Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch – this is the Capitol's way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion. Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. "Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there's nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen." (1.76)
The districts all pay a yearly sacrifice to the Capitol in the form of their tributes – children who will die in the Hunger Games. Katniss also mentions District 13. This region was completely destroyed in the uprising and was also a kind of sacrifice to the government.
"Prim!" The strangled cry comes out of my throat, and my muscles begin to move again. "Prim!" I don't need to shove through the crowd. The other kids make way immediately allowing me a straight path to the stage. I reach her just as she is about to mount the steps. With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me.
"I volunteer!" I gasp. "I volunteer as tribute!" (2.5-6)
Always the protector of the family, Katniss offers herself instead of her sister as District 12's tribute. She is making a double sacrifice: one for her sister, the other for her community.
I open the parachute and find a small loaf of bread. It's not the fine white Capitol stuff. It's made of dark ration grain and shaped in a crescent. Sprinkled with seeds. I flash back to Peeta's lesson on the various district breads in the Training Center. This bread came from District 11. I cautiously lift the still warm loaf. What must it have cost the people of District 11 who can't even feed themselves? How many would've had to do without to scrape up a coin to put in the collection for this one loaf? (18.48)
District 11 acknowledges Katniss's gesture with a sacrifice of their own: a loaf of bread. What does the bread symbolize?
I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do or force us to do that there is a part of every tribute they can't own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I.
A few steps into the woods grows a bank of wildflowers. Perhaps they are really weeds of some sort, but they have blossoms in beautiful shades of violet and yellow and white. I gather up an armful and come back to Rue's side. Slowly, one stem at a time. I decorate her body in the flowers. Covering the ugly wound. Wreathing her face. Weaving her hair with bright colors. (18.38-39)
Is Rue just another casualty of the game for the entertainment of the audience at home? No. Katniss places flowers on her dead body, which reminds us that Rue's death is a great sacrifice. Katniss acknowledges her as a human being.
One of the goats, a white one with black patches, was lying down in a cart. It was easy to see why. Something, probably a dog, had mauled her shoulder and infection had set in. It was bad, the Goat Man had to hold her up to milk her. But I thought I knew someone who could fix it. (20.49)
Goats are often a symbol of sacrifice and indeed the Goat Man was going to send this one to the butcher. Instead, Katniss buys the goat and brings to her sister Prim. Sacrifice no more! Who likens themselves to the goat in this chapter? Why?
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)
At the end of the Games, Katniss and Peeta are ready to sacrifice themselves rather than give in to the Capitol's demands that they kill each other. Why is their act so powerful?
"Because, of course, Haymitch hasn't bothered to tell me your strategies. But I've done my best with what I had to work with. How Katniss sacrificed herself for her sister. How you've both successfully struggled to overcome the barbarism of your district." (6.4)
Though it was an honest gesture full of emotion, Katniss' sacrifice becomes a way to market her to the audience. Sacrifice sells!