In the third chapter of The Hunger Games, Katniss wishes her family and friends goodbye; we also learn about games past, the significance of the mockingbird on the cover, and get a peek at Katniss’s competition. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hunger Games.
I’m willing to take into account that Katniss’s narration is an extension of her worn, beaten personality. After years of suffering, disappointment, and pain, it’s pretty unrealistic to wish she’d be chipper more often. With the fear of the Hunger Games looming over her life (and it’s a realistic threat), she’s been hardened into a young woman who knows that expressions of emotions are signs of weakness in her society. I will say that I enjoy that there’s no real demonization of femininity, at least not yet. There’s no one (yet) in this story who strips Katniss of her womanhood for how she acts and behaves. I sort of expected that because that tends to happen in fantasy and adventure stories with a strong female lead. But here, she’s a woman and it’s uncontested. I dig it.
I’m going to refrain from repeating myself, but I’m still not sold by the writing. It’s very abrupt and sometimes I wish there was more substance to the prose, but I’m going to continue with this ride. There’s a lot to like here, content-wise, but I still wish I enjoyed the execution more.
We’re reminded again that everything happening is going to be televised:
I cannot afford to get upset, to leave this room with puffy eyes and a red nose. Crying is not an option. There will be more cameras at the train station.
I really want to know more about how these sort of things are televised and who watches them. It’s made clear that most of those in District 12 are too poor to watch television, so who does? And how did a system for distribution get set up in the Districts?
When I am done with instructions about fuel, and trading, and staying in school, I turn to my mother and grip her arm, hard. “Listen to me. Are you listening to me? She nods, alarmed by my intensity. She must know what’s coming. “You can’t leave again,” I say.
My mother’s eyes find the floor. “I know. I won’t. I couldn’t help what—“
“Well, you have to help it this time. You can’t clock out and leave Prim on her own. There’s no me now to keep you both alive. It doesn’t matter what happens. Whatever you see on the screen. You have to promise me you’ll fight through it!” My voice has risen to a shout. In it is all the anger, all the fear I felt at her abandonment.
Is it bad that I wanted to make a joke about Katniss using an exclamation point? Am I a bad person?
Regardless, I feel like this is going to play a huge part in the future. Obviously, since there are two more books in this series, Katniss isn’t going to lose the Hunger Games and she’ll have to return home. Will Prim be taken care of? Will the mom shut down again? I don’t honestly know. I don’t have much information and there’s not much more said.
Peeta Mellark’s father, the baker, visits Katniss as well and promises to look out for Prim, to make sure she is eating. I thought it was an incredible sign of compassion and indicative of how The Seam looks out for each other. They’re a community made up of the most vulnerable people and because they recognize this, they know that even the smallest gestures of kindness can mean survival.
Gale is last to visit and I rolled my eyes at the end of this:
Finally, Gale is here and maybe there is nothing romantic between us, but when he opens his arms I don’t hesitate to go into them. His body is familiar to me—the way it moves, the smell of wood smoke, even the sound of his heart beating I know from quiet moments on a hunt—but this is the first time I really feel it, lean and hard-muscled against my own.
HOW MUCH FANFICTION DID THIS SECTION INSPIRE? That’s not a sleight against Collins, for the record, but I could see this going one of two ways: either nothing ever happens between Katniss and Gale and the fandom fills in that gap, or this is foreshadowing for a relationship to come. Though I imagine it would have to wait for the next book, since Gale isn’t going to be around.
Their conversation does reveal some of the past Hunger Games and how fucked up they can be:
Another year, they tossed everybody into a landscape of nothing but boulders and sand and scruffy bushes. I particularly hated that year. Many contestants were bitten by venomous snakes or went insane from thirst.
Ok, first of all, that is messed up. Second of all, I guess there are televisions in District 12, or else Katniss couldn’t have been able to see past Hunger Games. Hmm.
We spent one Hunger Games watching the players freeze to death at night. You could hardly see them because they were just huddled in balls and had no wood for fires or torches or anything. It was considered very anti-climactic in the Capitol, all those quiet, bloodless deaths. Since then, there’s usually been wood to make fires.
Jesus, guys. I’m not surprised that the Capitol does what they can to make these contests as brutal as they can for entertainment, but I didn’t expect them to be so varied. Also, the more this varies, the less I will compare it to Battle Royale. I’m ok with that.
I sort of assumed that the districts were states or cities based around Washington D.C., but I was proved wrong when we find out where Katniss is headed:
Of course, I’ve never been on a train, as travel between the districts is forbidden except for officially sanctioned duties. For us, that’s mainly transporting coal. But this is no ordinary coal train. It’s one of the high-speed Capitol models that average 250 miles per hour. Our journey to the Capitol will take less than a day.
In school, they tell us the Capitol was built in a place once called the Rockies. District 12 was a region known as Appalachia. Even hundreds of years ago, they mined coal here. Which is why our miners have to dig so deep.
Well, shit. I was wrong. Why the Rockies? Height? I mean, the rich love to physically be higher than the poor geographically, so maybe that? Also, this means this story takes place far in the future as well. NEW THINGS WE KNOW. YAY.
Let’s continue to learn NEW THINGS. Madge gave Katniss a pin of a golden mockingjay with a ring around. The real significance of the mockingjay? It’s a sign of how the Capitol did not get the best of their citizens. I’ll let Katniss explain it.
During the rebellion, the Capitol bred a series of genetically altered animals as weapons. The common term for them was mutations, or sometimes mutts for short. One was a special bird called a jabberjay that had the ability to memorize and repeat whole human conversations. They were homing birds, exclusively male, that were released into regions where the Capitol’s enemies were known to be hiding. After the birds gathered words, they’d fly back to centers to be recorded. It took people a while to realize what was going on in the districts, how private conversations were being transmitted. Then, of course, the rebels fed the Capitol endless lies, and the joke was on it. So the centers were shut down and the birds were abandoned to die off in the wild.
Pretty neat, if I say so myself. She goes on to explain how they evolved to only be able to recall melodies, human and non-human. It reminds her of her father, and how his voice commanded the attention of the mockingjays in the area; the comfort this image provides gives Katniss some hope.
The dinner scene in the train is another instance to Collins to elaborate on the class divisions in this alternate world:
“At least, you two have decent manners,” says Effie as we’re finishing the main course. “The pair last year ate everything with their hands like a couple of savages. It completely upset my digestion.”
Effie Trinket, your life sounds like it is full of tragedy.
The pair last year were two kids from the Seam who’d never, not one day of their lives, had enough to eat. And when they did have food, table manners were surely the last things on their minds. Peeta’s a baker’s son. My mother taught Prim and me to eat properly, so yes, I can handle a fork and knife. But I hate Effie Trinket’s comment so much I make a point of eating the rest of my meal with my fingers. Then I wipe my hands on the tablecloth. This makes her purse her lips tightly together.
Good for you, Katniss. High five on the astral plane. Fuck this sort of “dignified” classism, by the way.
There’s a brief moment where we get a look at some of the other tributes from other Districts:
A monstrous boy who lunges forward to volunteer from District 2. A fox-faced girl with sleek red hair from District 5. A boy with a crippled foot from District 10. And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor. Only when she mounts the stage and they ask for volunteers, all you can hear is the wind whistling through the decrepit buildings around her. There’s no one willing to take her place.
Katniss is going to make friends with the girl from District 11. PREDICTION TIME. I don’t know about the rest, but I really hope they start these Games soon. I’m interested to know how far Collins is going to take this.