In the twelfth chapter of Catching Fire, fuck everything. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Catching Fire.
A few moments of joy and silliness.
Winter has begun to withdraw by the time my foot is deemed usable. My mother gives me exercises to do and lets me walk on my own a bit. I go to sleep one night, determined to go into town the next morning, but I awake to find Venia, Octavia, and Flauvius grinning down at me.
“Surprise!” they squeal. “We’re here early!”
As massively privileged as these three are, there’s still a part of me that likes scenes with them. They seem to be one of the few sources of information for us about life in the Capitol and I just want to know more about this world Collins has created. More so than ever, this proves to be true in chapter twelve. As the three of them work on Katniss in preparation for her wedding dress photo shoot, they continue to discuss things in a way which centers and frames themselves, as they always do. For once, though, what they talk about actually helps Katniss:
But then Octavia makes a comment that catches my attention. It’s a passing remark, really, about how she couldn’t get shrimp for a party but it tugs at me.
“Why couldn’t you get shrimp? Is it out of season?” I ask.
“Oh, Katniss, we haven’t been able to get any seafood for weeks!” says Octavia. “You know, because the weather’s been so bad in District Four.”
WHAT! Oh my god. Of course, Katniss puts this together: the Capitol is mostly likely lying about the weather (since there is no communication between districts) because THERE IS A GODDAMN UPRISING GOING ON. Actually, that’s a pretty fascinating thought: even those high in society in the Capitol have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the nation.
Katniss, whose confidence continues to rise, decides to press them on the issue further, to see where else might be revolting:
By the time I’m ready to be dressed, their complaints about the difficulty of getting different products—from crabmeat to music chips to ribbons—has given me sense of which districts might actually be rebelling. Seafood from District 4. Electronic gadgets from District 3. And, of course, fabrics from District 8. The thought of such widespread rebellion has me quivering with fear and excitement.
You know what’s exciting about this? The power of numbers. The Capitol is terrifying and intimidating, but it was the sheer element of surprise, combined with the large number of people in District 8 that overwhelmed them. If multiple districts all started uprising at the same time, surely the Capitol would spread themselves too thin in order to maintain control. Right?
Katniss moves on to her wedding dress photoshoot, which goes on without much of anything important. Tired, she heads to bed after a long day of changing clothes and being ordered around. Eager to discuss what she’s learned with anyone, she manages to find Haymitch, who walks into town with her. I like that we get a scene with just the two of them because I am hoping that he might shed some more insight into his past.
Haymitch listens to Katniss’s information and is quick to point out the sheer size of the other districts versus their own. It really is all about numbers at this point, and it’s frustrating to think that all of District 12 would have to revolt for it to have any real effect, even with other uprisings going on at the moment.
“What do you think they’ll do, Haymitch? To the districts that are rebelling?” I ask.
“Well, you heard what they did in Eight. You’ve seen what they did here, and that was without provocation,” says Haymitch. “If things really do get out of hand, I think they’d have no problem killing off another district, same as they did Thirteen. Make an example of it, you know?”
This inevitably brings up the concept of the re-used footage for District 13. Damn you, Haymitch, for making some good points:
“Okay, but what does that prove? Nothing, really. There are plenty of reasons they could be using old footage. Probably it looks more impressive. And it’s a lot simpler, isn’t it? To just press a few buttons in the editing room than to fly all the way out there and film it?” he says. “The idea that Thirteen has somehow rebounded and the Capitol is ignoring it? That sounds like the kind of rumor desperate people cling to.”
“I know. I was just hoping,” I say.
“Exactly. Because you’re desperate,” says Haymitch.
Of course, I want District 13’s secret society to be real and I will cling to that idea as irrationally as possible. Also, does this mean the Capitol has airplanes?
Surprisingly, that night, the Capitol airs the results of Katniss’s wedding dress photoshoot in a weird American Idol style television program, having narrowed down Cinna’s twelve dresses to six through voting done only in the Capitol. Collins is clinging pretty hard to the reality TV angle of this story and the parallel couldn’t be more poignant in terms of the social landscape of American pop culture. Obviously, here it is taken to its logical extreme, but the idea of voting on someone else’s marriage isn’t exactly a foreign concept to a lot of people, is it?
President Snow makes an appearance to talk about the serious nature of the Quarter Quell and we finally get some information on what they were.
President Snow goes on to tell us what happened in the previous Quarter Quells. “On the twenty-fifth anniversary, as a reminder to the rebels that their children were dying because of their choice to initiate violence, every district was made to hold an election and vote on the tributes who would represent it.”
HAHDJSFLHASKJLASHDF WOW. Talk about FUCKED UP. I mean, the Hunger Games are already pretty terrible, but talk about using inter-personal strife as oppression. Just awful.
“On the fiftieth anniversary,” the president continues, “as a reminder that two rebels died for each Capitol citizen, every district was required to send twice as many tributes.”
Haymitch had to last through forty-nine deaths to survive. How on earth did he do that?
“And now we honor our third Quarter Quell,” says the President. The little boy in white steps forward, holding out the box as he opens the lid. We can see the tidy, upright rows of yellowed envelopes. Whoever devised the Quarter Quell system had prepared for centuries of Hunger Games. The president removes an envelope clearly marked with a 75. He runs his finger under the flap and pulls out a small square of paper. Without hesitation, he reads, “On the seventy-fifth anniversary, as a reminder to the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol, the male and female tributes will be reaped from their existing pool of victors.”
No. Oh no. No. NO.
My mother gives a faint shriek and Prim buries her face in her hands, but I feel more like the people I see in the crowd on television. Slightly baffled. What does it mean? Existing pool of victors?
Then I get it, what it means. At least, for me. District 12 has only three existing victors to choose from. Two male. One female…
I am going back into the arena.
I can’t. I just can’t. The Games were designed decades ago? Or just the Quarter Quells? This is so convenient. President Snow had to have fixed this or manipulated the results.
I seriously can’t. This is more awful than all awful things that were ever awful. Pure despair.
I was never, ever prepared.