“There’s almost always some wood,” Gale says. “Since that year half of them died of cold. Not much entertainment in that.”
It’s true. We spent one Hunger Games watching the players freeze to death at night. You could hardly see them because they were just huddled in balls and had no wood for fires or torches or anything. It was considered very anti-climactic in the Capitol, all those quiet bloodless deaths. Since then, there’s usually been wood to make fires. (3.34-35)
The Hunger Games, in which tributes fight each other to the death in front of the cameras, are an extreme example of reality television. Notice how the emphasis is on the audience’s entertainment rather than the pain and suffering of the candidates.
I’d set out to tell her I was sorry about dinner. But I know that my apology runs much deeper. That I’m ashamed I never tried to help her in the woods. That I let the Capitol kill the boy and mutilate her without lifting a finger.
Just like I was watching the Games. (6.83-84)
Katniss feels the need to apologize to the Avox girl who she didn’t help in the woods. Notice how Katniss compares watching the girl being taken away to watching the Hunger Games. Under the harsh rule of the government, Katniss’s life has become a daily version of the Games.
When we finally escape to bed on the second night, Peeta mumbles, “Someone ought to get Haymitch a drink.”
I make a sound that is somewhere between a snort and a laugh. Then catch myself. It’s messing with my mind too much, trying to keep straight when we’re supposedly friends and when we’re not. At least when we get into the arena, I’ll know where we stand. “Don’t. Don’t let’s pretend when there’s no one around.” (7.85-86)
What’s real and what isn’t? In the Hunger Games, Katniss can’t be sure. Is Peeta sincere about being her friend? Or does he have other plans?
I can’t help comparing what I have with Gale to what I’m pretending to have with Peeta. How I never question Gale’s motives while I do nothing but doubt the latter’s. It’s not a fair comparison really. Gale and I were thrown together by a mutual need to survive. Peeta and I know the other’s survival means our own death. How do you sidestep that? (8.60)
Katniss compares her authentic feelings for Gale with the fake friendship she has with Peeta. What is the difference between the two? Could Katniss ever really have feelings for Peeta?
Haymitch grabs my shoulders and pins me against the wall. “Who cares? It’s all a big show. It’s all how you’re perceived. The most I could say about you after your interview was that you were nice enough, although that in itself was a small miracle. Now I can say you’re a heartbreaker. Oh, oh, oh, how the boys back home fall longingly at your feet. Which do you think will get more sponsors?” (10.39)
Peeta announces to the world that he has a giant crush on Katniss. At first, she’s peeved, but as Haymitch suggests, it’s not so much about what is true, but about what will sell. Notice how Peeta’s crush on her makes her more desirable to others in the audience.
As I hike along, I feel certain I’m still holding the screen in the Capitol, so I’m careful to continue to hide my emotions. But what a good time Claudius Templesmith must be having with his guest commentators, dissecting Peeta’s behavior, my reaction. What to make of it all? Has Peeta revealed his true colors? How does this affect the betting? Will we lose sponsors? Do we even have sponsors? Yes, I feel certain we do, or at least did. (12.29)
In the arena, Katniss has cameras on her at all times. She has to think of everything she does as being interpreted through the eyes of the audience watching at home.
“Do this!” I command myself. Clenching my jaw, I dig my hands under Glimmer’s body, get a hold on what must be her rib cage, and force her onto her stomach. I can’t help it, I’m hyperventilating now, the whole thing is so nightmarish and I’m losing my grip on what’s real. (14.26)
The tracker jacker attack leaves Katniss full of venom, and she starts hallucinating. Katniss has literally lost sense of reality here from the venom. How else has she lost track of what is real?
The star-crossed lovers…Peeta must have been playing that angle all along. Why else would the Gamemakers have made this unprecedented change in the rules? For two tributes to have a shot at winning, our “romance” must be so popular with the audience that condemning it would jeopardize the success of the Games. No thanks to me. All I’ve done is managed not to kill Peeta. But whatever he’s done in the arena, he must have the audience convinced it was to keep me alive. (19.3)
Romance stories are powerful things – especially on television. Even though Katniss isn’t really in love with Peeta, she realizes the power the story must have. Still, can Peeta and Katniss control the Games just by playing up their so-called romance?
For a moment, I’m almost foolishly happy and then confusion sweeps over me. Because we’re supposed to be making up this stuff, playing at being in love, not actually being in love. But Peeta’s story has a ring of truth to it. That part about my father and the birds. And I did sing the first day of school, although I don’t remember the son. And that red plaid dress…there was one, a hand-me-down to Prim that got washed to rags after my father’s death.
It would explain another thing too. Why Peeta took a beating to give me the bread on that awful hollow day. So, if those details are true…could it all be true? (22.95-96)
OK, so it looks like Peeta really does have feelings for Katniss. He wasn’t just pretending. But what about her? Does Katniss have any feelings for Peeta? With all the acting she’s been doing, how could she even tell?
“Why don’t they just kill him?” I ask Peeta.
“You know why,” he says, and pulls me closer to him.
And I do. No viewer could turn away from the show now. From the Gamemakers’ point of view, this is the final word in entertainment. (25.42-44)
Peeta and Katniss listen to the agony of the dying Cato. They long for his suffering to end, but for the Gamemakers and the audience at the Capitol, death is just something for sport.
Caesar Flickerman makes a few more jokes, and it’s time for the show. This will last exactly three hours and is required viewing for all of Panem. As the lights dim and the seal appears on the screen, I realize I’m unprepared for this. I do not want to watch my twenty-two fellow tributes die. I saw enough of them die the first time. (27.4)
During the post-Games reunion show, Katniss is forced to watch an edited version of the Hunger Games with the audience at home. How is this experience different from living the Games? How does it make her feel?