Welcome to the Hunger Games read-along! Beginning July 1st, 2010, we will be reading and chatting about one chapter a day of both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins in anticipation of the release of Mockingjay on August 24th.

In the unlikely event that this is your first read of these amazing books, welcome! And more importantly, beware of spoilers! There will be spoilers.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hunger Games Chapter 25

The creatures are...*drum roll please*...MUTTATIONS! Like wolves, but with back leg balance and bendable wrists. Wolverinas? I always wonder here why *all* the wolves went after Cato -- was their main purpose to drive him to the Cornucopia when the drought didn't work fast enough? But I digress.

Katniss remembers she's part of a team and turns back to help Needy McPeeta, but Peeta tells her to keep climbing. The ridged Cornucopia is blisteringly hot from the sun. Katniss gets to the top and loads an arrow to fire at the exhausted Cato, but at the last second Peeta's cry distracts her (and prevents her from having to make a single proactive kill in the whole book...).

Peeta makes it up, and together with Cato P&K focus on the Mutts, who upon closer inspection are sporting a variety of hairstyles. When a blond wolf leaps up, Katniss realizes why its green eyes look so familiar -- they are Glimmer's eyes (man, those lower districts have such strange names. Nothing like plain old "Katniss.")

Katniss shoots Glimmer-wolf in the throat, then K&P recognize Foxface.2, backpackboy.2, and -- the smallest mutt with huge brown eyes and a district 11 dog tag woven out of straw -- Rue.2. K&P wonder how much of each real person is in these creations (and I wonder if we really needed this kind of curveball at the climax of the book...), when Cato regains his breath and grabs Peeta in "some sort of headlock."

Katniss is afraid to shoot lest both Cato and Peeta fall over, but then Peeta X's Cato's hand and she takes the hint and fires an arrow into it. She grabs Peeta just in time, and Cato tumbles into the wolf pack, where a strangely melancholy, existential brawl ensues. K&P are just waiting to hear the cannon, but come nightfall, it still hasn't come.

The thing is, Peeta's bleeding, and even after Katniss wraps the wound with her sleeve and inserts an arrow into the knot, it's still bad enough that K&P need to win soon if he wants to survive. As the temperature drops, Katniss wonders why the Mutts won't just kill Cato, and Peeta reminds her that it's the viewers at home -- this is "the final word" in entertainment (something of a pet phrase for Katniss). She reflects that these are the worst hours of her life, and yes, she knows that's saying something.

Katniss yells to keep Peeta awake, knowing she'll go INSANE if he dies. They track time by watching the moon, which gives way to another day -- another day in which Cato is still kicking. Barely. Katniss takes her last arrow back from Peeta's tourniquet, leans over the edge of the Cornucopia, and locates the "hunk of meat" (grossest food imagery in the book?) that used to be Cato. He seems to be whispering "please." Katniss shoots him in the face "out of pity" (thus absolved?) and the canon goes boom.

But when they're still not declared the winners, K&P decide they must need to give the hovercraft room to claw the body. So after the Mutts go back into the ground (in what I consider a missed opportunity to say more about their drives/desires), K&P risk the trek to the lake, opening Peeta's wound again. Once there, Katniss retrieves the arrow that bounced off Cato's body armor.

Alas! Even after the body is taken, K&P are greeted not with a victory announcement, but with a reversal of the previous teammate rule. *Wanh wanh*

Peeta says it's not surprising and pulls out a knife, prompting Katniss to cock that last arrow and aim. But Peeta was just going to throw his knife in the lake (duh! what else?), and Katniss is ashamed for doubting him. Peeta wants her to shoot him so he doesn't die like Cato, but Katniss wants him to shoot her so he has to go home and live with it ("no you hang up!"). Katniss clearly thinks survivor's guilt would be worse than death.

Finally, Peeta gives Katniss an idea when he says "We both know they have to have a victor." Katniss pulls out those Poison Berries and tells Peeta to trust her. He makes sure they hold the berries out for everyone at home to see, then they stick them in their mouths in slow-mo. Just as the berries pass their lips, a frantic Claudius Templesmith declares them both winners of the 74th annual Putnam County, er, Hunger Games.


  1. Great post, Andrew. The appearance of the muttations makes this one of the chapters most likely to give me nightmares. You question whether this curveball is necessary so late in the book, but I think it's a fresh and scary twist on its key theme: alive or dead, the children of Panem are still just the property of the Capitol. SC doesn't seem interested in giving us the exact origin of the wolves, but the fact that they're somehow connected to the dead tributes tells us that, even when you're out of the game...you're still in it. Foreshadow much?

    Also, since you bring up the (totally gross) reference to Cato as meat, I think it's worth bringing up the title here. The book spends a lot of time talking about food -- who can get it, where it comes from, plus those mouthwatering descriptions of what Katniss eats. But what I love (and what Cato's fate suggests) is the way the title can refer to another kind of consumption. The districts may be worried about starvation, but the well-fed Capitol folks have a different sort of hunger: for spectacle, bloodshed, and juicy juicy drama. In other words, for a good story, at any cost.

    As a reader, it makes me wonder if I'm any different. And that's another reason this book can give me nightmares.

  2. Well, and the Capitol folks don't just hunger for spectacle. Sure, that's what the Hunger Games are all about, but it seems like all the Districts are only working to feed the Capitol people's hunger as consumers. I love how even beyond the game and the rules and all the traditional ways the Capitol controls the Districts, there's just it's mere existence that allows the other Districts to exist. Without the Capitol's mania for fancy pants lifestyles, the Districts wouldn't need to exist to do the work. I feel like I could make some sort of developing nation/world powers metaphor, but I'd rather go light the candles for my closet SC shrine...

  3. True, and SC gives us the great moment when Katniss realizes that Panem's merchant class isn't any better off than her own labor class -- they're all just slaves to the Capitol.

    The developing nation/world power thing is interesting, but I had another parallel in mind while reading the book. While many factors (the lack of possibility for advancement, the rigid caste system) make Panem a far cry from a capitalist nation, I keep sensing a capitalist critique in the Games themselves -- in the way they're structured to promote individualism over teamwork, and perpetuate a myth of success that depends entirely on destroying the competition. Suzanne Collins: creating the next generation of political radicals? In any case, I can say that, as a reader, I'm very interested to see how the political future of Panem plays out...

  4. Glad to finally know the proper spelling of "Wanh wanh"--thanks, Andrew!

    @Joe's comment: "alive or dead, the children of Panem are still just the property of the Capitol." Yes, that is definitely a key theme. I'm slowly learning about the scope of the Capitol's power, and want to know how the people of the Districts can put up with it? At what point are people willing to risk their lives for a rebellion?