Part III: “The Victor”
Katniss wants to eat the food, all of it, now; but Peeta cautions that the rich food might make them sick unless they eat just a little and then wait a while. They distract themselves by snuggling and talking. Katniss says that Peeta’s family won’t be happy that he loves a girl from the Seam, and he points out that, if they get back, she’ll be a Victor, and they’ll have homes in the Victor’s Village, with Haymitch as their only neighbor. They tease about whether Haymitch hates her, or Peeta, or both of them, knowing that the audience will “enjoy our having fun at Haymitch’s expense.” Haymitch has been District 12’s mentor for so long, and his drunken “head-dive” off the stage at the reaping is fresh in everyone’s minds. He’s likely being interviewed, making up who knows what about Peeta and Katniss. Katniss hopes he’s enduring “the stress of trying to keep us alive” and realizes that she and Haymitch understand each other well, even without words. For the first time, she wonders how he won his Games, and Peeta guesses that he must have “outsmarted the others” because he’s too “surly” to have won many sponsors.
Katniss drops the subject but thinks about Haymitch’s drinking. At first, she guesses, he did try to help District 12’s tributes, but “then it got unbearable.” Every year, he mentored a girl and a boy, and every year, they died. And if she wins, Katniss will have to mentor next year’s girl tribute, a thought “so repellant” that she must “thrust it” away. They eat a bit more as they hear the anthem play. Peeta checks the sky and reports that Thresh is dead. The thunder must have obscured the cannon shot. Kat hides her sorrow from the cameras because sponsors will turn away from a tribute “who keeps sniveling over the deaths of her opponents.” Suddenly the stew is hard to swallow. She and Peeta consider what might have happened. If Cato killed Thresh, the powerful District 11 tribute might have wounded the Career. But now Cato likely has the supplies he needed, and he is free to hunt Katniss and Peeta. Foxface is probably still hiding. Before she sleeps, Katniss silently says goodbye to Thrush and promises to help his family and Rue’s, if she wins.
During Katniss’s watch, the manufactured rain stops all at once, and a full moon appears. If it’s real and not a Gamemakers’ device, Katniss has now been away from home almost a month and in the arena about two weeks. She thinks about what life will be like if she does make it home. Victors don’t work, and they live with their immediate families in the nice houses in Victor’s Village. They have plenty to eat and money to spend. Who will Katniss be, under these conditions? No longer her family’s mainstay, and not a wife, because she’s too young and has determined never to have children who could be reaped. And who would Peeta be to her? A friend, at least. She wakes Peeta, and he pulls her in to kiss her. They finish the stew and prepare to hunt. Not wanting to waste a bit, they lick the plates, calling out to Effie, who is no doubt watching and cringing at their manners, and teasing her. Peeta blows her a kiss and says, “We miss you, Effie!” They tussle and flirt, but only for a few minutes. Cato could be near, and they must get more food. Katniss has just seven arrows left and can’t waste any, and they’ll make slow progress because Peeta is still weak. He can’t move quietly through the woods, despite trying, and scares the game away. So they agree to separate a short distance, he to gather food and she to hunt. Katniss teaches Peeta a two-note whistle so that they can stay in touch. She wants to be near enough to come to his aid if Cato shows up.
Soon, Katniss gets some game, but she realizes that she hasn’t heard Peeta whistle in a while and looks for him. She finds his pack and roots and berries he’s gathered, but not him, and assumes that the sound of the rain-swollen stream has drowned out their whistles. Near panic, she calls him till he comes back and says that the sound of the rain-swollen stream drowned out their whistles. She notices that some of the cheese is gone, but Peeta didn’t eat it. Then she sees that the berries he’s gathered are nightlock, a terribly poisonous fruit her father warned her about. They hear a cannon shot and see a hovercraft lift “what’s left of Foxface’s emaciated body” away. She took the cheese—and the berries—and died.
Readers may note the irony of Katniss’s existence before the Games. Her father’s death, her mother’s depression, the ever-present threat of starvation in the arena, and other standard Seam adversities have equipped her well for the arena, perhaps even as well as the Careers’ training prepares them. Even before she had the bow, she could feed herself. Her father taught her to gather, shoot, and fish (illegally), and Gale taught her to make snares (illegally). She knows how to ration supplies and how to make the woods her ally. Peeta, who is thoughtful, kind, and gifted in speaking and thinking, is not ready for the physicaldemands of the arena. Foxface, while clearly very smart, is as lost without the pile of supplies as the Careers are. However, in a struggle against the environment of the arena, Katniss excels.
Katniss explains how Foxface had been living by taking bits of food from the Careers, until Katniss destroyed it. Peeta regrets having caused the starved girl’s death andprepares to fling the berries away, but Katniss gathers a handful and puts them in a leather pouch from the District 1 boy’s pack. Perhaps they can trick Cato into eating them. Peeta points out that Cato likely saw the hovercraft and may be headed their way, but Katniss has lost her fear of Cato. She decides to build a fire and cook the game, reasoning that Cato, assuming they hunted Foxface, won’t attack them both at once. Peeta’s quick to get the fire going, and they wrap rabbit and squirrel meat and roots in leaves to roast it. They pack the food and eat as they walk back to the cave, to humor Peeta; Katniss would rather shelter in a tree. As she walks by the stream, she notices that all the fish are gone. They reach the cave by sunset. Peeta, still not fully recovered, is exhausted. They fill the water bottles and eat a bit, but Peeta can’t stay awake and gets into the sleeping bag. Katniss watches, grateful that she’s not alone and that she will face Cato, who has likely hated her since she outscored him during training, with Peeta at her side. They see Foxface’s image on the sky, and Katniss feels regret over her death. She was clearly so intelligent, not like Cato, who, while, strong and well-trained, seems to react emotionally rather than thoughtfully to events.
Near dawn, she wakes Peeta and takes her turn sleeping till noon. They eat, pack, and get ready for whatever the Gamemakers are about to throw at them. When they go to wash in the stream, they see the next challenge: It’s gone. The Gamemakers are forcing them to the lake, to confront Cato. “Let’s just go end this thing,” Peeta says, and Katniss agrees. They embrace, and Katniss vows that the next time they eat, they’ll do so in the Capitol.
They reach the plain at evening and fill their water bottles in the lake. They sit under the sun—why not, now?—and wait. Katniss sings Rue’s song, and nearby mockingjays sing it back, looping the notes and creating “a lovely, unearthly melody” till, suddenly, the sound shifts to a “shrieking cry of alarm.” Cato bursts out of the trees, unarmed and running straight at them. Katniss shoots an arrow that simply bounces off his chest; he’s wearing some sort of body armor. But Cato doesn’t attack them. He rushes past them. Katniss looks toward the woods to see creatures pursuing him, and she and Peeta flee, too.
Each death of the last of the tributes—that is, of the children that Peeta and Katniss are supposed to view as mortal enemies who must be eliminated—seems to hurt them more, especially Katniss. She couldn’t hate the District 1 boy she killed after he struck Rue down, as she should have. She clearly feels sympathy for Cato as he wails his grief over Clove’s body. Thresh’s death, however it happened, nearly causes her to give her feelings away to the camera. Now Peeta must take credit for the kill in Foxface’s case, and he protests. He could as easily have sample the berries, and it might have been his tramping about that drew her attention anyway. “Doesn’t seem fair somehow,” he says, and “My fault.” Katniss tries to be glad that only Cato is left now, but she can’t help but admire clever Foxface and how long she endured (without any kills, readers might note). Cato, on the other hand, is a special threat. Katniss notes that, even during training, he seemed particularly brutal. His “ridiculous reaction” to the loss of the supplies and his execution of the District 3 boy made him seem “completely unhinged,” and Katniss questions his sanity.