In the second chapter of The Hunger Games, the shock of the results of the reaping drive the main character to make a damning sacrifice. In the process, we learn more about life in The Seam and why Katniss dislikes her mother so much. SHIT IS GETTING REAL SO SOON. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hunger Games.
I used a very specific phrase in my first chapter review when referring to the method Collins uses to build this alternate world: heavy-handed. This chapter, beyond giving us some more backstory, further supports my feelings that perhaps Collins’s strong suit isn’t being subtle.
Chapter 2 opens with a very, very brief story about Katniss falling out of a tree and having the wind knocked out of her. She then says this is how she feels at that very moment, upon hearing Prim’s name chosen as the girl tribute. I also said before that Collins’s style is very choppy, rhythmic, and direct. I was okay with it before and I’m not ready to launch a full scale whine-fest yet, but this metaphor that opens the chapter is a bit much for me. The rest of this section is full of them: painfully obvious flashbacks that provide insight into how Katniss feels in the present.
I understand why they need to happen and what they’re describing. I just feel as if Collins might want to do it with a bit more grace than what exists here.
The very Battle Royale-esque drama continues to unfold; the crowd (and Katniss) express their horror that a twelve-year-old girl has been chosen for the Hunger Games. In a moment of desperation, Katniss fulfills the prediction I made for this book: she volunteers herself in place of Prim for the Hunger Games. I suppose in hindsight this is obviously inevitable, but I was intrigued to see how long the Prim plot would play out. It’s over, and quite early at that.
(PS: Does Effie Trinket remind anyone of Dolores Umbridge? Just a thought.)
“Prim, let go,” I say harshly, because this is upsetting me and I don’t want to cry. When they televise the replay of the reapings tonight, everyone will make note of my tears, and I’ll be marked as an easy target. A weakling. I will give no one that satisfaction.
I’m interesting to see how this sort of gender interplay will flesh out, considering that we’re dealing with a female character who eschews most of the tropes of a female hero. (Though…is she a female hero trope herself? More on that as I read more of this.) I’m also wondering how the use of television is going to play out as well.
I did like this moment a lot, when Trinket asks District 12 to applaud Katniss for her sacrifice:
To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from the Hob, or knew my father, or have encountered Prim, who no one can help loving. So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong.
Again, the writing feels a bit stilted and obvious, but it’s a powerful moment nonetheless.
But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love.
I assume this means that volunteer tributes are incredibly, incredibly rare. Also, is there a reason that Katniss’s thoughts seem so…monotone? Is she doing this on purpose? Don’t answer that by the way.
Trinket then chooses the male tribute and it’s someone Katniss knows. And thus begins a continuation of Collins’s brow-beating metaphors.
I am loving the content of this book so far; I think a lot of you were spot-on to suggest that I read this series next. It’s like you know everything deep inside my heart. However, I’m still slightly bothered by the way this is written. Again, it’s possible there’s a reason it’s written this way and I’m willing to wait that out, but it’s a very jarring style.
The mayor begins to read the long, dull Treaty of Treason as he does every year at this point—it’s required—but I’m not listening to a word.
Why him? I think. Then I try to convince myself it doesn’t matter. Peeta Mellark and I are not friends. Not even neighbors. We don’t speak. Our only real interaction happened years ago. He’s probably forgotten it. But I haven’t and I know I never will…
I can’t place my finger on it, at least not yet, but I don’t know why I don’t like it too much. It’s very matter-of-fact, isn’t it? And maybe that’s a part of Katniss’s characterization. But then with that final line, it seems very obvious that the very next part is going to be a flashback. I’m right. It’s a flashback.
The content of this part of the backstory, in which we learn that Katniss’s mother shut down emotionally and mentally after the death of her husband, is also another bit that I find expected once I read it. It makes it so that Katniss naturally falls into place as head of the household. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it fits a little too well, and is a little too convenient for me.
WAH WAH WAH WHINE WHINE WHINE. This is all incredibly fucked up, though, isn’t it? I lived a large part of my life in poverty and Katniss’s story, which is way worse than anything I ever experience, still resonated pretty heavy with me. I know what it’s like to have hunger pains and to feel nothing but an intense jealousy when you see other people who are better off than you.
I was surprised that the point of the story was that Peeta at one time demonstrated compassion towards Katniss at what seems to be the lowest point of her life by risking a beating to give her two loaves a bread. The moment provides Katniss with something that can keep anyone alive in the most dire of circumstances: hope.
It’s a fairly bold moment of foreshadowing as well and I can’t help but think of Shuya and Noriko from Battle Royale and wonder if this is going to play out in a similar manner. (Though we still have Gale to worry about.)
The chapter ends with Katniss hoping that the odds will work out so that she doesn’t have to kill Peeta, despite odds working against her up until this point. I’m left wondering, however, how much this book will deal with murder. There are twenty-four contestants in this game and someone has to die. Are we actually going to see this? Will Katniss herself kill anyone? I’m hoping so, or else I may not end up liking this book that much after all.