Summary: Chapter 7
It is the first day of training. For three days, the twenty-four tributes will all practice together, then on the final afternoon they perform in private in front of the Gamemakers, the officials who run the Games. Haymitch asks Katniss and Peeta if they want to train together or separately, in case one has a secret skill she or he might not want the other to know about it. Peeta already knows Katniss is an excellent hunter, and Katniss feels surprised at the thought that Peeta must sometimes think of her. Ultimately they decide to train together. Haymitch wants to know about their strengths. Katniss’s is obviously with a bow, and Peeta is strong and an excellent wrestler. But Peeta feels he has no chance. He says Katniss has no idea the effect she can have, and his mother even praised Katniss over him, calling her a survivor. Katniss says she couldn’t have survived without Peeta, and from Peeta’s reaction she realizes he remembers giving her the bread those years ago. Haymitch tells them not to reveal their strengths until the private session with the Gamemakers and to be sure they’re always seen together.
At training, Katniss watches the other tributes. Almost all are bigger than her, though many are clearly underfed. The tributes from the wealthier districts are all healthy. Some of them, called Career Tributes, train all their lives to compete in the Games. The training area has different stations with instructors, and the Career Tributes go right to the stations with the deadliest weapons. Katniss and Peeta go to a station where they learn various knots. Next they move to the camouflage station, and Peeta picks it up quickly because he decorates the cakes in his father’s bakery. Over the next three days, they visit more stations while the Gamemakers—twenty or so men and women—watch from the stands and take notes. Peeta and Katniss stay together the whole time, making small talk. At lunch one day Peeta explains that each district has its own distinct bread and shows them all to Katniss. In training they also notice one of the female tributes, a small young girl from District 11 named Rue, watching them.
Katniss is last to have her private session with the Gamemakers. She selects a bow from the weapons available, but it’s different than her bow at home and takes some practice before she can use it accurately. She takes a few difficult shots to impress the Gamemakers, but notices that most of them are focused on a roasted pig that’s just arrived at their table. She becomes furious, knowing her life is at stake in the Games, and fires an arrow straight toward the Gamemakers that skewers that apple in the pig’s mouth. Then she walks out.
Summary: Chapter 8
As soon as she leaves she begins to panic, wondering if they will punish her for her defiance. The Gamemakers score the tributes from one to twelve based on their performance, and Katniss is certain her score will be very low. That could make it difficult to get sponsors, and their gifts are critical for survival in the arena. She locks herself in her room and doesn’t come out until Effie calls her to dinner. At the table, everyone wants to know how Peeta and Katniss did. Katniss tells her story, and everyone is shocked but Haymitch, who finds it amusing. When the scores are announced, Peeta gets an eight and Katniss gets an eleven. She’s stunned, but Haymitch says they probably liked her temper.
In the morning, Katniss lies in bed for a time after waking and thinks of when she first met Gale. She was in the woods hunting and saw several rabbits hanging from snares. When she went to inspect them, Gale came forward. She’d seen him before: his father died in the same mine blast as hers and they both attended the memorial. They talked about hunting at first, and over time they became a team. Katniss thinks of how close they are and misses him. She has with Gale what she pretends to have with Peeta. Effie calls her down for breakfast, and when she arrives at the table, Haymitch says there’s been a change in strategy: Peeta has asked to be coached separately.
Summary: Chapter 9
Katniss feels betrayed by Peeta but also relieved they don’t have to keep up the appearance of being good friends. In preparation for a televised interview she and the other tributes will be doing the next day, Katniss goes with Effie for instruction on “presentation.” Effie makes Katniss wear high heels, corrects her posture, and tells her to make sure she’s always smiling. It’s important that the audience like Katniss. Next, Katniss meets with Haymitch. He says the impression she makes may determine what sponsors he can get her, but she comes across as hostile. Haymitch tries to get her to seem friendly but eventually gives up. Katniss has dinner in her room that night and smashes dishes in a rage. The redheaded Avox comes in and wipes Katniss’s face and hands, which she cut on a broken dish. Katniss says she should have tried to save her, but the Avox gestures that Katniss would only have ended up like her. Katniss helps her clean up, then goes to sleep.
The next morning, Katniss meets with Cinna. He puts her in a dress covered in jewels that, in the light, give the impression of little flames. He asks if Katniss is ready for her interview, but she says she’s awful. He tells her to be herself, since everyone already loves her spirit, and generally comforts her. The time for the interviews comes. Each tribute gets three minutes. Katniss’s turn arrives and she goes up on the stage. The host is Caesar Flickerman, who does the interviews every year. Katniss does very well, coming off as very charming and even girly. The crowd loves her. When she’s done, she watches Peeta go on next. Caesar asks if he has a girlfriend, and Peeta says no but there is a girl he’s had a crush on as long as he can remember. Caesar says she can’t turn him down if he wins, but Peeta says winning won’t help him. The girl he’s thinking of came to the Games with him.
Katniss’s training continues in this section, and again emphasizes the importance of appearances. Katniss’s instruction this time is not on weapons or survival techniques, but on how she should present herself. If she is to have a good chance at surviving the Games, she must win over the public and the sponsors, who can give her gifts that may prove critical during the Hunger Games. Internally, she despises the Hunger Games and everyone who views them as entertainment, but she knows it’s best to follow Haymitch’s instruction and keep those feelings hidden. Moreover, she needs be likable in every regard: not just in what she says, but also in how she looks and comports herself. Effie even instructs her on such niceties as posture, hand gestures, sitting properly, and how to smile. Haymitch also makes sure Katniss and Peeta are always seen as a pair rather than individuals, and at the end of the section, when Peeta reveals that he has had a crush on Katniss for years, Haymitch’s reasons for keeping them together all the time start to become more clear.
The spectacle surrounding the Hunger Games, notably the interviews Katniss, Peeta, and the other tributes must give, again treat suffering as a form of entertainment. The tributes are treated as if their selection for the Hunger Games were an honor. But the unspoken reason for their popularity is people know that all but one of them will be dead within a matter of days or weeks. The implied reason for even having interviews with the tributes is that the death of an anonymous competitor is not as compelling as the death of a person whom the audience has gotten to know. The Games are actually more entertaining this way. Because these interviews are only entertaining if the tributes appear happy (a tribute distraught over his probable death would likely not be fun for an audience to watch), the tributes are expected to be cheerful and polite. Unhappy tributes also don’t win sponsors, so as a result, the tributes must suppress whatever negative emotions they’re feeling for the sake of keeping up the entertainment of the Games.
We also see more examples of the inequality between rich and poor in this section. The Career Tributes, those tributes from wealthy districts who have been trained for years to take part in the Hunger Games, have several advantages over the tributes from poorer districts. First, they are well-fed, making them noticeably healthier and stronger than most of the other tributes. Second, they are trained to use the weapons the tributes may find in the arena. During the public training session, Katniss even points out how clumsy the normal tributes seem with many of the weapons contrasted with the Career Tributes, who handle the weapons easily and competently. The result of this inequality between the wealthier districts and the poor districts is that the tributes of the wealthier districts seem far more likely to survive, and even for those that don’t, their lives were likely to have been less difficult leading up to the Hunger Games.
Ironically, however, the hardships Katniss has had to navigate growing up give her her own distinct set of skills, which may, in the end, put her at an advantage. For the past five years, Katniss has had to hunt and forage to feed herself and her family. It is not certain how the skills she’s acquired as a result may help her during the Games, but the presence of the station on edible plants during the public training suggests the tributes will likely have to know how to find food in the wilderness. Katniss, then, would have a better chance at survival than a tribute whose family was wealthy enough to simply buy food. Katniss also notes that, while many of the other tributes from the poorer districts are bigger than her, they also look a bit sickly, whereas she is in very good shape from the daily work of hunting. Perhaps most importantly, Katniss’s hunting experience makes her an expert with a bow. While she might not be able to physically overpower the other tributes, she could certainly defend herself or kill from a distance.
This section provides more insight into Peeta’s character as well. For instance, we learn what strengths he possesses that might be of use to him during the Games: He is physically strong, he’s an excellent wrestler who excels at hand-to-hand combat, and he’s also adept at camouflage. In addition, we find out that he’s been paying attention to Katniss for a long time. He remembers the incident when he gave her the loaves of bread, and he’s aware of her hunting skills because he’s often eaten the squirrels she’s sold his father. When he tells Haymitch that Katniss has no idea of the effect she can have, we also get a hint that he may have a romantic interest in her. This suspicion is confirmed at the end of the section, when Peeta tells Caesar Flickerman that the girl he’s had a crush on for years is the same one who came to the Hunger Games with him. (Notably, it’s not clear why he asks to be trained separately, as this desire seems to contradict his feelings for Katniss.)
While we learn how Peeta feels about Katniss, we also learn more about Katniss’s relationship with Gale. She describes their first meeting, and she hints that she found him immediately appealing, saying when he smiled it transformed him into someone you want to know. They developed first into hunting partners, then into friends, and while they never had a romantic relationship of any sort, it’s clear that Katniss feels strongly about him. At one point, while lying in bed, she misses him and thinks of how comfortable she feels with him. Significantly, she compares her relationship with Gale to her relationship with Peeta, and recognizes that she genuinely has with Gale what she and Peeta pretend to have in front of the other tributes and the cameras. Peeta’s revelation that he has a romantic interest in Katniss establishes the beginnings of a new problem for her. She misses Gale and feels that’s he truly her friend, but he’s not around. At the same time, she must pretend to be very close with Peeta, but she doesn’t want to be close to him because they will be enemies once inside the arena. Peeta, meanwhile, has genuine feelings for her. So while she craves the friendship and closeness Gale can offer, she can’t have it, but the comfort she can have from Peeta she doesn’t want.