Part II: “The Games”
Katniss’s left ear is bleeding, and she’s deaf and so dizzy that she must crawl and drag herself back to the brush as the Careers race back to their camp. Blast after blast happens as the mines detonate each other; by the time the Careers arrive, everything is destroyed. TheDistrict 3 boy checks that all the mines have blown, and after he does, Cato snaps the boy’s neck in his rage. The three remaining Careers move to the lakeshore so that the hovercraft can recover the body; Katniss can tell by their gestures that they assume that the trap was “faulty” and that whoever had attempted to steal the supplies died in the explosion. But when night falls, the faces on the sky belong to the District 3 boy and the District 10 boy, so now the Careers know that someone destroyed the supplies, and that someone is still alive. They put on their night-vision glasses to hunt the bomber.
Katniss sits tight, tends her wounds, and eats a little. She counts up the survivors: herself and Peeta, Rue and Thresh, Foxface, the male Career from District 1 and both from District 2. To stay warm, since Rue has the sleeping bag, she buries herself in leaves and the plastic sheet and manages to sleep. In the morning, she wakes to Foxface’s laughter as she views the destruction, realizes that the odds have changed, and picks through the ashes for anything of use. Katniss is relieved that she can hear, though not well. She thinks of killing Foxface, but the girl dashes back into the woods. Katniss makes her way toward her meeting place with Rue, trying to get used to the deafness in her left ear, and fishing and eating as she goes. Rue is not at the meeting place, however, so Katniss waits a while and then goes to seek Rue, who must be alive, since no cannon shot has been fired. As Katniss moves stealthily through the woods, she hears a mockingjay pick up Rue’s song and then Rue’s voice, calling Katniss’s name. Katniss rushes into a clearing to find Rue tangled in a net, but before Katniss can reach her, Rue is hit by a spear.
When Peeta, sitting on the roof of the Training Center, told Katniss that he wanted to stay true to himself in the arena, Katniss couldn’t grasp what he meant. But experience in the arena is quickly teaching her that the Games can indeed change people or intensify their traits. Instinct guides Katniss. She senses that she can trust Rue, and she intuits also from Foxface’s “sly grin” and furtive actions that an alliance with her “would ultimately get me a knife in the back.” Who is the enemy? Who can be, at least for a while, a friend? These are life-and-death questions in the arena. The Careers in particular turn quickly on allies, as Cato does when the District 3 boy’s trap is sprung, disastrously for the Career pack. Conflict in the plot is generated by the difficulty of knowing friend from enemy and interpreting shifting alliances.
Katniss kills the District 1 boy before he can reach Rue to retrieve his weapon and is ready to fire again, but no other tributes are near. She rushes to Rue and holds her hand but knows that there is “no point in comforting words.” They both know the wound is fatal. Rue tells Katniss that she must win and asks her to sing. Katniss has rarely sung since her father’s death, but she recalls a lullaby. The “easy and soothing” lyrics speak of a happy tomorrow and of a flower-filled meadow, a place of safety and beauty where “the daisies guard you from all harm.” Katniss cries as she sings and Rue slips away; she hears mockingjays pick up the lullaby and Rue’s cannon fire. She kisses Rue and knows she should leave so that the hovercraft can take the bodies. She takes the boy’s pack and Rue’s and turns to leave, but she can’t stop looking at Rue, like “a baby animal curled up in a nest of netting.” Gale’s criticism of the Capitol and Peeta’s wish to do something to demonstrate that he’s not owned by the Capitol collide in her mind, and she must act, “to shame them, to make them accountable.”
Katniss sees wildflowers nearby and gathers them to arrange around Rue’s body so that they cover the wound and adorn her face and hair so that she looks as if she’s asleep in the sheltered meadow of the lullaby. The cameras will have to show this act of defiance, Katniss knows. She says goodbye and leaves as the birds hush before the hovercraft appears, but another mockingjay nearby sings Rue’s song, and Katniss tells the bird that Rue is now “Good and safe . . . . We don’t have to worry about her now.” She wanders till sunset, wanting to kill the Careers, and finds a safe tree to sleep in. A silver parachute floats down, and she scoops it up, puzzled to see that it’s bread made of ration grain, crescent-shaped, still warm. It must have been intended for Rue, and she wonders, “What must it have cost the people of District 11 who can’t even feed themselves?” Yet they let Haymitch send it to her, the first time in 74 years that a district gave a gift to a tribute from another district.
Katniss looks up toward the cameras and says clearly, “My thanks to the people of District Eleven” to show that she grasps “the full value” of the bread. Then she climbs high to rest, eating a bit of the bread, which “tastes of home,” before she sleeps. She dreams of Rue, in her flowers but whole, singing in the treetops, and wakes to loneliness, nearly unwilling to move. But Prim is watching, so Katniss assesses her gear. She notices that the District 1 boy had only a pack of dried fruit with him, for food, a “sign of extreme arrogance.” The Careers assume that they’ll always have food, so why carry much? They are about to learn what a mistake that is.
Katniss eats the bread and hunts groosling. She builds a fire to cook it, fearless of the Careers, for whom she is now ready. She wishes she could find Peeta because now she understands him and has much to tell him. Finally, she wraps her food and climbs a tree early to sleep away her exhaustion. It strikes her that the Career from District 1 was her first kill—not counting having dropped tracker jackers on Glimmer and the District 4 girl. “Somewhere,” she thinks, “his family is weeping for him. His friends call for my blood.” But—he killed tiny, harmless Rue, so she tries to put him out of her mind.
The day has been calm, and Katniss knows that calm is boring. The Gamemakers will act soon to force a confrontation. After the anthem plays, trumpets precede Claudius Templesmith’s voice congratulating the six remaining tributes and announcing a rule change: This year, two tributes may become victors—if they are from the same district. Katniss involuntarily calls out Peeta’s name.
If the destruction of the Careers’ supplies was a turning point in the external conflict of the Games, the death of Rue is the turning point in Katniss’s internal conflict, which forces her “to confront my own fury against the cruelty, the injustice” of the Capitol’s power over the districts. When she performed for the Gamemakers, she acted defiantly because she was angry at being ignored; the slight was personal, and the result might have been a low score that endangered her further in the arena. Now, however, Katniss acts in defiance for the sake of Rue, of Peeta, even of the District 1 boy, because as she sees that, like Rue, he “appears so vulnerable in death, and hatred of him “seems inadequate.” He is not the enemy. The Capitol is.