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 as in the reaping, the Hunger Games favor the richer district: those who can afford the time and training it takes to compete. What strengths does Katniss have, though, that the wealthier kids don't?
The bow and arrow is my weapon. But I've spent a fair amount of time throwing knives as well. Sometimes, if I've wounded an animal with an arrow, it's better to get a knife into it, too, before I approach it. I realize that if I want Haymitch's attention, this is my moment to make an impression. I yank the knife out of the table, get a grip on the blade, and then throw it into the wall across the room. (4.48)
As an experienced hunter, Katniss is skilled with a bow and arrow, as well as a knife. How will these skills help her in the Games? What other strengths does she have? What are her weaknesses?
Suddenly I am furious, that with my life on the line, they don't even have the decency to pay attention to me. That I'm being upstaged by a dead pig. My heart starts to pound, I can feel my face burning. Without thinking, I pull an arrow from my quiver and send it straight at the Gamemakers' table. I hear shouts of alarm as people stumble back. The arrow skewers the apple in the pig's mouth and pins it to the wall behind it. Everyone stares at me in disbelief. (7.96)
Katniss loses her temper during her private training session with the Gamemakers. She shoots an arrow straight the apple in the pig's mouth. What is Katniss's real strength? Is it her bow and arrow or her spirit of defiance?
"And you're good?" asks Haymitch.
I have to think about it. I've been putting food on the table for four years. That's no small task. I'm not as good as my father was, but he'd had more practice. I've better aim than Gale, but I've had more practice. He's a genius with traps and snares. "I'm all right," I say.
"She's excellent," says Peeta. "My father buys her squirrel. He always comments on how the arrows never pierce the body. She hits every one in the eye." (7.19-21)
Katniss can kill her own food – and she's a remarkable shot.
Effie Trinket lets out a squeal, and everybody is slapping me on the back and cheering and congratulating me. But it doesn't seem real.
"There must be a mistake. How…how could that happen?" I ask Haymitch.
"Guess they liked your temper," he says. "They've got a show to put on. They need some players with some heat."
"Katniss, the girl who was on fire," says Cinna and gives me a hug. (8.36-40)
Katniss receives the highest rating of all of the tributes. Why did she rank so high?
The weapons give me an entirely new perspective on the Games. I know I have tough opponents left to face. But I am no longer merely prey that runs and hides or takes desperate measures. If Cato broke through the trees right now, I wouldn't flee, I'd shoot. I find I'm actually anticipating the moment with pleasure. (15.6)
With her weapons on her back, Katniss is nearly unstoppable. She's playing offense now instead of defense. But can she win with this skill alone?
"The Careers have two pairs. But they've got everything down by the lake," Rue says. "And they're so strong."
"We're strong, too," I say. "Just in a different way."
"You are. You can shoot," she says. "What can I do?"
"You can feed yourself. Can they?" I ask.
"They don't need to. They have all those supplies," Rue says.
"Say they didn't. Say the supplies were gone. How long would they last?" I say. "I mean, it's the Hunger Games, right?" (15.72-77)
Katniss and Rue may not have more brute force than the Career Tributes, but they have a far more powerful skill: they can provide food for themselves. Where did they learn this skill? And why?
I really think I stand a chance of doing it now. Winning. It's not just having the arrows or outsmarting the Careers a few times, although those things help. Something happened when I was holding Rue's hand, watching the life drain out of her. Now I am determined to avenge her, to make her loss unforgettable, and I can only do that by winning and thereby making myself unforgettable. (18.62)
Katniss learns that her real strength is not in her bow or arrows or her smarts, but in standing up to the Capitol. How can she make herself unforgettable?
I won't close my eyes. The comment about Rue has filled me with fury, enough fury I think to die with some dignity. As my last act of defiance, I will stare her down as long as I can see, which will probably not be an extended period of time, but I will stare her down, I will not cry out, I will die, in my own small way, undefeated. (21.30)
Katniss has realized that her true strength lies in being true to herself and dying with dignity. In her encounter with Glimmer, we can see her defiance bubbling to the surface.
That brings me back to Cato. But while I think I had a sense of Foxface, who she was and how she operated, he's a little more slippery. Powerful, well trained, but smart? I don't know. Not like she was. And utterly lacking in the control Foxface demonstrated. I believe Cato could easily lose his judgment in a fit of temper. (24.29)
If Foxface was the smartest, then Cato is the strongest. But why doesn't either of them win? What does it take to win in this game?
We both know they have to have a victor.
Yes, they have to have a victor. Without a victor, the whole thing would blow up in the Gamemakers' faces. They'd have failed the Capitol. Might possibly even be executed, slowly and painfully while the cameras broadcast it to every screen in the country.
If Peeta and I were both to die, or they thought we were…
My fingers fumble with the pouch on my belt, freeing it. Peeta sees it and his hand clamps on my wrist. "No, I won't let you."
"Trust me," I whisper. He holds my gaze for a long moment then lets me go. (25.85-89)
At the end of the game, Katniss realizes that she can't kill Peeta. The only thing left for the two of them to do, then, is to defy the government one last time by killing themselves. Why does the plan work?