Katniss stands in her home, looking into the fearsome eyes of President Snow. Katniss is used to seeing Snow on television, surrounded by flags. She wonders what he could be doing in District 12—usually, the President of the Capitol leaves Victory Tour business to other government officials.
Collins raises the suspense in this opening section by explicitly asking us—through Katniss’s inner dialogue—what Snow is up to. His typical reliance on the media suggests that this must be an important occasion.
Katniss realizes why Snow must be here: he’s angry with Katniss for disobeying the rules of the Games and allowing Peeta to win the Games along with her—usually, only one victor is allowed every year. This disobedience, she thinks, might be viewed as an act of rebellion. Katniss was allowed to be the co-winner with Peeta because the reporters liked their “story”—that they were “insanely” in love with each other. Standing before Snow now, Katniss is terrified: she knows full well that Snow is powerful enough to have her murdered with a wave of his hand.
Katniss survived the Hunger Games by manipulating the media, rather than dismantling either the media or the government: she can only save herself and Peeta by giving the reporters a “juicy story.” Clearly, Snow has a problem with Katniss’s actions, because they amount to a kind of rebellion, however harmless-seeming, against the usual state of affairs at the Games.
President Snow asks Katniss, point-blank, if she’s going to be “difficult” during the Victory Tour. Katniss replies that she won’t. Snow adds that Katniss shouldn’t cause any problems, as she did during the Games, or else she’ll endanger the lives of her family members, and of Gale. He invites Katniss to sit down, and she does so.
In contrast to the glossy appearance of power and authority that he projects on television, Snow is short and direct with Katniss face-to-face. It’s important to note that he makes the stakes of Katniss’s Victory Tour very clear: he threatens her family.
Snow continues explaining his position to Katniss. He’s viewed Katniss as a “threat” to the Capitol, he explains, ever since Katniss and Peeta won the Games together. At the end of the Games, Katniss and Peeta threatened to kill themselves by eating poisonous berries if they weren’t allowed to win the Games together. The designer of the Hunger Games, Seneca Crane, allowed them to win, Snow explains, because he was “sentimental.” He calmly explains to Katniss that Seneca has been executed.
One question that isn’t directly addressed in this section is why Snow cares about Katniss’s performance in the Games at all. The answer is complicated. To people all over Panem, the Hunger Games are a symbol of the government’s power. Thus, by breaking the rules of the Games, Katniss and Peeta made a statement challenging the government. This statement was only a challenge because of the equivalence between the Games and the government — an equivalence created by the government itself, because of the way it uses the Games to assert and symbolize its power.
President Snow goes on to explain that Katniss’s threat of suicide has been dangerous for the Capitol’s authority. Many of the other Districts saw Katniss’s behavior as an act of rebellion. Snow fears that Katniss has inspired people in some Districts to start uprisings against the government’s authority. Snow talks as if he’s concerned for stability and peace, but Katniss knows that he doesn’t care about peace at all—he only wants to stay in power.
Snow elaborates on the link between Katniss’s behavior at the Games and growing rebellion. The irony, once again, is that Katniss’s actions were only rebellious because the government itself has made such a point of directing people’s attention to the Games, and of associating its own power with the Games. Katniss is a “Trojan Horse,” entering the Games and then attacking the rules from the inside.
Katniss tells President Snow that she didn’t intend to start uprisings, and Snow replies that he believes her. He notes that the clothes she wore during the Games, featuring fiery colors, were oddly appropriate—her example has provided a “spark” for other Districts, which may one day become a huge flame that destroys all of Panem (the “universe” of The Hunger Games.) Katniss asks Snow why he doesn’t just kill her. Snow calmly replies that this would only create more outrage.
For all her maturity, Katniss is still unsure whether she wants to oppose the government or not. For the time being, at any rate, her priorities lie with her family, not with abstract causes of rebellion and uprising, as much as she hates the government and Snow.
Snow continues to prod Katniss for weaknesses. He asks her how Peeta, the “love of her life” has been, and notes that she’s clearly indifferent to him. He calls Gale “handsome,” noting that he could easily kill him off if he needed to do so. Katniss hates Snow for saying such things, and worries that he knows that she has feelings for Gale.
Snow is the embodiment of the government of Panem, in more ways than one. In Katniss’s world, there is constant surveillance—everything people do is being recorded, and often even broadcasted on television. Snow, with his sixth sense for Katniss’s actions, represents the surveillance state in all its glory and oppressive power.
Katniss thinks about a moment she spent with Gale in the woods shortly after winning the Games. Katniss has been surrounded with cameras and reporters for the last month, and seeing Gale in the woods was one of the first moments of privacy she’d had after her victory. Gale, she sensed, was angry with her for seeming to love Peeta. Katniss didn’t know how to explain herself to Gale, but she strongly wanted to go back to being friends with him. Then, as they stood alone in the woods, Gale kissed her, saying that he had to kiss her “at least once.” A week later, Katniss saw Gale, and Gale acted as if the kiss had never happened. As she thinks all this, Katniss looks at President Snow and wonders if he knows about her complicated relationship with Gale—it’s possible that he’s installed cameras in the woods.
Because there are cameras and reporters everywhere in her world, Katniss views privacy as a genuine luxury. She behaves completely differently around her loved ones when she thinks they’re alone compared with when they’re being filmed. Similarly, others, Gale included, are forced to change their behavior when they know that Katniss is being watched. It’s also important to note Snow’s gravitas and power of manipulation: even without saying that he saw Katniss with Gale, he makes Katniss worry that he did.
Katniss begs Snow not to hurt Gale. She promises to behave during her Victory Tour by pretending to love Peeta. Snow smiles and nods—this is exactly what he wants to hear. He stands up to leave Katniss’s house. As he walks out the door, he whispers to Katniss, “I know about the kiss.”
It’s almost amusing that Snow is being so straightforward here: he began his visit by telling Katniss that he’d kill her family, and he ends it by telling her, in no uncertain terms, that he knows about Gale. There is little ambiguity to interpret here.