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Katniss runs and screams until she’s exhausted herself, and then she realizes that either Haymitch or Peeta will have to go into the arena with her. She finds Haymitch, who tells her Peeta has already asked if he can go in to protect Katniss. Haymitch and Katniss talk about how it should probably be Haymitch who goes in. Both drink a great deal as they talk. Hungover the next morning, Katniss goes back to Haymitch’s, where Peeta tells them he’s thrown out all of Haymitch’s alcohol because they can’t afford any drunkards on the team. They begin training, watching videos of the previous victors to learn about them, exercising, and practicing various skills. Gale also teaches them about snares. Katniss plans after the reaping during the normal time for goodbyes to tell Gale how, even as confused as their relationship is, she loves him and cares about him. Finally the reaping comes. Peeta volunteers to take Haymitch’s place in the arena, and then Katniss and Peeta are hurried to the train station without being allowed to say their goodbyes.
On the train Peeta, Katniss, and Haymitch go over the former victors who will be in the Games. They’re a mix of young and old, with one woman of eighty even volunteering in her district. Some of them are Haymitch’s close friends. That night Katniss wakes because of a nightmare, and she goes to Peeta, who has been up watching the old Games. They hug for a long time, and then they decide to watch the last Quarter Quell, the one where Haymitch was the victor. During the section showing the reaping in District 12, Katniss recognizes several people, including her mother. She also discovers that the original owner of the mockingjay pin she wears was a woman who was killed in the arena, Maysilee Donner. She was Madge’s aunt and a friend of Katniss’s mother.
In the arena, Maysilee saves Haymitch at one point, and after the two team up, they travel all the way to the arena’s edge. Maysilee decides to go off on her own. Haymitch stays and ultimately discovers that a force field around the edge of the arena propels anything thrown at it back into the arena. Soon after Maysilee is killed by a group of genetically engineered birds and dies in Haymitch’s arms. In his fight with the final tribute, Haymitch is severely wounded and hurries to the edge. As she throws an axe to finish him off, he collapses to the ground. The axe, thrown back by the force field, catches her directly in the skull. That’s how Haymitch won. Katniss and Peeta realize that Haymitch managed to make the Capitol look stupid by allowing the arena, and not him, to kill the girl. Just then Haymitch comes into the room, and Katniss feels a new sense of confidence knowing Haymitch was just as much a troublemaker for the Capitol as her.
The prep team, to Katniss’s great annoyance, cries relentlessly as they get her hair and makeup ready for the opening ceremony. Cinna has designed another wonderful dress for her to wear, the fabric of which glows to mimic an ember in a fire. Katniss heads to where the tributes are all gathered, and almost immediately Finnick Odair, the tribute from District 4, comes up to her. Finnick is famous in Panem for being extraordinarily handsome and for having won the Games when he was just fourteen. He seems extremely arrogant as he makes small talk, and when Katniss asks how people pay for the pleasure of his company, he says with secrets. Katniss jokes that most people know her secrets before she does. He agrees and walks off.
After the ceremony, Katniss meets some of the other tributes. Chaff, who is from District 11 and a close friend of Haymitch’s, kisses her full on the mouth before she can react, then turns to Haymitch laughing. The woman from District 11, Seeder, hugs Katniss because of Rue and Thresh. As Katniss and Peeta take the elevator back to their quarters, the female tribute from District 7, Johanna Mason, who is in the elevator with them, strips off her clothes and talks to them. After she exits, Peeta laughs that the other tributes, like Finnick and Chaff, are behaving the way they are because of Katniss. In the dining room, the Avoxes who will tend to Katniss and Peeta until the Games start come in. One of them is Darius, the former Peacekeeper from District 12.
The section opens with Katniss struggling with the realization that she’ll have to return to the arena, but she actually comes to terms with the news rather quickly. Her initial reaction is uncontrolled panic. She runs out of the house, finds a place where she can scream until she’s exhausted, and finally she drinks to the point of incoherence because she simply can’t deal with the thought of fighting in another Hunger Games. The underlying cause of that anxiety, beyond just fear that she will die, is a feeling of having no control. She realizes that the Capitol can do almost anything it wants with her, which crushes her hopes. But once she speaks to Peeta, who is calm and collected as always, she is quickly able to recover, in large part because she shifts her focus to a concrete goal: keeping Peeta alive. What that goal gives her is some sense of control over her situation. Even if she can’t survive herself, she can do everything in her power to make sure he does. She channels her energy into training and learning about her opponents so that she’s as prepared as possible, which is essentially her way of having as much control as possible.
As Katniss meets some of the opponents she’s bound to face in the arena, we see some try to psychologically manipulate her. At this point, Katniss is basically a celebrity in Panem, and she has a certain image in the media. She’s been portrayed as being “pure,” as Peeta phrases it, and it seems as a result the reactions of the tributes she meets mostly have sexual undertones, or in some cases blatant overtones. Finnick, whose own media image is perhaps the exact opposite of Katniss’s, does things like lick his lips as he speaks and then lean in close to Katniss so that their lips almost touch. In a sense he seems to be exploring to see if Katniss is as pure as she’s made out to be, and he also uses his attractiveness and overt sexuality to try to elicit information from Katniss. Another tribute, Johanna Mason, casually strips naked in front of Katniss and Peeta and then focuses on Peeta, perhaps to see if she can elicit some jealousy from Katniss and gain a psychological advantage over her. Chaff, of course, comes right out and kisses Katniss, though his reason is more to have fun with Katniss’s image than to turn it to his advantage. Finnick’s and Johanna’s tactics, however, are clearly deliberate attempts to manipulate Katniss, and Katniss immediately distrusts both as a result.
For the first time in the series, we finally learn about Haymitch’s experience in the Hunger Games, and the new information creates a clear parallel between Haymitch and Katniss. Haymitch never speaks about his experience, and though the previous Games are readily available to watch, Katniss and Peeta have never viewed Haymitch’s year because they felt like they would be intruding on his privacy. Now they have good reason to watch Haymitch’s year since it was also a Quarter Quell, and they need to prepare for their own upcoming Quell. What they learn is that Haymitch had some of the same experiences Katniss had in the Games. Notably, he also teamed up with someone who was subsequently killed, and the way he ultimately won also came at the expense of the Capitol. As Katniss recognizes, Haymitch managed to use the arena itself as his weapon, and in quite a literal sense he didn’t even kill his final opponent: the arena did. That detail is significant because the Games are specifically designed to demonstrate the Capitol’s complete control, and it’s the tributes that the Capitol wants doing the killing. For Haymitch to publicly and deliberately subvert the Capitol’s control makes the Capitol look foolish. It’s essentially the same outcome Katniss achieved when she suggested that she and Peeta commit suicide rather than follow the Capitol’s order to try to kill each other.
The revelation at the end of the section that the Peacekeeper Darius is now an Avox is a deliberate attempt by the Capitol to intimidate Katniss and show her the extent of its power. Avoxes, as explained in the previous novel, are people who have rebelled against the Capitol. As punishment, the Capitol cuts out their tongues and forces them to work as servants. The act of rebellion Darius committed was intervening to try to stop Gale’s brutal whipping earlier in the novel, and his turning up as an Avox is a clear signal to Katniss for a couple of reasons. First, the Capitol didn’t have to place Darius in the service in Katniss and Peeta. That it did so makes clear that it wants to force Katniss to confront how little power she has to protect the people she knows. Furthermore, Darius got in trouble for helping Gale, and because Darius received such harsh treatment, others may be less likely to step in to help Katniss’s friends and family if the Capitol ever targets them. Essentially he serves as a reminder to Katniss that her power is limited.