In the seventh chapter of The Hunger Games, we find out that the “arena” the Tributes are to fight in hasn’t even been built; instead, days of training will influence what sort of place the 24 competitors will have to fight to the death. Oh, and Katniss is filled with UNENDING RAGE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hunger Games.
We are rapidly approaching the games and I’m aching to figure out what the tributes will have to deal with. Simultaneous to this, as we learn more of the process, Katniss’s very beautiful rage is the most special rage ever and I love it. She’s not a fan of pomp and ceremony (neither am I), so I am slowly beginning to warm to her matter-of-fact and cynical narration. (That being said, Collins writing still bothers me, but I’m willing to continue at this point.)
My slumbers are filled with disturbing dreams. The face of the redheaded girl intertwines with gory images from earlier Hunger Games, with my mother withdrawn and unreachable, with Prim emaciated and terrified. I bolt up screaming for my father to run as the mine explodes into a million deadly bits of light.
Is it strange that I just came from a series of inexorable tragedy and this book seems to be part of the same mold? Obviously, I’m not saying the Hunger Games trilogy is AT ALL IN ANY WAY the same as Harry Potter, but both books deal with a young person who has experienced some ridiculously traumatizing events in their youth, events that shape the person they’ve become.
Just a thought.
My mind wanders to my mother and Prim. They must be up. My mother getting their breakfast of mush. Prim milking her goat before school. Just two mornings ago, I was home. Can that be right? Yes, just two. And now how empty the house feels, even from a distance. What did they say last night about my fiery debut at the Games? Did it give them hope, or simply add to their terror when they saw the reality of twenty-four tributes circled together, knowing only one could live?
I sort of forgot about Prim and her mother. It is something I’m interested in, but I imagine we won’t find out what life was like without Katniss around until we’re at the end of the novel.
Because I’m going to say this (hopefully) a million times, the more we learn about the Hunger Games, the less I can compare them to Battle Royale. Which, by the way, is not only a good thing, but you should also take this as a glowing recommendation on my part to read the book/manga of Battle Royale and then watch the movie. You won’t be disappointed.
The Training Center not only seeks to train the tributes a variety of life-saving skills, as a way to sort of even the playing field, it surprisingly acts as a method for Gamemakers to determine what sort of arena will provide the most entertainment. I had been reading this with the assumption that this years’ game had already been designed and chosen, but I was completely wrong. I suppose this makes the most sense, if you think about it. If it was blindly chosen beforehand, what if the luck of the draw chooses someone who is so perfectly adapted to that environment that the game is over in just a couple days? It’s smart to have this sort of planning in this context. I mean…well, I don’t intend to compliment the existence of the Games, but you get it.
Haymitch finally starts living up to his end of the bargain, though I’m not sure how much I should trust him at this point. When he starts to tell them about how the training goes down, it spawns an interesting argument between Peeta and Katniss. First, Haymitch asks point blank if they’d like separate training, in case either has some sort of secret skill they don’t want the other to know. Surprisingly, Katniss finds out just how much he’s been paying attention to her: he knows of her stunning accuracy with a bow and arrow. It bothers her; why is he so interested and why is he sharing this with Haymitch?
This immediately sets both of them against each other in a way we hadn’t seen before. They begin to bicker about their strengths, which has to be the strangest thing to argue about ever.
“He can wrestle,” I tell Haymitch. “He came in second in our school competition last year, only after his brother.”
“What use is that? How many times have you seen someone wrestle to death?” says Peeta in disgust.
“There’s always hand-to-hand combat. All you need is to come up with a knife, and you’ll at least stand a chance. If I get jumped, I’m dead!” I can hear my voice rising in anger.
“But you won’t! You’ll be living up in some tree eating raw squirrels and picking off people with arrows. You know what my mother said to me when she came to say good-bye, as if to cheer me up, she says maybe District Twelve will finally have a winner. Then I realized, she didn’t mean me, she meant you!” bursts out Peeta.
“Oh, she meant you,” I say with a wave of dismissal.
“She said, ‘She’s a survivor, that one.’ She is,” says Peeta.
Damn. Perhaps this explains Peeta’s generosity? I mean, can you even imagine your own mother sort of hoping someone else wins, even if it’s your demise at hand, just to bring your district honor? Hmm, Peeta just became more intriguing than before.
“People will help you in the arena. They’ll be tripping over each other to sponsor you.”
“No more than you,” I say.
Peeta rolls his eyes at Haymitch. “She has no idea. The effect she can have.” He runs his fingernail along the wood grain in the table, refusing to look at me.
Naturally, Katniss sort of flips out over this. What is he talking about? Katniss, who believes that she’s survived through life on her grit and determination alone, is now presented with a new idea: did people think she was weak? To be pitied? Adorable? It seems like an attack on her character and Katniss takes it as so, making things even more awkward than before.
Haymitch continues, ignoring this fight, to tell them that the Training Center itself is full of “stations” with various skills to be taught or weapons to be used. But he warns them not to show off their most gifted skill until they get a private session. I imagine this is so that other tributes don’t know their strong points. Strangely, though, he demands that Peeta and Katniss remain as friendly and amicable as possible while in public. I don’t get it, guys. I don’t understand why quite yet. Will they seem more intimidating if they do so? Don’t answer this by the way. Someone answered my rhetorical, thinking-out-loud question in the comments a few days ago. DON’T DO IT.
The Training Center scenes are brief; in fact, three days pass in a matter of pages. But we get a look at the other tributes and get an idea why this part of the process exists.
It’s the first time we’ve been assembled, on level ground, in simple clothes. My heart sinks. Almost all of the boys and at least half of the girls are bigger than I am, even though many of the tributes have never been fed properly. You can see it in their bones, their skin, the hollow look in their eyes. I may be smaller naturally, but overall my family’s resourcefulness has given me an edge in that area.
And if that isn’t enough to intimidate Katniss, despite her edge, the Career Tributes are definitely worse:
The exceptions are the kids from the wealthier districts, the volunteers, the ones who have been fed and trained throughout their lives for this moment. The tributes from 1, 2, and 4 traditionally have this look about them. It’s technically against the rules to train tributes before they reach the Capitol but it happens every year. In District 12, we call them Career Tributes, or just Careers. And like as not, the winner will be one of them.
The slight advantage I held coming into the Training Center, my fiery entrance last night, seems to vanish in the presence of my competition. The other tributes were jealous of us, but not because we were amazing, because our stylists were. Now I see nothing but contempt in the glances of the Career Tributes. Each must have fifty to a hundred pounds on me. They project arrogance and brutality. When Atala releases us, they head straight for the deadliest-looking weapons in the gym and handle them with ease.
Even in a situation like this, where the odds of death are extremely high, the rich and the wealthy still have an advantage over everyone else. I’m sure the Capitol approves of the pre-training that happens because it looks good if richer/privileged kids win over the other districts. But it’s also a sign of how money can control and influence nearly everything, even in this alternate universe. Money itself is not bad, but what you choose to do with it. And these people and their parents and supporters have used money to guarantee the death of underprivileged folk.
The Gamekeepers are another sign of the effects of living a privileged life. They watch over the training with a mostly disinterested eye, often times distracted by food. Literally. Their job is to design a Game based on what they see in the tributes, but I was struck by how easily distracted they actually were, despite that twenty-three people before them will die based on what they decide to design. It’s creepy.
It’s also creepy to be reminded that a twelve-year-old girl, whose name we learn is Rue, is also in this game. She follows Katniss and Peeta around, but there’s really not much they can do to help her. I feel like this is a bit of foreshadowing too; my guess is that Rue will stay alive by following both Katniss and Peeta throughout the games until…well, I still don’t have a sense of whether or not Collins is actually going to kill anyone off yet.
The private sessions begin on the third day of training and those from District 12 are last. I expected there to be more interaction between Katniss and the Gamemakers. Katniss is rusty with these newer bows and misses at first, but makes a grand show for her onlookers.
A few are nodding approval, but the majority of them are fixated on a roast pig that has just arrived at their banquet table.
YOU GUYS ARE GOING TO KILL HER. JUST PAY ATTENTION FOR ONE SECOND.
Suddenly I am furious, that with my life on the line, they don’t even have the decency to pay attention to me. That I’m being upstaged by a dead pig. My heart starts to pound, I can feel my face burning. Without thinking, I pull an arrow from my quiver and send it straight at the Gamemakers’ table. I hear shouts of alarm as people stumble back. The arrow skewers the apple in the pigs mouth and pins it to the wall behind it. Everyone stares at me in disbelief.
“Thank you for your consideration,” I say. Then I give a slight bow and walk straight toward the exit without being dismissed.
Could every chapter end with Katniss being a badass? I’m beginning to like her more and more.