Catching Fire : Part 2 : Chapter 18
Part II: “The Quell”
Caesar Flickerman touches Katniss’s still-smoldering feathered headpiece cautiously and says, “You’re like a bird.” She explains that the dress is inspired by her district token, the mockingjay pin. She can tell from Caesar’s reaction that he knows how differently the dress will be perceived out in the districts, but he recovers quickly, praising the dress and having Cinna take a bow, and Katniss realizes suddenly that Cinna has endangered himself. The dress is his “act of rebellion” on her behalf. As the audience applauds wildly, Katniss goes to her seat in her now much lighter dress, and Peeta takes the stage. He and Caesar have an easy rapport, and Peeta asks whether “our friends” in the audience can keep a secret. He says that he and Katniss are already married—not officially, but in the traditional ritual of District 12, which involves making a fire, for the first time, in the home together and toasting and eating bread together. They knew that a Capitol wedding wouldn’t include this tradition, so they honored it quietly, before they knew that they would be going back into the arena. Now, in their minds at least, are married. Caesar says that he’s glad they had a few happy months together before the reaping, but Peeta is not. He might be, he says, “if weren’t for the baby.” Katniss is stunned—once again, Peeta has outdone all the tributes. Katniss thinks that she must rely on Cinna’s designs, while “Peeta needs nothing more than his wits.” His “bomb” is filled with shrapnel of “accusations of injustice and barbarism and cruelty,” and it takes some moments for the audience to grasp the information. Katniss, too, is overwhelmed at the thought of her greatest fear, seeing a child of hers in the arena.
The usually unflappable Caesar loses control of the audience, and the Panem anthem blares as Peeta walks to his seat, crying, and takes Katniss’s hand. Perhaps he feels the fear that haunts her and every parent in the districts. She thinks of Rue’s family and reaches out to take Chaff’s stump. Then, one by one, the tributes all join hands in “the first public show of unity among the districts since the Dark Days.” The screens begin to go black all over Panem, but it’s too late—their defiant act has been broadcast. The tributes stumble in the semi-darkness to the Training Center elevators. As soon as they are alone, Peeta asks Katniss if he needs to apologize for his deception. In fact, Katniss is glad of it. She feels “empowered” and thinks about the impact of his ploy in District 12: Even if every tributes dies in the arena, “something happened on that stage tonight that can’t be undone.”
Haymitch informs them that the Capitol has cancelled the recap of the interviews—usually mandatory viewing—and sent everyone home. The people in the streets are in commotion, confused by forbidden and previously unthinkable questions. For a moment, Peeta and Katniss hope that Snow will cancel the Games, but Haymitch knows that he can’t and won’t. His only option is to “strike back, and strike back hard.” Effie, too, has been sent home, and Katniss and Peeta regret not having been able to say goodbye. Peeta, almost at a loss for words, asks Haymitch to “tell her how appreciative we are and how she was the best escort ever and tell her . . . tell her we send our love.” They’re silent for a moment and then must say goodbye to Haymitch, too. “Stay alive,” he tells them—a little joke between mentor and mentees. As he leaves, he tells Katniss to remember, when she’s in the arena, “who the enemy is.” Peeta and Katniss hold each other through the night but don’t quite sleep. Portia and Cinna call for them at dawn, and Peeta kisses Katniss and says he’ll see her soon. Katniss and Cinna meet the hovercraft on the roof. In the Launch Room, Cinna braids her hair and helps her into a fitted blue jumpsuit of sheer fabric, a padded belt, and nylon shoes with rubber soles. They don’t know what clues to draw from this gear. Cinna pins the mockingjay pin on Katniss’s jumpsuit, and she praises hismockingjay dress. They hold hands till the countdown call, and he walks her to the metal plate and kisses her forehead. He’s still betting on the “girl on fire,” he says. The tube descends over Katniss, cutting her off from Cinna, but oddly, the plate doesn’t begin to rise. Suddenly three Peacekeepers rush into the room. They pin Cinna’s arms, cuff him, and beat him with metal-studded gloves. Katniss screams as the plate begins to rise and the Peacekeepers drag Cinna, unconscious, from the room. Katniss emerges in the arena, water lapping at her feet. It’s “no place,” she thinks, “for a girl on fire.”
Haymitch predicts that Snow will punish the acts of defiance that occurred during the days of training and the interviews, and readers see some of the punishment in this chapter. Already, Snow has shown an understanding of Katniss’s nature—what she fears, what she loves and will sacrifice to protect. Coupled with the information he gets from spies, this understand enables Snow to “strike back hard” against Katniss in personalized ways. He visits her home to threaten Gale, Prim, and Mrs. Everdeen. He assigns Thread to District 12 and makes sure that the fence is electrified all the time, cutting Katniss off from her refuge in the forest. He orders Darius’s tongue mutilated and installs him as an Avox in District 12’s rooms in the Training Center. And now, he ensures that the last thing Katniss sees before she enters the arena is a sight that will shake her to her core: Cinna’s arrest and savage beating. Snow knows how to hurt Katniss, and readers likely assume that Snow will target her in the arena as well.