Catching Fire

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Themes and Colors
Symbols and Interpretations Theme Icon
Hidden Resistance vs. Direct Rebellion Theme Icon
Surveillance and Manipulation Theme Icon
Pain, Pleasure, and Self-Control  Theme Icon
Women, Femininity, and Sexism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Catching Fire, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Pain, Pleasure, and Self-Control  Theme Icon

In the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss Everdeen endures an extraordinary amount of pain. She faces death many times during her competition in the Hunger Games, and at several points has to kill other competitors. In Catching Fire, it’s clear from the beginning that these changes have had a major impact on Katniss’s character. She struggles with the trauma of her time in the Hunger Games, often having nightmares about Rue, her friend and fellow competitor, who was killed during the competition. In addition to the more obvious conflicts with President Snow and the government, one of the most important narratives in Catching Fire concerns how Katniss deals—or fails to deal—with her own pain and trauma.

While Catching Fire doesn’t resolve Katniss’s problems with pain and trauma (there’s a whole other book in the series, after all), it contains important examples of how not to deal with pain. When her friend Gale is injured, Katniss begs her mother to use a powerful painkiller, morphling, to relieve her friend’s suffering. Katniss’s mother refuses, on the grounds that morphling will weaken Gale in the long term. By forcing him to confront his own pain in the short term, Katniss’s mother allows Gale’s wounds to heal.

Later, Collins reveals that many other Hunger Games victors have turned to drugs—such as morphling—to hide their pain. When these victors are required to compete in the Games a second time, Katniss sees, terrified, that many of them are addicted to painkillers, and can barely tell where they are. The message is clear: Katniss can’t “drown out” her pain (or, for that matter, the pain of her loved ones) with instant gratification or distraction. While this method may be rewarding in the short term, it does nothing to fight the source of the pain itself, and thus makes the victim weaker. There is, in fact, no easy solution to Katniss’s pain. Nevertheless, it’s clear that she needs to exercise self-control and discipline to avoid making the mistakes of her fellow Hunger Games champions.

Peeta, Katniss’s co-champion in the Hunger Games, represents another important facet of her quest to resolve her pain and trauma. Because Peeta was also a competitor, he understands Katniss’s feelings, and on several occasions they sleep next to each other to avoid getting nightmares. Friendship, understanding, and even love help Katniss to fight pain by passing it on to others.

By the end of Catching Fire, Katniss is caught in an “in-between” stage. She’s experienced a great deal of pain, learned how not to deal with it, and also found some methods for coping with her pain in a healthy, productive way. The last line of the book, in which she learns that her home, District 12, has been destroyed by the government, then poses an implicit challenge: will she learn from her pain, or will this new tragedy prove too much for her?

Pain, Pleasure, and Self-Control ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Pain, Pleasure, and Self-Control appears in each chapter of Catching Fire. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Pain, Pleasure, and Self-Control Quotes in Catching Fire

Below you will find the important quotes in Catching Fire related to the theme of Pain, Pleasure, and Self-Control .
Chapter 1 Quotes

If it were up to me, I would try to forget the Hunger Games entirely. Never speak of them. Pretend they were nothing but a bad dream. But the Victory Tour makes that impossible. Strategically placed almost midway between the annual Games, it is the Capitol’s way of keeping the horror fresh and immediate. Not only are we in the districts forced to remember the iron grip of the Capitol’s power each year, we are forced to celebrate it.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker)
Page Number: 3-4
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Katniss offers an explanation of the Hunger Games, the brutal competition she was forced to compete in the previous year. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which the people of the districts of Panem are forced to send players, who compete with one another for the "honor" of winning the Games. The Capitol—the ruling government of Panem—hosts the Hunger Games, along with a Victory Tour that keeps memory of the Hunger Games fresh in everyone's minds. During the Victory Tour, Katniss, as a champion of the Games, must tour the country celebrating her own "success."

In one sense, Katniss's quote emphasizes the personal toll the games have taken on her. She won the tournament, but in the process she was forced to kill opponents, betray friends, and experience great trauma and loss. She's haunted by her own actions, and the Victory Tour is torturous because it forces her to remember the most traumatic events of her life. In a broader sense, though, the quote also alludes to "societal memory." The Capitol's goal in instituting the Victory Tour is to force all of Panem to remember the events of the Hunger Games. In doing so, the Capitol builds allegiance between the Districts of Panem: everyone in the country unites together around the Games and therefore the Capitol. Furthermore, the constant emphasis on the Hunger Games as a source of both entertainment and fear keeps the people of Panem from joining together against the government.


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Chapter 3 Quotes

My time in the arena made me realize how I needed to stop punishing [my mother] for something she couldn’t help, specifically the crushing depression she fell into after my father’s death. Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Katniss’s mother
Page Number: 31-32
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss's experiences during the Hunger Games have simultaneously matured her and stunted her development. On one hand, she's been forced to experience things that no human being should experience: she's been forced to murder to survive, for example. Her time in the arena has made it difficult for her to pursue a relationship or form a close friendship. And yet Katniss's experiences in the Hunger Games have also made her a more empathetic person: in this quote, she explains how her own brushes with death have taught her to understand her mother's depression. The calm, stoic explanation Katniss gives for her mother's depression—"sometimes things happen to people"—sounds like the words of a much older, more experienced woman.

Chapter 4 Quotes

I think of Haymitch, unmarried, no family, blotting out the world with drink. He could have had his choice of any woman in the district. And he chose solitude.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Haymitch Abernathy
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss's mentor and model is Haymitch Abernathy, a former Hunger Games champion enlisted to prepare Katniss for the tournament. For most of the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy, Haymitch is portrayed as a figure of ridicule: a lazy, drunken complainer who's been resting on his laurels ever since winning the Hunger Games years before. But in this section of Catching Fire, Katniss begins to see Haymitch in different terms. Suddenly, Haymitch's sullenness and drunkenness become tragic and even impressive, rather than ridiculous.

In part, Katniss has changed her attitude toward Haymitch because of her own experiences in the Hunger Games. Unlike most champions, Katniss finds it impossible to rejoice in her own success: she's too naturally sympathetic to celebrate murder and bloodshed. Surrounded by the glitz and sleaze of the Victory Tour, Katniss looks to Haymitch as a kindred spirit: someone who won the Hunger Games but never enjoyed them for a second. Furthermore, Katniss is beginning to see that Haymitch's sullenness and drunkenness are noble and even rebellious. Haymitch knew that the President of the Capitol would try to pressure him into obeying the government by threatening his family, so Haymitch chose not to have a family at all rather than put innocent people in danger. By largely refusing to participate in the pomp of the Hunger Games and the Victory Tour, Haymitch is also refusing to empower the government any further: without Haymitch, Snow has one less way of controlling his people.

Chapter 8 Quotes

My mother has to save the strongest for the worst pain, but what is the worst pain? To me, it’s always the pain that is present. If I were in charge, those painkillers would be gone in a day because I have so little ability to watch suffering. My mother tries to save them for those who are actually in the process of dying, to ease them out of the world.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Katniss’s mother
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Katniss shows how her encounters with pain and danger can make her stronger, wiser, and more mature. After Katniss's friend Gale is whipped and beaten for daring to break the government's rules, Katniss's mother gives Gale a relatively weak treatment that does little to improve his pain. While Katniss is astounded and enraged that her own mother is being so "harsh" with her friend, she gradually comes to realize that her mother is doing the right thing. There are times when one has no choice but to experience pain, Katniss realizes. As brutal as it might seem to let Gale go through so much suffering, it's better than wasting an entire supply of painkillers on one person. Katniss's description of her mother's remedies suggests that Katniss is learning to respect her mother for her wisdom and experience, and recognizes that she herself has a lot to learn about taking care of herself.

Chapter 13 Quotes

I’m glad I won only last year. Otherwise I’d know all the other victors, not just because I see them on television but because they’re guests at every Games. Even if they’re not mentoring like Haymitch always has to, most return to the Capitol each year for the event. I think a lot of them are friends. Whereas the only friend I’ll have to worry about killing will be either Peeta or Haymitch.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark , Haymitch Abernathy
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss has been summoned to the Capitol to compete in another edition of the Hunger Games. When she arrives, she's intimidated but also strangely relieved: because of her youth, she hasn't made any lasting friendships with the other competitors. Unlike the other competitors, then, she'll have less guilt about killing her opponents (with the obvious exceptions of Haymitch and Peeta). Katniss's observation is also oddly characteristic of her personality, because it's both callous and compassionate. On one hand, the quote suggests that Katniss will have no problem killing dozens of people, simply because she's never met them before. On the other, the quote suggests that Katniss is thinking about guilt and loss, and that she has compassion for some people (such as Peeta) and empathy for others (who must struggle to kill their friends). In general, then, the quote illustrates the two sides of Katniss's complex personality: her brutality and her compassion.

Chapter 16 Quotes

Kids in costumes are silly, but aging victors, it turns out, are pitiful. A few who are on the younger side, like Johanna and Finnick, or whose bodies haven’t fallen into disrepair, like Seeder and Brutus, can still manage to maintain a little dignity. But the majority, who are in the clutches of drink or morphling or illness, look grotesque in their costumes.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Finnick Odair , Johanna Mason , Brutus , Seeder
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:

At Katniss prepares to compete in the Hunger Games for a second time, she meets her competitors—previous victors in the Games. This is Katniss's opportunity to study how other people have dealt with fame and celebrity. What she discovers is "pitiful." The vast majority of people who have won the Hunger Games haven't weathered success very well. Most have become addicted to drugs or alcohol—either because they need a vehicle to escape from their memories of murder, or because they've turned to extravagance in their fame. The prevalence of addiction among the victors suggests that victory is its own prison: for all their fame and glory, the winners of the Hunger Games are just as bound to the government as the other citizens of Panem.

Although Katniss is sizing up her competition and trying to figure out how to protect the people she loves, her thought process also reminds us of how strong and mature she is in comparison to most. It's true that she hasn't had to live as a victor for very long, but she also clearly maintains greater self-control than most of her peers.

“I like the District Three victors,” I say. “Wiress and Beetee.”
“Really?” he asks. “They’re something of a joke to the others.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” I say. I think of how Peeta was always surrounded at school by a crowd of friends.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark (speaker), Wiress , Beetee
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point, Katniss and Peeta are trying to build a team of allies so that they can survive the Hunger Games. Katniss's approach to recruiting teammates is vastly different from Peeta's, shedding light on the differences between their personalities. While Katniss favors competitors who are calm, quiet, and intelligent, Peeta favors competitors who are strong, fast, or otherwise athletic. (In short, Katniss and Peeta like competitors who mirror their own personalities.) As Katniss correctly points out, Peeta's preference for "jocks" and gregarious friends stretches all the way back to his time in school, when he was always very popular.

Katniss's disagreement with Peeta reminds readers that they're far from a perfectly compatible couple; on the contrary, they're very different people. The differences between Katniss and Peeta are especially important in light of the "love triangle" between Gale, Peeta, and Katniss. From what we've seen of Gale, he's closer to Katniss's personality than Peeta is, at least in terms of quietness and introversion. 

Chapter 19 Quotes

All right, maybe killing Finnick would be a little premature. He’s been helpful so far. He does have Haymitch’s stamp of approval. And who knows what the night will hold?

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Haymitch Abernathy , Finnick Odair
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, written as Katniss's stream-of-consciousness, we see Katniss trying to decide whether or not to kill one of her fellow competitors in the Hunger Games. Finnick Odair is a famously devious and unpredictable competitor whom Katniss immediately distrusts, and yet he's also remarkably brave—and most important, he saves Peeta's life, seemingly proving his loyalty to Katniss and Peeta. Katniss ultimately chooses not to kill Finnick because of this. And yet the mere fact that she's seriously considering doing so speaks miles about her character during the Hunger Games. Katniss may be the protagonist of these novels, but she's also ruthless and willing to kill to protect the people she loves. Even if she's less ruthless and less willing to kill than some of her competitors, she's still very dangerous, and has been turned callous by the horrible situations she's forced to survive.

Chapter 20 Quotes

One way or the other, I have a very valuable piece of information. And if they know I have it, they might do something to alter the force field so I can’t see the aberration anymore. So I lie.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker)
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

Thanks to a conversation with her two competitors, Beetee and Wiress, Katniss learns that it's possible to see the force fields that the government had placed around the perimeters of the Hunger Games arena: there's always a telltale shimmer around the forcefield generator. But, as the quotation explains, Katniss chooses not to share this information with her competitors—and even more importantly, she chooses not to let the ever-present cameras know that she knows how to detect a forcefield.

Katniss's decision suggests a few things about her character. She's playing the game very strategically, recognizing that she shouldn't share a huge advantage—knowledge of how to detect the forcefield—with her competitors. Evidently, Katniss has learned from her prior experiences to be careful and tactical. It's also clear that Katniss has learned a lot from her Victory Tour: she's used to being filmed and watched at all times, whether she's in the Games or not. In general, Katniss's behavior shows how strategic, hidden resistance can be more effective than direct rebellion against the government. Instead of challenging the government's power directly—by complaining about the forcefield and trying to fight it, for example—Katniss exhibits self-control and files away the information for the future. Her subtlety pays off in the novel's climax, when she finally takes a decisive step—firing an arrow at the generator—and translates hidden resistance into direct rebellion at the perfect time.

Chapter 24 Quotes

My mouth drops open in shock. No one, ever, says anything like this in the Games. Absolutely, they’ve cut away from Johanna, are editing her out. But I have heard her and can never think about her again in the same way. She’ll never win any awards for kindness, but she certainly is gutsy. Or crazy.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Johanna Mason
Page Number: 346
Explanation and Analysis:

During the Hunger Games, with millions of people watching her, Johanna makes a joke about the people of Panem rebelling against the government. Naturally, the editors of the Games will never allow this sentiment to be broadcast. Still, the fact that Katniss finds Johanna's word so shocking and impressive—far more so than any literal action could be—says a lot about the kind of woman Katniss has become over the course of this novel. As Katniss proceeds with her tour of Panem, being filmed at all hours of the day, she becomes so used to the camera that she can't conceive of the camera ever turning off. Even when she's alone in her bed, she has the reflexive feeling that someone, somewhere, is filming her. Because she has the sense of always being watched, and because she knows very well that if she doesn't "behave" on camera, her family will be murdered, Katniss has no choice but to follow directions, opposing the government's authority only in the smallest, subtlest ways.

When one considers Katniss's history with surveillance, then, it's not surprising that she's so impressed with Johanna's direct statement. It's Katniss's burden to always check her own statements for fear that they'll anger Snow. She's certainly willing to incite rebellion against the government, but she'd never dare to oppose it as Johanna just has—she's also probably jealous of Johanna for being able to speak her mind so plainly.

Chapter 27 Quotes

But will Peeta know that or will he keep fighting? He’s so strong and such a good liar. Does he think he has a chance of surviving? Does he even care if he does? He wasn’t planning on it, anyway. He had already signed off on life. Maybe, if he knows I was rescued, he’s even happy. Feels he fulfilled his mission to keep me alive. I think I hate him even more than I do Haymitch.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark , Haymitch Abernathy
Page Number: 387
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final pages of Catching Fire, Katniss is rescued by a group of rebels including Haymitch, Plutarch Heavensbee, and others. Peeta, on the other hand, is kidnapped by the government of Panem and placed in captivity as a warning to Katniss, now perceived (correctly) as an enemy of the government. In simplest terms, Katniss was trying to save Peeta's life by sacrificing her own, only to find that Peeta's life has been placed in danger because of her own rebellious escape (and furthermore, he was trying to sacrifice his life to save hers).

As Katniss realizes, she's become increasingly emotionally reliant on other people since winning the Hunger Games last year. Traumatized by the violence she witnessed, she's relied on Peeta (one of the few people who understands what she's going through) for love and understanding. The advantage of emotional dependence is that in Peeta, Katniss has a good friend: someone who can empathize with her and lessen her pain. But the challenge of emotional dependence, of course, is that when Katniss loses Peeta to the government, she feels more pain than she ever thought was possible: her connection with Peeta is now a horrible burden. In the depths of her misery, Katniss even says that she hates Peeta—a clear sign that she resents the bond of guilt and fear that now links her to him.