Katniss lies on the ground, having just shot at the force field near the edge of the arena. After lightning strikes the tree, there is a loud explosion. Trees burn, and the ground shakes. Above, Katniss thinks that she sees fireworks—perhaps the Gamemakers are trying to provide additional entertainment for their audiences.
Here, seemingly at the end of her life, Katniss is reminded that, above all else, the Hunger Games provide entertainment—gruesome, sadistic entertainment—for millions of people in Panem. Clearly, she’s taken Haymitch’s advice about the “real enemy” to heart.
As she lies on the ground, Katniss thinks back to President Snow’s announcement of the Quarter Quell. Snow claimed that the Quell was a reminder that even the strongest people in the districts couldn’t overcome the strength of the Capitol. Katniss wonders if the Games were meant to have a winner this year—perhaps everyone was meant to die. Katniss feels a sense of acute failure, as she hasn’t been able to save Peeta’s life.
It’s as if being close to death is encouraging Katniss to see the big picture, rather than focusing on the precise details of how best to survive. It’s also important to note that as she is apparently dying, Katniss thinks of Peeta, not Gale.
A hovercraft floats above Katniss. A mechanical arm extends from it and latches on to her, and she is too weak to protest. Inside the hovercraft, Katniss sees Plutarch. He closes Katniss’s eyes, and Katniss realizes that she’ll soon bleed to death from Johanna’s wound. She loses consciousness.
It seems to be the end for Katniss. Plutarch’s gesture could be interpreted as a cruel one, or an incongruously gentle one. We’ve seen examples of this ambiguity in interpreting gestures throughout the book.
Katniss wakes up, finding herself hooked up to complex machines. She sees Beetee, similarly hooked up, and wonders why the Gamemakers don’t simply let them die. This reminds her of Peeta. She wonders if she should try to find Peeta and kill him quickly and painlessly, rather than subject him to the tortures the Capitol surely has planned for him.
Even when it’s clear to her that she’s not going to die right away, Katniss continues to believe that the Gamemakers are trying to hurt her. Katniss has been “programmed” to think in the harsh terms of the Hunger Games for so long that it never occurs to her that she’s being cared for.
Weakly, Katniss unplugs herself from her machines and staggers through the mysterious building where she’s being kept. She finds Plutarch, who is talking to Finnick and Haymitch. She’s even more confused when Plutarch kindly tells her to sit down and drink a bowl of broth, which he sets in front of her. Haymitch sits down next to Katniss, and tells her that he’s going to tell her everything.
Throughout the book, Plutarch has been the embodiment of the Hunger Games’ cruelty and sadism. Thus, it’s only appropriate that the sudden revelations about the Hunger Games begin with a sudden revelation about Plutarch himself”: he’s a kind man, after all.
Haymitch tells Katniss that there has been a plan to break the victors out of the arena. Tributes from the various “uprising” districts—3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 11—were informed of this plan. Plutarch was in on the plan—he’s been working against the Capitol for years now. Beetee, another rebel, was put in charge of blowing up the force field, thereby allowing the tributes to escape. By sending Beetee bread, Plutarch was able to symbolize the day and hour when they should begin their escape. At the moment, Katniss and her fellow rebels, including Finnick, are traveling to District 13. Most of the other Panem districts are in a state of rebellion.
Collins covers an enormous amount of information in a short number of pages. This is impressive in part because she’s misdirected us—for almost two entire books—into believing that the Hunger Games and their Gamemakers are uniformly evil. Now it is revealed to us that some of the Gamemakers, and some of the people who work for the government, actually desire to rise up against President Snow.
Haymitch continues to explain the details of his plan to Katniss. Neither Peeta nor Katniss was informed of the plan, because, if the plan backfired, they’d have plausible deniability. The other tributes protected Peeta because they knew it was the only way to keep Katniss in their alliance. Johanna wasn’t trying to kill Katniss by cutting her arm—she was removing the tracking device from her body. Plutarch adds that Katniss had to be saved, because she’s become a symbol for rebels across Panem. Katniss suddenly gains new respect for Haymitch—this entire time, he’s been putting together a brilliant plan, while maintaining a façade of drunkenness and cynicism.
Collins confirms what she’s been suggesting about Haymitch throughout the novel—that he has been hiding a lot under his public image of laziness and drunkenness, and he’s far nobler and more intelligent than he seems. Haymitch, indeed, is now revealed as a much better politican than either Peeta or Katniss, as he has perfectly disguised his true self with a misguiding public persona. Johanna cutting Katniss’s arm is another gesture, like the symbol of the mockingjay, that can be interpreted to mean two contradictory things.
Haymitch then tells Katniss that the Capitol has kidnapped Peeta, Johanna, and Enobaria. Katniss is furious at this news, and she screams at Haymitch, until she’s forcible sedated with a powerful drug. As Katniss feels the drug setting in, Finnick apologizes to her for failing to go back to find Peeta. Katniss doesn’t answer him. She’s lost the will to live, she feels: there is no way of knowing if she’ll ever see Peeta again.
Even after all the revelations about the Hunger Games, Katniss‘s love for Peeta remains the foremost thing in her mind. During the course of the Games, their common fears have brought the two closer together, even when they know perfectly well that audiences are watching them and examining their “romance.”
Gale enters the room and greets Katniss. One of his arms is in a sling, but he looks confident and brave. Gale informs Katniss that her family is alive. Katniss demands to know what’s going on in District 12. Reluctantly, Gale reminds Katniss of the bombs and fires in the Hob. He concludes by telling Katniss that “there is no District 12” anymore.
Gale had faded away as an important character in the second part of the book, and now he appears primarily to pass on terrible news to Katniss: her home, District 12, has been destroyed. While this is a major tragedy, it has one silver lining: without a home to go back to, Katniss has no choice but to commit to the act she’s been contemplating for the entire novel—rebelling openly against President Snow and the tyrannical government of Panem. With this dramatic finale, it’s implied that the third and concluding novel of the series will involve the “big picture,” rather than the isolated sphere of the Hunger Games arena. All-out war has begun, and Katniss—who has basically become “the mockingjay” herself—is now an important symbol of rebellion and hope.