Catching Fire : Part 3 : Chapter 25-26
Part III: “The Enemy”
Katniss wakes up in a happy mood, which is ludicrous, she knows, since she will likely die during the day. More bread from District 3 has arrives so that they now have 33 rolls. Each ally takes five rolls, leaving eight—a number that will divide evenly after the next death, though no one mentions this fact. Katniss takes Peeta to the water for a swimming lesson and discusses her uneasiness about the alliance, which she wants to leave. Peeta says that Beetee is working on a trap to kill Enobaria and Brutus, and after their deaths, he will leave with her. She agrees reluctantly to the delay.
Back on the beach, Beetee says that Enobaria and Brutus are bound to figure out the clock soon, so the time to set his trap is now. He draws the arena in the sand. The safest part is the beach, and food is available in the water, yet the Careers aren’t there, so they’re probably at the edge of the jungle, watching and fishing. Beetee wants to run his wire from the lightning tree, after the noon bolts end, to the beach. At midnight, they’ll get clear of the beach, and the Careers will come down to fish. When the lightning strikes the tree, the current will run to the water and electrify it and the entire beach, which will still be damp after the wave of the previous hour. Beetee invented the wire, which looks so delicate to Katniss, and is confident that it’ll do the job. The downside to the plan is that all the fish and shellfish in the salt water, the main food supply in the arena, will be destroyed. They climb to the tree to inspect it, carrying Beetee, who is still weak from his injury. As they go, Katniss “listens” for the force field but can tell that Beetee doesn’t buy her claim that she can hear it. He doesn’t reveal her lie, though. The field is just above the lightning tree. Katniss hunts and the others gather nuts while Beetee works. Peeta and Katniss cook the tree rat and roast nuts against the field, and they all snack. Soon they hear the sound of the mysterious insects in the eleven o’ clock wedge and know they must leave soon. They move to a tree in the blood-rain section, and Katniss climbs up to get a better view of the lightning strike. She reports to Beetee that the bolt lights the entire tree up and causes the air around it to crackle, which pleases him. Then they move to the ten o’ clock beach to rest and fish while Beetee works with the wire. They crack open oysters, and Peeta finds a pearl, which he gives to Katniss. Moved, she decides to keep “[t]his last gift from Peeta” forever, which is a matter of only a few hours. They gaze at each other, and Peeta realizes that the gift of the locket “didn’t work.” Each is still determined to keep the other alive; Peeta is now Katniss’s “greatest opponent.”
A parachute floats down with more rolls and a spicy red sauce that’s delicious with the sea food. Everyone eats as much as they want, a last meal of sorts, and then they throw the leftovers into the water so that the Careers won’t get them. Katniss secures the pearl with the spile and the tube of medicine, in a parachute strapped to her belt, and hopes that the pearl is returned to District 12 with her body. Her mother and Prim will know to give it to Peeta, she’ sure.
Competing and contradictory emotions mark this chapter, so close to the novel’s end. Katniss is both deeply happy and sadly resigned to events she knows must happen soon. Part of the happiness may be relief that the ordeal will, one way or another, be over soon. Part is likely that she’s developed truly loving feelings for Peeta, though these make her awkward with him now and carry in them a grief that she won’t have the chance to let them grow. And part is that she is strangely at home with Finnick, Beetee, and Johanna. They are not just allies now but friends. But the chapter ends with the ebbing of happiness as resignation takes its place. “The time for persuasive gifts is over,” she knows. Now all they have left to do is to wait. The division of the third batch of rolls conveys this resignation. After the first batch arrived, Johanna joked about how they divided the rolls. The division of the second batch was a sober reminder of their dwindling team. But the third batch, after they eat their fill, leaves seven rolls, “which will never divide equally. It’s bread for only one.”
No faces show against the sky that night, and Katniss knows that the Capitol audience “will be restless, thirsting for blood.” The Gamemakers are quiet; perhaps they want to watch Beetee’s plan. The allies head to the lightning tree at about 9 o’ clock. Finnick and Beetee wrap the tree with great lengths of wire. They hear the wave and know that it’s now about 10:30. Beetee tells Katniss and Johanna to carry the coil to the beach, unwinding wire as they go toward the 12 o’clock segment of the beach and then sinking the coil in the water. Then they must run to the jungle, away from the damp sand. Finnick will stay to guard Beetee, as will Peeta, since he can’t move fast—Katniss is unhappy, because she wanted to use this time to separate herself and Peeta from the group. She kisses him, and she and Johanna go. It’s slow going down the hill, unwinding the wire and watching for Brutus and Enobaria, who are sure to attack soon, especially now that the allies are in two smaller groups, and soon Katniss hears the insect noise. They now have less than an hour till the lightning strike. Suddenly, Johanna and Katniss become aware that someone has cut the wire, above them on the hill, and whoever it is will be on them soon. Katniss is about to load an arrow when the heavy coil hits her in the head, and she falls, confused and with blurred vision. Johanna straddles her chest and tells her, “Stay down!” She feels a jab in her arm—Johanna has cut it with her knife and must be the one who hit her with the coil as well. Johanna wipes blood from Katniss’s arm on Katniss’s face, repeats, “Just stay down, will you?” and runs. Katniss can’t understand what she’s doing, but soon she hears Brutus and Enobaria arrive. They look at her bloodied face and arm and decide that she’s “as good as dead,” so they pursue Johanna. All Katniss can think is that the alliance has shattered and that Peeta is in danger. She gets up, woozy, and vomits up the seafood feast in wracking pain. She wraps her bleeding arm in moss and realizes that no cannon has sounded, so Peeta must still be alive. Finnick runs by, calling for her and for Johanna, but Katniss hides, no longer willing to trust anyone but Peeta. He runs on, and then Katniss hears a cannon and staggers toward the lightning tree, following the now tangled wire and wondering how long she has before the lightning strikes.
Katniss reaches the tree to find Beetee on the ground, moaning and holding a knife wrapped in the wire. She applies moss to his slashed arm and tries to rouse him, but he waves her away, and she guesses that he tried to stab the force field when he felt the cut wire go slack. He knows, as she does, that the “real world lies right behind” the field. Katniss can’t save both Beetee and Peeta, and for all she knows, Beetee may have been trying to kill his allies and win the Games. She hears Peeta’s voice in the distance and calls to him, but she knows that the best thing she can do for him now is to draw the attackers to herself. She hears two people crashing toward her through the trees, and her knees give way. When Enobaria and Finnick reach her, she aims at Enobaria first but pauses when she hears another cannon shot. Peeta calls her name, so of Brutus, Chaff, or Johanna, two are now dead. If she can kill Finnick and Enobaria,Peeta will face just one enemy (not counting the injured and perhaps dying Beetee).
Suddenly, Katniss can hear Haymitch’s last words of advice to her: “Katniss, when you’re in the arena . . . just remember who the enemy is.” And she knows. The enemy is not Enobaria or Finnick. It’s the Capitol. She slips the coiled wire off the knife Beetee still holds and winds it around an arrow. She knows now what Beetee was trying to do, and she scans the dome of the force field for a wavering spot, a “chink in the armor.” The arrow carries the wire to that spot just as lightning hits the tree, and she sees the dome shatter “into a dazzling blue light.” The blast flings her back, “body useless, paralyzed, eyes frozen wide,” unable to get to Peeta or even reach the pearl to hold as she dies. She looks up to find “one last image of beauty to take with me” and sees a star, just before explosions surround her.
This chapter is all about Katniss. Her fears, her suspicious, her biases, her fragile friendships—all converge when it seems that Johanna has attacked her. She is ready to kill everyone, including herself, to save Peeta, starting with Enobaria and Finnick, despite the debt she owes him. Even Beetee, who is gravely injured and who, apparently, is still thinking of her safety when he waves her away from him now that he is, in essence, wired into the lightning rod he has created, is suspect. The suspense of the moment is intensified by Katniss’s confused state, physical weakness, and desperation, and by the knowledge that the clock is ticking down to the lightning strike. The suspense culminates in Katniss’s last-minute realization that she must attack the real enemy. This realization eclipses her fears about Beetee and Finnick and even her desire to take out the truly murderous Enobaria. Katniss has struggled with alliances and priorities since she came to the Capitol for these Games, but she now has clarity, perhaps symbolized by the starlight she gazes on as she lies paralyzed under the crumbling dome.