Someone shakes Katniss’s shoulder—she’s been sleeping next to Gale. It is Peeta, staring at Katniss very sadly. Katniss feels guilty for lying next to Gale. Katniss starts to apologize for suggesting to Peeta that they run away, but Peeta cuts her off, a little angrily—there is nothing to apologize for, he insists.
Collins keeps up the “love triangle” aspect of the story. In one way, this slightly undermines Katniss as a strong, independent female protagonist, as it seems inevitable that she will end up with one of the two young men in her life.
Katniss goes to sleep in her own room. She dreams about the Hunger Games, and wishes that Peeta were there to keep her safe. Then she remembers that she’s decided to join forces with Gale, and that her marriage to Peeta is the government’s design, not hers. The next morning, there is a blizzard outside. Katniss is glad, since it will make it harder for Peacekeepers to reach her, at least for a day or two.
One of the challenges of living in a society where appearances and the media are so important is that one finds it difficult to distinguish between one’s own desires and those that society imposes. Katniss exemplifies this problem, as she desires Peeta, in part because reporters keep telling her that she should.
During the blizzard, Katniss considers what she’s agreed to by agreeing to stand with Gale against the government. Katniss is endangering her family, even her younger sister, Prim. At first, Katniss feels guilty for endangering Prim, but then she realizes that the Capitol has already hurt Prim. They’ve sent her father to die in the mines, they’ve starved her almost to death, etc.
Building off of her realization at the end of the last chapter, Katniss refuses to let her concern for her family members dictate her behavior as she used to. Now, she’s more realistic about her family: she’s not doing them any good by playing the government’s game. On the contrary, she’s only continuing to support the tyranny that hurt them in the first place.
Katniss walks downstairs, where she finds her mother tending to Gale. Katniss’s mother prepares a complex combination of half-melted snow and herbs, soaks it in a rag, and applies it to Katniss’s face. Katniss is amazed to find the pain in her face disappearing almost immediately. Katniss’s mother explains that she had to wait for Katniss’s wound to “set” before she could apply this remedy. Katniss apologizes to her mother for yelling yesterday about Gale’s medicine.
A key part of Katniss’s maturity in these scenes is her acceptance that some pain is necessary in the short-term, if only so that one can grow stronger. She’s now more willing to sacrifice her own happiness, and that of others, to fight the government. In much the same way, she’s more willing to accept that Gale needed to endure some short-term pain in order to be healthier in the long run.
Katniss’s mother tells Katniss that Peeta left early in the morning, and suggests that Katniss call him to make sure he made it through the blizzard safely. Katniss does so, and Peeta answers, a little irritably, that he’s fine. Katniss adds that she needs to talk to Peeta, but doesn’t say anything more, since she knows the phones are probably tapped.
Peeta and Katniss’s conflicted relationship is even further challenged by the fact that the government is constantly watching it, or rather, listening to it. Thus, Peeta and Katniss can’t resolve their difference at the moment—they’ll have to find the right time, when they’re truly alone.
After two days, the blizzard subsides. Katniss calls Peeta and tells him to meet her in the square in the center of District 12, so that they can find Hazelle and tell her about Gale. Katniss also convinces Haymitch to join them, though he is reluctant. Haymitch asks her what her “plan” is, and she responds that she wants to start an uprising. Haymitch laughs at this suggestion, and tells her that she should prepare for her next photo-shoot instead.
Haymitch seems utterly cynical in this moment. This fits with his surface persona of the lazy alcoholic, though it contrasts markedly with his reputation as an active warrior in the Hunger Games. Katniss proves that she’s changed her mind about rebellion in the last few chapters—her insistence that she start an uprising is sincere.
Katniss walks to the square with Haymitch and Peeta. When they arrive, she notices that the area has been transformed in the last few days: there is now a government seal hanging from the Justice Building, a crowd of Peacekeepers, and a gallows. Haymitch sees that his usual vendor of liquor has closed shop—he says that he’s going to buy rubbing alcohol from the apothecary. As he walks away, Peeta and Katniss realize that they need to stop him, or he’ll kill himself. Peeta says that he has enough liquor at home to satisfy him, and tells Katniss that they should go find Hazelle instead.
Once again, Peeta and Katniss seem like the “parents” to Haymitch in their odd, dysfunctional family. Haymitch can’t control his own bodily urges, while Katniss and Peeta have to prevent him from hurting himself.
As Katniss and Peeta walk through the streets, they notice how terrified the people of District 12 have become in only a few days. Katniss thinks that she was a fool for planning an uprising—she’ll never be able to assemble people. Katniss and Peeta reach Hazelle’s house. They tell her that Gale is doing better, though he’s too weak to leave Katniss’s house. Hazelle accepts this information, noting that Katniss’s mother is the best of nurses.
Only a few moments after discussing starting an uprising, Katniss now gets cold feet. She sees the devastation her actions have caused: people are terrified of violence from the government being directed their way. In contrast to Katniss’s uncertainty, the government seems utterly and terrifyingly efficient, deploying troops throughout Panem in only a few days.
After their brief visit with Hazelle, Katniss and Peeta prepare to walk back to Victor’s Village. Katniss says that she wants to walk through the Hob, and Peeta volunteers to go with her. In the Hob, they find only a burning building. Katniss wonders where Greasy Sae has gone, but Peeta assures her that they won’t be able to find her there. As they walk back to Victor’s Village, Katniss notices the Peacekeepers lining the streets, and realizes that she recognizes none of them.
In contrast to her warm, personal relationships with her friends and family, Katniss regards the Peacekeepers as strangers and aliens in her district. In the past, Katniss had enjoyed a happy relationship with one Peacekeeper, Darius, but he has now been beaten and punished, indicating that from now on, law and order in District 12 will be strictly, and savagely, enforced.
Days pass, and District 12 continues to fall into disrepair. The mines close down, and a huge chunk of the population starts to starve. Peacekeepers occasionally arrive with food, but it’s usually filthy or even rotten. People are punished harshly for minor offenses. Gale recovers from his wounds and returns to his home, and for the time being, he doesn’t mention rebellion of any kind. Katniss senses that he’ll be inspired to rebel, however, after he sees the state of District 12. One positive development is that Katniss convinces Haymitch to hire Hazelle as a maid. This gives Hazelle much-needed food, and also greatly improves the state of Haymitch’s house.
In response to the signs of rebellion in Panem, the government sends a clear message to the districts: rebel, and you’ll be punished with austerity, tyranny, and starvation. The message seems to have worked, since the people of District 12 are now terrified of disobeying the Capitol in any way. It’s also important to notice that Peeta and Katniss continue to take care of Haymitch, cleaning his house and helping their friend Hazelle in the process.
Due to the new severity of life in the district, there are more sick and wounded people, all of whom go to see Katniss’s mother. In the meantime, hunting laws are strictly enforced, so Gale and Katniss do not try to hunt there. Katniss receives a present from President Snow: a wedding dress. Katniss cannot understand what Snow is planning. It seems that he wants Katniss to marry Peeta, only to kill them both afterwards.
In their meeting, Snow was clear and concise with Katniss. Now his messages are increasingly complicated, even seeming to contradict one another. Perhaps this is his intent: he wants to confuse Katniss while also reminding her of his total power over her life.
Worried about the mixed message Snow is sending, Katniss decides to take matters into her own hands, though she doesn’t immediately reveal how. Early one morning, at the break of dawn, she puts on the special clothing Cinna has made for her: waterproof boots and a snowsuit. Wearing this, she quietly runs to the fence around District 12. She slips under the fence, a little surprised that there aren’t more guards there. Past the fence, Katniss retrieves a bow and quiver of arrows she’s placed there long ago. Now armed, she walks further from the fence, eventually coming to an abandoned cement house.
It’s unclear exactly what Katniss is planning here: abandoning her family, or merely hunting. Either would be an affront to the rules of the District, which are now strictly enforced. Nevertheless, it may be that Collins’s lack of explanation in this section reflects Katniss’s lack of a plan of any kind—it’s as if she needs to leave District 12, but doesn’t know where she’s going now.
Just as she is about to come to the cement house, Katniss hears the click of a weapon. Turning around and drawing her weapon, she sees someone in a Peacekeeper uniform, standing with a woman. To Katniss’s surprise, the Peacekeeper drops his weapon, a gun, and the woman cries, “Stop!” As Katniss points her bow and arrow at the two strangers, the woman holds a small object out to Katniss.
The first Part of the novel ends, as usual, on a note of suspense, so that we want to read ahead to see what happens next. This also reflects Katniss’s curiosity about what the Peacekeeper is holding: she doesn’t want to kill anyone yet, because her curiosity, like ours, is too strong.