Stay alive.

Haymitch uses this brief phrase with Katniss and Peeta two separate times in the novel. Initially, Haymitch’s advice to “stay alive,” given to them on the train to Panem, comes from a place of mockery and demoralization. Haymitch has never seen a District 12 tribute survive since his own win in the Games, and he’s become hopeless and apathetic, turning to alcohol for relief from the trauma he and his mentees have experienced. But later, once Katniss and Peeta show they have a shot at winning, Haymitch becomes more involved in their coaching and decreases his alcohol intake. When he repeats the phrase before they’re sent into the arena, his tone shows that he now takes them – and their survival – seriously.

Did I actually get a pair of fighters this year?

As the only victor of District 12, Haymitch has spent a portion of each year of his life since his victory coaching children who inevitably end up dying in the Games. The tributes of District 12 are at a great disadvantage – they’re often undernourished, they get little attention from sponsors, and, due to the ban, they’ve never handled weapons, unlike the Career tributes. When Haymitch sees a spark of potential in Peeta and Katniss, both of whom prove to be strong, smart, and serious about their survival, he finally has hope. He may come off as rough and rude, but it’s clear that, despite the debilitating trauma that makes him defeatist, he cares for the children he mentors.

You are a fool . . . That boy just gave you something you could never achieve on your own.

Katniss doesn’t understand how to appeal to her audience, but Haymitch is a master at manipulating public perception. His coaching helps Katniss appear as an attractive, sympathetic tribute worthy of sponsors, and it also allows Peeta and Katniss to survive both the Games and their tense aftermath. Katniss has a difficult time pretending, especially in such a hostile environment as the Capitol, but she slowly begins to understand the importance of putting on a convincing act. Her first wake-up call is when Haymitch tells her she hasn’t made herself likable or desirable on her own. While Katniss believes Peeta’s admission of romantic interest makes her look weak, Haymitch explains that she’s completely misjudged how she appears to the audience, and that the romance angle has given her a huge advantage.