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Katniss wakes after a long sleep to find Peeta recuperated. It’s raining hard outside so Peeta has arranged everything to keep them dry. Katniss feels weak from the wound on her head. She tells Peeta what happened at the feast and about Rue. She says Thresh was paying back a debt in letting her live, but Peeta wouldn’t understand because he’s not poor. Katniss says it’s like the bread he gave her and how she can never pay him back. She asks why he did that, and Peeta responds that she knows why. They talk about Cato and Thresh. Katniss feels upset, thinking she’s tired of the Games. She doesn’t want anyone else to die. She begins to cry and says she wants to go home.
Later, while they eat the last of the food, Katniss asks if Peeta knows what’s on the far side of the circle where the Cornucopia is, where Thresh stays. Peeta says it’s a field of shoulder-high grass. It makes him uneasy thinking about what can hide in there. Peeta’s description reminds Katniss of what they’re taught about the woods outside District 12, and she compares Peeta to Gale. While Peeta is not a coward, there are things he’s never questioned, like what the woods are really like. Gale questions everything. Katniss makes a joke about knocking Peeta out, and when Peeta becomes genuinely upset that she risked her life, she decides to use the romantic tension between them in the hopes of getting more gifts from Haymitch. But as she does this, she realizes she truly cares for Peeta. When they kiss, Katniss describes it as the first that both are fully aware of. Neither is sick or dazed by injury, and it’s the first kiss that makes her want another. Because of the cold, they share the sleeping bag again, and Peeta puts his arms around her. It’s the closest she’s ever felt to him, and nobody has made her feel so safe since her father died.
The weather is so bad the next day that they can’t go outside. Katniss knows they need food, but Haymitch isn’t sending any, so she wonders how she can ramp up the romance with Peeta. She asks him how long he’s had a crush on her, and he says since their first day of school. His father pointed her out and told Peeta he had wanted to marry Katniss’s mother, but she ran off with a coal miner who sang so well even the birds would stop and listen. When their teacher asked if anyone knew the valley song, Katniss raised her hand and sang it for the class. Peeta fell in love and had been unsuccessfully trying to talk to her ever since. The story makes Katniss feel suddenly confused. Their romance was supposed to be a fiction, but Katniss is beginning to feel like it’s real. Peeta jokes that she pays attention to him now because he has no competition there, and Katniss, thinking of what Haymitch would want her to say, says he has no competition anywhere. As they go to kiss, there’s a noise outside. It’s a basket of food from Haymitch.
Unable to leave, Katniss and Peeta lie together and talk. Peeta points out that, if they make it back, Katniss won’t be a girl from the Seam anymore. People who win the Hunger Games are set up with houses in a separate section of the district called the Victor’s Village. Haymitch would be their only neighbor. They make a few jokes about him, and Katniss notices that he ignores Peeta and only communicates with her because she understands what he wants to see. They wonder how Haymitch won the Hunger Games, and Peeta guesses he must have outsmarted the other tributes. That night, Thresh’s picture is projected in the sky. Thresh is dead, and the news upsets Katniss. If they didn’t win, she wanted Thresh to, because he let her live and because of Rue. Only Foxface and Cato remain. Katniss and Peeta sleep in shifts, and when Peeta wakes Katniss he offers her some bread with goat cheese and apples. They make tarts like that at his family’s bakery, but they can’t afford to eat them. They mostly eat the stale leftovers. Katniss is surprised. She always thought the shopkeepers had everything.
While Katniss keeps watch, she thinks of what it would be like to win the Games. Her family would have all they need, and she wonders how not having to provide for them would change her identity. By morning, the rain has stopped, and they decide to hunt. They walk back to Katniss’s old hunting grounds, but Peeta with his wounded leg is so loud he chases off any game nearby. They walk for hours without catching anything, so Peeta suggests they split up. Katniss shows Peeta edible roots to gather and goes to hunt. After catching some rabbits and a squirrel, she heads back toward Peeta. They’ve been whistling back and forth to communicate. But she hasn’t heard him for some time, and she begins to panic when he doesn’t respond to her whistling now. Where they split up she finds she finds a pile of roots and some berries laid out on a tarp. He returns, explaining he was down by the stream collecting berries. While Katniss reprimands him, she notices some of their food has been eaten, and looking more closely at the berries she recognizes them as nightlock. The cannon sounds just before a hovercraft appears to take Foxface’s body. Peeta thinks Cato is near, but Katniss tells Peeta he’s the one who killed her and holds out the berries he collected.
Katniss explains that the berries, some of which Foxface stole, are poisonous. In a way, Peeta outsmarted Foxface. They decide to hold on to the rest of the berries in case the same opportunity arises with Cato. Cato must know where they are now, so they cook their food and then head back to the cave they’ve been staying in. The night passes without any trouble, and when they leave the cave in the morning Katniss suspects it will be her last night in the arena. The Gamemakers will find a way to push Katniss, Peeta, and Cato together, and when they reach the stream, it’s totally dry. The Gamemakers have drained it. Every water source they check is the same, and they realize if they want water they’ll have to go to the lake by the Cornucopia.
They’re cautious arriving at the lake, but there’s no sign of Cato. As they sit in the open, waiting, Katniss sings Rue’s song to the mockingjays she sees. They sing back pleasantly, until suddenly their song breaks up. Cato comes sprinting out of the trees with no weapons, and it’s clear he’s been running hard for a long time. Katniss hits him directly in the chest with an arrow, but he’s wearing some form of body armor and the arrow bounces harmlessly away. Katniss prepares for impact, but Cato runs directly between Peeta and her. Katniss, seeing strange creatures approaching in the distance, turns and runs.
Much of the action in this section centers on Katniss and Peeta simply talking, which dramatically increases the sense of intimacy between them. Because of the rain, they are unable to leave the cave, and consequently they have far more time to speak privately (albeit with cameras broadcasting their conversations) than they generally have in the past. The result is that they are more honest with one another than at any time before. Katniss, for instance, finds out that Peeta’s feelings for her date all the way back to their first day of school together. He remembers the day in great detail, recalling everything about Katniss down to the dress she was wearing and how her hair was done, and he reveals that his father was once in love with Katniss’s mother. Katniss, for the first time, tells Peeta how she still feels indebted to him for the bread he gave her years earlier, and she tells Peeta everything that happened with Rue. Their honesty with one another not only brings them closer, it causes Katniss to recognize that Peeta’s feelings for her are genuine and not part of a strategy devised with Haymitch.
Read more about the role debt plays in the novel.
For the first time in the novel, Katniss, who has always maintained a stoic front, feels overwhelmed by her emotions to the point that she’s unable to control them. When Peeta and Katniss talk about Thresh, Katniss notes that under different circumstances they might be friends with Thresh, essentially recognizing him as an individual rather than just a competitor. When Peeta hopes that Cato will kill Thresh so they don’t have to, she thinks that she doesn’t want anyone to die, and she is unable to restrain the tears from welling up in her eyes. Prior to this point, she has always been capable of keeping her feelings in check, or at least not letting them show outwardly, particularly when she thinks of Prim watching her. Now, however, she compares herself to a small child, suggesting she feels weak, vulnerable, and incapable of controlling the situation. When Thresh comes up again in conversation later, Katniss has a similar reaction. She hugs herself tightly as if to protect herself, again suggesting feelings of vulnerability, and she pulls her hood over her face so that the cameras can’t see her reaction. Moreover, her use of the term murder to describe Thresh’s death implies that it’s the injustice of his death that provokes this response in her.
Read more about how Katniss strategically defies Panem.
While Katniss has felt generally ambivalent toward Peeta, she begins to reciprocate his feelings while the two are stuck inside during the thunderstorm. What seems to trigger this change in Katniss is her realization—or perhaps acceptance, since she seemed to suspect Peeta’s feelings were genuine but didn’t want to admit it—that Peeta’s romantic interest in her is real and not just a strategy he and Haymitch devised. She comes to this realization gradually, starting at the moment when they have what she describes as the first kiss they’re both fully aware of, meaning neither was sick or dazed by an injury at the time. Katniss says the kiss stirs something in her, and it’s the first that makes her want another. Later, Peeta dispels whatever doubts Katniss has about whether his feelings for her are real when he provides several details about how she looked and behaved on their day of school, when he says his crush on her began, proving that he was paying attention to her long before he was selected as a tribute. Katniss thinks they’re supposed to be acting as though they’re in love, not actually being in love, implying that she feels something for Peeta as well.
Read more about Katniss’s and Peeta's complicated relationship.
Though Katniss begins to develop genuine feelings for Peeta, the affection she shows him almost always has an ulterior motive: to please Haymitch and elicit presents from him. Katniss has previously realized that she can get gifts from sponsors through Haymitch if she plays up her romance with Peeta, and these gifts can be critical to Katniss’s and Peeta’s survival. As a result, in almost every instance in which she and Peeta are behaving affectionately, either through kissing or in the way they’re speaking, Katniss is thinking of what Haymitch would want to see. Katniss, for instance, provokes the conversation about when Peeta’s crush on her started because she thinks Haymitch is looking for something more personal than kissing. Even as Katniss realizes she’s developing genuine feelings for Peeta, her thoughts about what Haymitch want guide her. When Peeta jokes that Katniss is only paying attention to him now because they’re in the arena, where he has no competition, Katniss thinks first of what Haymitch would want her to say before replying that he has no competition anywhere. Katniss and Peeta then promptly receive a basket of food containing a lamb stew that Katniss said she liked in her interview with Caesar Flickerman, indicating that Haymitch is rewarding her in particular.
Read more about Haymitch's strategy to help Katniss and Peeta survive.
Various issues centering on wealth and poverty also appear in this section. Katniss is surprised to learn that Peeta’s family can’t afford to eat some of the goods they sell at his family’s bakery, and this knowledge forces her to rethink her view of Peeta’s life. She thinks that even though Peeta always has enough to eat it must be depressing to live off of the stale leftovers nobody else wants, and when she thinks that at least her family’s food is fresh, it suggests she feels that, at least in this one regard, her life is actually better than Peeta’s. Wealth turns up again in Katniss’s thoughts as she thinks what life would be like if she won the Games. She realizes her family would have everything it needs, meaning she would no longer have to provide for them. Rather than bringing her a sense of relief, however, the thought makes her uncomfortable. Katniss defines herself in large part by the role she plays as the provider in her family, and losing that role means losing a significant part of her identity.
Read more about how inequality affects everyone in Panem.
Peeta’s lack of experience foraging for his own food ironically benefits him and Katniss when he indirectly causes Foxface’s death with the poisonous berries he collects. Throughout the Hunger Games, knowing how to find food in the forest has proved one of the greatest advantages a tribute could have. It provided Katniss, as well as Rue and probably Thresh, with a distinct advantage over the Career Tributes. Peeta, of course, did not share this advantage. As the son of a baker, he had no experience providing his own food, and he even jokes that he’s essentially of no use to Katniss unless they happen to find a bread bush. Katniss regards this lack of survival skills as a hindrance, and coupled with Peeta’s injured leg, which makes him so loud he scares away all the game, Katniss begins to think Peeta’s presence is a liability. When she sees that the poisonous berries he collected killed Foxface, however, she thinks that his inexperience was actually a good thing. Foxface, whom Katniss considers the most intelligent of the tributes, would likely have recognized a deliberate trap. She didn’t sense a trap because Peeta was genuinely ignorant, and so they managed to inadvertently eliminate one more competitor in the Games.
Read more about the significance of hunting throughout the novel.