The tracker jacker stings lead her into intense nightmares in which she confronts all of her worst fears – namely, that those she means to protect are punished. Finally, she awakes to find herself in a shallow hole, having slept for what she believes was at least a full day or two. As she tries to assuage her parched tongue, she thinks of Gale and wonders why Peeta would have saved her. For the first time, she realizes how different the two boys truly are. Her one pleasure at this point is that she's now found herself with a bow.
She's in bad shape, what with her weight loss, her burns, and her wounds, but the most important goal is to hydrate herself. She moves slowly through the woods, killing a rabbit and finally finding a stream. She eats a bit of the food from her pack and then continues to move, for the first time uphill. In the afternoon, she risks a fire to cook a bird she's shot, but as she prepares it, she hears a twig snap and recognizes Rue hiding nearby.
She calls out offering to form an alliance, an offer Rue accepts quickly. Rue, a tribute from the agricultural District 11, knows how to cure Katniss's stings. She finds some particular leaves and chews them up, after which they provide great relief when placed over the wounds. In return, Katniss uses her lotion on Rue's burn. They pool their food for a dinner, and while Katniss realizes the foolishness of forming an alliance with someone she will ultimately have to kill, she is pleased to have a friend. As they talk, Rue explains to Katniss how in District 11, they grow crops for all of Panem but are not allowed to eat them themselves. Katniss wonders if the television broadcast is blocking out their conversation so as not to reveal to any district how other districts work.
They spend some time comparing their respective supplies, and Rue explains that the sunglasses from Katniss's pack, which she found weird to wear in sunlight, are actually night-vision glasses. As Katniss had slept through the previous night's casualty announcement, Rue tells her there are 10 tributes left. What's more, she has been spying on the Career camp and has some information. They have camped out alongside the lake and Cornucopia, living off its supplies. What's more, Peeta is no longer with them.
When the night comes, Katniss offers to share her sleeping bag with Rue, an offer Rue gladly accepts. But before they go to sleep, Katniss pieces together that maybe the Careers won't be so well off without their supplies and proposes for the first time that maybe her best defense would be a strong offense.
Katniss reasons that her poverty might work to her advantage, since it has taught her to survive without resources, where the Careers lack hunting skills and are thus dependent on the Cornucopia. She begins to think how she'll destroy their food, when she falls asleep. The next morning, the cannon fires, signifying another death and waking Katniss.
After a breakfast of eggs that Rue gathered alongside some rabbit and berries, Katniss grills Rue for more details about the Career camp. Rue tells her that they have been hunting during the day, leaving a boy from District 3 to guard the supplies. This confuses Katniss, since the boy in question is not very big. Katniss intuits that there is an uncertain element about the situation, which leaves her unclear on how she might destroy the supplies.
Katniss and Rue gather berries and greens together, and Katniss learns about her new ally. In District 11, foraging is much more difficult than in District 12, mainly because the 11 Peacekeepers are more aggressive. Rue's great pleasure is music, and she tells how during the harvest, she stays up in the trees so as to see the flag signifying quitting time. When she sees it, she hums a tune that mockingjays (District 11 has its fair share) then repeat through the fields so that all of the harvesters know they can quit for the day. Realizing how much Rue values mockingjays, Katniss offers her the gold pin, but Rue insists Katniss keep it.
After lunch, the girls devise a plan. They will set up three campfires, which Rue will then light at intervals to distract the Careers so Katniss can destroy the Cornucopia. As a means of communication, Rue teaches Katniss her harvest whistle and they agree to send the message via mockingjays in case either is delayed on her way to the rendezvous point. Before they part, Rue hugs Katniss, an emotional move that calls Prim to her mind.
As Katniss heads towards the Careers camp, she wonders whether Peeta was attacked for helping her, or whether the whole thing was just a hallucination. She makes it to a spot Rue indicated that allows her to survey them. Along with Cato and two others is the small boy. They are camped around the Cornucopia, which has been drained of supplies. The supplies now sit covered by a net, a good distance away from the Cornucopia. Katniss is confused and wondering what she's missing when she sees Cato point out to the woods. Rue has lit the first fire.
They begin to argue loudly, and Katniss hears one ask about "Lover Boy." Cato indicates he's no concern – "I know where I cut him" – and says his main goal is to find and kill a girl who Katniss assumes means her. They all leave, including the guard.
Katniss waits a while, still wondering how to pull this off. She considers launching flaming arrows, but it would likely fail and give away both her position and a precious arrow. Suddenly, someone rushes out from the woods – it's the girl tribute who Katniss nicknamed "Foxface." She shows her wily nature as she arrives near the supplies and strangely begins to hop closer and closer to them. She arrives at them, fills her pack, and then escapes the same way. Katniss then pieces it together – the boy from District 3, the factory district, must have knowledge of electronics and used it to reactivate the mines that initially kept tributes on their metal circles at Game's beginning. This explains why the Careers would value such a small boy, and why they would be willing to leave the supplies out in the open.
As she sees the smoke from Rue's second fire, she still lacks a plan. Then she notices a burlap sack of apples up top, and devises one. It takes her three arrows, but she is able to rip the bag open, causing the apples to slip down the pile and all over the ground, which then causes an explosion that blows her backwards into the air.
Katniss is slammed hard against the ground, and has to manage both shrapnel and smoke. She knows escape is crucial but lacks the composure to do so immediately. In addition to her shortness of breath, her left ear is bleeding and she can hear from neither ear. And lastly, she wants to avoid looking weak for the audiences.
Her only option is to crawl, which she does. Two belated explosions slow her down, but she makes it back to the bushes right as Cato and his crew return. Cato exhibits a petulant anger while the others try to find any supplies to salvage from the ruined pile. There is nothing, which prompts Cato to break the District 3 boy's neck.
Katniss has to pass the day in the bushes, and at night everyone sees the post-anthem images, which show the Careers that whoever blew up their pile did not die in the explosion. They light some torches, put on their own night-vision sunglasses, and take off after whoever it was, not knowing she's watching them. A while later, Katniss risks heading to the lake to drink and to clean herself. Though her sunglasses give her night vision, she still cannot hear. When she stops to sleep, she remembers she left her sleeping bag with Rue and thus must brave the cold night.
She is woken the next morning by Foxface's laugh as Foxface surveys the wreckage. She realizes that destroyed supplies mean advantage for the non-Careers. Katniss considers offering her alliance, but refrains. She realizes she can hear out of her right ear, though her left is still non-functional.
A while later, Katniss decides to head back along the stream. She kills some fish and groosling, and takes off her boots to keep from leaving a trail. Rue is not at their rendezvous spot, but there is no mockingjay sign and so Katniss does not worry yet. What concerns her more is a growing hunger, which her meager food does not sate.
Once it becomes late afternoon and Rue has still not returned, Katniss heads out to the spot where the third fire, which Rue never set off to her knowledge, was supposed to be. She decides to search for Rue, who she assumes is up in a tree hiding from a threat, and appreciates the compulsion to be active. Finally, she hears Rue's melody repeated through the mockingjays. She follows the sound until it is eclipsed by Rue's scream through the trees, which leads Katniss to rush out to a clearing where Rue is entangled in a net. She calls Katniss's name right before a spear is thrust into her body.
Rue's killer is the boy from District 1, who Katniss kills via arrow right away. She rushes to Rue and realizes the girl's wound is too severe to be healed. As she dies, she asks Katniss to sing to her, something Katniss has not done since her father died. But the connection she's made between Rue and Prim is affecting, and she emotionally sings a song that the mockingjays then repeat throughout the woods.
Katniss is full of rage against the Capitol for facilitating such cruelty, and she thinks of what Peeta told her on the roof, that he hoped to die in such a way that the Capitol knew they do not own him. As a small rebellion, Katniss decorates Rue's body with flowers, a type of funeral that is antithetical to the murderous raison d'etre of the Games, even though she knows they'll never allow that detail to be aired on TV. She touches three fingers to her lips and raises her arm to Rue's body as it is removed, using a traditional District 12 salute.
After an emotional goodbye to Rue, she leaves the clearing feeling full of hatred. As she is about to make camp in a tree, another sponsor gift comes down. In it, she finds a loaf of bread, the type of bread specifically grown in District 11. She realizes it is a gesture of appreciation from Rue's district, particularly poignant since gifts are extremely expensive and the district is poor.
Committed to a new aggressive hunting strategy, Katniss first gets herself food. She risks making a fire, partially hoping it will draw Cato out but not surprised it does not. She wonders if maybe they think Thresh, who was also from District 11, was the one who avenged Rue's death and not her. For the first time, Katniss begins to believe she has a chance to win the Games, not only because the playing field has been leveled but because she is enlivened by the desire for revenge. It is only at this point that Katniss realizes that she has committed her first kill.
That evening, instead of the anthem, a series of trumpets are played. These traditionally indicate a message for the tributes, usually an invitation to a "feast," meant to draw hungry tributes together and encourage bloodbath to entertain the folks at home. But the announcement, spoken by Claudius Templesmith, is not a feast invitation but a change in the rules: for the first time in Games history, the two tributes from any particular district can win together. Katniss doesn't have to kill Peeta.
Instinctively, she screams out his name.
Peeta's kindness yet again challenges Katniss's stoicism. She insists to herself that she is committed to the murderous reality of the Games, but she is becoming less able to hide it from her reader. She continues to remind herself that she will have to kill Rue at some point, but it's clear enough that she would not, since her connection to Rue is as much emotional as tactical.
In fact, her stoic dedication is put to the test soon after when she allies with Rue. She considers to herself the tactical advantage of the alliance even as it is abundantly clear that she is desperate for friendship, and the girl she associates with Prim is a perfect companion. As Prim was seen to be a personification of Katniss's childish innocence in the early chapters, her immediate embrace of Rue as ally illustrates the journey towards shaping her identity as a girl defined by individual moral choices and not just survival. Also note that Collins' clever naming continues with Rue. The plant rue is associated in poetry with sadness, regret, and grace. In mythology, the basilisk has no effect on rue (and indeed the arena has little effect on the girl Rue). Finally, the plant rue is an insect repellant.
However, she doesn't fully realize her emotional connection to Rue until the young girl dies. Her song is genuine, not forced by awareness of the audience, and her flower decorations exhibit both her realizations about her identity and her burgeoning rebellion. In terms of the revolutionary theme, Katniss considers the flowers to be an act of individual rebellion against the Capitol. It can only hurt her chances in the arena, but she is asserting herself to be not controlled by them – in effect, understanding the meaning of Peeta's roof confession. Additionally, this episode illustrates Katniss's acceptance of her identity – she is a girl who values other people's dignity, and not just a competitor willing to accept their rules to survive. As happened before, she is rewarded for this selflessness with a gift, this time from District 11. One other episode illustrating her growing sense of values is when she sees Cato snap the engineer boy's neck – by confronting the brutality honestly, she is learning what she will not let herself become.
The image of the mockingjay is fleshed out in these chapters – it's a bird that reproduces music (a symbol of emotion for Katniss, who relates it to her father), producing beauty by working in tandem with its brethren. The way in which it represents Katniss's acceptance of community will continue to resonate.
After Rue's death, her hatred increases for the Capitol and it becomes a more distinct antagonist. Nevertheless, she does continue to play the spectacle through these chapters, worrying about showing the true extent of her physical pain after the mine-field explosion because of audiences. For all of her growth, she still has a survival instinct that keeps her hardened to the suffering in the arena. This stoic determination flounders when she learns she can ally with Peeta, and then loses herself into a cry for him.