“He means there’s only one future, if I want to keep those I love alive and stay alive myself. I’ll have to marry Peeta.”

This realization strikes Katniss after she tells Haymitch about President Snow’s visit to her house, and it ties into the theme of fighting for control that runs throughout the novel. During his visit, President Snow threatens to harm Katniss’s loved ones, singling out Gale in particular, if she fails to convince people that she and Peeta are in love. Only by making people believe that fiction can the Capitol act as if Katniss’s and Peeta’s threat of suicide at the end of the Hunger Games was just the act of two love-crazed teenagers rather than open defiance. As President Snow explains, if people think Katniss was deliberately defying the Capitol, it could encourage others to do the same, possibly leading to uprisings in the districts. Katniss agrees to do what she can, but what she gradually comes to understand is that there will be no end point to the lying. To keep her loved ones safe, she’ll have to continue acting publicly as if she’s in love with Peeta indefinitely, which means they’ll eventually have to get married to avoid raising questions.

Katniss is distraught over this realization, but not because the thought of marrying Peeta is so terrible to her. What she despises about the notion is the Capitol controlling her for essentially the rest of her life. She recognizes that at no point in the foreseeable future will the Capitol leave her alone, and that she’ll always be looking over her shoulder to see if she’s being spied on. Moreover, she’ll have to think through every public gesture and action to make sure it doesn’t offend the Capitol. A single wrong move, even if it’s committed out of carelessness and not defiance, could mean her friends or family being hurt or killed in retaliation. The marriage is just one more way that the Capitol will have control over her and everything she cares about.