Katniss falls asleep holding Gale's hand. Peeta wakes her early the next morning, and he watches over Gale while she goes to her bed to go back to sleep, but she is still troubled with nightmares. When she wakes up, a blizzard has moved in. She welcomes the snowstorm as an opportunity for everyone to recover from Gale's whipping and to devise a new plan.
When Katniss goes back downstairs to check on Gale, she apologizes to her mother for yelling at her the night before. Her mother tells her that she has seen worse, and that people can act that way sometimes when someone they love is in pain. Her mother's words strike Katniss, and she admits she loves Gale, but isn't sure which type of love she feels for him. She is worried that their kiss the night before will complicate things even more.
After waiting out the storm for a few days, Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch meet on the edge of town to discuss what happened and figure out a new plan. However, not much comes out of it except that Haymitch confirms Katniss' conclusion that running away is only going to create more problems.
They head back into town and see that in the two days since Gale's whipping, the town square has been transformed. There are machine guns along the rooftops, and whipping posts, stockades, and gallows in the center of the square. The Hob has been set on fire and is reduced to just a pile of rubble and ash.
As the weeks pass, things in District 12 go from bad to worse. There is a food shortage, and wages around town are cut. The new Peacekeepers carry out vicious punishments for crimes. Katniss and Gale no longer venture into the woods to hunt, understanding that doing so would lead to punishments worse than whipping.
But one day, a crate of wedding dresses from President Snow arrives for Katniss. She decides to go back into the woods to escape it all for a while. She makes the long hike to the lake to enjoy some alone time and to clear her head. Along the way, she encounters a woman dressed in Peacekeepers uniforms. Katniss is about to shoot her with her arrow, but she stops when she realizes the woman is holding a cracker that has a mockingjay stamped on it.
The motif of dreams and nightmares plagues Katniss again in this chapter. In her nightmare, she is back in the arena during the Games and receives a violent gash across the face from another tribute named Clove. When she wakes, she has to remind herself that Clove is dead and that the cut on her cheek is from Thread. This dream symbolizes the fact that though the Games are officially over, the threats, dangers, and consequences of them have taken a new shape in the form of Thread, Snow, and Snow's promises to kill her loved ones.
The Capitol's grim influence is impossible for Katniss to ignore. Thread is a cruel and unjust Peacekeeper who violently punishes District 12 on a daily basis. Once again, she is trapped by the Capitol, backed into a corner she cannot escape from. Everywhere she goes, she has to watch District 12 unfairly punished and abused. It is almost as if the entire district is now imprisoned by the Capitol, in more ways now than they were before.
It is ironic that the wedding dresses are what drive Katniss back into the woods. Weddings are supposed to be a happy and joyful occasion; however, the wedding dresses are symbols of a future Katniss knows she'll never have. She is pained by what the dresses represent, and even if she is to survive all of this, the dresses symbolize a future picked out for her by the Capitol. The dresses embody both a death sentence and the end of her free will.
The mockingjay's appearance in this chapter, though brief, is significant. The woman dressed in Peacekeeper's attire, bearing food with Katniss' token on it, suggests that perhaps the fire for rebellion has spread to more than just the civilians in the districts. The mockingjays in the woods, the real birds, Katniss herself, and the image stamped on the cracker, are too coincidental for it to mean nothing. The stamp of the mockingjay foreshadows that Katniss and Gale are not alone in their quest for rebellion.