The Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter 2

Summary

Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place as tribute, thinking about how the odds had been in Prim's favor, that her name was one in a thousand and never should have been drawn in the first place. Prim protests, but Gale carries her off. Effie Trinket tries to make Katniss' volunteering sound exciting, asking the audience for applause, but the audience, to its credit, remains silent. Their silence sends a message of dissent to the Capitol and the ways of the Hunger Games. As a tribute to Katniss, the audience members hold their three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and then hold them out to Katniss, a District 12 gesture that shows admiration, thanks, and goodbye to someone they love. Katniss comes close to crying, something she knows she mustn't do because it would indicate weakness to the other tributes and make her look vulnerable; thankfully, Haymitch distracts the crowd and the cameras by stumbling off stage.

Peeta Mellark is chosen as District 12's boy tribute, which makes Katniss feel as if the odds truly are against her. She is not friends with Peeta, but she recalls how they first met. It was years ago when Katniss was 11 and her father had recently died. Her mother was in such a deep depression that she couldn't work or provide for Katniss or Prim, and the three of them nearly starved. On an cold, rainy afternoon, Katniss did anything she could to get money or food. She gave up trying to sell Prim's baby clothes after dropping them in a mud puddle. She considers stealing, but in District 12, such an offense is punishable by death. She checks trash bins and is at the baker's when the baker's wife, Peeta's mother, shouts at her and runs her off. That's when she sees Peeta watching her. Katniss collapses and decides she is ready to die right there when she hears a commotion from inside the bakery, the baker's wife shouting at Peeta to give the bread to the hogs, calling him a "stupid creature." When Peeta's mother isn't looking, he tosses the bread to Katniss, who notices a red welt on his cheek where his mother has hit him. The bread looks as if it's been dropped in the fire, its crust burned black, but this bread saves Katniss and her family and renews her hope for survival.

The next day, she thinks that maybe Peeta burned the bread on purpose so that she could have it, but can't imagine why he would do that since they are strangers and he is a town boy and she's from the Seam. One day, though, she notices him staring at her from across the school yard, and she averts her eyes, embarrassed, focusing on a dandelion, which causes her to remember a lesson her father taught her in the woods about using dandelions as a food source. The bread, the dandelion, and Peeta are all connected. They all contribute to her survival, which makes her feel that she owes Peeta something, and she hates feeling like she owes anyone anything, particularly when she's expected to kill that person.

Analysis

This chapter provides greater insight into Katniss' character. Her love for Prim is so strong that she is willing to sacrifice herself for her sister, something that not many others in the district would do for their family members. Through flashback, Katniss reveals how she grew up as a survivor after her father's death and her mother's descent into depression. Not only does this flashback illustrate Katniss' strength and will to survive, but it also highlights more of the injustices imposed upon the different districts by the people in the Capitol. In District 12, many people are without food and are left to die of starvation, which officials usually label as death by flu, exhaustion, or pneumonia. Katniss says, though, that the people of District 12 are able to see through this disguise, furthering the theme of masks and deception. The people of the districts must mask their dissent, as well. By maintaining silence when Effie Trinket asks them to applaud and by saluting Katniss, they are doing all that they safely can to protest the Capitol's dictatorship. Katniss wonders, too, if Haymitch's drunken shouts about people not having enough spunk are directed at the District 12 audience or if he's directly taunting the Capitol officials.

This chapter also sets up a recurring theme of Katniss questioning Peeta's motivations. Years after he gives her the bread, she still isn't convinced that he would have dropped the bread in the fire on purpose. She doesn't know why he would want to help her, someone who is essentially a stranger to him, and even questions his handshake at the end of the chapter. She wonders if maybe he meant to give her hand a reassuring squeeze or if his hand simply had a spasm. Katniss' doubts about Peeta's character and her indebtedness to him establish a tension that will continue throughout the story. Early on, it is clear that Peeta has played a role in helping Katniss survive. Now she has to decide whether she will repay him the debt that she owes or, instead, actually try to kill him in the Hunger Games. She hopes that someone else will do it for her, but she recalls again that the odds are not in her favor, foreshadowing troubles and decisions that are to come.

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