Catching Fire

Catching Fire Summary and Analysis of Part 2: "The Quell" - Chapters 16-18


Katniss knows that Avox Darius is a message to her. She doesn't react to his presence to spare him punishment, but, out of sight under the table, they squeeze each other's hands in solidarity. They all watch the recap of the Opening Ceremony and the show is pitiful - it is a shame to see the older victors debased so publicly. Even Effie is having a hard time remaining upbeat. Katniss eats breakfast in her room the next morning, waiting until the last possible minute to report to training. Haymitch, wearing the gold bracelet like Effie suggested, tells Katniss she must continue to stay in love with Peeta but also to try to make friends with the other victors. Allies will be crucial in the Quell.

The victors are slow to show up to training. Only Brutus and Enobaria from District 2 are there on time. Enobaria is famous for ripping another tribute's throat out with her teeth during her Games. Her teeth are filed to points and inlaid in gold. She has many fans in the Capitol. About half of the victors stagger in throughout the first hour of training. Katniss spends a lot of time at the knot-tying station learning new snare techniques. Finnick joins her and makes a noose, pretending to hang himself for her amusement. She rolls her eyes and moves to the fire-building station. She practices working with only flint and eventually strikes up a conversation with District 3's Wiress and Beetee.

Wiress is about the same age as Katniss's mother, with a quiet voice that often trails off mid-sentence. Beette, the fidgety older male victor, often finishes those sentences. They are both inventors, which makes sense as their district is known for its electronics. Without being explicit, Katness and Beetee reference trouble in their Districts as signified by "backups in production" (227). Wiress points up to the stands where Plutarch Heavensbee and the other Gamemakers are milling about. A patch of space by a table seems to be vibrating. Katniss strains to see it. Beetee identifies it as a chink in the armor of a force field, erected to protect the Gamemakers from the tributes.

At lunch, Peeta and Katniss swap notes. He is surprised to learn of Katniss's appreciation of Wiress and Beetee, noting that the other victors call them "Nuts and Volts." He favors teaming up with Chaff and Seeder from 11. Katniss is wary of Chaff after his behavior at the Opening Ceremony, but he seems less offensive at lunch. Back in training, Katniss assesses more victors. Cashmere and Gloss from 1 are polite but cool and Katniss can't help but think of Glimmer and Marvel, the tributes from their district she killed. She fails to come up with a way to mention Twill and Bonnie to Cecelia and Woof from 8. Finnick introduces Katniss to Mags, an elderly woman who is also from District 4. Though her speech is garbled from a stroke, she still knows how to make a fish hook out of anything. This skill, coupled with her volunteering to spare a hysterical young girl from her district, make Mages attractive to Katniss. After she displays her bow and arrow skills, Peeta is sure that half of the victors will request an alliance with Katniss. However, Katniss tells Haymitch that she wants Mags and District 3.

Peeta and Katniss wait with the other victors for their 15-minute private sessions with the Gamemakers. Both are unsure about what they will do. They confide in one another, admitting it will be hard to kill these people that they've grown friendly with. Katniss says it will be harder than last year, with the exception of Rue, which would have been horrific no matter the circumstances. Peeta is called in. 40 minutes later, Katniss goes in. She smells industrial cleaner and finds that a mat has been dragged to the center of the floor in an effort to cover something - something Peeta did. Katniss glares at the Gamemakers, especially Plutarch. She thinks about how smug they are in the safety of their positions. Something occurs to her and she begins her demonstration. Using what Finnick showed her, she knots together a noose and slips it around one of the training dummies, hanging it from the rafters. She carefully paints something on its chest, then steps away to watch the reaction of the Gamemakers. The dummy is labeled SENECA CRANE.

A shocked Plutarch dismisses Katniss. Over dinner, Effie and Haymitch press Peeta and Katniss to reveal what they did in their private sessions. Peeta painted a picture of Rue covered in flowers. Haymitch asks what he hoped to accomplish with that display. Peeta wanted to "hold them accountable, if only for a moment...For killing that little girl" (240). Katniss admits what happened in her session and everyone is disturbed, including Portia and Cinna. Peeta tells Haymitch that he and Katniss want to go it alone in the arena as well. They gather around the TV for the training scores. Cashmere, Gloss, Brutus, Enobaria and Finnick score high, and the rest are middle-to-low. Both Peeta and Katniss, however, have scored perfect 12s. They will be targets.

Katniss understands she will most likely die in the Games, but her resolve is firm. Her death will still be in defiance of the Capitol and her spirit will give the Districts hope. She is valuable as a martyr, and Peeta, who could turn his pain into eloquence, is more valuable alive. Effie excuses them from interview coaching, citing the recent Victory Tour as sufficient practice. With the whole day to themselves, Katniss and Peeta take a picnic up to the roof to spend one last nice day together.

After saying goodbye to Octavia, Venia and Flavius, Cinna helps Katniss dress for the interview. President Snow has insisted she wear the chosen wedding dress. It is heavier then she remembers. Cinna instructs Katniss not to raise her arms above her head until she twirls. He insists it be her big finale. She meets up with Peeta, who is wearing a tuxedo similar to what grooms wear in the Capitol. Katniss thinks about the modest wedding traditions in District 12, where the couple makes their first fire together in their new home and shares a piece of toasted bread.

Caesar Flickerman, in lavender this year, begins the interview. Each victor knows how to play the crowd and come out fighting. Cashmere, Gloss and Johanna play up their love affairs with the Capitol, Beetee questions the legality of the Quell, Finnick recites a poem to his one true love in the Capitol (it could be any number of people), and both Chaff and Seeder suggest that President Snow prove he is all-powerful by changing the rules of the Quell. By the time it's Katniss's turn, the audience is a wreck. She says she's sorry they won't be able to see her wedding, but at least they can see her dress. Cinna gives her the signal and she twirls. As she twirls, the dress burns away, revealing another dress beneath it the color of coal and made of feathers. The winglike sleeves have patches of white on them. Cinna has turned Katniss into a mockingjay.

Peeta takes the stage next. He "confides" in Caesar and the audience that he and Katniss already married in a secret ceremony before the Quell. In another false bombshell, he reveals that Katniss is pregnant. The Capitol audience is abuzz in cries of injustice and cruelty. They drown out Caesar, who tries to wrap up the interviews. Peeta takes his place next to Katniss in the row of victors. Tears streaming down his face, he grabs her hand. Without a word, the victors join hands one by one: "all twenty-four of us stand in one unbroken line in what must be the first public show of unity among the districts since the Dark Days" (258). The feed is cut, but not before the image has been broadcast.

Katniss assures Peeta he need not apologize for his interview. No matter what Gale might think, she feels "empowered" by his deceit (258). Haymitch tells them the city is in chaos. While the President will never cancel the Games, the people of the Capitol are confused about what they are feeling. Learning Effie has been sent home, they tell Haymitch to give her a sincere thanks for all she's done. Haymitch gives them the same advice he did last year - "stay alive" - but to Katniss, he adds, "remember who the enemy is" (260).

After spending her last night with Peeta, Katniss reports to the roof. She and Cinna go up in the hovercraft, where her tracker is implanted in her left forearm. They arrive in the Launch Room and Cinna dresses her in the Quell's uniform - a sheer, fitted blue jumpsuit with a purple belt. He makes sure to put on her mockingjay pin. They walk over the tube when instructed and Katniss steps on to the plate, but it does not immediately rise into the arena. She is horrified as she watches three Peacekeepers barge in and cuff and beat Cinna before dragging him away. Only then is Katniss launched into the arena. The ground around her is shimmering. Water laps her boots. "This is no place for a girl on fire" (263).


Katniss must willingly take on allies if she is going to stay alive. Her reluctance to work with tributes other than Peeta stems from her natural mistrust of others and also the fear of having to kill someone she cares about. True to form, her choices are not the most physically adept people - District 3’s Wiress and Beetee and 4’s Mags.

Wiress and Beetee, nicknamed “Nuts and Volts”, are both intelligent and damaged from their experiences in the arena. Wiress is eccentric. She has trouble finishing thoughts but she can spot weak spots in the forcefield. Beetee calls them “chinks in the armor” and expects they may be able to exploit these in the arena. Beetee is an inventor in 3 and is technically brilliant. Like Katniss, they are naturally underestimated by the rest of the victors. Katniss again displays her cunning in choosing the pair from 3 as allies. Though Haymitch assumes she does so because she is being contrarian, she also sees what the rest of the tributes cannot see – that Wiress and Beetee are useful.

Katniss feels the same way about Mags, the elderly woman from District 4. Katniss chooses her for two reasons. First, she can make a fish hook out of anything, a skill that Katniss, a girl from coal mining 12, does not have. What appeals to her most, however, is the fact that Mags had volunteered for an unwell girl in the Quarter Quell reaping. Again there is a similarity between Mags and Katniss, as both have sacrificed themselves to protect someone weaker than them. Katniss’s choice will prove to be astute, as Mags will indeed help her in the arena later on.

Katniss and Peeta make several rebellious moves in the days leading up to the Games. In their individual private sessions, each takes jabs at the Gamemakers through their displays of skill. Peeta uses his talent for painting to create a portrait of Rue’s body covered in flowers – a moment of defiance from Katniss’s first Games. Katniss hangs a dummy with the name SENECA CRANE painted on it. This is a warning to those in charge that even their lives are not secure. In the interviews, Peeta expands upon his and Katniss's storybook romance by concocting a false marriage and pregnancy. This elicits screams from the crowd. This lie exposes the sheer brutality of the Games to the Capitol citizens, who are usually kept in the dark to the reality of situations. At the close of the interview, all of the tributes stand together and join hands. They present a lasting image of unity to the audience in one last act of defiance before they are forced to kill one another. Unlike the moment with the berries, this act is one of unquestionable defiance. With nothing left to lose, Katniss starts to embrace her revolutionary spirit.

Earlier, Cinna turned Katniss into the literal mockingjay through her wardrobe. Her wedding dress burns away to reveal the symbol of the revolution. It is a bold move for Cinna, a character whose sensitivity and faith in Katniss make him a tacit hero but not a perceived threat to the establishment. His action, however, proves that the rebellion lives in the Capitol as well as the Districts. Cinna is beaten and arrested before Katniss goes into the arena to give her a final message from Snow that defiance has consequences.