The Hunger Games

by: Suzanne Collins

Chapters 4–6

The theme of the importance of appearances has a significant role in this section. Chapter 5 is devoted entirely to Katniss’s preparation for the tributes’ introduction ceremony and the look Cinna creates for her. The costumes the stylists create make Katniss (and Peeta) exceptional, rather than just two more tributes taking part in the Games. In the context of the story, it’s important for Katniss and Peeta to stand out because that helps them to attract sponsors, who can give them useful gifts during the Games that may ultimately mean the difference between survival and death. But it also demonstrates that appearance can be more important than reality in any media spectacle. The stylists’ costumes turn Katniss and Peeta into media sensations, and the people watching the Hunger Games prefer this manufactured spectacle to the reality of the situation, that Katniss, Peeta, and the other tributes are mostly just frightened children. The costumes and ceremony essentially hide reality in entertainment.

In addition, the way Haymitch and the stylists tell Katniss and Peeta to present themselves in this section becomes part of a strategy to control what the other tributes think of the pair, again emphasizing how important appearances can be. Their matching costumes and their holding hands make them appear to be an allied couple, an unusual approach given that only one person can win the Games and they will essentially be enemies once inside the arena. By contrast, the other tributes are presented as individuals, even if they are from the same district and appear together during the opening ceremony. It is unclear, at this point, what the ultimate purpose of this strategy is, but the intent is clearly to give Katniss and Peeta an advantage in the Games.

The Avoxes in Chapter 6 further highlight the brutality and totalitarian nature of Panem’s government. The Avoxes are considered criminals, and when Haymitch explains that the redheaded Avox that Katniss recognizes is probably a traitor of some sort, it suggests that their crimes are against the state (rather than against another citizen, as in a theft). Panem punishes them brutally by cutting out their tongues, literally and symbolically silencing them, and essentially making them slaves. They are isolated from those around them as well and only spoken to when being given an order. It’s unclear what crime this Avox committed, but simply that she is a young girl suggests the punishment was excessive. The boy Katniss saw the Avox running away with was punished just as savagely and shot through with a spear.

The section also elaborates on Katniss’s backstory and provides more insight into her character. Katniss began venturing under the fence to hunt and forage in the woods, then to trade in the Hob, when she was still very young. From her retelling of that period, she was clearly very afraid, yet she forced herself to do what was necessary to survive and keep her family fed, suggesting tremendous inner strength and resolve. Moreover, she’s intelligent, as she was able to learn everything she needed to find food with the help of the book she found with her father’s notes. The story makes it clear that Katniss is a character with impressive resourcefulness, and though it’s uncertain at this point how these traits will help her in the Hunger Games, they are undoubtedly assets she will rely on.

Katniss’s inner conflict regarding Peeta continues to mount in this section. Peeta’s kindness toward Haymitch initially makes her wonder if he has some ulterior motive, but when she realizes he may just be kind she finds this idea even more difficult to tolerate. She knows she may have to kill Peeta at some point, and thinking of him as a kind person only makes that thought more repulsive. She determines to have no more contact with him, even throwing away the cookies his father gave her, in an effort to distance herself from him as much as possible, but by the end of the section she has only drawn closer to him. He helps her out of her situation with the Avox by lying and saying the Avox looks like someone in their school, thus ingratiating himself with her even more. At the end of the night, rather than pull away, she ends up confiding in him about the Avox girl, and he lets her use his jacket when she gets cold, a gesture that suggests he cares about her. Katniss accepting his jacket carries its own message: she has let her guard down and let Peeta in.