the tributes. They essentially objectify them, turning them into commodities rather than recognizing them as people, so that the audience at home feels entertained by their deaths rather than horrified. In the lead up to the Games, for instance, the tributes are expected to be cheerful and not to show how fearful and anxious they may be. As a result, the audience never experiences them as real people, but more like characters playing roles. (The talkshow-like treatment of each tribute’s backstory leading up to the Games similarly treats them more as characters than real people and increases their entertainment value.) The tributes are, of course, aware of how they’re being objectified. But when Katniss decorates Rue’s body and openly grieves for her, it forces the audience to remember Rue and realize how painful her death is for everyone involved. By doing so, Katniss humanizes Rue and does for her what Peeta had hoped to do for himself.
In this section, Katniss deliberately kills someone for the first time in the Hunger Games and suffers the emotional consequences that result. The two prior deaths that resulted from Katniss’s actions, those of Glimmer and another girl when Katniss dropped the tracker jacker nest, were not entirely intended. Katniss’s foremost concern was escaping, and dropping the nest on the tributes below was the best means she had of doing that. She also didn’t kill them directly. But when Katniss kills the boy who stabs Rue, Katniss intends to kill him and is directly responsible for his death. Consequently, she also feels more responsible. Though she is still mourning Rue, she finds herself thinking about the boy, wondering about his family’s grief, his friends’ anger, and if he had a girlfriend who was hoping he would return home. Though Katniss is an experienced hunter, she clearly feels uncomfortable at the thought of having killed him. This discomfort lasts only briefly, however, as Katniss remembers Rue’s death and pushes the boy out of her mind, suggesting she feels justified in having killed him.
By this point in the book, mockingjays have become a prominent motif, and in this section they take on their most notable role yet. The birds have been repeatedly mentioned throughout the novel but have thus far remained mostly in the background. But the mockingjay motif becomes more significant as Katniss allies with Rue. The bird, as Katniss explains earlier, is a subtle symbol of rebellion since it represents a failure by the Capitol. But after Rue explains how she and the other workers in District 11 use the mockingjays to communicate, the mockingjay takes on an additional role. Katniss and Rue decide to use the birds as a way to communicate with one another. That role lasts only briefly as Rue is killed, but Katniss hears the mockingjays still singing Rue’s song, and the birds essentially become a reminder of Rue as well.