The Hunger Games Summary and Analysis
Katniss awakes from nightmares to find she has bitten the side of her mouth and tastes a bit of her blood. After a breakfast in her room, she dons her appointed outfit and then discovers Peeta has been dressed similarly again. They are led together to their first training session with Haymitch, where they decide they will train together for their first stage. Tributes are trained by their mentors for three days before training with all the tributes at once, culminating in a private session with the Gamemakers, who design and execute each year's contest.
Haymitch inquires further into their abilities, and each child accuses the other of downplaying his or her abilities – Peeta is convinced Katniss's hunting skills are formidable, and she praises his strength. Haymitch warns them to keep their skills a secret from other tributes, and also stresses that they should continue to stay by each other's sides. Katniss isn't certain whether Peeta meant his protestations about her abilities as evidence of his affection or contempt, and she lashes out at him.
The next day, they are both led to the basement training gymnasium, which is organized into several training stations. Each tribute is given a cloth square with his or her district number on it, though only Katniss and Peeta are dressed in tandem. The representative, Atala, explains that children can move from station to station at will, but cannot fight one another. This occasion provides Katniss's first glimpse at the other tributes, and she sees that though she is smaller, she is healthier than most – with the exception of the group she calls "the Careers." They are tributes from richer districts who are trained from birth with the expectation they will compete in the Games. This group in particular seems to regard her with contempt.
Following Haymitch's instructions, Peeta and Katniss avoid the heavy-duty skill tables, and instead focus on knot-tying and camouflage, the latter of which proves to come naturally to Peeta. Over the next three days, they continue to train while avoiding archery and weightlifting. All the while, Katniss feels annoyed with Peeta but they maintain the image of a unified front even as no one else talks to them. During their time, she learns that the little girl from District 12 is named Rue and notices Rue seems interested in them. Also, she continues to keep Peeta at an emotional distance, even if they pretend otherwise by staying together.
On the third day, they are called individually from a group lunch to audition before the Gamemakers, where they will be judged via a number score that will communicate their talents to sponsors. As the female tribute from the last District, Katniss is called last and immediately notices that the Gamemakers, who have been there all day and endured 23 previous displays, are drunk and distracted. She has some trouble with the more professional bows available, but eventually begins to display her aptitude at archery. Their indifference to her work, manifested in their attention to a newly-arrived roasted pig, angers her and she fires an arrow directly to their balcony, skewering the apple in the pig's mouth with her arrow. She knows it was a mistake and leaves immediately.
Distraught, Katniss takes to her room, ignoring Haymitch and Effie's requests to talk to her, since she is convinced that her assuredly low score will engender her death through a lack of sponsorship. Finally, she acquiesces and joins her team at dinner. When she confesses the truth, Haymitch admits it will cost her but does assuage her worries that her impetuousness will affect her family back home.
They watch the scores reported on the television. Again, scores are awarded at 1-12. The Careers got their expected 8-10, the little Rue gets a surprising 7, Peeta gets a respectable 8, but the great news is that Katniss gets an 11.
The next morning, Katniss remembers meeting Gale. They met while hunting separately in the woods, and she knew him only as another boy whose father had died in the explosion that took her own. They built a trust and friendship over time to become, finally, a team. In thinking of the importance of having a partner, she for the first time compares gentle, middle-class Peeta to handy, lower-class Gale. The next morning, she is reminded by Effie that they must prepare for her televised interview that will take place the next night. But the big news is that Peeta has informed Haymitch that he would like to be coached separately from that point onwards.
Katniss is torn over Peeta's decision, uncertain why she feels personally betrayed by his decision, but relieved that she can no longer feel compelled to pretend a friendship. Her first four hours of interview prep involve a type of finishing school with Effie – how to walk in high heels, to sit lady-like, to smile, etc.
She and Peeta then change mentors, and she and Haymitch begin strategizing what she should talk about in the interview. He is worried her natural hostility will hurt her in the interview, but they cannot find an attitude that she can pull off effectively, so intense is her contempt for both her mentor and the situation itself.
Full of anger, she smashes plates in her room until the red-headed Avox arrives and surprisingly treats her gently. Katniss whispers an apology but the Avox suggests she did not act inappropriately. They clean the room together and then the Avox tucks her in.
The next day, Cinna and the prep team work hard preparing her for the interview, continuing their fire motif both through costume, stencils, a shimmering skin powder, and most impressively, a dress made of reflective fiery gems. She is enamored of her appearance, and confesses her attitude problem to Cinna, who then suggests she bypass her contempt for the crowd by pretending she is answering all the questions to him personally.
She and Peeta, also dressed in the fire motif, are led out to a stage with the other tributes. Haymitch reminds them to keep up the appearance of a happy pair. She realizes how many people are watching, both live and on TV, when she recognizes the familiar face of Caesar Flickerman, the interview host of over 40 years who has maintained a youthful façade through surgery. Renowned for his affability, he is able through his manner to assuage her stage fright before she goes up, second-to-last. Through the use of Cinna's strategy, she presents herself with charm and honesty, earning in the process both laughs and admiration from the audience. Her crowning moment is when she twirls in her dress and giggles endearingly.
Though a mention of Prim drives her back to her tense hatred, she makes it through the interview well and sits to watch Peeta. His natural charm with a crowd impresses her, but the biggest shock is when he confesses to Caesar that he has always had a crush on Katniss.
Katniss finds herself in these chapters torn over how to interpret Peeta's friendliness. She grows increasingly hostile to him, because his seeming genuine kindness is irreconcilable with her determination to not let emotions interfere with her will to survive (which of course will ultimately mean killing him). She pushes him away, but nevertheless is torn by her emotional sense of betrayal when he asks to train separately. And already, it is becoming clear to the reader that Peeta seems to really like her – something she can't let herself recognize in the midst of her inner turmoil. The spectacle proves useful to her in terms of this, since the unified front strategy gives her a way to explain to herself why she stays close to him.
But her emotions, as well as her revolutionary zeal, are starting to surface in force. This is most apparent with the Gamemakers, when she grows indignant at their disinterest in her. Her anger has been turned towards a higher authority and not just against her fellow tributes – a sign of individual defiance and one hardly lacking in emotional weight. It makes sense that she cries for the first time after this. Instead of being punished for her emotional transgression, though, she finds it brings reward in the shape of her 11 score. Throughout her time in the arena, she will find that displays of emotion, rather than stoic commitment, bring rewards.
It is worth considering how her feelings for Peeta are complicated by class resentments. It's an indirect theme in these chapters – Katniss rarely frames it in this way – but it is implicit in her comparisons of Peeta and Gale. Peeta certainly has a spark and is not utterly compliant – he stands up to her and their mentors, albeit with less force than she does. And yet she thinks of him as being "softer" than Gale – his middle class life as a baker's son has not given him a certain strength she expects, a strength that she finds in Gale, who knows a life of scrounging.
There is one nice passage in these chapters that indicates how Katniss reflects on how their poverty significantly shapes their values in contrast to the vacuousness of the Capitol cronies. On pages 124-125, she considers how Caesar Flickerman's perpetually youthful appearance, due to plastic surgery, is in stark contrast to the Seam value of honoring signs of age, since they indicate one who has managed to survive against the odds.
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