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.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hunger Games Chapter 27

The Final Chapter

From below the stage, Katniss imagines the greeting her team is receiving. She imagines that Caesar must be aware of the danger they are in, and that he will want to help them (translation: after everything, she still trusts a part of the Capitol machine). She is able to laud the achievements of Effie and Haymitch.

Then she is lifted, and there's Peeta next to her looking clean and healthy and beautiful. He walks with a metal cane. He kisses her.

This is the part of the games where victors normally watch their highlights reel. K&P are in for the same, except they are on a love seat instead of a throne. Katniss snuggles into Peeta all cute-like and they prepare to watch the past few weeks condensed into three hours of what is mandatory viewing for Panem (that is, the film adaptation of Battle Royale).

It's the K&P love story interspersed with all the deaths. Katniss finally gets to see Peeta's side -- whispering her name in his sleep -- and also how she really seemed all those times she thought she was playing to the cameras. In fact, she decides she came off quite heartless, except for the song she sang for Rue, shown in its entirety (not the part where she covered her in flowers, though -- that's too rebellious).

President Snow takes the stage accompanied by a little girl carrying the crown (what was I saying about fetishism?). Snow snaps it in half and places one half on Peeta, then one half on Katniss. His eyes are like snake's. The crowd applauds. Katniss realizes that she is in more trouble than Peeta for being the instigator of the berry idea. I'm not sure I come to the same conclusion based on what we've seen, but she ends up being right...

They breeze through the sponsor banquet taking pictures; Katniss survives everything by holding Peeta's hand as tightly as she can.

The next day, Cinna puts Katniss in a white, gauzy dress and pink shoes for her interview down the hall. Katniss shivers when Peeta references their time at home, though she can't imagine why (hint: he's tall, dark, and handsome).

In their interview, K&P talk about the moments they first knew their love for each other. Peeta is sincere in saying age five, Katniss is cued by Caesar to mention shouting Peeta's name from the tree. After a surprisingly coquettish line from Katniss about "putting Peeta somewhere he can't get hurt," she learns he has a fake leg. Then she nails the question about the berries, saying all she could think was that she didn't want to be without Peeta.

Mission accomplished.

Katniss goes back to her room for the mockingjay pin, which someone returned to her room after the games...

On the train home, Katniss doesn't know what to say to Peeta. He picks wildflowers for her that are actually the tops of wild onions, which remind her of Gale. (I'd take flowers over onions any day, honey!)

Haymitch lets it slip that they've done a good job but need to keep it up. In one of his clever moments, Peeta puts one and one together and realizes he's still the third wheel, sort of -- Katniss's affection was all for show. Katniss is like, nuh-uh! I'm confused! And thinks: why would he want me anyway, it's not like I want to get married and have babies. Too true, Katniss. He's way too good for you.

Peeta goes into his cabin until they return to District 12, when he comes out and asks Katniss to take his hand one more time "for the audience." His voice is hollow, which to conflict-happy Katniss is worse than anger.

She takes his hand, dreading the moment when she will have to let go END OF BOOK ONE WHAT DO YOU THINK?!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Wow, looks like I found this blog at just the right time. I read Hunger Games for the first time, in its entirety, last week. So everything is fresh in my mind right now.

    The only difference is in the past week I've read like five alternate POV fanfics, including two full-length versions from Clove and Foxface's POVs by the same author. So while I have no idea what happens next in Catching Fire, my views of the other tributes might be contaminated by the fanfics...

    Overall, I think it's a great book and a fantastic world that Collins has created. I worry that perhaps I have become desensitized to the violence though. I don't really feel the horror of the situation because I know it's fictional, and sometimes my reflections of the game might be like the TV analysts evaluating the mistakes each contestant made.

  3. Welcome, PK9! It's an important point you bring up about the violence in this book. I, too, worry that Collins' treatment lets us get a little too comfortable with it. Making some of the other children "Careers" so that we forget they're also just children who've been manipulated, devoting more detail to what dresses Katniss wears than to what is going on in these other tributes' heads. It's almost like video game logic, like Grand Theft Auto.

    Anyway, please feel free to keep coming back and discussing -- you can start Catching Fire with us tomorrow.

  4. I must say knowing that the Capitol is able to somehow turn dead people into muttations, erase all of Katniss' battle scars, and restore her damaged hearing, I was surprised the doctors weren't able to fix Peeta's leg. Does anyone think they left it that way on purpose? Maybe to hold viewers' attention or to increase pity/affection for Peeta and Katniss as a couple? I guess it does add a touch of tragedy to their love story... It just seems questionable that the all-powerful Capitol would be unable to fix that!

  5. PK9 and Andrew: I think SC did the violence that way on purpose. When you're reading, it's easy to demonize the careers as the blood thirsty villains. But when you close the book and take a break from the action to really think about what you just read, don't you feel somewhat horrible? Especially because you got caught up in it, just like the Capitol, just like everyone else? I feel like that's one of the reasons this makes such a spectacular book. You don't see the characters, so it's easy to forget that they're children, but then Katniss says something, or remembers something, and you're drawn back to that horrific reality (erm, ficteality?) that these are KIDS KILLING EACH OTHER. If it constantly pounded that in, I think the violence would be unbearable and Hunger Games would be too hard to read. But SC balances the horror and our own jadedness to the violence well, allowing us to enjoy the book and consider its darker themes with the proper thought and horror.

    Katie: I think that's a really good point. Yet another way the Capitol is pulling the strings? Or have we found an actual limitation to their skills?

  6. "But when you close the book and take a break from the action to really think about what you just read, don't you feel somewhat horrible? "

    Chloe: only if I think of it abstractly as "kids killing each other." When I just generally reflect on the book, I'm more focused on details about strategies and such. "Why didn't Katniss learn how Haymitch won his Games?" "Why didn't Katniss finish off Clove when she had her wounded?" etc. etc.

    I was thinking maybe it was just me that had become desensitized, but it looks like others have similar reactions.

    One of the first times I heard of the Hunger Games was last year when one of the Youtube video-bloggers I subscribe to talked about how she won national essay contest and a trip to meet SC. Since I hadn't read the book yet, I didn't follow the link to find the details of the contest back then. But after finishing HG, I went onto SC's website and read her winning entry. I was pretty surprised about the prompt. I was expecting something about the depravity of the situation or the dehumanization of the characters or something. Instead the prompt was "What would YOU have done to win the Hunger Games?". And that's how much of the fandom seems to see it. If you go on fanfiction.net and look up Hunger Games, the most popular thing seems to be these "THE ##TH HUNGER GAMES" roleplays, where apparently people just put themselves into the story and try to find a way to kill 23 other kids. It's like a freakin' video game.

  7. Yes, Chloe -- I'm with PK9 on this one. And not just because of the readership reaction to this book, but because of the book's own logic. We encounter this moral dilemma all the time working in children's books: is it enough for a book to "start a conversation" about a controversial topic if it does not itself steer that conversation in the "right" (as Plato would define right) direction?

    I stand by the argument that Collins makes it far too easy for us to root for Katniss and block out the underlying truths. It's great that as an intelligent reader, you pick up on the reminders that these are children, but I really do feel that emphasis and details are drawn in such a way as to say "not all children's deaths are equally tragic." As PK9 points out, some are even cool...

  8. I think one of the most striking aspects of this book is the surprising lack of moral ambiguity. I watched Battle Royale yesterday out of curiosity, and while it was really difficult for me to keep track of all the characters, I did get the sense that some otherwise "good" characters killed others out of fear, or out of motivation to survive under the rules they were given.

    Let's review the kill counts for the non-Careers:
    Katniss: 4 (Glimmer & GD4 in the desperation tracker jacker attack, BD1 to try to save Rue, and Cato to end his suffering)
    Peeta: 2? 3? (GD8 - probably putting her out of her misery, Foxface on accident, maybe someone at the bloodbath? BD4 maybe?)
    Thresh: 1 (Clove, in anger over Rue's death)
    Foxface: 0
    Rue: 0
    BD10: 0
    BD3: 0
    GD8: 0
    BD9: 0

    There's room for a slight bit of ambiguity here, because it's unknown who got BD10. The assumption is that it was the Careers.

    My point is, not only does KATNISS not make a single proactive kill (an attempt to increase the chances of winning), it seems NO ONE other than the Careers made one either. Foxface was completely non-confrontational, Thresh was apparently so as well, except when he thought Clove tortured Rue to death. Maybe Peeta or some of the Day 1 casualties got some kills during the bloodbath, but I'd give those a moral free pass too because it's mostly self-defense in that frenzy.

    Because of this breakdown, it's easy to classify Katniss and Peeta as the "heroes", the Careers as the "villians" and everyone else as "victims" - of the villians or of fate. To top it off, we get glimpses where the Careers seem to enjoy killing, enjoy causing pain, making them even more sadistic and inhuman. It's only when the muttations are eating Cato alive that we feel any source of pity towards a Career.

  9. Good points, but would you keep readings if you didn't relate to Katniss? If you thought she was morally dispicable? It would be interesting to see how this series would have done had it been written from Clove or Glimmer's point of view.

    I think the villainization of the Careers is just a necessity of the craft. It further solidifies our faith in Katniss and justifies her actions. If we felt the same sense of loss towards each character as we do towards Rue, I think that would be quite a feat for SC, and I'm not sure it would be entirely realistic. You don't mourn during the battle; it's afterwards when you can take stock of your losses that you feel the tragedy. I'm not sure SC could show empathy towards all the characters without making it cheesey.

    And furthermore, I think the reader does feel the horror and tragedy for these children's losses: through Rue. Rue represents all the Tributes' innocence and childhood (it only manages to stay alive by being elusive, and even that can't last forever). SC allows the readers to mourn for these children through Rue rather than to have us suffer through each death individually, which keeps the reader engaged, but not so horrified that he can't finish.

  10. It's interesting that you should bring that up, because for much of the story I felt like I *couldn't* completely relate to Katniss. This is in large part due to SC's decision to reveal K's backstory in pieces scattered throughout the story. I understand there are pacing reasons for this decision, but it led to times where K's reaction to certain situations seemed completely bizarre to me, because I didn't know her well enough yet to understand the workings of her mind. It's not an entirely new concept, but it still seems very strange when the story is told in first person.

    Let me give you an example: When Katniss first gets lifted into the arena, I'm freaking out and panicking because I'm completely unprepared for the moment when 23 other tributes will be rushing out and trying to kill me. K has unhelpfully waited until this moment to inform me that there's actually a 60-second waiting period in which the tributes can assess the situation and plan their first move. So while I'm still freaking out emotionally with the enormity of the situation, she's sitting there doing a risk-benefit analysis about her likelihood of survival if she goes for the bow and arrow, based on her distance to the weapon and her top sprinting speed. Then I remember: K's been forced to watch the Games all her life. She knows how things work in the arena. She just hadn't informed the readers yet. It goes on and on like that throughout the story, with K first reacting to something, and then explaining to us afterwards why she reacted in that way.

    Chloe, I think you go too far when you ask if I would support K if I thought she was "morally dispicable." She wouldn't be the protagonist if she was. But there's a huge gap from "morally immaculate" to "morally dispicable". I can definitely get behind a character that's somewhere in the middle, who has to make tough moral choices, and who guilts over whether she made the right choice. As it stands K's biggest moral struggle seems to be over whether she made the right choice in letting Peeta know she was faking it.

    Rue is even farther to the extreme of "morally immaculate" than Katniss. She's the innocent one who absolutely no one can imagine trying to kill anyone, even in defense of herself. If you check out the AU fanfics where Rue wins, it's always the same theme. She survives until it's her and Katniss, or her and Thresh, or her and someone else, that that someone kills themselves rather than having to live with killing her. So of course it's EASY to hate the ones who killed (or tried to kill) her.

    I feel like the Careers are very intriguing to learn about. In general, there's two ways to write them. One is as pyschopaths who enjoy killing, enjoy making others suffer. The other is as individuals who have sacrificed their entire lives to helping their districts. They volunteer so the other children in their districts don't have to live in fear on Reaping Day. They try to win because it will benefit their districts. And they kill because the Capitol has forced them to do so. I feel like SC took the easy way out in portraying them as monsters.

  11. I have read the hunger games several times and one thing that stays with me, every time i read the book is the ending. Yea Katniss was the one who thought of the idea to use the berries, but Peeta went along with that. So punish Katniss, but not Peeta, or Gale, or her family. Just punish her. I love Katniss and all, but its cruel for the Capitol to punish everyone around her. Peeta doesn't deserve that and neither does Gale or Katniss' family.
    The Capitol is cruel(i.e. the hunger games, the dark days, District 13) but the Capitol wouldn't be that cruel if it wasn't necessary, which it wasn't.