Katniss finds Madge and tells her that the mockingjay pin she gave Katniss before the Games are now all the rage in the Capitol. The pin once belonged to Madge's aunt, (who died in the arena) but had been in Madge's mother's family for a long time. Madge and Katniss discuss the origin of the mockingjay. Jabberjays were birds capable of learning and repeating human phrases, the result of a "muttation" created by the Capitol to spy on the rebels. But the plan backfired when the rebels began feeding lies to the Jabberjays. The Capitol eventually discarded them, leaving them to die. But in the wild, they mated with mockingbirds, creating mockingjays. While a mockingjay is a songbird and not a weapon like Madge insists, it is nevertheless "a creature the Capitol never intended to exist" (92).
After the Harvest Festival, Katniss leaves clues for Gale in the snow, leading to a concrete house by the lake her father used to take her to. Gale arrives a short time after Katniss does, rejecting the gifts she left for him - a pair of Cinna's gloves (he thinks they're Peeta's), food, and a flask. It is clear he feels betrayed by Katniss' engagement to Peeta. Katniss immediately tells Gale about President Snow's threat on his life. After some hesitation, she also tells him why the proposal was a necessary illusion. Katniss asks Gale if he will consider running away with her. He is overjoyed even though he acknowledges how hard it will be to flee with his younger siblings. No matter what, though, he loves her.
Katniss is caught off guard by his admission. She cares for Gale deeply, but has no time to think about love until everyone is safe. He's disappointed, but still willing to go - until he learns that Katniss plans on bringing Haymitch and Peeta along as well. Gale reasons that Snow won't kill Peeta after his performance during the proposal. Katniss disagrees; the uprising in District 8 has changed the game. Gale perks up and Katniss knows she should have kept the news about Eight a secret. He is brightened by the idea of a revolt and suggests to Katniss they join the fight. She is aghast; all she wants to do is keep her loved ones safe. Gale is disgusted. He says she could do so much. He throws down the gloves and leaves.
Katniss decides to try to reason with Hazelle before Gale can speak to the miners about the uprising in District 8. She hopes she can get her to talk some sense into her son. Katniss still plans on going ahead with her escape. She approaches Peeta and he agrees to go along with her but suggests they talk it through with Haymitch. They walk to the square, where a huge crowd has gathered. Peeta tries to prevent her from seeing the cause of the commotion but she learns the truth anyway - Gale is being brutally whipped.
Katniss throws herself in between Gale and the whip. It catches her in the face. While on the ground, she looks up at the Head Peacekeeper. It is not Cray, but a cruel grey-haired man. He lifts the whip again, aiming for Katniss, but Haymitch calls for him to stop. Haymitch trips over Darius, who has been knocked out. The Head Peacekeeper finally recognizes Katniss and pauses. He maintains she interrupted the punishment of a criminal but Haymitch threatens that he'll report him to the Capitol. Purnia, a regular at the Hob, steps forward and tells the Peacekeeper that he has already doled out the required number of lashes for a first-time poaching offense. Reluctantly, he lets Gale be taken away by Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch.
Bristel and Thom, Gale's crewmates in the mines, help carry him to Katniss's house. They tell Katniss what happened. After meeting Katniss, Gale went to Cray's house to sell him the wild turkey he snared in the woods, knowing it was his favorite. But instead of Cray, Gale found the new Head Peacekeeper, Romulus Thread. Cray hasn't been seen since that morning. Darius tried to get Thread to stop whipping Gale after 20 lashes, but was knocked out for making trouble.
Katniss's mother cleans and bandages Gale's wounds. Even though he is barely conscious, he must be in excruciating pain. Katniss is hysterical. Her mother orders Haymitch and Peeta to take her away. She cries in her room. Later, Madge shows up with a box of morphling, a powerful painkiller from the Capitol. Katniss wonders if maybe Madge has feelings for Gale. Katniss stays with Gale all night, thinking about what he must have felt watching the Games. She comes to the conclusion that they belong to one another. When he stirs, she apologizes and tells him she's going to "stay right here and cause all kinds of trouble" (119). They kiss.
Peeta relieves Katniss in the morning. She can tell he is hurt by her closeness with Gale. She realizes that no matter what she does, she is hurting someone. After a nightmare-filled sleep, she wakes to find District 12 overwhelmed by blizzard. Katniss hopes the weather will keep the Peacekeepers from her door. She thinks about her decision to fight and finds a flaw in the plan - Prim. She must protect her sister at all costs. However, the Capitol has already hurt Prim through years of starvation and near slavery conditions. Katniss tries to figure out how District 8 organized their rebellion.
Meanwhile, Prim and Katniss's mother are taking care of Gale. Mrs. Everdeen remembers trying to help victims of whippings before Katniss was born, when the Peacekeepers were more strict and brutal. When the storm settles, Katniss goes out with Haymitch and Peeta, telling them that the new plan is to rebel rather than run. Haymitch is incredulous. When the reach the square, they find a new order has taken hold within the past few days. Armed Peacekeepers are everywhere, an official whipping post, stockades and a gallows have been erected, and the Hob has been burned down. The citizens of District 12 are terrified. Katniss wonders how a terrified people could be motivated to fight back.
The mines have been shut down for 2 weeks, bringing District 12 to the brink of starvation. Food shortages even affect the wealthy and the packages that arrive on Parcel Day are ruined or rotten. Katniss is able to arrange for Hazelle to find work cleaning up at Haymitch's, but Rory, meanwhile, has had to sign up for tesserae. With her friends, families and fellow citizens in distress, the arrival of a box of President-approved wedding dresses upsets Katniss. She steals off into the woods despite the great risk in doing so. She is almost at the lake when someone calls for her to stop. She cocks an arrow, but turns around to find someone in a Peacekeeper's uniform holding a gun on her. The gun is dropped, however, and the person holds out a cracker in her gloved hand. Stamped in the center of the bread is a mockingjay.
The biggest conflict in Catching Fire is whether or not Katniss will join the rebellion. The events in these chapters make the decision for her. Her conversation with Gale in the lake house, his subsequent beating and recovery, and the increased authority presence and crackdown convince Katniss that the Capitol must be dealt with.
Gale initially agrees to run away with Katniss, believing they have a chance for love if they can get out from under the gaze of Snow and his surveillance. Katniss is not convinced and, as she mentions when the issue arises, love is a luxury she cannot afford. Her goal is to keep her loved ones safe and if the promise of a romance with Gale is necessary to sway him, then so be it. However, news of the uprising in District 8 foils their plans. Gale’s rebellious streak overrides any affection he may have for Katniss; he is actually disappointed that she would suggest running when she knows the revolution is brewing, especially because she is already in a position to become a rebel leader. Katniss is hurt by his reaction and worried that he will only get himself into trouble. This occurs much sooner than she anticipates.
Gale’s nearly fatal whipping at the hands of new Head Peacekeeper Romulus Thread changes the conversation. This is another incident of extreme violence that Katniss witnesses – too many for a teenager. On a personal level, the threat of losing Gale pushes Katniss to realize some of her own feelings for her friend. In Catching Fire, Katniss is able place herself in the shoes of others as she continues to mature beyond her own self-interest. Katniss realizes how difficult it was for Gale to watch her in the arena and with Peeta. However, it’s not quite clear whether their kiss is motivated by pure love or guilt. Likely it’s a combination of several factors as Katniss still struggles to get a handle on her own emotions:
“I realize the answer to who I am lies in that handful of poisonous fruit. If I held them out to save Peeta because I knew I would be shunned if I cam back without him, then I am despicable. If I held them out because I loved him, I am still self-centered, although forgivable. But if I held them out to defy the Capitol, I am someone of worth. The trouble is, I don’t know exactly what was going on inside me at that moment” (118).
This moment set in motion the course of the rest of Katniss’s life, and understanding her motivation will help her decide which path to take. Seeing Gale desperately hurt and the resulting increase of authority in District 12 also helps her to make a choice “of worth.” Though she often feels guilty over getting others in trouble or hurt, she slowly begins to realize that she is not always directly responsible. From a coming-of-age angle, this signals the self-awareness that comes with maturity; Katniss realizes that she is not the center of the universe. This moment also stokes her political awakening as she comes to understand that the abuses of the government render all citizens powerless. Even Prim, whose life Katniss fought so hard to save, has suffered many different forms of abuse over her short lifetime.
Katniss always acts to preserve her way of life. When the new wave of Peacekeepers burn down the Hob and close down the mines, pushing the District to the brink of starvation, Katniss finally comes to the conclusion that Snow’s regime must be overthrown, lest there be no home or family left to protect.
One final note on these chapters – Romulus Thread, the vicious new Head Peacekeeper, is another character whose name traces back to Roman mythology. Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of Silvia, a Vestal Virgin who had been raped by Mars, the God of War. The babies were abandoned and then taken in by a she-wolf. When they reach adulthood, they decide to build a new city and quarrel over the location. Remus is killed. Romulus goes on to found Rome. In Catching Fire, the name befits the character – a man who represents authority and bloodlust.