Katniss is alone in the woods, checking the snares she and her best friend, Gale, have set up. Though her family is now very wealthy and has plenty of food to eat due to her having won the Hunger Games, Katniss still illegally hunts every day in the woods outside of District 12 because she needs to provide food for Gale's family. Gale is the main provider for his family; however, he no longer has time to hunt as he now works 12 hours a day in the mines since finishing school. Katniss doesn't mind providing food for Gale's family as she has nothing to do all day and yearns for her old life, the one before she won the Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games are an annual event put on by the Capitol during which each of the 12 districts of Panem sends one female and one male tribute to the Capitol to fight to the death in a televised competition. The single winner is rewarded with a lifetime of food and wealth, both of which run scarce outside the Capitol. However, a change in the rules allowed Peeta, the male tribute from District 12, to win, too. The win was secured by a smart strategy that Peeta established before the Games when he confessed his love for Katniss, and the supposedly star-crossed lovers became favorites throughout the competition.
During the Games, Katniss publicly played along with the love story and, as a result, began to develop feelings for Peeta. However, conflicted over her feelings for Gale and confused by the complicated strategy of the Games, Katniss privately refused to acknowledge her feelings for Peeta. Angered by her deception, Peeta has barely spoken to Katniss since the Games when he realized her flirting was just part of strategy.
After gathering the game trapped in the snares, Katniss returns to town so she can be ready in time for the Victory Tour, an event placed midway between the annual Games during which the winning tribute tours each district. She dreads having to face the families of tributes she killed, but she knows there is no way of getting out of it.
Katniss returns to her old home in order to switch out her hunting clothes for more "acceptable" attire. The tiny, dirty home that she used to live in with her sister, Prim, and their mother is no longer their official home; instead, they have been moved into a comfortable house in the Victor's Village. However, Katniss misses their former home because it is the only reminder of her old life — before she became a Hunger Games victor.
After dropping off the game at Gale's house, Katniss heads for the Hob, District 12's black market, to purchase supplies. She visits with Greasy Sae, who sells soup, and Darius, a kind city official whom Katniss enjoys joking around with, and they try to cheer her up about the Victory Tour. The camera crews and style team soon will be arriving at Katniss' house, so she says goodbye and walks to Haymitch's house in the Victor's Village.
Haymitch, a surly drunk who won the Hunger Games years before, coached Katniss and Peeta on how to survive during the Games. Katniss lets herself in to Haymitch's house and wakes him up to ensure he is ready for the Victory Tour. Peeta soon arrives with a fresh loaf of warm bread for the three of them. Feeling awkward by Peeta's arrival and cold attitude toward her, Katniss tells Haymitch to take a bath and hurries to her own house.
Katniss immediately senses that something is wrong when she gets home. Her mother is clearly worried and nervous. An official from the Capitol has come to the house, asking to speak to Katniss. She follows the official into a room of the house, where Panem's President Snow is waiting to speak to her.
Impoverished, starving, and stifled, Katniss' life in District 12 was bleak before the Games. While so much has changed for Katniss since winning the Games, she still lacks closure about her participation. She desperately wants to feel happiness, but instead she just feels empty and alone. No matter what she does, she cannot escape the horrific nightmare of the Games. She is imprisoned in the aftermath of her ordeal, and her feeling like a prisoner in her own life is a theme that will persist throughout the story.
Many of Katniss' relationships were severely damaged as a result of her participation in the Games, and she struggles to hang on to the life she knew before them. This first chapter presents the importance of Katniss' relationships as a motif in the novel. She will spend the rest of the novel making decisions based on her relationships with the various people in her life.
The relationship that suffered the most and has been the most difficult for Katniss to adjust to has been that with Gale. Before the Games, she thought of him as her best friend, as someone she could be at total ease with and tell all her secrets to. They were very close and cared for each other immensely. She knows he would have ensured that Prim and her mother would have food to eat if she had been killed in the Games. However, her supposed romance with Peeta in the arena has her confused about her true feelings for Gale. When she kissed Peeta, she would wonder how Gale thought about it. Thinking of Peeta and Gale like that at the same time was difficult and only confused her even more.
Adding to the strain of Katniss and Gale's friendship is the hunting arrangement Gale has been forced to agree to as a result of his new job. Katniss spends all day hunting for Gale's family. Though Gale has no choice but to take the game Katniss hunts for his family, it is very hard for him to accept her help. This shift in the power dynamic in the relationship has made it extremely difficult for things to go back to normal for the two.
Katniss wishes things could go back to the way they were before she was a tribute and remarks how the Hunger Games have spoiled any hope of returning to her close friendship with Gale. In addition to her relationship with Gale, Katniss is also struggling to hold on to the person she was before the Games.