Katniss walks through the woods, carrying a bag of food and a flask of tea. She leaves these things for Gale, at their usual meeting place. Then, afraid that the government is watching them somehow, she walks to the lake near the woods. It is there that she and Gale have planned to meet—Katniss thinks that they need to talk.
We seem to be back where we started here, with Katniss delivering food to various people in her community. Yet this reinforces how much Katniss has changed in the past 100 pages, as she’s now more cautious about where she goes and whom she talks to.
The narrative cuts back to Katniss’s discovery of riots in District 8. Disturbed, Katniss was about to run out of the Mayor’s house when she ran into the Mayor himself. The Mayor greeted her politely, and mentioned that his daughter, Madge, was waiting to see Katniss. Katniss, who likes Madge, went to talk to her.
Katniss’s lack of comprehension about the uprisings in District 8 is so great that she was about to leave her engagement, and only the presence of the Mayor himself persuaded her to stay.
During her conversation with Madge Undersee, Madge complimented Katniss for her mockingjay pin, and they discussed the history of mockingjays. Long ago, the government genetically engineered male birds called jabberjays. Jabberjays were intended to be capable of remembering long passages of human speech. The government sent them to the districts as spies, thinking that the jabberjays would report back to them with valuable information. When this failed to work (the districts intentionally lied when there were jabberjays around), the government left the jabberjays to die out. Instead, they adapted to life in the wild, mating with mockingbirds and evolving into mockingjays, female songbirds.
Collins’s discussion of the mockingjay is highly important to the novel’s symbolism. One might say that Katniss herself is the mockingjay: she’s a seemingly weak, unimportant thing (a woman from district 12, the least popular and powerful district), and yet she’s a survivor who can overcome adversities of almost any kind. It’s also important to note that the government “created” mockingjays, albeit accidentally. In much the same way, the government has “created” the threat that is Katniss, by giving her celebrity and a national platform, but also great pain and plenty of reasons to hate them.
Katniss continues to walk to the lake, wondering if Gale will be able to track her path from their usual meeting point. After a few hours, Katniss reaches a small abandoned house near the lake. She waits here, and soon Gale arrives, having tracked her path. Katniss greets Gale and then cuts to the chase: Snow threatened to kill Gale, she tells him. Gale coolly thanks her for informing him, and makes a sarcastic comment about Peeta, Katniss’s new husband. Katniss protests that their marriage is only for show.
Because Gale and Katniss are being watched at all times (for all they know), they have to devise increasingly elaborate strategies for speaking to each other honestly. Katniss faces the difficult task of justifying herself to both of her lovers, Gale and Peeta. Her argument with Gale parallels the one she had with Peeta two chapters ago, suggesting that Gale and Peeta, whatever their differences, are at least equal in their love for Katniss.
Katniss explains to Gale her decision to marry Peeta. She mentions Snow’s visit to her house and the shootings in District 11. Then, she proposes that she and Gale run away from District 12 to be safe. To her surprise, Gale eagerly agrees to this, and tells her that he loves her.
Collins uses this scene to clarify some of the differences between Gale and Peeta. Where Peeta seems relatively comfortable in his world (despite being haunted by the Games), Gale is eager to run away from his existing life.
Katniss is unsure how to respond to Gale. She tells him that she can’t think about love—she’s too busy trying to survive. She tells Gale that he should try to bring his family along with them. She also adds that she’ll try to bring her own family, along with Haymitch and Peeta—but the mention of Peeta angers Gale. Katniss insists that they must all leave together, or the government will torture those who stay behind. In her haste, she lets slip that there’s been an uprising in District 8—a fact Gale hadn’t known.
Katniss seems a little amateurish in this scene—she hasn’t really thought through her own escape plan, and she’s unable to face or articulate any romantic feelings at the moment. Gale’s anger resembles Peeta’s anger in the earlier scene—he’s jealous of Peeta, just as Peeta is jealous of him. Katniss, it’s strongly implied, will have to choose one of them before the story is complete.
Gale presses Katniss for information about the uprising in District 8. Katniss admits that she saw fires and Peacekeepers on television. She also tells him that she is the cause of the riot, since she could have killed herself with berries during the Games. Gale promptly dismisses this suggestion as an absurdity. He also insists that he has to join the fight against the Peacekeepers in District 8, rather than let innocent people be shot. Katniss can’t understand Gale—she repeats that they must leave District 12 and try to survive on their own. Gale angrily leaves the house.
If anything, Gale (and Peeta) are braver and more openly rebellious than Katniss. Where Katniss wants to run away from the government, Peeta and Gale want to confront it, using force if necessary. Katniss is more used to working “in the system”—dismantling the Capitol by breaking its rules, rather than attacking the Capitol directly. In all fairness, Katniss is also motivated by her love for her family—she doesn’t want to put them in danger.
Alone in the woods, Katniss wonders if she’ll be able to convince her family to leave District 12 with her. After sitting alone for a few moments, she leaves the house and walks through the woods back to her home in Victor’s Village. She must find Peeta, she decides, and convince him to leave with her. In Victor’s Village, Katniss finds Peeta and tells him her plan to leave District 12. She’s surprised to find that Peeta is willing to leave the District with his family—however, he adds that he doubts Katniss herself will want to leave the district. Before he and Katniss can discuss the matter any further, they hear a strange sound come from nearby. They run towards the sound, which is coming from a nearby square.
It’s strange to find that Peeta, like Gale, is initially willing to leave the village. This points to the fact that he’s courageous and, perhaps even more importantly, in love with Katniss. Peeta’s remark about Katniss’s unwillingness to leave the district can be interpreted in a number of different ways, but it suggests that Katniss is too comfortable with her life—a life of fighting the Capitol from the inside instead of from the outside—to join the rebel cause right away.
In the square, Katniss and Peeta see a large crowd gathered around a mysterious object. When the crowd notices Katniss, they push her away, saying that she could “get him killed.” As Katniss is about to ask who “he” is, she sees Gale, tied to a post, his naked back exposed. A tall, muscular man, the Head Peacekeeper of District 12, is whipping Gale brutally.
The reason for Gale’s punishment isn’t clear, but this only makes Katniss feel guiltier, as her recklessness seems to have endangered the lives of the people she cares about—precisely what she has been trying to avoid.