The Capitol’s oppression of District 12 escalates throughout this section until finally it resembles the police state Katniss saw in District 11. Until this point, the Capitol’s policing of District 12 was extremely lax. Though its existence was illegal, the Hob seemed more a regular market than a black market. It was held openly, and everyone, even the Peacekeepers, shopped there. The Peacekeepers themselves were generally cordial and ignored offenses like hunting that the poor relied on to survive. Earlier in the novel Katniss noted one named Darius who would joke with her on occasion. But the policing of District 12 changes rapidly with the arrival of the new Head Peacekeeper, Romulus Thread. He savagely whips Gale in public simply for catching Gale with a turkey he killed, and Katniss learns that Thread attacked Darius when he tried to stop the beating. Soon after the town’s main square resembles a prison more than a public space. Katniss sees Peacekeepers, all of whom are unfamiliar, swarming the area. Machine gun nests now occupy the rooftops, and a stockade, whipping posts, and gallows have been erected to publicly punish crimes. The threat isn’t idle. As time passes, Katniss notes that the Peacekeepers have been cracking down on every offense they spot, even ones that were previously overlooked.

Katniss’s relationship with Gale takes on a new clarity in this section, even if it remains complicated overall. Previously it’s been difficult to determine what either one wants the relationship to be. Katniss has always had strong feelings for Gale, but it wasn’t certain whether she felt a romantic attraction. Gale kissed Katniss once, but remained aloof afterward, making his feelings uncertain as well. When Katniss suggests they run away, however, Gale makes it very clear that he’s in love with Katniss. Katniss’s feelings take a bit longer to come into focus, but they do. Madge’s delivery of the painkillers to Gale, or more specifically the relationship between her and Gale that her concern suggests, sparks jealousy in Katniss. As Katniss thinks later of what it would have been like had their roles been reversed, she finds herself again feeling jealous at the girl she imagined who in her fantasy would be Gale’s counterpart to Peeta. She realizes then that she loves Gale, and though she hedges later, thinking she isn’t sure exactly how she loves him, she leaves no doubt that she feels a romantic attraction to him. It’s not one she’s ready to act on for various reasons, notably her feelings for and engagement to Peeta, but now she is at least fully aware of it. Finally, in choosing to stay and fight with Gale rather than run away, she in some sense chooses Gale over Peeta, who was still willing to run.

Among the most notable events of the section is Katniss’s decision to actively fight the Capitol. Katniss has been slowly working toward her own outright rebellion against the Capitol for some time. Initially she just flouted the laws by doing things like sneaking outside the fence and hunting, and while she hated the Capitol, she wouldn’t have dared to openly fight it. Neither did she really have the desire to. It’s after Gale is whipped, though, that she has the realization that makes her want to fight. Katniss’s desire to run away with her family and loved ones stemmed from a desire to keep them safe from harm, but when she considers the lives they’ve lived under the Capitol, she recognizes the harm they’ve already suffered. She and her family lost their father, struggled constantly with poverty and hunger, and lived with the fear each year that Katniss, Prim, or some friend or neighbor would be chosen to fight in the Hunger Games, which of course came to pass when Prim was selected and Katniss took her place. In other words, Katniss realizes that she and her family, as well as all the families in the other districts, were already the targets of the Capitol’s violence. No matter what the risk to herself, she decides that she can’t let her family be treated that way, and so she resolves to fight the Capitol directly.

The section gives some additional detail on the meaning of the mockingjay and basically confirms that it’s being used as a code, but what it signifies has yet to be fully revealed. The woman Katniss encounters at the end of the section seems to be some kind of outlaw. First off, she’s outside the boundaries of District 12, or any district for that matter, and she has a gun, which is prohibited. Katniss notices the mockingjay in the cracker she holds isn’t just any image of a mockingjay, but the same one on her pin, which suggests it was possibly modeled on her pin deliberately. All these signs, in addition to the furtive way Plutarch Heavensbee showed Katniss his mockingjay watch, imply that the image is some sort of signal, and while no definitive meaning is yet clear, it appears to be the signal of a secretive order that is perhaps sympathetic to Katniss. Symbolically the meaning of the mockingjay fits. It’s become associated with Katniss, who wore the pin throughout the Games. But as Katniss explains, the bird itself is also a symbol of the Capitol’s failure. The Capitol bred it to use as a weapon against the first rebellion, but it was turned back against the Capitol. What the novel suggests is that it’s become the symbol of a new rebellion.