Katniss’s relationship with Peeta changes substantially over the course of this section. Katniss has just learned that Peeta has romantic feelings for her, and initially she feels she is being used. She becomes angry with Peeta as a result, going so far as to shove him over an urn of flowers. Although Peeta doesn’t explicitly say so, he clearly feels hurt by this response because it shows that Katniss doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Katniss eventually calms down and apologizes, but Peeta remains cold toward her, and whatever intimacy they had established is now gone. Katniss later begins to seriously distrust Peeta when she realizes that he’s teamed with the Career Tributes; that he stayed and fought at the Cornucopia, suggesting he had planned to do so all along; and that he may helping the Careers to find her. But Katniss also considers that Peeta shook his head at her at the Cornucopia, which may have been him watching out for her welfare, and that he didn’t tell the Careers about her skill with a bow, preserving her advantage should she find one. The result is that Katniss feels ambivalent and isn’t sure where she stands with Peeta.
Peeta’s actions in these chapters offer new insight into his character. Whereas previously Peeta seemed to be kind and even gentle, we now see he is capable of being savage if need be. When Katniss overhears the Careers talking, they note that Peeta is handy with a knife, and knowing that Peeta fought at the Cornucopia, it suggests Peeta may have killed one or more of the other tributes. Moreover, he finishes off the girl that his group attacked after they realize she hasn’t died. Peeta, however, seems to behave this way out of necessity only. Before he and Katniss entered the arena, he acknowledged that he would kill if he had to, but he also wanted to remain himself and not become a monster. He also still appears to feel a sense of loyalty to Katniss, which is evident in him not telling the Career Tributes about her ability with a bow. He seems to be doing what he feels is necessary to stay alive but does not want to betray Katniss, even if doing so would benefit him by eliminating her as a competitor.
Peeta’s comment on the night before leaving the Training Center, that he will kill just like everybody else but also wants to show the Capitol they don’t own him, brings up a paradox that affects most of the tribute and in fact many of the people in Panem’s districts. Most of the tributes are not Career Tributes, and if Katniss and Peeta are any indication, they are predominantly ordinary teenagers who are horrified at the idea of having to kill another person. The Capitol, however, has put them in a position where they must kill or possibly be killed themselves. Peeta says he wants to preserve his identity, but he acknowledges that he will essentially be doing what the Capitol wants him to. He wonders how he can preserve his identity in such a position, when he is no longer in full control of his fate, and at this point he has no clear answer. Though to a less severe degree, the people in Panem’s districts face a similar problem in that they live under a totalitarian government that doesn’t allow them to express their opinions or behave as they like. These people’s identities are similarly not entirely under their control.
The Hunger Games officially begin in this section with a quick flurry of brutality, but Katniss is notably not distraught at the deaths of the other tributes. Just after the Games begin, for instance, Katniss sees a boy die right in front of her and is splattered across the face with his blood, yet only a few moments later she grins and jokes to herself after a knife lodges in her backpack. This reaction demonstrates a sense of ease rather than terror or horror. Neither does the sight of several dead tributes at the Cornucopia seem to startle her, nor the death of the girl who starts the fire near her on the first night. As earlier chapters have hinted, Katniss appears to be generally desensitized to death. No reason is ever stated explicitly, but her upbringing offers clues. Katniss has been hunting for years, which not only entails killing animals, but cleaning and sometimes butchering them as well, meaning blood and open wounds wouldn’t be new to her. When she hunts, of course, it is for animals, but Katniss has also seen a great deal of human suffering. She’s noted that it is common for people to starve to death in District 12, and she has seen numerous people injured or maimed in mine accidents brought in to her mother for emergency care. As a result, these sights are not totally alien to her, and she regards them with little interest.
The skills and abilities Katniss learned from her sometimes impoverished upbringing come to use right away in the Games. Because of her experience hunting and foraging, Katniss is able to set a trap with the wire she finds in her backpack, catching her a rabbit that provides invaluable nutrition as she searches for water. She is also accustomed to walking long distances and going with little food, and she knows the woods. When she starts to feel hungry, she cuts some of the rough outer bark off a pine tree and scrapes up a bunch of the soft inner bark, allowing her to hold off hunger a little longer. These factors play directly into her ability to endure until she finds a source of water other than the lake, and they essentially keep her alive. While it is obvious that the other tributes pose a threat, it becomes clear that the greater, or at least more immediate, threat may simply be surviving in a foreign environment without any food or water readily available.