Katniss wisely forces them to eat in small portions, in case their malnutrition might force the rich food back up, wasting it. They chat more about Peeta's early infatuation, and Katniss daydreams a bit about what it would mean to be a winner, to live in the "Victor's Village" in a nice house provided by the Capitol. They make fun of Haymitch a bit, and Katniss wonders whether they are in fact more similar than she'd imagined.
The anthem plays, and Peeta sees in the sky that Thresh has died. Katniss is torn, between her pleasure at having one fewer tribute to face, and her disappointment over yet another death of someone she's come to have a relationship with. For the first time, she finds herself using the word "murder" in her thoughts.
Another effect of Thresh's death is that Cato will be on their tails again. So Peeta stays up on first watch, after which Katniss says a silent goodbye to Thresh before going to sleep. The next morning, they have some bread and Katniss learns that Peeta's family, though part of the merchant class as bakers, only eats the staler bread from their stores, a realization about class for Katniss.
The rain stops and Katniss takes stock of herself of her situation. She's been in the arena for what she assumes is two weeks, has seen the field narrow to four tributes, and she thinks about who she is below her hunter persona. The next morning, after a full breakfast and a show of romance for the cameras (again, she is impressed with Peeta's commitment to the illusion), they head out into the forest, and feel now back in the Games after their cave respite.
The storm has flooded the river. Peeta's lame leg makes him a loud companion, which makes hunting difficult. By the time they make it to Katniss's former hunting ground (around the area where she met Rue), Peeta sees through her euphemistic suggestions for quiet and demands to be told which roots to gather so that he won't sabotage her hunt. She does so, also teaching him a bird whistle.
Her hunting is successful and their whistle exchange keeps her confident he's okay. But when one of her whistles isn't returned, she rushes back to the spot to find some gathered berries in a pile, but no Peeta. When he arrives from gathering more roots, she breaks down a bit from her fear of having lost him, and notices someone has been eating some of the cheese (which was in the care package sent by Haymitch). They wonder who it could be when the cannon fires and then the hovercraft picks up a body nearby. They see Foxface lifted up to it, and Katniss pieces together that the berries he picked are poisonous and she must have eaten some.
Despite the shock, they consider using the berries as a trap for Cato, and build a fire to see whether it draws him out. It does not. Peeta confesses he is a bit uncertain about sleeping in a tree, and isn't certain whether his leg can take the climb. Though they are several hours away from the cave, Katniss feels guilty about how she's treated Peeta for his noise, and so she acquiesces to his imprudent request to return.
By the time they get back, they are feeling the effects of being underfed and exhausted. But the heavy wind makes the cave seem like a smart place to be, and after he goes to sleep, Katniss kisses his forehead, "not for the audience, but for [her]." As she sits on watch, she reflects on Foxface's passing, admitting she admires the girl, and thinking about whether she can use Cato's temper against him. Peeta awakes near dawn and then she sleeps till the afternoon. They decide that, since the Gamemakers will likely soon be driving them all together, they will have a big meal to be ready.
They leave the cave later, knowing it will be for the last time. At this point, the rivers have been completely dried by the Gamemakers, meaning they'll have to head towards the lake. They head through the woods as Katniss reminisces on the horrors she's seen over the past few weeks. They make it to the plain but Cato is nowhere to be seen. They treat some water and rest, and Katniss whistles Rue's song, which then comes alive through the countryside via the mockingjays.
Suddenly, Cato comes smashing through the trees towards them. Katniss quickly launches an arrow, which bounces off his chest. They realize he has some type of body armor, but as he passes them, he only tosses them aside and continues running. It doesn't make sense, until Katniss looks towards the woods to see several creatures heading towards them.
The creatures, obviously muttations, are wolf-men running on their hind legs. By instinct, Katniss takes off after Cato, who is heading towards the Cornucopia. It isn't until she's almost there that she remembers Peeta, and turns to see him limping about fifteen yards behind, with the creatures quickly catching up to him. There's nothing she can do, so she follows Cato again, this time climbing the Cornucopia and hoping the creatures can't climb.
As Cato tries to catch his breath and cease his cramping atop the structure, Katniss climbs part of the way and then shoots the muttations to keep them from climbing after Peeta. It's obvious their claws are prohibiting them from climbing after the humans, but one of them takes a running leap and lands on it. As it slides back down, Katniss makes a terrible realization: not only do the creature's eyes reveal it to be part human, but it's actually Glimmer, who's obviously been mutated by the Gamemakers. She shoots it in the throat, a mercy kill. They realize that all of the creatures are the tribute corpses re-animated.
The creatures begin to leap along the sides, and one grabs Peeta's thigh in its teeth, almost dragging him off the Cornucopia. He uses his knife to free himself, but is soon after accosted by Cato, who paralyzes him in a headlock. Katniss has an arrow quickly ready, but it's a stand-off, since shooting Cato would undoubtedly cause Peeta to fall over as well. Using some of the blood from his wound, Peeta draws an "X" on Cato's hand, which Katniss correctly interprets as meaning that Cato's hands aren't shielded. She shoots an arrow into Cato's hand and causes him to fall over.
The body armor proves to be a liability, since it prolongs Cato's torture at the mercy of the creatures. He tries to fight his way out, but is ultimately dragged within the Cornucopia. That night, there's neither a cannon shot nor Cato's image in the sky, which means he's fading slowly under the creature's torture.
Meanwhile, Peeta's leg wound is intense, and the cold is progressively more severe. Katniss does her best with a tourniquet, using an arrow, and both just wait for Cato to die, hoping they don't perish first. By the next morning, they don't have much choice. Katniss leans precariously over the edge of the Cornucopia and, with her last arrow, shoots Cato from "pity, not vengeance." The cannon fires. Soon after, a hole opens in the plain and the creatures escape. However, no hovercraft appears until they move away from the structure in which Cato's body is now housed.
They wonder why nobody is ending the game when Claudius Templesmith's voice booms over the plain, announcing that the dual victor rule is no longer being honored. Peeta insists Katniss kill him, but she can't handle the idea. Suddenly, a stray comment of Peeta's about how the game has to have a victor gives her an idea. She realizes that audiences would revolt if their game had no victor, and perhaps the Gamemakers would be put to death by the Capitol. So she and Peeta both take a handful of the poisonous berries and prepare to eat them in a dual suicide. The gambit works, and Claudius Templesmith is suddenly yelling through the sky that they ought to stop, and he announces them both as the victors of the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games.
By the end of this section, Katniss's identity has been shaped, even if she's slow to being able to express it. First is her connection to Peeta. There is no question that her suicide ploy bears no functional value – that is, a pure stoic might not feel compelled to save his life. But their romance has grown and is full of genuine affection, even if she insists that it's all driven by the demands of the spectacle. This intimacy is aided by her continuing to see him more as a unique individual. She even gets the class realization that Peeta's family, while ostensibly middle class in District 12, still cannot eat their own fresh bread. The world is more complicated than she might have thought. The final class element in these chapters is the description of "Victor's Village," a promise of wealth to the winning tribute. The social criticism in this is that the promise of wealth is yet another way that the people in charge keep the population in line.
This realization is even more manifest in her revolutionary zeal. She exhibits this in both private and public ways. In terms of the former, she silently mourns Thresh, understanding that they are linked both by a shared kindness and by their position as antagonists to the Capitol. For the first time, she uses the word "murder" to herself, acknowledging that the concept of a "game" is a construct that she will no longer subscribe to. Disgusted by the cruelty of reanimating dead tributes, she declares the Capitol her antagonist by refusing to play their game and potentially depriving them of a victor. Having learned that these acts of virtue and kindness yield dividends, she is not entirely taken aback when the ploy works and they are both named victors.
The mockingjay symbol reaches its fullest fruition in this section. When she hums Rue's melody as she and Peeta await Cato, she notes how beautifully it plays when repeated by the larger community of birds. This serves to illustrate that she is now thinking of herself in terms of her place in the world, not just in relation to herself. It is the awakening of a girl who might be a leader.
Lastly, she has firmly decided her identity in terms of values. She shoots Cato, who has been the most direct antagonist, explicitly out of pity and not vengeance. Katniss's ultimate success as a victor is due to having come to know herself and accept her contradictions. By balancing her stoic survival sense and empathy for others, she has attained a degree of self-knowledge that has proved significant in getting her to this point.