Catching Fire

Catching Fire Summary and Analysis of Part 1: "The Spark" - Chapters 4-6


Katniss laments her position and the fact that she'll likely have to marry Peeta. One of the few freedoms allowed the citizens of Panem is the freedom to choose who you marry and now even this is taken away from Katniss. She's sure that President Snow will insist she and Peeta have children and then, as a mother, she will have to face future reapings with a new fear. Gale has always been convinced that the Capitol rigs the reaping so victors' children are chosen. Katniss knows the trouble she's already caused will almost certainly mean her children will become tributes. She now understands Haymitch's choice of "solitary confinement" (46) after his own Hunger Games victory.

Lying awake in her room on the train, Katniss forms the beginnings of a plan. She will try to run away, taking as many loved ones into the wilderness with her as possible. But in the morning, she finds that there is no time for escape plans. Effie Trinket has arrived to prepare Katniss for the first stop on the Victory Tour - District 11. After hours of cosmetic preparations, Katniss sits down to lunch. Tired and overwhelmed, she snaps at Effie when she complains about a delay. Katniss leaves the stalled train and sits down on the track. Peeta finds her and apologizes for his behavior on their journey home after the Games. He says it was unfair to hold Katniss to anything said in the arena, despite his jealousy of her relationship with Gale. He knows she was trying to keep them both alive. Katniss and Peeta agree to try to become good friends.

Katniss apologizes to Effie and then follows Peeta to his room. He shows her the paintings he has created for his Victory Tour talent. Katniss is taken aback by both the quality and the subject matter. Peeta has painted his memories from the Games - the same memories that plague Katniss every night in the form of nightmares.

Katniss and Peeta get a good look of the agricultural District 11 from the train as they arrive. They glimpse open fields with grazing dairy cows before a huge fence rises before them. It is 35 feet high and topped with coils of barbed wire with metal bases on the bottom. Unlike the rarely-electrified, disheveled fence of District 12, this barrier would be impossible to escape through. To boot, watchtowers manned by armed guards dot the fields. Men, women and children work the crops and the orchards in the distance. Their homes are little more than shacks, making the houses in the Seam seem grand in comparison. Katniss is struck by the vastness of the district. She realizes that the District 11 citizens who appear onscreen during the reaping each year must represent only a mere fraction of the population.

Katniss and Peeta prepare to speak in front of the District's crumbling Justice Building. After the mayor's introduction, they are thrust out onto the verandah. Katniss winces at the sight of the families of Thresh and Rue in the audience. Peeta reads a prepared speech then goes off-script to offer one month of their winnings annually to the families of the fallen District 11 tributes. The crowd gasps. Katniss responds with a kiss that she doesn't have to force. Even though her time at the podium is over, Katniss knows she has to do one last thing. She publicly gives her sincere, personal thanks to Thresh and Rue, the late District 11 tributes who perished in the Hunger Games.

From the crowd, an elderly man whistles Rue's four-note mockingjay tune. In an orchestrated move, all of the people of District 11 press their middle three fingers to their lips and extend their hands to Katniss - the same salute Katniss used to say goodbye to Rue. She and Peeta are ushered inside the Justice Building but she sees a pair of Peacekeepers drag the old man to the top of the steps, where they shoot him in the head.

Inside the Justice Building, they hear two more gunshots from outside. Haymitch takes Katniss and Peeta to a secure room. Peeta knows that Katniss and Haymitch have been keeping something from him - they have shared secrets since the Games. Katniss tells him about President Snow's visit and he is outraged. While Peeta doesn't need to be coached in interviewing, he now realizes that he unwittingly put Thresh and Rue's families in danger with his speech. He insists to Katniss and Haymitch that he must be in the loop from here on out. Later, Katniss and Peeta are escorted into their celebratory banquet. Peeta takes the opportunity before the camera rolls to apologize to Katniss for his outburst. He asks if her kiss with Gale that Snow alluded to was the only one they shared. Katniss says yes, marveling that, after all that's happened that day, the kiss is what weighs on Peeta.

The District 11 banquet is followed by a swirl of speeches and banquets in every other district, each one bringing the victorious group closer to the Capitol. Katniss notes that in 8, 4, and 3 especially, the crowds are overjoyed to see them - "and under that elation, fury...No show of love, however believable, will turn this tide." (71) However, the stresses of the Victory Tour heighten Katniss's nightmares. She wakes up screaming every night, until Peeta starts sleeping beside her. They comfort each other but their entanglement remains physically platonic. Their visits to Districts 2 and 1 are especially awful. Katniss and Peeta know that Cato and Clove, the tributes from 2, might have both made it home if it weren't for them. And Katniss personally killed both Glimmer and Marvel from 1.

At the Capitol, Katniss and Peeta are housed in their old quarters in the Training Center. There, Katniss suggests Peeta propose marriage during their televised interview. He agrees. That night, interview host Caesar Flickerman is beside himself with joy. Crowds from around Panem are televised celebrating the news. President Snow makes an appearance and hugs the couple. Katniss raises her eyebrows, searching for relief that the proposal was enough to keep everyone safe. Snow shakes his head. Katniss is destroyed.

Katniss resolves to put her plan of escape into action. She will have to convince her family, Gale's family, Peeta and Haymitch to run when she gets back home. In the meantime, she decides to enjoy herself at the Capitol party. Why not? She and Peeta try to eat as much of the delicacies spread out before them. They fill up quickly, not wanting anything to go to waste. Octavia wonders why they're no longer eating and they explain they are stuffed. She hands them a glass of clear liquid, explaining it will make them throw up so they can continue eating. It's par for the course at Capitol feasts. Katniss and Peeta are disgusted. While dancing, Peeta wonders if they are wrong to try to subdue the Districts. Everyone in the Capitol has so much while the people who live in the Districts have so little.

Portia introduces Katniss to Plutarch Heavensbee, the new Head Gamemaker. He jokes with Katniss about their last meeting - he was the man who tripped into the punchbowl when she shot her arrow into the pig's apple during the training session. Plutarch checks his watch and, almost in secrecy, shows Katniss the design on its face - her mockingjay. After midnight, Effie ushers Katniss and Peeta back to the train. The next afternoon, Katniss wakes up in Peeta's arms. She didn't have a nightmare. Peeta tells her his nightmares are all about losing her.

District 12's Victory Tour celebration falls on the annual Harvest Festival. The banquet will be at Mayor Undersee's house. Katniss has become close with his daughter, Madge. Unlike other girls, Madge is does not gossip and is uninterested in clothes. She and Katniss go out in the woods together and Katniss likes to listen to Madge play the piano. Madge's mother suffers from severe headaches that leave her bedridden for days. Even as a mayor's wife, she can't be taken to the Capitol to be cured unless she's invited.

As they prepare for dinner at the Mayor's house, Katniss ducks her head into his study to say hello. On TV, she sees the endless parade of images of her and Peeta. As she leaves, a beeping noise pulls her attention back to the TV. A special report for mayors' eyes only flashes on the screen - UPDATE ON DISTRICT 8. Textile production has ceased and the Capitol is sending extra forces into the district. Katniss watches the square mobbed with screaming people in homemade masks being shot at by Peacekeepers. Buildings burn. An uprising has begun.


The first stop on the Victory Tour is District 11, the home of Rue and Thresh, who were tributes killed in The Hunger Games. Katniss’s relationship with 12-year-old Rue was one of the strongest in the first book. A surrogate for Prim, Katniss allied with Rue because of her agility, strategy, and innocence. That she could not protect her devastated Katniss. Here, in District 11, Katniss must confront Rue’s death and see her heartbroken family. Peeta, meanwhile, publicly offers to share his and Katniss' reward with the families of Rue and Thresh. Katniss, despite being warned not to stoke ripples of rebellion, can’t help but offer her sincere thanks and share her horror that a little girl had to die. Katniss' impulsiveness leads to another show of defiance by the people of District 11. She fails to keep her emotions in check and she fails to persuade Snow that she has no ulterior motives against the Capitol.

In a way, the Victory Tour contributes to Katniss’s later role in the rebellion. If the victors had not been taken to each district, they would never know what life was truly like outside District 12. Each step of the way, Katniss sees unrest and hardships that cannot be quelled by a show of love. She realizes that the people are determined and willing to sacrifice their own lives to bring freedom to the districts. Katniss feels responsible that the man who whistled Rue’s tune was shot by Peacekeepers, but his death is the culmination of the ruthlessness of a nation and the frustration of its people. Though Katniss fears she can’t stem the tide, she learns of its depth. Information is power and the Victory Tour gives Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch information that they will later be able use against the Capitol.

One of the tactics the government of Panem uses to keep its citizens in line is misinformation. When Katniss and Peeta’s train pulls into District 11, Katniss is struck by its sheer size. The citizens who turn out – and are filmed – for the reaping are just a fraction of 11’s populace. This reinforces the fact that televised images do not always represent reality. This theme resurfaces during Chapter 6 when Katniss is at Mayor Undersee’s house. She stumbles upon a transmission intended for the mayor’s eyes only reporting on an uprising in District 8. The uprising is threatening production of goods, interrupting daily life for those in the Capitol. However by keeping this news from the people of Panem, Snow and his government can control the story of the nation. Limiting the reports on the rebellion may convince others looking to rebel that nothing can be done. Lies about the number of people in 11 can present an image to the other Districts of a weakened people. Snow is using the media to make sure the people of Panem believe they do not have strength of numbers or conviction, but Katniss learns the opposite.

In this section, Katniss also gets a more complete glimpse into life in the Capitol, and she is shocked by its excesses. The food prepared for the feast in the the victors' honor would feed her District for months. Wondering why they’re not eating, Octavia offers Katniss and Peeta a concoction that would make them vomit – and enable them to keep consuming. Octavia assures them that this is common practice in the Capitol. This is a reference to the myth of the “vomitorium” in Ancient Rome. It has been rumored that Romans had a room devoted to purging oneself in the middle of a feast in order to continue gorging. Though dispelled – the word refers to a passageway in theaters designed to quickly “purge” the audience – this is one of many references to ancient history and mythology in Catching Fire. In Chapter 6 we also meet Plutarch Heanvensbee, the new Head Gamemaker, one of several characters who have namesakes rooted in ancient culture. Plutarch of Chaeronea was a wealthy and influential Greek philosopher and author of biographies of prominent historical figures, including Spartacus.

In these chapters, Collins also reveals complexity in the characters of Peeta and Haymitch. Peeta is deeply sensitive but also capable of surprising Katniss with his anger. He is just as moved in District 11 as Katniss is and uses his position to offer provisions to Rue and Thresh’s family. Peeta also displays a talent for painting, though his subject matter is the disturbing scenes from the Games. Just like Katniss, Peeta is haunted by his time in the arena. Haymitch, meanwhile, has lived with his survivors' guilt for far longer than Katniss and Peeta. Again, his addiction and calculating nature begin to make more sense to Katniss as she adjusts to her new life as a celebrated victor. The psychological effects of killing others takes its toll on the victors and the loved ones the dead leave behind, like Mayor Undersee’s wife who has suffered debilitating headaches since the death of her twin sister in the arena. The Games destroys even those who survive the experience.