In the twenty-sixth chapter of The Hunger Games, Katniss learns the horrifying consequences of her actions at the end of the Games. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hunger Games.
Well, I can certainly say I predicted approximately zero percent of this. I spent so much time saying that so many of the foreshadowed plots seemed super obvious that I never really gave the idea that that wasn’t the case a chance.
I was so, so, so wrong. And I need to say that.
As I said in the last review, there’s no joy to be had at the closing of the Games. I do not feel exhilarated or victorious in the slightest for Katniss. Instead, I feel tricked. I feel like I’ve been complicit in cheering along the suffering as my own form of entertainment.
Shit is fucked up.
The hovercraft materializes overhead and two ladders drop, only there’s no way I’m letting go of Peeta. I keep one arm around him as I help him up, and we each place a foot on the first rung of the ladder. The electric current freezes us in place, and this time I’m glad because I’m not really sure Peeta can hang on for the whole ride. And since my eyes were looking down, I can see that while our muscles are immobile, nothing is preventing the blood from draining out of Peeta’s leg. Sure enough, the minute the door closes behind us and the current stops, he slumps to the floor unconscious.
A terrible, evil thought popped in my head when I read this: What if Collins keeps Peeta alive through all this BUT THEN KILLS HIM FROM BLOOD LOSS AFTER THE GAMES ARE OVER. This is certainly fucked up enough, though, so I didn’t think it was a possibility. Well, at least a realistic one.
Doctors in sterile white, masked and gloved, already prepped to operate, go into action. Peeta’s so pale and still on a silver table, tubes and wires springing out of him every which way, and for a moment I forget we’re out of the Games and I see the doctors as just one more threat, one more pack of mutts designed to kill him. Petrified, I lunge for him, but I’m caught and thrust back into another room, and a glass door seals between us. I pound on the glass, screaming my head off. Everyone ignores me except for some Capitol attendant who appears behind me and offers me a beverage.
Guess what just happened? Suddenly, over the course of a paragraph, I believe Katniss. I feel like her characterization here, while dramatic, is very real. I’ve complained (probably a bit too much) that I can’t believe her interactions with Peeta, but now they seem so clearly genuine. I’m not sure what took me so long to come around, but she has real feelings for this boy, despite them being shrouded in a lot of confusing circumstances.
This is going to get interesting.
Now is the time to run away to the woods, to hide in the trees until the patient is long gone and in another part of the Seam the hammers make the coffin. But I’m held here both by the hovercraft walls and the same force that holds the loved ones of the dying. How often I’ve seen them, ringed around our kitchen table and I thought, Why don’t they leave? Why do they stay to watch?
And now I know. It’s because you have no choice.
I really adore this passage because, again, it’s a further development in Katniss’s realization that Peeta means something more to her than someone who helped her escape the Games.
I startle when I catch someone staring at me from only a few inches away and then realize it’s my own face reflecting back in the glass. Wild eyes, hollow cheeks, my hair tangled mat. Rabid. Feral. Mad. No wonder everyone is keeping a safe distance.
Collins isn’t subtle. We all know that. But she ties the themes of identity into this scene well, as Katniss is revolted by her physical appearance. So much of this book is all about what’s in her mind that we forget the physicality of it all. I think this would be an awesome thing to see in the film version of the novel.
As the hovercraft lands on the Training Center, Katniss is injected with something and quickly slips into unconsciousness. We learn just how terrifying the Gamemakers are when she awakes to discover that they’ve literally erased the evidence that she was in the Games.
I tentatively lift my left hand above the cover. Not only has it been scrubbed clean, the nails are filed in perfect ovals, the scars from the burns are less prominent. I touch my cheek, my lips, the puckered scar above my eyebrow, and am just running my fingers through my silken hair when I freeze. Apprehensively I ruffle the hair by my left ear. No, it wasn’t an illusion. I can hear again.
Like the moment when Katniss wins the Games, this is not an ecstatic opportunity. Instead, we’re reminded how much this is all controlled, ruthlessly so. The redheaded Avox comes in to feed her (and also communicates that Peeta has survived), and the tiny amount of food is a struggle for Katniss to consume. When she tries to get out of her bed, she’s drugged back to sleep. This happens so many times that we don’t even know how much time passes when she finally wakes up, unrestrained and free of the drugs keeping her asleep.
After dressing in the same outfit that she wore in the arena (THANKS FOR THE REMINDER, GAMEMAKERS), she walks out in a long, deserted hallway—no Peeta anywhere. But before she can see them, some familiar figures are at the end of the hall.
I turn and see them all waiting in a big chamber at the end of the hall—Effie, Haymitch, and Cinna. My feet take off without hesitation. Maybe a victor should show more restraint, more superiority, especially when she knows this will be on tape, but I don’t care. I run for them and surprise even myself when I launch into Haymitch’s arms first. When he whispers in my ear, “Nice job, sweetheart,” it doesn’t sound sarcastic. Effie’s somewhat teary and keeps patting my hair and talking about how she told everyone we were pearls. Cinna just hugs me tight and doesn’t say anything. Then I notice Portia is absent and get a bad feeling.
Before we move on to the Portia detail, I have to say that this is the first time since the Games ended that I don’t feel terrible. I kind of like this trio of characters in a strange way, especially Cinna. I feel like I have a better understanding of precisely why Haymitch ended up as who he is now. And Effie’s tearful greetings seem so genuine. Funny that I didn’t really care for Effie or Haymitch that much at the beginning.
On to Portia. Portia turns out to be with Peeta, who is fine, but the Gamemakers don’t want them to see each other until the ceremony.
The ceremony? Yeah, turns out they have to have MULTIPLE MOMENTS ON LIVE TELEVISION. Oh god. It only gets worse, but Katniss’s reunion with the trio of artists is pretty nice. I love this set of lines:
They are truly thrilled to see me and I’m happy to see them, too, although not like I was to see Cinna. It’s more in the way one might be glad to see an affectionate trio of pets at the end of a particularly difficult day.
Kind of adorable, right? Though not for long, unfortunately.
It’s funny, because even though they’re rattling on about the Games, it’s all about where they were or what they were doing or how they felt when a specific event occurred. “I was still in bed!” “I had just had my eyebrows died!” “I swear I nearly fainted!” Everything is about them, not the dying boys and girls in the arena.
That sort of casual fuckery is so damaging, too. Katniss manages to block them out while they continue to work on her. When Cinna brings her the simple dress she’ll be wearing that night, we learn yet another fucked up result of the Games.
I immediately notice the padding over my breasts, adding curves that hunger has stolen from my body. My hands go to my chest and I frown.
“I know,” says Cinna before I can object. “But the Gamemakers wanted to alter you surgically. Haymitch had a huge fight with them over it. This was the compromise.”
LITERALLY SO FUCKED UP. Holy shit, could you imagine going through all this and waking up to find out that the Gamemakers surgically altered your body to match their idea of beauty? FUCKED. UP.
Cinna’s dress for her is so simple, as well as the makeup, that it actually makes Katniss look far below her actual age. She knows this is intentional, but can’t figure out why he’d want her to look younger.
“I thought Peeta would like this better,” he answers carefully.
Peeta? No, it’s not about Peeta. It’s about the Capitol and the Gamemakers and the audience. Although I do not yet understand Cinna’s design, it’s a reminder the Games are not quite finished. And beneath his benign reply, I sense a warning. Of something he can’t even mention in front of his own team.
Oh. Oh great. GREAT. She’s not even out of the clear yet. UGH CAN THIS JUST END SOON.
She heads to where she’ll be raised up onto the stage and before she is, Haymitch comes up beside her, leaning in to whisper.
“Listen up. You’re in trouble. Word is the Capitol’s furious about you showing them up in the arena. The one thing they can’t stand is being laughed at and they’re the joke of Panem,” says Haymitch.
HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT. Katniss single act of rebellion, that act to reclaim and define her identity, actually worked.
“Your only defense can be you were so madly in love you weren’t responsible for your actions.” Haymitch pulls back and adjusts my hairband. “Got it, sweetheart?” He could be talking about anything now.
This is somehow even worse to me than the Games. At least she could exercise some control. She has no power left in this situation.
“Got it,” I say. “Did you tell Peeta this?”
“Don’t have to,” says Haymitch. “He’s already there.”
Well, holy shit. Peeta’s plan to announce that he had a crush on Katniss was based entirely in truth. I mean, we knew that, but now, it’s impossible for Katniss to ignore this anymore.
It’s so much worse than being hunted in the arena. There, I could only die. End of story. But out here Prim, my mother, Gale, the people of District 12, everyone I care about back home could be punished if I can’t pull off the girl-driven-crazy-by-love scenario Haymitch has suggested.
Yeah, so now Katniss’s actions will outright effect people who weren’t ever in the Games. I gotta say the Gamemakers sure know how to make things truly terrible for people in order to keep them in line.
“Don’t have to. He’s already there.”
Already thinking ahead of me in the Games again and well aware of the danger we’re in? Or…already desperately in love? I don’t know. I haven’t even begun to separate out my feelings about Peeta. It’s too complicated. What I did as part of the Games. As opposed to what I did out of anger at the Capitol. Or because of how it would be viewed back in District 12. Or simply because it was the only decent thing to do. Or what I did because I cared about him.
You know, I do feel for Katniss. (Finally.) This is a terribly complicated situation that she now has to figure out (partially) while in public. Is it also weird that it’s only now that I am beginning to understand the entire Katpee drama at all? Now it seems like it has a point, and a very important one at that.
And right now, the most dangerous part of the Hunger Games is about to begin.
UGH. AWFUL. NO THANKS YOU.