We also learn the status of Katniss’s relationships with Peeta and Gale in this section. To survive the Hunger Games in the previous novel, Katniss had to pretend to be in love with Peeta in order to win viewers’ sympathy and earn gifts that would help her win. Peeta, who was actually in love with Katniss, discovered that Katniss’s feelings weren’t entirely genuine, and now we see the strain that has caused between them. For their own safety, they have to keep up the act, at least in public. But at the same time, Katniss’s relationship with Gale has turned somewhat more romantic. From the way Katniss thinks of Gale, it’s obvious she has strong feelings for him, though she isn’t entirely sure if she thinks of him as more of a brother, a friend, or someone she’s in love with. To complicate matters, Gale kissed Katniss but then continued to act as if it never happened. Now she isn’t sure how he feels about her. What she does know is that she cares for and likes both of them, even if she isn’t sure how she likes them. She also knows she doesn’t want to hurt one or the other, and she wouldn’t be allowed to pursue a relationship with Gale anyway because of the political implications. As a result she finds herself in a kind of romantic limbo.

From President Snow’s visit, the political consequences of not only Katniss’s and Peeta’s actions at the end of the Hunger Games but also of their current and future behavior become clear. As Katniss learns, many considered her and Peeta’s threat of suicide an act of defiance, and what President Snow suggests is that any further gestures in that vein could potentially spark uprisings in the districts. This fear makes it clear that Katniss is viewed as a symbol by the districts. Her actions therefore take on a symbolic importance beyond their immediate intent. If Katniss were to publicly reveal that she isn’t in love with Peeta, for instance, the districts would recognize that the inseparable-lovers act in the Hunger Games was a sham. It would mean that Katniss was able to trick the Capitol and get away with it, which in itself would encourage the districts to risk rebelling. Katniss and those who are aware of her situation realize that anything which might be perceived as an act of defiance, whether it actually is or not, could have the same effect. Katniss has to be extraordinarily careful about everything she says and does publicly as a result, because as President Snow makes clear, he can’t kill her, but he can punish her by harming those around her, like Gale.

One of the book’s major themes, the importance of appearances, starts taking shape already in this first section. The situation Katniss finds herself in, having to keep up the appearance of being in love with Peeta, expresses the theme most directly. As President Snow makes clear, it doesn’t matter how Katniss actually feels about Peeta. What matters is that she appear to act as if she’s in love, and perhaps more crucially, that she convince the public they are. The possibility of the districts revolting hinge on keeping up this appearance. The theme comes across in other ways, too. The way she’s dressed as well as her hair and makeup convey a deliberate image, one Katniss’s stylist, Cinna, works very carefully to craft. Katniss notes as her prep team gets her ready that the look they seem to be going for is “girlish, not sexy,” which suggests that her appearance will signal innocence, not provocation, to the audience. It’s also necessary for Katniss to appear to have a special talent, even if she doesn’t, at least none she can share publicly since her hunting is illegal. In each case we see that Katniss must maintain a public façade that doesn’t match her private life.