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Fire plays different roles throughout the story, but most often it
represents Katniss. Notably, fire is the element that gives the various outfits
Cinna designs for Katniss their character. Her first dress, for example, is
covered in synthetic flames, while later outfits use fire more subtly but still
maintain it as a motif. Katniss’s fire dress earns her the epithet “the girl who
was on fire,” and this title comes to pertain to more than just her dress. After
Katniss’s surprisingly high training score is announced, Haymitch explains that
they must have liked her “heat.” Cinna calls her “the girl who was on fire”
again, this time using “fire” to refer to Katniss’s spirit and temperament.
During the Games, the phrase takes on a literal meaning after Katniss is struck
in the leg by a fireball and thinks the Gamemakers must be laughing at “the girl
who was on fire.”
The novel is full of acts of defiance against the Capitol despite the
Capitol’s authoritarian control over the people of Panem. Katniss’s and Gale’s
illegal hunting is an act of defiance, since they’re willfully violating the
Capitol’s rules. The same can be said for the existence of the Hob, the bustling
black market of District 12. The gesture of respect the residents of District 12
offer Katniss after she volunteers as tribute is similarly a form of defiance in
that it contradicts the behavior the Capitol wants, and expects, to see. The
mockingjay, which appears throughout the novel, represents defiance in that it
recalls the Capitol’s failures, and Peeta essentially hopes to defy the Capitol
and Gamemakers when he tells Katniss he wants to retain his identity and show
them he’s not just a part of their Games. The most significant acts of defiance
come from Katniss, however. Decorating Rue’s body after her death directly
violates the spirit of the Hunger Games, which demand that tributes show no
mercy for one another, and Katniss’s idea for her and Peeta to threaten suicide
with the berries shows that they will not accept the Gamemakers’
Hunting reappears numerous times in the story, but it takes on vastly
different connotations depending on the circumstances. Katniss, we learn at the
very beginning of the book, is a hunter, and she feeds her family primarily with
what she can catch or kill in the woods outside District 12. In fact, she spends
most of her day hunting, typically with her friend, Gale, and consequently it
appears in one form or another in many of her stories about life before the
Hunger Games. For instance, most of her stories about her father revolve around
hunting. She also met Gale while hunting, and one of her favorite stories, the
one she tells Peeta about how she managed to get a goat for Prim, begins with
hunting. Hunting also allows her to stay alive during the Games when there is no
other food to be found. In these circumstances, hunting to Katniss is always a
In the context of the Hunger Games, however, hunting takes on a very
different meaning. When Katniss talks to Gale before she leaves for the Training
Center, he wonders if hunting a human will be any different than hunting an
animal. As Katniss discovers, it is substantially different, and despite her
experience killing animals for food, killing a person in a competition is
emotionally traumatizing for her. Moreover, Peeta often refers to the Career
Tributes as “hunting” when they’re searching for other tributes to kill. Though
the act of hunting remains essentially the same in the arena, the connotation
shifts from a positive one for Katniss to an entirely negative one.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Hunger Games!