Catching Fire – two out of three ain’t bad

Cover of "Catching Fire (The Second Book ...

Cover via Amazon

Moving right along…

I’ve wrapped up the second installment of the trilogy, which picks up approximately six months after The Hunger Games.  Katniss & Peeta have returned to District 12 and have taken up residence in the Victor’s Village – they, and Haymitch, occupy just three of the twelve houses intended for victors of the games. 

Life has changed for Katniss.  The security of being a victor ensures that Katniss’ family has enough money to live and enough food to eat, as well as luxuries like hot, running water.  Katniss’ sister, Prim, and their mother are busy as healers (while Katniss’ mother was always a healer, prior to the Reaping she was in something of a fog, still reeling from the death of Katniss’ father.)

Katniss’ emotional life is not going so well.  She’s suffering from some post-traumatic stress (understandably).  In the aftermath of the Katniss’ revelation that she does not return Peeta’s feelings, their relationship is cold and strained.  Katniss’ relationship with her hunting companion (and ‘cousin,’ as he was described in broadcasts relating to the Games) is also suffering.  Because Gale has gone to work in the mines full time, they only see each other on their Sunday hunts.  Katniss and Gale barely discuss the Games, and though he kisses her once, they never talk about it.

Katniss & Peeta’s stunt with the berries at the end of the games has also brought down the wrath of the Capitol in the form of the very creepy President Snow, who hasn’t bought their ‘love story’ :

…people viewed your little trick with the berries as an act of defiance, not an act of love. And if a girl from District Twelve of all places can defy the Capitol and walk away unharmed, what is to stop them from doing the same?”

Collins, Suzanne (2010). Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) (p. 21). Scholastic Press. Kindle Edition.

Recognizing that the stunt was Katniss’ idea, Snow informs her that, unless she can convince him (and the nation) that her relationship with Peeta is the real deal, Very Bad Things will happen to her loved ones.  (At this point, it occurred to me that it’s a bit melodramatic to suggest that the fate of Pamen depends upon a teenage love triangle, but that appears to be Snow’s position.)

At the same time, life becomes harder in District 12 as a newer, more stringent force of Peacekeepers begin cracking down on the populace.

Random thoughts:

  • Katniss’ early vacillation between running away from District 12, or staying to fight exposes her great weakness – shortsightedness and an inability to see the bigger picture.  That said, if she had run away from District 12, with or without a variety of supporting characters, I would have enjoyed the chance to see Panem outside of the closely regulated Districts – what’s out there? Ruined cities, old highways, relics of civilization?
  • Katniss could do worse than to be with Peeta, but her resistance – bordering on panic – makes sense in light of her determination to be self sufficient.  She also reiterates that she doesn’t want to marry because she doesn’t want to produce a child who may be chosen as a tribute in the Games.  She also notes at one point that one of the few freedoms they still have in District 12 is being able to choose who to marry, and so being forced to act out a relationship with Peeta, whether or not she actually likes him (which she does, sometimes) jars her on many levels.
  • District 13 is not a smoking ruin, after all!  Its agents have apparently aided the rebellions in the many Districts; it is a hovercraft from 13 that plucks Katniss & the other survivors from the Quarter Quell arena.
  • The Mockingjay

Madge, the Mayor’s daughter, gave Katniss the mockingjay pin before the Games, and begged her to wear it in the arena. Now the provenance of the pin is revealed, which raised more questions than answers to my mind.   Yes, it belonged to Madge’s aunt, but what we didn’t know before is that the aunt was a Tribute in the second Quarter Quell, when Haymitch won the games.  The aunt was also a friend of Katniss’ mother.

So.

Why did Madge give the pin to Katniss?  Was the gift instigated by either Madge’s father, or by her mother, who was the aunt’s twin?  Most importantly to my mind, is the mockingjay already a symbol of the rebellion? It’s too coincidental that the District 13 footage is discredited due to an errant mockingjay in the corner of the screen. And how long has this rebellion been fermenting? Is Madge’s father, the Mayor of District 12, implicated?

Perhaps Haymitch is playing a deeper game than it appears.  Perhaps he’s not the drunk he appears to be – or at least, he’s not as drunk.

When Katniss is plucked from the arena by the District 13 hovercraft, the GamesMaker tells her:

 “We had to save you because you’re the mockingjay, Katniss,” … “While you live, the revolution lives.” The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of the rebellion.

(pp. 386-387).

So, onward to book three, Mockingjay.  In my recollection, this is where the narrative starts to fall apart.

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