Catching Fire

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Women, Femininity, and Sexism Theme Analysis

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.
Women, Femininity, and Sexism Theme Icon

Since being published, the Hunger Games books have been celebrated as important illustrations of feminism for young adult readers. The protagonist of the books, Katniss Everdeen, is a strong young woman who doesn’t shy away from defending herself or asserting her opinions. As such, she’s noticeably different from the female protagonists of many other young adult novels.

Even as Catching Fire begins, we find Katniss engaged in a stereotypically masculine enterprise: hunting for food in the woods. We later learn that Katniss is hunting because her friend, Gale, has been unable to do so himself, since he’s taking care of his family—a stereotypically feminine undertaking. The message is clear: strong women are more than capable of doing men’s work, and men shouldn’t shy away from performing roles most commonly associated with women.

Though her resourcefulness as a hunter and a Hunger Games victor proves that she’s as strong and capable as any man, Katniss struggles with implicit sexism and chauvinism at many points in Catching Fire. One sees this during the Victory Tour, which Katniss must embark upon after winning the Hunger Games. Katniss has to put up with hours of makeup, dresses, etc., before she makes public appearances on the tour. The sexism of this is aptly symbolized by a nightmare Katniss has during her Victory Tour, in which she runs through a forest wearing an enormous dress, and finds that the dress slows her movements. Evidently Haymitch, the government, and, for that matter, most of Panem, expect Katniss to be “pretty” and demure—in other words, the stereotypical woman. That Katniss struggles with these expectations suggests, firstly, that she’s a strong woman, and secondly, that Panem’s feminine stereotypes are nonsensical.

This isn’t to say that some remnants of sexism don’t persist in Catching Fire. Most notably, it seems clear that Katniss will “end up” with a handsome, compassionate young man, whether it’s Peeta or Gale, by the time the Hunger Games trilogy is over. This reflects the longstanding assumption in literature (and, unfortunately, life) that the young, beautiful female character is somehow “incomplete” until she settles down with a husband. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that Collins tells the story of the “love triangle” between Gale, Peeta, and Katniss from Katniss’s point of view, rather than from either of the two men’s point of view. Katniss isn’t being pushed or pulled into romance—here, as in the rest of her life, she asserts her independence.

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Women, Femininity, and Sexism ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in Catching Fire related to the theme of Women, Femininity, and Sexism.
Chapter 2 Quotes

People viewed your little trick with the berries as an act of defiance, not an act of love. And if a girl from District 12 of all places can defy the Capitol and walk away unharmed, what is to stop them from doing the same?

Related Characters: President Coriolanus Snow (speaker), Katniss Everdeen
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

President Snow's speech to Katniss illustrates both the strength and the flaws of the government he heads. Snow has come to warn Katniss not to "misbehave" during her Victory Tour. She's under strict instructions to stick to the script at all times—to act like a typical lovestruck teenage girl, not a potential rebel leader. Snow knows that Katniss despises his government, and he also knows that she is hugely influential and has a talent for improvising—as a result, he's scared that Katniss will try to denounce or criticize the government during her Tour. Since Katniss will have an audience of millions at this time, Snow is right to be afraid.

A natural question would be, "Why doesn't Snow just cancel the Victory Tour?" Canceling the Tour might be the easiest way to ensure that Katniss doesn't do harm to his government, but it would also undermine the importance of tradition in Panem. Because Panem celebrates the Hunger Games every year—and because Snow's government maintains its power in part because of the popularity of the Hunger Games—Snow has no choice but to allow Katniss to make her tour as usual, despite the risk. Snow's speech demonstrates the power and the weakness of his government, while also showing us how Katniss might use her popularity to oppose Snow. With her widespread fame and national platform, Katniss has a powerful weapon on her side: if she were to criticize Snow, millions of people would listen to her. It's a mark of Katniss's danger that Snow has to threaten to hurt her family in order to make her "behave."


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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 7 Quotes

The jabberjays were muttations, genetically enhanced male birds […] The jabberjays were left to die. In a few years, they became extinct in the wild, but not before they had mated with female mockingbirds, creating an entirely new species.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker)
Related Symbols: Mockingjay
Page Number: 91-92
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Katniss explains where mockingjays—a futuristic form of mutated bird—come from. Because the mockingjay is explicitly described as being a symbol of Katniss herself, it's fitting that Katniss's explanation is full of symbolic allusions to Katniss's own personality. As Katniss explains, the mockingjays are natural survivors: their very existence is a testament to their ancestors' cleverness and strength. Furthermore, the mockingjays' nature is deeply divided: half mockingbird (a peaceful, natural bird) and half jabberjay (a brutal, government-bred animal). In much the same way, we might say that Katniss's own personality is resilient and deeply divided. Katniss is a natural survivor, who manages to win the Hunger Games due to her speed and skill. She's also a conflicted young woman: in part, she's peaceful and gentle, but she's also capable of acts of incredible brutality. Above all, the comparison between Katniss and the mockingjay reminds us that Katniss is partly—but not entirely!—a tool of the government. While she's been partly "bred" by the Capitol, she's also abandoned her role and rejected the Capitol, in much the same that the mockingjays have rejected the jabberjays' mission to help the government that created them.

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 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 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 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.