Part I: “The Tributes”
Katniss takes Peeta’s decision as a betrayal, which is illogical, since she never trusted him anyway—at least, not much. But she’s also relieved. Now they can drop the pretense when they are alone. She and Effie spend the morning working on poise and presentation; then she and Haymitch work on her approach to the audience, though he is tempted to give up in the face of her hostility, announcing that she has “about as much charm as a dead slug.” They try humility, sexual mystery, cocky—nothing works. Finally, Haymitch tells her to answer the questions and hide that she detests the audience.
She eats alone in her room and then, in a rage, smashes the dishes. When the Avox girl comes to clean them up, Katniss orders her out. But the girl goes to the bathroom and returns with a cool wet cloth. She gently cleans Katniss’s face and wipes the blood from her hands. Katniss whispers that she should have helped in the woods, but the girl shakes her head and points at her chest, suggesting that Katniss would have been killed, too. They clean up the mess together, and the girl tucks Katniss in before leaving.
Katniss’s prep team wakes her in the morning and goes to work, braiding her hair, stenciling her skin, coating her in shimmering powder. Cinna brings in her interview dress—an astonishing creation covered in flame-colored jewels. Cinna suggests that Katniss simply be herself during the interview—or the self that she is with him, with her adoring prep team, with many fans in the Capitol who like her spirit. He advises her to answer the questions as if he were asking them.
Peeta, in a black suit with flames, and the other tributes sit on stage in an arc during the interviews. She’ll have to listen to 22 interviews before her turn. The stylists are on a special stage, the City Circle is wall-to-wall people, and every household in Panem is required to watch as well. Caesar Flickerman has conducted the interviews for more than forty years and yet, alarmingly, looks almost the same as ever. One by one, each tribute has a three-minute interview, and Caesar works to “make the tributes shine.” Rue, “in a gossamer gown complete with wings,” is a special favorite; Thresh is “sullen and hostile” but so powerfully built that the crowd is impressed. When it’s her turn, Katniss’s mouth is “dry as sawdust” and she hardly hears the first question. Caesar asks what about the Capitol has impressed her, and she answers, “The lamb stew.” That breaks her tension, and she’s able to respond to his question about her ceremonies dress. She praises Cinna extravagantly and then twirls to show the effect of his interview dress. Dizzy, she giggles and clutches Caesar’s arm. Then he asks about her score of 11, but she knows that details are not allowed. Finally, he asks about her volunteering for Prim. The audience falls silent as Katniss says that she swore to Prim to try hard to win.
Then Peeta takes his turn and achieves instant rapport with Caesar. He admits that he’s been in love since he was young with a girl who doesn’t know, and Caesar suggests that if Peeta wins, the girl will surely love him, too. No, Peeta replies, blushing deeply, “Because . . . she came here with me.”
A recurring challenge in The Hunger Games and, in fact, the entire trilogy is knowing who is an ally and who is an enemy. Katniss is particular, who is young, already traumatizedby experiences, and deeply distrustful, has difficulty assessing the threats around her and sometimes assumes hostility where it doesn’t exist. Her interaction with the Avox girl in this chapter is a good example. Katniss assumes, and indeed seems unable to assume otherwise, that the girl must hate her and looks forward to seeing her death. Instead, the girl shows that she sees Katniss as a victim, just as she is a victim. The girl knows that the true enemy is the Capitol. In the same way, Katniss assumes that Peeta is, as she is, faking affection for her and waiting to kill her. So readers can predict what her response to his interview questions will be.