On the first Sunday after the Harvest Festival, Katniss leaves some clues at her and Gale's hunting rendezvous spot so he can follow her to the lake, where she is sure they'll be able to talk without the Capitol listening in. On her long walk to the lake, she reflects on the announcement she heard regarding District 8, her friendship with Madge, and her gold mockingjay pin.
She finds it strange that the mockingjay pin has become a Capitol fad because the bird itself is the result of a Capitol experiment gone wrong. She wonders how Snow feels about the bird's popularity in the Capitol when it is a reminder of its failed experiment. As Katniss continues the long hike to the lake, she sees mockingjays flying from branch to branch, and she is reminded of Rue and the dream she had about her the night before. She reaches the house by the lake and has just started a small fire when Gale shows up.
He is angry and hurt by her engagement to Peeta, and she knows this is her only shot to hold on to her friendship with Gale, or she will lose him for good. She tells him everything about President Snow's threats against him, the necessity of the fake engagement, and the murders she witnessed in District 11.
When she proposes they run away with their families, he agrees. He wraps his arms around her and tells her he loves her. Overwhelmed by the shock of his words, she tells him she knows. She realizes her mistake instantly and fumbles to correct it. Hurt by her response, he backs away from her and becomes short with her. He still talks about running away, until he realizes she wants to bring Peeta with them and that there is an uprising in District 8.
Gale says he wants to stay and join the rebellion, and try to start one in District 12. Katniss wants to run away and start a new life in the wild before the Capitol can kill them. Gale asks her to consider the families who can't run away, and tells her it isn't about saving only themselves. The two still haven't come to an agreement when he leaves the house.
Eventually, Katniss returns to town and runs into Peeta. As the two walk together, Katniss asks Peeta if he will run away with her. He agrees to run, but suggests they talk it over with Haymitch first to ensure it won't worsen the problem. Before she can say something, the two notice a crowd and strange noise in the square. Gale is tied to a wooden post, his unconscious and bloody body slumped to his knees. A new and unfamiliar Head Peacekeeper stands behind Gale, his arm raising the whip to strike Gale again.
Again, Katniss wants the woods to work as a way for her and Gale to return to normality and genuine friendship. She hopes the woods, where they have talked and exchanged secrets for so many years, will allow them to move on from the Games and return to friendship. However, as she walks through the woods, instead of feeling confident in his companionship, she realizes that this is her last chance to convince him or she will lose him forever. Though she may not know for certain how she feels about Gale, she still cares about him immensely. Her trust in him is strong enough to ignore the strain of their relationship.
The theme of imprisonment is also present in this chapter as Katniss is trapped into masking her true feelings. The Games never truly ended for Katniss, and she feels that she will forever be chained to her life in the arena, one where she was confused about her feelings for Peeta and Gale and always fighting for her life.
The Capitol has made her a prisoner in her own life, always tied to the story she didn't write and forced to appear madly in love. They have stripped her of even the basic ability to determine her own emotions and act on them. Katniss will always have to love and be with Peeta. The Capitol has locked her away from the real world, one where she can think for herself and make her own decisions.
When Gale tells her he loves her, Katniss cannot think about it or respond in the way she wants to. He is deeply hurt when she tells him she can't think about him that way because of the danger everyone she loves is in. Even if Katniss is unsure of how she feels about Gale and Peeta, she knows that she can't think about that anymore and must focus on keeping them alive instead.
When Gale tells Katniss he doesn't want the gloves she offered him or anything else made in the Capitol, it's another blow to their friendship. She wonders if he means Katniss is now a product of the Capitol, which is something the two found despicable and pathetic. This comment immensely hurts Katniss and further damages their relationship, perpetuating the fact that the Games had a lasting impact on her.
Her anger rises as she thinks about the unfairness of his loaded words, and this illustrates another way in which the Capitol has broken her friendship with Gale. To Gale, Katniss now stands for everything the Capitol represents. He doesn't want anything to do with her, and there is a solemn sense of finality when he leaves the cabin.
It is ironic that Gale considers her another invention of the Capitol, something that embodies everything he hates, when she is quite actually the opposite. Katniss, the mockingjay, the girl on fire, will never be seen as a product of the Capitol's own design. Instead, she and other mockingjays are living and breathing reminders of the Capitol's failures.
However, the fact that the mockingjay is now associated with Katniss and has come to represent the very real threat of rebellion worsens things. The Capitol is trying to imprison Katniss, a mockingjay, and forever cage her in a world of propaganda, manipulation, and abuse. They work desperately to stop the inspiring effect she has on people, metaphorically trying to clip her wings. But the Capitol's attempts to stop her fire only seem to fuel it more.