I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people. Maybe if I had thanked him at some point, I'd be feeling less conflicted now. I thought about it a couple of times, but the opportunity never seemed to present itself. And now it never will. Because we're going to be thrown into an arena to fight to the death. Exactly how am I supposed to work in a thank-you in there? Somehow it just won't seem sincere if I'm trying to slit his throat. (2.48)
The competition of the Hunger Games stamps out any potential feelings – gratitude, love, whatever – between Katniss and Peeta. They're going to be trying to kill each other, after all.
I can't win. Prim must know that in her heart. The competition will be far beyond my abilities. Kids from wealthier districts, where winning is a huge honor, who've been trained their whole lives for this. Boys who are two to three times my size. Girls who know twenty different ways to kill you with a knife. Oh, there'll be people like me, too. People to weed out before the real fun begins. (3.13)
Much like the reaping, the Hunger Games favor the rich: those who can afford the time and training it takes to compete.
The exceptions are the kids from the wealthier districts, the volunteers, the ones who have been fed and trained throughout their lives for this moment. The tributes from 1, 2, and 4 traditionally have this look about them. It's technically against the rules to train tributes before they reach the Capitol but it happens every year. In District 12, we call them the Career Tributes, or just the Careers. And like as not, the winner will be one of them (7.51)
As Katniss explains here, the Career Tributes have the leg up in the competition.
The Gamemakers appeared early on the first day. Twenty or so men and women dressed in deep purple robes. They sit in the elevated stands that surround the gymnasium, sometimes wandering about to watch us, jotting down notes, other times eating at the endless banquet that has been set for them, ignoring the lot of us. But they do seem to be keeping their eye on the District 12 tributes. Several times I've looked up to find one fixated on me. (7.66)
The Gamemakers are the ones in control of the competition. They seem though to be pretty disinterested in the whole thing. Why do you think they are so passionless about the whole thing? Why is Katniss of particular interest to them?
Since the training isn't open to viewers, the Gamemakers announce a score for each player. It gives the audience a starting place for the betting that will continue throughout the Games. The number, which is between one and twelve, one being irredeemably bad and twelve being unattainably high, signifies the promise of the tribute. The mark is not a guarantee of which person will win. It's only an indication of the potential tribute show in training. (8.4)
As we learn in this passage, people place bets on the survival of the tributes. The gambling reinforces the idea that the death of the tributes is entertainment.
The roar of the crowd is deafening. Peeta has absolutely wiped the rest of us off the map with his declaration of love for me. (10.8)
In the Hunger Games, it's not just strength or skill that will win the competition. How does Peeta's presentation of himself as a tragic lover give him an edge?
This was no tribute's campfire gone out of control, no accidental occurrence. The flames that bear down on me have an unnatural height, a uniformity that marks them as human-made, machine-made, Gamemaker-made. Things have been too quiet today. No deaths, perhaps no fights at all. The audience in the Capitol will be getting bored, claiming that these Games are verging on dullness. This is the one thing the Games must not do. (13.4)
The Games are a reminder to the districts not to rebel against the government, but they are also – especially for the richer districts – a form of entertainment. Notice how the Gamemakers have to keep the plot exciting in order to keep their viewers happy.
"You know, they're not the only ones who can form alliances," I say.
For a moment, no response. The one of Rue's eyes edges around the trunk. "You want me for an ally?" (15.12-13)
Forming an alliance with Rue proves to be a good strategy in the competition for Katniss. Why?
Brutal, bloody Cato who can snap a neck with a twist of his arm, who had the power to overcome Thresh, who has had it out for me since the beginning. He probably has had a special hatred for me every since I outscored him in training. A boy like Peeta would simply shrug that off. But I have a feeling it drove Cato to distraction. Which is not that hard. I think of his ridiculous reaction to finding the supplies blown up. The others were upset, of course, but he was completely unhinged. I wonder now if Cato might not be entirely sane. (24.27)
Cato is Katniss's last hurdle to winning the competition. Why is Cato such a force to be reckoned with?
I spread out my fingers, and the dark berries glisten in the sun. I give Peeta's hand one last squeeze as a signal, as a good-bye, and we begin counting. "One." Maybe I'm wrong. "Two." Maybe they don't care if we both die. "Three!" It's too late to change my mind. I lift my hand to m mouth, taking one last look at the world. The berries have just passed my lips when the trumpets begin to blare. (25.93)
After downing a handful of berries, Katniss and Peeta are declared victorious. How did they defeat the Gamemakers?
And right now, the most dangerous part of the Hunger Games is about to begin. (26.69)
Wait. What? The Games are beginning again? We thought Katniss won? What does Katniss mean?