Catching Fire

Catching Fire Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Night falls, but there is no broadcast in the arena—no one new has died all day. Katniss senses that the audience and the Gamemakers are thirsty for blood. Beetee and Finnick go to work uncoiling wire around the tree and across the beach. Beetee explains that he, Finnick, and Peeta will go back to the lighting zone and tie more wire around the tree. Johanna and Katniss will continue unraveling the wire on the beach, eventually dropping the spool of wire into the salty water.
An uneasy paradox at the heart of the Hunger Games trilogy is Collins’ pairing of the reader’s desire for action with the spectators’ desire for bloody spectacle. We want something exciting to happen, and so do the spectators—and so we are forced to look at our own society and need for constant entertainment, and compare it to the Capitol.
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Johanna and Katniss unwind the wire on the beach. Johanna hands Katniss the wire so that she can take over for a moment. Suddenly, there is a vibration—the wire has been cut. A heavy object hits Katniss in the back of the head.
The “action” we’ve been craving for the last two chapters has finally arrived—appropriately, in the form of a blunt, heavy object. Things quickly get very mysterious for Katniss.
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When Katniss comes to, Johanna is sitting on top of her. Johanna stabs Katniss in the forearm and then rubs blood over Katniss’s body. Johanna repeatedly tells Katniss to stay down. Katniss thinks that Johanna and Finnick have betrayed the group—they must have had an alliance to do so after a few days. Katniss is barely conscious, but she hears the sound of Brutus and Enobaria’s voices, saying that she is as good as dead.
Johanna’s actions now seem more inscrutable than ever. Why, for instance, doesn’t Johanna slit Katniss’s throat? What is the purpose of cutting her arm? Collins makes Katniss straightforwardly confused, but it now seems clear that Johanna is part of some larger plan, and not Katniss’s enemy at all.
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As she lies on the ground, Katniss thinks about Peeta, who is surely about to be killed by Finnick. Summoning her remaining strength, Katniss stands up, still covered in blood, and lurches through the jungle. She hears Finnick, running through the jungle and calling for Johanna and Katniss, and hides from him. After Finnick has passed, Katniss resumes her path to the lightning zone, where she thinks Peeta must be. Suddenly, she finds herself trapped in a net made of golden wire. Katniss struggles out of the trap, and moves on.
The net that Katniss encounters suggests to us that Beetee must be responsible for at least part of Katniss’s sudden “betrayal.” This also implicates Finnick, since, we’ve been reminded many times, he is skilled at tying knots and setting up traps. In general, Collins creates an atmosphere of confusion, betrayal, and suspense.
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Katniss traces the loops of wire back to the tree in the lightning zone. There, she’s surprised to find Beetee lying on the ground, wounded and clutching Peeta’s knife. Katniss notices that Beetee is lying close to the force field, and also that there is still a large amount of wire lying on the ground. Katniss wonders if Beetee tried to probe the force field with a knife, only to be thrown back, just as Peeta was. As she takes this in, two cannons sound—two more tributes have died.
We’re unsure how to interpret the sight of Beetee, wounded and lying on the ground. To be sure, he’s the victim of something or someone, but this doesn’t automatically absolve him of complicity in what Katniss sees as a betrayal. Meanwhile, the suspense heightens as we hear the sounds of cannons. People are dying, but we don’t know who.
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Suddenly, Katniss hears Peeta’s voice, calling for her. Before she has time to register where Peeta is standing, she sees Finnick and Enobaria running toward the tree. Knowing that she is going to die from blood-loss, Katniss aims an arrow at Enobaria. Perhaps, she thinks, she can kill Enobaria and make Finnick dive for cover near the tree at the exact moment when lightning strikes—this should occur in only a minute or two. Since Katniss and Beetee are about to die, and since two other tributes are dead, Katniss’s actions will leave Peeta alive, with only one tribute left to face.
Although Katniss has already contemplated killing Johanna and Finnick, for petty or calculated reasons, Collins now shows Katniss to be motivated above all else by her love for Peeta. Thus, she’s planning to kill Enobaria not because she wants to win the Game or because she’s jealous of the other players, but because doing so would give her loved one the best chance of being sole champion. This points to Katniss’s maturity and selflessness, but also her growing affection for Peeta.
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Just as Katniss is about to shoot Enobaria, she remembers Haymitch’s words—“remember who the real enemy is.” It’s clear to Katniss, as she thinks this, that the real enemies are the Gamemakers, not the individual tributes. She turns from Enobaria to the force field, in which she can see a tiny “chink,” a “wavering square.” Taking her bow and arrow, she aims and fires directly at the chink. Her arrow lands at the exact instant when lightning strikes the tree. There is a loud “bang,” and Katniss is thrown to the ground. Before she loses consciousness, she thinks she sees a star.
For all her compassion for Peeta, Katniss is also clear-headed enough to remember what Haymitch told her—and she has her epiphany at just the right moment, no less. Collins gives Katniss a sudden lucidity to act in this way and make the novel’s climax come together seamlessly. Katniss again sees the bigger picture, recognizing that the “real enemy” is not her competitors, but the government that has instituted the monstrous spectacle of the Hunger Games in the first place.
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