Part I: “The Tributes”
Peacekeepers escort Peeta and Katniss into the Justice Building, where they will have a short time to say goodbye to their families and friends. Katniss leaves instructions: Prim is not to take any tesserae, and Gale will help with food and with herbs for Mrs. Everdeen’s medicines. Katniss is firm with her mother, telling her, “You can’t clock out and leave Prim alone” no matter what they see in the Games. Prim believes Katniss can win, but Katniss knows whom she’ll face in the arena: tributes who’ve trained their whole lives for the Games. Prim and Mrs. Everdeen leave, and Peeta’s father comes in. He brings her cookies but otherwise merely sits in silence till the Peacekeepers come to escort him out. As he goes, he promises to “keep an eye on the little girl” and make sure she has enough to eat. Katniss is at a loss to understand why, since her job is, in part, to kill his son. Then Madge comes in to give her the gold pin, a mockingjay mounted delicately in a circle. Tributes are allowed to carry a token from the district into the arena, and Madge kisses her on the cheek. Again, Katniss is surprised. Finally, Gale comes in, with advice to get or make a bow and hunt—for food, and for tributes—and assurance that he’ll look out for her family.
Katniss and Peeta go by carto the train station, swarmed by cameras. Peeta has clearly been crying, and she wonders whether he wants to look weak so that other tributes let down their guard. They board the luxurious train—another first, for both of them—a high-speed train that will take them from the Appalachia, site of District 12, to the Capitol, in the Rocky Mountains, in just a day. They each have chambers with lavish beds, hot showers, and fine clothes. Katniss takes her first hot shower and then, as she dresses, looks at the pin Madge gave her. Mockingjays are “funny birds,” she explains, “and something of a slap in the face to the Capitol.” The Capitol created a genetically altered creature (a “muttation,” or mutt) called a jabberjay. These birds could repeat human speech and were used as spies during the rebellion, but the rebels told them lies; soon, the Capitol abandoned the jabberjays to die. But they mated with female mockingbirds, and the resulting offspring—mockingjays—could learn bits of human songs. Katniss’s father loved these birds, and they liked his voice and repeated his whistled and sung songs. So the pin makes Katniss feel that, in a way, her father is with her.
At supper, Katniss finds more food than she’s ever dreamed of. She knowsthat, in the arena, starvation will be another enemy. She and Peeta must put on weight while they can. Effie compliments their manners. Last year’s tributes ate with their hands, “like a couple of savages,” which disgusted her. Katniss remembers them—“two kids from the Seam who’d never, not one day of their lives, had enough to eat.” Effie’s comments anger Katniss deeply, so she starts to eat with her fingers and wipes her hands on the tablecloth.
After supper, they must watch a recap of the reapings in the other districts. Katniss and Peeta note their competitors, including a “monstrous boy who lunges forward to volunteer from District 2,” a crippled boy from District 10, and a young, tiny girl from District 11, about Prim’s age. They watch themselves as well—the commentators “are not sure what to say about the crowd’s refusal to applaud,” but District 12, they speculate, is a backward place with “charming” customs. Effie cares mostly about how Haymitch messed up her pink wig. Katniss and Peeta laugh—he’s always drunk. Effie “hisses” at them: “How odd you two find it amusing.” Haymitch is their mentor. Without him to advise them and to get sponsors for them, they are more likely to die. As if on cue, Haymitch stumbles in, vomits on the plush carpeting, and falls into the mess as Effie, disgusted, leaves the car.
This chapter further reveals how much Katniss has carried the family since her father’s death, how much responsibility has been piled on her shoulders. Rather than an occasion for loving good-byes, the time they have is given to Katniss’s instructions. She yells at her mother about her not sliding back into depression, her voice holding “all the anger, all the fear I felt at her abandonment.” Understanding the trauma Katniss has already endured helps readers understand how she will act during training and in the arena. Katniss is strong, brave, willing—but also realistic and deeply fearful.
Chastened, Peeta and Katniss help Haymitch to his compartment, and Peeta volunteers to get him cleaned up—not for an advantage, Katniss realizes, but simply because Peeta is kind. This is not good because a “kind Peeta Mellark is far more dangerous” in the arena than an unkind Peeta. She can’t let his kindness bias her actions against him, so she decides to distance herself from him. When the train stops to refuel, she throws his father’s cookies out the window. The bag bursts—in a patch of dandelions, and her mind immediately goes to the day Peeta gave her the bread and she saw, shortly after, the dandelion that gave her hope. She picked that flower, and she and Prim gathered enough dandelions in the Meadow to make a salad. They studied their father’s book on plants to learn what could be eaten, and Katniss hunted, beyond the fence, for the first time since her father’s death and brought home a rabbit—their first meat in months. Then, on May 8th, Katniss turned twelve, signed up for tesserae, and brought home her first monthly ration of coarse grain and oil. She learned to trade at the Hob, the district’s black market; she fished and dug the roots of the katniss plant, her namesake. Their mother began, slowly, to emerge from her depression and take up her roles of mother and healer again. But Katniss could not bring herself to trust her mother or to let go of her anger, and now, on the way to the Games, she knows she likely will never have the chance to put things right.
They speed past other districts, blurs of light in the night, and Katniss considers what her mother and sister are doing. They’re required to watch the recap of the reaping, and Prim will likely sleep in their mother’s bed that night. Loneliness overcomes Katniss—just that morning, she and Gale hunted, talked, and ate berries. Now, she’s on her way to death. She falls asleep, too numb to cry, to the train’s motion.
Effie wakes her with a cheerful “Up, up, up! It’s going to be a big, big, big day!” Katniss dresses and goes to breakfast, where Haymitch is laughing at Effie while she is “muttering obscenities under her breath.” The food, again, is abundant and delicious; Katniss drinks orange juice for the first time and tries coffee and hot chocolate. When she sips the latter, “a shudder runs through me”—never has she tasted such a thing. Haymitch isn’t eating much, but he’s already drinking. Katniss resents his drunkenness. What wealthy Capitol sponsor wants to deal with someone like Haymitch? No wonder District 12 tributes never win. She asks him for advice, and he says, “Stay alive.” Peeta’s eyes harden, and he hits the glass out of Haymitch’s hand. Haymitch hits Peeta in the jaw and reaches for the white liquor he prefers, but Katniss smacks a knife point into the table near his hand. Haymitch is surprised—he has “a pair of fighters” this time. Peeta starts to ice his bruise, but Haymitch tells him to let it bloom so that other tributes will think he “mixed it up” with a competitor outside the arena. This is not permitted, which suggests that not only did Peeta fight, but he got away with it. Katniss demonstrates that she can throw a knife with some accuracy, and Haymitch decides that his mentees are “not entirely hopeless.” He makes a deal: They’ll let him drink, and he’ll stay sober enough to help them—if they agree to do what he says. His first order: Don’t resist the stylists. He takes his liquor to his room, and Peeta and Katniss get their first view of the mountains that ring and protect the Capitol. The train speeds through a claustrophobic tunnel and emerges into the Capitol itself. People see the tribute train and point; Katniss steps away from the window and the view of people who “can’t wait to watch us die.” But Peeta waves and smiles because a wealthy sponsor might be watching. Katniss has underestimated Peeta’s ability to put on a show, and she realizes that he “hasn’t accepted his death” and will kill to win—even kill her.
This chapter brings Haymitch to the forefront for the first time. He disgusts everyone, with his apparent lack of control, his stink, his drinking. The appearance-obsessed Effie, a dyed and costumed Capitol dweller, is particularly repelled by him. She’s had to work with him before—in fact, one reason that Effie wants to be another district’s escort and liaison is Haymitch. Yet his actions at breakfast reveal that, when he wants to, Haymitch can control himself and mentor tributes. Katniss and Peeta win a bit of admiration because they stand up to him. The scene suggests that Haymitch will be a more important character in the novel than his behavior thus far suggests.