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.
Surveillance and Manipulation Theme Icon

A tyrannical government, headed by President Snow, controls the nation of Panem. While this government has a huge amount of physical power over Panem, one of the most important aspects of its power is its ability to run surveillance on its citizens, or—just as powerful—imply that its citizens are under constant surveillance, and thus manipulate their behavior.

At the beginning of Catching Fire, President Snow tells Katniss that he’ll be watching her to make sure that she “behaves” during her tour of the twelve districts of Panem, rather than trying to start a rebellion against the government. The fact that Katniss believes him so readily indicates just how extensive the government’s surveillance of its citizens is: it taps their phones, installs secret cameras in their houses, and sometimes makes them compete in the Hunger Games, filmed by a TV crew at all times. In short, Katniss’s society is one in which the people are under near-constant surveillance, especially if they’ve been judged by the government to be “dangerous.” (In this sense, Panem it must be said, bears an uncanny resemblance to many real-world countries, including the United States.) This leads us to ask a number of questions. What does it mean to be watched at all times? How does it influence one’s sense of safety, or one’s interactions with others?

To begin with, the threat of constant surveillance makes people censor their own behavior and act more cautiously. At many points, Katniss makes her speech milder and less politically charged because she guesses that the government is tapping her phone. This is, of course, what President Snow wants. Nevertheless, there are several times in the book when Katniss seems to forget that she’s being watched. During her Victory Tour, she describes herself forgetting that her relationship with Peeta, the Hunger Games’ co-champion, is all for show—she thinks that she feels genuine love and affection for him. This suggests that the government’s surveillance and spying is so pervasive that it becomes a part of people’s lives—their cautious, self-censored behavior becomes, simply, their behavior. A third effect of government surveillance is that it encourages people to place greater value on privacy and intimacy. When she’s sure that they’re alone, Katniss savors her interactions with Gale, because she knows how rare these moments are. Thus, even the most banal of conversations with Gale becomes special.

Surveillance is a recurring theme in all three volumes of the Hunger Games, and because Catching Fire is only the middle book in the trilogy, Collins doesn’t resolve this theme altogether. The book ends with Katniss, knowing full well that all of Panem is watching her, openly defying the government’s authority by shooting at the force field that imprisons her in the Hunger Games. Collins suggests that one cannot merely accept or adapt to constant surveillance, as some of the characters (including Katniss) appear to do. Instead, the best course of action would seem to be, “Be yourself.” And yet immediately after this, Collins reveals her “twist ending”—all along, Katniss has been manipulated by a group of rebels, including her mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, into defying the government. Is it really possible to “be yourself,” Collins seems to ask, if you don’t know who your friends are? On this uncertain note, Collins moves on to Mockingjay.

Surveillance and Manipulation ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in Catching Fire related to the theme of Surveillance and Manipulation.
Chapter 5 Quotes

Did I do it? Was it enough? Was giving everything over to you, keeping up the game, promising to marry Peeta enough?
In answer, he gives an almost imperceptible shake of his head.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark , President Coriolanus Snow
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

At the conclusion of Katniss's Victory Tour, Katniss is unsure if she's pleased President Snow or not. While she's been careful not to say anything that could be interpreted as a denunciation of Snow's government, Katniss has inadvertently caused riots and rebellions across Panem. (A few chapters after this quote, Katniss realizes just how successful she's been in challenging the government's authority: she's caused full-scale uprisings against the Capitol in several districts.)

The quote also illustrates the extent to which Katniss will go to protect her family and keep up appearances. Because she's afraid that her mother and sister will be murdered for her defiance of the rules, Katniss tries to overcompensate by getting engaged to Peeta, her co-champion in the Hunger Games. While Katniss has romantic feelings for her childhood friend, Gale, she's loyal first and foremost to her family. Thus, she decides to marry Peeta in the hopes that she'll entertain the country and please Snow. Snow's shake of the head, however, seems to indicate that Katniss hasn't done enough to neutralize her own threat. But because Snow's gesture is so small and hard to read, it's not completely clear if Katniss's interpretation is right or wrong. Snow's head-shake is only the first of many ambiguous symbols and speeches in this book.


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Chapter 6 Quotes

There was something strange about it. Almost clandestine. But why? Maybe he thinks someone else will steal his idea of putting a disappearing mockingjay on a watch face. Yes, he probably paid a fortune for it, and now he can’t show it to anyone, because he’s afraid someone will make a cheap, knockoff version. Only in the Capitol.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Plutarch Heavensbee
Related Symbols: Mockingjay
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

At the "meet and greet" for the year's new edition of the Hunger Games—in which both Katniss and Peeta are being forced to compete—Katniss meets the new designer of the Hunger Games, a man named Plutarch Heavensbee. Plutarch flashes Katniss his new watch, which is adorned with the image of the mockingjay. The mockingjay was also the symbol Katniss chose for herself during her previous Hunger Games, and lately it's become a popular symbol of Katniss herself.

At Katniss describes the scene, Plutarch's mockingjay watch is a symbol, which she tries with difficulty to interpret correctly. Katniss's interpretation of the watch is that Plutarch is an arrogant man, and he's trying to show it off to Katniss without giving away the idea to his peers. Katniss's interpretation of the watch reflects her opinions about the people of the Capitol themselves: that they're arrogant, materialistic, and superficial.

It's not until much later that Katniss realizes the truth: Plutarch is secretly an ally to Haymitch and other rebels, and a friend to Katniss. By showing Katniss his watch, he's actually trying to give her a hint that he's on her side, and cluing her in about the nature of the upcoming Hunger Games; namely, that the arena is designed to resemble a watch. Katniss's confusion in interpreting the mockingjay—supposedly a symbol of rebellion, or even of Katniss herself—illustrates the strangeness of all symbols. Seen from different points of view, Katniss—herself a living symbol—can be interpreted as a mascot for the Capitol, or its worst enemy.

Chapter 10 Quotes

But then the axe fell. Peacekeepers began to arrive by the thousands. Hovercrafts bombed the rebel strongholds into ashes. In the utter chaos that followed, it was all people could do to make it back to their homes alive.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Bonnie , Twill
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

Bonnie and Twill, two refugees from the faraway District 8, explain their trials and tribulations to Katniss, whom they regard as a hero. In District 8, they joined a massive uprising against the government's power, inspired largely by Katniss's speeches. But very quickly, the government sent in new troops to suppress the uprising: vastly outnumbered, Bonnie and Twill could only watch as their homes were destroyed. It's a mark of the government's power that Bonnie and Twill describe the government forces as "peacekeepers" without any apparent irony: they're so used to using this term that they don't stop to consider how inappropriate it is.

Bonnie and Twill's description is also a powerful reminder of the government's force. Previously, President Snow has threatened to use excessive force to prevent Katniss from speaking out against him in public. For the most part, however, Snow has maintained his power, both over Katniss and over Panem as a whole, simply by manipulation and making threats along these lines. It is a sign of Katniss's success as an instigator that people across the country are now calling Snow on his bluff; in other words, testing the government's actual strength by rioting in the streets. President Snow's ideal society is one in which he rules the country by controlling the rules of the Hunger Games, rather than by using actual military force on civilians. Paradoxically, the fact that Snow is now forced to use his "peacekeepers" to suppress the people is a sign that Katniss is inspiring the people to rise up, and Snow's position is weakening.

Chapter 11 Quotes

I thought no one saw me sneak under the fence, but who knows? There are always eyes for hire. Someone reported Gale kissing me in that very spot. Still, that was in daylight and before I was more careful about my behavior. Could there be surveillance cameras?

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Gale Hawthorne
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

Although President Snow rules Panem partly through military power, his single most powerful weapon is intimidation; the illusion of constant surveillance and control, rather than actual control itself. We can see this in the quote from Chapter 11, shortly after Katniss sneaks under the fence and returns to her home in District 12. Because it's illegal for civilians to leave District 12, Katniss is naturally frightened of being caught. But even more seriously, she's concerned that she's been captured on video sneaking under the fence. President Snow's seemingly limitless knowledge of Katniss's whereabouts and thoughts—knowledge he's displayed before—have convinced Katniss that she's always being watched.

Katniss's thoughts illustrate the vast surveillance power of the government over which Snow presides. In Panem, the media are so widespread that it's not unreasonable to think that there are cameras even in the wilderness. In particular, Katniss's experiences during the Victory Tour and in the Hunger Games—where there literally were cameras in the wilderness—bias her to the view that she's being watched at all hours of the day and night. Even if Katniss is wrong and there are no cameras, her fear indicates that Snow has done an excellent job of intimidating his people into thinking of him as a god who watches his people constantly.

Chapter 12 Quotes

[Gale] must also know that if we don’t revolt in 12, I’m destined to be Peeta’s bride. Seeing me lounging around in gorgeous gowns on his television… what can he do with that?

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark , Gale Hawthorne
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

This darkly humorous quotation shows the psychological consequences of living in a world where one's actions are filmed and recorded at all times. After a Victory Tour and a session in the Hunger Games, Katniss is used to being watched. With opposition to the government at an all-time high in District 12, Katniss is well aware that there might be a rebellion in the District very soon—by the same token, she knows that government officials like President Snow and Romulus Thread are aware of the rebellion, too. In this section, Katniss finds herself thinking like Thread; i.e., putting herself in the position of a government official. She's so used to being watched that the thought process comes naturally to her.

Furthermore, Katniss's thoughts about the uprising in District 12 betray some of the weaknesses in the government of Panem. Although the government has an obvious interest in subduing the 12 districts of Panem, it also draws a lot of its power from the Hunger Games—in other words, from creating action, excitement, and violence. Katniss is only half-joking when she says that Thread has no interest in keeping her subdued and boring in her wedding dress. As absurd as it sounds, the government partly has an interest in creating a revolt in District 12: it thrives on diversions of exactly this kind. Katniss's joke reminds us that she is both an asset and a liability for the government: she entertains the masses (the source of the government's power) but also has the potential to mobilize the masses against the government.

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 22 Quotes

I stare into the night, thinking of what a difference a day makes. How yesterday morning, Finnick was on my kill list, and now I’m willing to sleep with him as my guard. He saved Peeta and let Mags die and I don’t know why.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark , Finnick Odair , Mags
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

During the Hunger Games, Katniss makes alliances with her competitors, and changes these alliances several times. For instance, she begins by thinking that Finnick Odair is a devious, dangerous young man, but after Finnick saves Peeta's life not once but twice, Katniss decides that can trust Finnick—there's no reason for Finnick to save Peeta's life, except that he, like Katniss, is trying to help Peeta survive.

The passage is also important because it reinforces the theme of ambiguous symbols. Here, one could say that Finnick himself is the "symbol"—he projects an image of seductive, untrustworthy charm, yet also displays clear signs of compassion and honesty. Katniss is unsure how to interpret Finnick's behavior, pointing toward her general confusion about how to interpret the Hunger Games, her friends' actions, and her place as a celebrity in Panem.

Chapter 23 Quotes

There are six of us now. Even if you count Beetee and Wiress out, we’ve got four good fighters. It’s so different from where I was last year at this point, doing everything on my own. Yes, it’s great to have allies as long as you can ignore the thought that you’ll have to kill them.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Wiress , Beetee
Page Number: 329
Explanation and Analysis:

As the Hunger Games go on, competitors are eliminated in a series of brutal and bizarre challenges. In this section, Katniss assesses where she and her allies stand in the game. Her heart sinks as the realizes the truth: she's almost at the point where she and her allies will have to turn on one another. Katniss's realization points to a more general problem with the Hunger Games: the more friends you make, the better you're likely to do for the first half of the Games; but the more allies you make right away, the more emotionally wrenching the second half of the Games will become. It's as if the Games are designed to be as psychologically challenging as possible—which, of course, they are.

The quotation also points to some important changes in Katniss's character that have set in during this novel. Both because of her victory in her first Hunger Games and because of her closer relationship with Haymitch, Prim, and her mother, Katniss has been thinking in more compassionate terms. President Snow has made it clear that if Katniss disobeys him at all, her family and friends will be hurt; as a result, she can't delude herself into thinking that she's a free agent who can act however she pleases. What's true in life, then, is also true in this year's Hunger Games: Katniss makes more alliances, and pays the emotional price for doing so.

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.