Having just learned that she will be forced to compete in the Hunger Games for a second time, Katniss runs out of her house in Victor’s Village. She never imagined that she’d have to compete again—the laws have always been clear about victors being excluded from future competitions. Now, she faces the possibility of competing against her friends, Peeta and Haymitch.
For all of her paranoia about the Capitol and President Snow, Katniss has always expected that the government would honor its own rules. The true horror of Snow’s regime, then, is that it’s not bound to any kind of order at all—it can twist the laws to its own advantage at any time.
Katniss tries to calm herself. She walks to Haymitch’s house in Victor’s Village, where she’s unsurprised to find him drunk. Haymitch thinks that Katniss has come to beg him to compete in the Games in place of Peeta. He adds that Peeta has already asked him for the opposite favor—Peeta wants to compete in the Game to protect Katniss. Katniss insists that she’s come to do nothing of the kind—she just wants a drink. Haymitch laughs bitterly, and pours her alcohol.
Haymitch isn’t an ideal mentor or father-figure by any means, but he’s all Katniss has. Peeta’s loyalty—and love—for Katniss is fully evident here, as he’s willing to sacrifice his life to protect her. Katniss asking for a drink is almost amusing, and a useful strategy to talk to Haymitch without irritating him further, but it also hints at the tragic spiral of addiction that many Hunger Games victors succumb to.
Haymitch and Katniss drink together. Katniss accuses Haymitch of hating his life, and Haymitch agrees. He adds that Peeta is a hundred times the competitor Katniss is, a suggestion Katniss ignores. Katniss proposes that she and Peeta compete in the Games, with Haymitch sending Peeta supplies. She reasons that she’s as good as dead for her disobedience to President Snow, whereas Peeta still has a chance at survival. Haymitch, very drunk by now, agrees to this arrangement.
The tables have turned—in the early chapters, Katniss was a “parent” to Haymitch, but now Haymitch plays the part of the parent to Katniss, albeit a rather incompetent one. He favors Peeta like a father favoring his favorite son, and it’s hard not to notice the sexism implicit in his favoritism.
Katniss, drunk, returns to her house in Victor’s Village, where her family is waiting for her. She wakes up the next day, barely remembering what happened to her when she came home. Her mother and sister walk into her room, carrying tea, and at this sight, Katniss bursts into tears.
Katniss has to bear many responsibilities and suffer through extraordinary trials, but in scenes like this we are reminded that she is still very young, and often vulnerable.
Katniss walks downstairs, where she finds Peeta and Haymitch waiting for her. Peeta announces that he’s poured out all of Haymitch’s alcohol, and made arrangements with the district merchants to keep Haymitch from buying any more. He reasons that the three of them are a team, so everyone needs to stay sharp.
Peeta takes on the part of the leader of the group of three victors in District 12: Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch. Whereas Katniss’s instinct is to play the part of the lone heroine, Peeta tries to “make a team.”
For the following days, Peeta, Katniss, and Haymitch prepare for the Hunger Games. They watch old footage of the victors, and Haymitch gives Peeta and Katniss information about the competitors’ personalities and weaknesses. They exercise every morning and afternoon. Katniss notices that Haymitch, in spite of his drinking and lethargy, is still extremely fit, although his weaknesses are running and wielding a knife. On television, the rich and powerful takes bets on who will win the Games, and Katniss and Peeta are always among the favorites.
Once again, Katniss notices that there’s more to Haymitch than meets the eye. In spite of his drunkenness, Haymitch is a strong, savvy victor, and he’s also prevented Katniss and Peeta from seeing him as such. This suggests that he’s consciously trying to hide this side of his personality, though why he’d do so isn’t apparent. The industry of betting on the Hunger Games goes on as always—clearly, Snow’s amendments to the rules haven’t raised any eyebrows.
Gale, whose wounds have largely healed thanks to Katniss’s mother’s nursing, stops by Katniss’s house regularly to teach her how to build snares and traps. Gale reluctantly admits that he can’t force himself to hate Peeta, even though he’s jealous of Katniss’s marriage. Katniss privately worries that Gale might start an uprising in the mines of District 12—an uprising that will be quickly and brutally quelled by Peacekeepers. As Katniss continues to train for the Games, she thinks about Gale. She wants to tell him that she cares about him, and will value their friendship for the rest of her life.
In this section, Collins tries to clarify the differences between Peeta and Gale. Though both men are attracted to Katniss, Peeta is more of a leader and an organizer than Gale. Whereas Gale recklessly wants to rise up against the Peacekeepers in District 12, Peeta slowly and calmly forms a team with the goal of taking on the Capitol in the newest Hunger Games. These qualities also correspond to two sides of Katniss: she’s both reckless and calculating, at times a leader, at times a follower.
It is the day of the “reaping,” when tributes from each district are chosen for the Games. The process is quick: the district assembles outside the Justice Building, Effie reads Katniss’s name, followed Haymitch’s, and Peeta volunteers to take Haymitch’s place. Afterwards, Peeta and Katniss are marched into a train, escorted by guards. Katniss is taken from District 12 before she can tell Gale how she feels.
This scene is depicted quickly and without much detail, even though it’s highly important to the plot. (Indeed, in the first novel, a similar scene was one of the dramatic climaxes of the book.) Perhaps this is a sign that Katniss is “thinking bigger” than the Hunger Games now: she’s thinking about the Capitol, President Snow, and her feelings for Gale.