Catching Fire : Part 2 : Chapter 10-11
Part II: “The Quell”
Katniss is ready to fire as she asks what the mockingjay cracker means. A “tremulous” voice answers, “It means we’re on your side.” Katniss orders the speaker to move to where she can see her, and a girl her age moves slowly toward her, using crutches and dragging an injured leg. She also wears a Peacekeeper’s uniform and has crooked teeth and an odd birthmark on her face—definitely not Capitol material. The woman is about thirty-five and is named Twill, and the girl is Bonnie. They’re refugees from District 8, where Peacekeeper gear is made—hence their disguises. They are surprised that Katniss doesn’t know about the crackers, symbols of resistance that can be shown as proof of loyalty or, readers can infer,quickly eaten if necessary. Twill and Bonnie have fled District 8 and are trying to reach District 13, where, they believe, forces are preparing to take on the Capitol. Katniss takes their gun but believes them. Bonnie’s injury has slowed them down, but no one is pursuing them because they’re thought to have been killed in a factory explosion.
By the fire inside the cabin, Twill tries to make tea from pine needles, and Katniss recalls that District 8 is “an ugly urban place stinking of industrial fumes” where nothing green grows. Bonnie and Twill are out of food and have no experience foraging, so Kat shares the food she brought for the day. When she gives Bonnie a cheese roll, the girl can’t believe it’s all for her. They tell Katniss what’s been going on in District 8: Factory workers made plans to rebel, thinking that the machinery covered up their voices. Twill was a part-time teacher, and Bonnie was her student. After a half-day of school, they worked in the factory. Bonnie smuggled out uniforms for her, her husband, and Bonnie during the mandatory viewing of the interview during which Peeta proposed to Katniss. The District 8 people tried to take over key buildings and at first were successful, overrunning the Peacekeepers and securing some weapons. Then thousands of Peacekeeper reinforcements arrived, and hovercraft bombed the district. In two days, the uprising had been squelched, the district was in lock-down, and the instigators had been hanged. Starvation was near when the people were told to “return to business as usual.” Twill and Bonnie were on their way, through bombed-out streets, to the factory, late for their shifts, when they saw it explode. The workers, including Twill’s husband, died in the building where the conspiracy against the Capitol began. Bonnie and Twill grabbed the smuggled uniforms and began following train tracks to District 12. They believe that District 13, which the Capitol says is an empty, destroyed district, is operating underground because of a film the Capitol often shows, in which the same mockingjay can be seen flying. The Capitol places new reporters in front of an old film, they think, to perpetuate disinformation.
Katniss is skeptical. If District 13 has weapons and trained soldiers, where have they been during the seventy-four years of oppression of the other districts? Why didn’t they help? But she teaches Twill to hunt a bit and Bonnie how to build a better fire and leaves them all her food. They cry, so thrilled to have met Katniss, the girl on fire. As she walks back to the fence, she realizes that “President Snow has been playing me for a fool.” Nothing she could have done on the Victory Tour could have controlled the districts. His threats—and the wedding, too—are distractions to keep her busy. She thinks about the mockingjay cracker and whether the pin Madge gave her has “become a symbol of the resistance.” Occupied with many questions, Katniss almost fails to notice that the fence, which looks “as innocuous as usual,” is hot with humming electricity.
The second part of the novel opens with greater evidence of the Capitol’s brutality and, even more so, of its power and seemingly limitless resources. The conspirators thought they could speak privately; somehow, the Capitol knew. They thought that courage and planning would allow them to take over buildings; the Capitol overran them. Then, when they were starving, they thought that at least they could work and earn their food; the Capitol tricked, trapped, and destroyed them. And, Katniss thinks, Twill and Bonnie are following a false hope, since District 13 has not been heard from in decades. At this point in the novel, the odds definitely seem to be in the Capitol’s favor.
Katniss retreats into the shelter of the trees and considers why the fence suddenly has power. Perhaps Thread knows she left the district. In the past, the fence occasionally had power, and she and Gale simply waited till it went off. Katniss senses that the power is on for good now, yet she must get across it. She climbs a tree, shimmies out onto a branch that reaches over the fence, and drops twenty feet to the ground, landing badly and injuring her tailbone and left heel. Trying to hide the limp, she walks home slowly, intending to tell her mother that she was working on the roof of an old house and fell. But at home, she finds two Peacekeepers waiting, and her mother greets her “a little too brightly.” The Peacekeepers have been waiting hours for her, with a message from Thread. Prim, Peeta, and Haymitch are there as well, and they concoct a story about having given Katniss confusing directions to where the Goat Man lives. Supposedly, she wanted to talk to him about breeding Lady. The Peacekeepers examine her bag and find bandages and candy she bought on the way home, but no illegal game, while Katniss feigns that she’s not injured. Finally, they deliver the message that the fence will be powered day and night; she should let “her cousin” know. Katniss acts grateful that the security lapse has been corrected, and the Peacekeepers leave, clearly unhappy. They’d expected a different outcome. Then Katniss’s injuries becomes clear, and when she lies that she slipped on ice, “Four pairs of eyes look at me with disbelief.” They eat dinner, and then Mrs. Everdeen treats Katniss’s injuries and Peeta carries her to bed.
Katniss is confined to bed rest for a few days to let her foot heal, which gives her a lot of time to think about Twill and Bonnie, District 13, the “pile of white wedding dresses downstairs,” whether Thread will find an excuse to arrest her, and what Snow is up to. Gradually, she stops feeling an imminent threat, and she and Peeta work on “the family book,” a handmade herbal record several generations old, adding information and Peeta’s drawings. He notes that it’s the first time they’ve done something “normal” together. In the afternoons, Katniss watches the Capitol propaganda on television to catch a glimpse of the District 13 footage. She sees the mockingjay Twill described on older footage and then again, with a masked reporter standing in front of what must be not the destroyed building itself but the same footage, projected behind the reporter. The reporter says that the area is “still too toxic to approach.” What, Katniss wonders, is the Capitol hiding?
Events conspire in this and the previous two chapters to give Katniss a lot of time to think, to plan, to second-guess herself, and to try to absorb the sudden changes to District 12. Now that she is mentally and emotionally (she thinks) ready for action, she’s forced to stop, to wait, to rest, to heal. Some scenes, as when she realizes how much she likes to watch Peeta draw, are nearly pastoral in their tone, but beneath the apparent lull in the action, Katniss is aware that the Capitol and Snow are at work, preparing new torments for the districts and more effective ways to break the spirits of those thinking about rising up. This contrast—between what Katniss can’t do and what the mighty Capitol can do—lends an underlying suspense to the chapters.