Catching Fire

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Catching Fire Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Haymitch and Katniss walk back inside the train, which finishes refueling and moves on. Katniss goes to her train car and sits alone, thinking about what Haymitch has told her. If she marries Peeta, she realizes, Snow might try to pressure her into having children. This means that her children may one day be drafted to compete in the Hunger Games themselves. Even though the selection process for choosing tributes is supposedly random, Katniss suspects that it’s actually rigged. Katniss realizes that Haymitch, who could have married anyone he wanted after winning the Games, may have chosen to stay single because he didn’t want to put other people—including his own children—in danger.
As Katniss thinks more about Haymitch, she gains new respect for him. His drunkenness and cynicism, while off-putting, are motivated by a genuine sense of despair—he knows that he can never have children, or they’ll eventually be drafted in the games. In this way, Haymitch’s alcoholism is almost noble—he is abusing his own body because he is too moral a person to put someone else in danger. Katniss still has to make her own peace with her situation as a victor, and Haymitch’s example will be highly important to her.
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It is getting late. Alone in her train car, Katniss tries to sleep, but finds that she can’t stop thinking about Gale and her family. She resolves to appear to be in love with Peeta, thereby keeping them safe.
Katniss’s guilt about Gale, Rue, and others will haunt her throughout the novel. Her only defense against these things, it would seem, is to project an image of happiness.
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The next day, the train stops in District 11. Katniss remembers that Rue, the young girl who died during the Games, was from this District. In District 11, Katniss attends a delicious dinner, but she finds that she can’t enjoy her food because she’s concerned for her family. She also notices that Haymitch and Cinna aren’t present at the dinner. Effie explains that Haymitch is probably drunk and asleep, while Cinna has been working hard to design Katniss’s outfits, and is probably resting, too.
While the victors of the Hunger Games are showered in love, attention, and money, Katniss cannot enjoy these things. It’s unclear if the other victors go through the same emotions—guilt, anger, frustration—after they win, but most probably do. At any rate, Katniss won’t be comfortable settling into her new life as a victor. She’s not motivated by hatred for the government so much as by her own guilt.
Themes
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Katniss thinks about how hard her “team” works to make her look beautiful. They always want to make “alterations” to her body—tattoos, surgeries, etc.—but Cinna insists that they hold off on doing so. Katniss thinks about the wealthy, powerful people who live in the Capitol, most who have had elaborate surgeries and procedures done on their bodies. Katniss wonders if they realize how bizarre they look to “the rest of us.”
The false physical beauty and gaudy tattoos that Katniss sees in her team reflects the general emphasis on appearances that Snow (and the culture of Panem) stresses. Katniss, with her troubled thoughts, finds it almost impossible to maintain an appearance of beauty and happiness—she’s more thoughtful and sensitive than her society wants her to be.
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After the dinner in District 11, Katniss and her crew get back on the train and move on to the next district. Only a few hours after they depart, the train breaks down, irritating Effie. While technicians try to repair the train, Katniss walks outside, staring out into the wilderness that surrounds the train tracks. As she walks around, she hears a voice and turns—it’s Peeta.
Effie is a representative of the Capitol—in all its superficiality and emphasis on smooth, punctual performances—and yet Effie is a comical figure, not a sinister one. She’s simply a product of the Capitol’s emphasis on appearances and ceremony.
Themes
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Peeta tells Katniss that he needs to talk to her about Gale. He admits that he’s had a crush on Katniss for a long time, and that he knew she had “something with Gale” for a while. He also apologizes for trying to hold Katniss to the things she said during the Games—he recognizes that she was only pretending to love him in order to win the competition. Katniss is touched by Peeta’s apology, and together, they agree to try to “just be friends.”
Peeta’s apology to Katniss seems perfectly sincere, but Katniss’s insistence that they “be friends” will never work out, we sense. The “love triangle” between Gale, Katniss, and Peeta will persist throughout the remainder of the book, reminding us that, like the media of Panem, we want a “good story.”
Themes
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Peeta offers to show Katniss his paintings, which have an entire train car to themselves. He holds Katniss’s hand, and Katniss is happy to know that he’s touching her out of friendship, not romance, either fake or sincere. Inside the train, Katniss is surprised to see that Peeta has painted scenes from the Hunger Games. Many of these scenes show her fighting—in one, she’s lying in a pool of blood. Katniss tells Peeta that he’s a brilliant artist, but also admits that she hates these paintings, because they remind her of the most painful days of her life. Peeta nods in understanding, and explains that he needs to paint the Games because he sees them “every night.” As they talk, they feel the train lurch forward. The technicians have made their repairs, and the train will be in District 11 soon.
Even when Peeta seems to be platonic friends with Katniss, we sense a sexual undercurrent in their behavior. Peeta, for his part, is sensitive and intelligent, as his paintings attest. More to the point, he clearly struggles with the same feelings of guilt and trauma that Katniss has been dealing with. This connects the two, and suggests that Peeta is ideal for Katniss, as he understands exactly what she’s going through. Perhaps it’s symbolic that the train begins to move again after Katniss talks with Peeta—having a sympathetic friend helps Katniss “move forward” with her life.
Themes
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As the train arrives in District 11, Peeta and Katniss see a huge barbed wire fence with large metal towers positioned along it. Katniss had learned from Rue that District 11 was more severe and tyrannical than District 12, but she hadn’t expected such an intimidating sight. She also notices that District 11 is huge, far larger than her own District. The train stops near a large, crumbling marble structure, the Justice Building, which Katniss recognizes from school lessons in her childhood.
As we get closer to the Capitol, we get more signs of the government’s harsh rule. The decaying state of the Justice Building seems to symbolize the decaying state of justice, both in the district and in Panem itself. People are murdered, victors are blackmailed for good behavior, and innocents are threatened. Justice is truly a dying concept here.
Themes
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In District 11, Effie has arranged for Peeta and Katniss to greet the District Mayor and read a scripted thank-you that the Capitol has sent. Katniss thinks that it’s traditional for the Games winners to say a few words about dead tributes with whom they were allied—thus, she should say something about Rue. Though she has struggled to write anything about Rue, Peeta has prepared a brief statement on this topic.
Katniss’s immaturity is on full display in this section. She has feelings about Rue’s death—guilt, sadness, etc.—but she struggles to communicate them, and thus move past them. That Peeta is “speaking for” Katniss about Rue suggests that Peeta is a good, understanding friend, and also that Katniss isn’t yet ready to confront her own demons.
Themes
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Katniss, Peeta, and their entourage are welcomed off their train by a group of “Peacekeepers” (government soldiers). They escort them into a truck, which drives to the Justice Building. At the Justice Building Katniss and Peeta are invited onto a huge stage, and a vast audience cheers for them. The Mayor reads a speech, and although Katniss is very nervous, she has previously been “drilled” so many times that she says her lines without thinking. Afterwards, Peeta delivers a short speech about how Rue helped him and Katniss win the competition. Peeta announces that the families of the dead tributes from District 11 will receive one month’s worth of Peeta and Katniss’s winnings every year until Katniss and Peeta die. This is an unprecedented display of generosity, and the crowd gasps and cheers in response to it. Katniss herself is so impressed that when she kisses Peeta at the end of the ceremony, her kiss isn’t forced at all.
It’s especially unnerving that Katniss reads through her prepared script because she has no words of her own to say—the government, as well as Peeta, is speaking for her. Peeta’s generosity seems enormous, but one wonders whether it accomplishes much in the end. He isn’t directly challenging the authority of the government, but only trying to mitigate a problem. Peeta is advocating a petty “progressivism,” instead of addressing the root cause of Rue and District 11’s problems: the tyranny of the government. We begin to see that Katniss has genuine feelings for Peeta, but these are complicated by the public nature of their relationship.
Themes
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Just as the ceremony is about to conclude, Katniss feels a sudden desire to speak her mind. Even though her time for speeches has passed, she interrupts the Mayor to talk about Rue. She tells her audience that Rue will always be with her, and that she sees Rue in her own younger sister, Prim. Though Katniss’s voice is unsteady, she bravely finishes her speech, thanking District 11 for its enormous sacrifice.
Katniss’s interruption is a small but pointed act of rebellion, one that fits the title of the first part of the novel: a “spark.” While Katniss is a little clumsy in the way she goes about praising Rue, it sends a clear message of compassion and solidarity, precisely the opposite of what the government encourages.
Themes
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When Katniss falls silent, there is a pause. Then, an old man in the audience gives a whistle. It is the same whistle that Rue used to whistle when she worked in the orchards of District 11. It’s also the same whistle that Katniss used to communicate with Rue at the end of the Games. Soon, everyone in the audience is whistling. Katniss is almost moved to tears, but she’s also worried that this display of unity will be interpreted as a sign of rebellion—exactly what Snow has warned her to avoid.
Evidently Katniss’s words have a profound effect on the people of District 11. Katniss is clearly unsure of herself at this point—after instigating a minor uprising, she’s a little ashamed of doing so. It’s as if she doesn’t know what she’s capable of accomplishing simply by making a speech. Again, it’s ironic that the government gives Katniss the platform from which she causes rebellion.
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The ceremony concludes, and Peeta and Katniss are escorted out of the Justice Building. As Katniss leaves, she sees a horrible sight: the old man who first whistled is dragged out of the building, pushed to the ground, and shot in the head.
Katniss sees firsthand the real consequences of stirring up rebellion. Whether the sight of this murder will discourage her from future rebellious acts or not remains to be seen.
Themes
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