Part II: “The Assault”
Katniss knows that Peeta, Gale, or both could die on this day. Haymitch asks if she needs to be sedated. She does not; in fact, she wants to join the mission. Haymitch explains that they are long gone—and she is “too valuable and too vulnerable” to go. Understanding that she wants to help somehow, he leaves to find Plutarch, and Katniss reluctantly wakes Finnick up because she “can’t stand to face this” alone. Finnick, however, is oddly calm because, by day’s end, their torment will be over: Annie and Peeta will “either be dead or with us.” Haymitch returns with work to do—filming a propo that Beetee can air during the rescue as a distraction, something “so riveting” that even Snow will have to watch. Katniss and Finnick get ready and head to the surface to film in front of the Justice Building. Katniss tells the story of the bread and describes the pain of separation. However, she now knows what Snow means that Panem is “fragile.” The Capitol is utterly dependent on the districts for food, energy, and security. “If we declare our freedom, the Capitol collapses,” she says as she declares herself free. Her speech gives Plutarch an idea to which Finnick agrees, for Annie’s sake. He describes how Snow “used to . . . sell me . . . my body” and other tributes’ bodies as well. “If you refuse,” he explains, “he kills someone you love. So you do it.” Now Katniss knows why Finnick appeared with a “parade of lovers” and wants to beg his forgiveness for her silent, unfounded doubts. Finnick explains that people gave him gifts, perhaps to assuage their guilt, of money, jewels, and—best of all—secrets. His revelations are detailed and ring true, and then he turns to Snow. “Such a young man when he rose to power,” he mocks. “Such a clever one to keep it.”Finnickexplains that Snow is an assassin whose weapon is poison; he ensures that the death can be ascribed to some other cause. Snow also takes the poison and its antidote, to quell suspicion. But the antidote isn’t perfect, so the smell of blood is always on his breath—hence the roses. Finnick says that Snow has a list of enemies, and Katniss imagines the anger, panic, and recriminations surging in the Capitol.
Katniss herself is not shocked; Snow is a snake, so poison is an appropriate tool, but the Capitol team members seemed disturbed as they rush to edit the propo. Katniss assumes that Snow would have sold her, too—the girl on fire would fetch a high price. She asks Haymitch whether he suffered this treatment, but he says no. Snow punished him for his “stunt” in the arena by having his mother, brother, and girlfriend killed to make him “the example for the young Finnicks and Johannas and Cashmeres.” Victors had to be taught to behave, but then Snow had no one left to use against Haymitch—until he became mentor to Peeta and Katniss, she says, but he doesn’t respond.
Finnick and Katniss tie knots and practice at the shooting range. Then they watch Beetee hack the Capitol’s feed. Most of Finnick’s revelations air before Beetee, exhausted, surrenders the broadcast to the Capitol. The mission has likely ended, for better or worse, by now. Finnick and Katniss wait for news, tying knots till their fingers bleed.
About midnight, Haymitch comes to bring them to the hospital. Finnick’s anxiety is so great that he must be led. Johanna is there, emaciated, her head shaved, bruised and bleeding. She paid for her secrets. Annie and Finnick embrace, delirious with joy. Boggs is okay, and Peeta is awake and sitting on the bed. An odd look is on his face when he sees Katniss, a mix of disbelief and something else. He runs to her and begins to strangle her.
This chapter reveals Katniss’s growing understanding of Haymitch. When he offers to have her sedated during the mission, she grasps that his method of dealing with the pain of the Games has long been to drink heavily “to anesthetize himself” against his suffering. She wonders, since he fought hard to survive the arena and get back to his family and friends, what became of them. “How is it that until Peeta and I were thrust upon him, there was no one at all in his life? What did Snow do to them?” The question is answered later in the chapter, when Haymitch explains why Snow couldn’t coerce him to be sold sexually. These details of his back story go a long way to explain why Haymitch works to stay drunk. In many chapters of this and the first two novels, Katniss wonders how much alike she and Haymitch are. Gradually, their experiences overlap further. Whether this will bind them closely, readers will have to determine.
Scans reveal that Peeta’s attack did no lasting damage to Katniss’s spine, arteries, or trachea. For now, she’s back in hospital, unable to speak, breathing with pain. Boggs had to knock Peeta unconscious to stop his attack; Haymitch, like Katniss, was “utterly unprepared,” so overjoyed at seeing Peeta alive that they were “blinded” to threats. Prim stays with Katniss and speaks for her when Plutarch, Haymitch, and Beetee visit her. Plutarch orders Prim out of the room since she is not on the team, but he backs down when she threatens to explain how badly, so far, the Mockingjay has fared under his care. Beetee and Plutarch explain that Peeta has been tortured with a secret method called hijacking—brainwashing reinforced with tracker jacker venom. The venom targets fear reactions, which are then trained as new memories. Peeta’s memories have been altered so that he hates and fears Katniss above anything else. Plutarch predicts a full recovery, but Beetee and Haymitch are more reserved. Peeta will receive the best treatment they have, but he may never recover fully.
Plutarch reports that Snow had Peeta’s stylist, Portia, and prep team executed publically and that no one knows where Effie Trinket is. But Peeta is “with us,” he says, as Katniss begins to cry and must be sedated to protect her bruised throat. She’s grateful that she can’t speak for some time because no one can ask her questions to which she has no answers. The desire to kill Snow occupies her thoughts. Peeta, meanwhile, is restrained as the venom gradually works its way out of his system. After her release, Katniss goes with Prim to their new compartment. Prim tucks Katniss in and counsels her to be patient and not give up on Peeta. Katniss marvels at how like their mother Prim is, already at gifted healer, and how like their father she is, with her calm manner. Prim won’t be put upon and has a way of observing and making sense of “the confusing mess of life.” After Prim leaves for her shift, Katniss heads to Special Defense, where she finds Gale and Beetee in the research room. Designs are everywhere; they’re adapting Gale’s traps and snares into weapons that prey on human fears, compassion, and need to draw numbers of the enemy toward destruction. Katniss is taken aback—these traps seem “to be crossing some kind of line” beyond which “anything goes” and she leaves quickly to keep from going “ballistic.”
Haymitch needs her in the hospital, where Peeta’s doctors are about to try a new approach: “Send in the most innocuous person from Twelve” they can find, someone who has childhood memories in common with Peeta but little connection to Katniss. Delly Cartwright is chosen. The grief of the loss of her parents is still on her face, though, and she also sympathizes with what Katniss and Peeta have suffered. Delly says that she admired Katniss, the girl skilled enough to hunt and bold enough to trade in the Hob, but didn’t know her personally.
Katniss, Plutarch, and Haymitch watch from the observation room as Delly approaches Peeta, who is strapped down, not struggling but fidgety. He’s confused but recognizes Delly; she mentions “an accident,” then quickly tries to change the subject, but he probes for details. The accident was “bad—no one could stay,” Delly admits, but the people in 13 are so nice, and life is okay. Stress makes Delly sweat as she explains that Peeta’s family hasn’t visited him because many people “didn’t get out” of 12—but, she says with tears in her eyes, they will make a new life here.
Peetainterrupts her assurances: “There was a fire.” Dellyconcedes this, but then Peeta begins to pull against the restraints as he accuses Katniss of causing the fire. Dellystarts to collapse, and Plutarch orders, “Get her out of there!” The door opens, and Delly backs toward it, insisting that Katniss had nothing to do with the fire as Peeta yells that Katniss is “some kind of mutt the Capitol created to use against the rest of us!” he shouts as Delly, in tears, is pulled from the room. Katniss, too, is crushed; it was easier to have Peeta physically attack her, she thinks, than to hear him call her a “stinking mutt.” She begs Plutarch to send her away, into the field somewhere.
Everything in this chapter ratchets up Katniss’s anxiety. Peeta has rescued—but is lost to her. Gale is her ally—but is invested in tactical plans that appall her. Prim and Mrs. Everdeen are so in demand in the hospital that they can’t stay by her as she recuperates. She tries to keep a degree of hope, but Peeta’s belief that she is not human kills even that. Katniss’s past is pain, her present despair. And her hopelessness infects her sense of the future, too. Readers see this especially in her assessment of the traps that Beetee and Gale are designing, which include “Endangering offspring in order to draw the actual desired target, the parent” and “Luring the victim into what appears to be a safe haven—where death awaits it.” These are tactics familiar from the arena, so District 13’s willingness to use them troubles Katniss deeply. That they do not trouble Gale as well suggests that Katniss and Gale view the rebellion’s means and methods differently, even if they agree on its ends.