The Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter 4

Summary

Peeta and Katniss help Haymitch back to his room, and Peeta says that he can take care of cleaning him up. Katniss wonders if he's doing this out of kindness or if he just wants to get on Haymitch's good side. She decides that Peeta must know that Haymitch won't remember anything anyway, so he must be acting simply out of kindness, which is worse. She decides that she will have nothing more to do with Peeta and tosses his father's cookies out the train's window, but when she does this, she sees more dandelions and recalls Peeta's bruised face from years ago and how those dandelions gave her, her mother, and Prim hope. She recalls how she used her mother's apothecary books and her father's drawings to find edible plants, and how the woods became her savior. She remembers her first day in the woods by herself, how she hid and outsmarted different predators, and how she discovered the bluish tubers after which she was named, katniss. If she bakes or boils the roots, they are like potatoes. The woods and its plants and animals save Katniss and her family.

The next morning at breakfast, they are once again served an abundance of rich foods. Haymitch continues to drink, and when Katniss asks him for some advice for the Games, he just tells her to stay alive. Peeta knocks the glass from his hand, and Haymitch punches him. Katniss, then, drives her knife into the table, just barely missing Haymitch's fingers. Haymitch is pleasantly surprised, asking if he's got some fighters this year. He keeps Peeta from putting ice on his jaw, telling him that the bruise will make others think that he got into a fight with another tribute before the Games, something that is against the rules. Haymitch makes a deal with them, promising that he will remain sober enough to help them. His next piece of advice is to let their stylists do whatever they want to them, not to resist.

When they reach the Capitol, Peeta and Katniss stare out the window at the wealth — the shiny cars, the paved streets, the well-fed people in all of their bright clothes and makeup and hair. As the people turn to look at the tribute train coming in, Katniss is disgusted by their excitement, how eager they are to see them die. Peeta, on the other hand, waves and smiles, and says that some of them may be rich.

Analysis

Katniss continues to struggle with how she feels about Peeta. She second-guesses everything that he does, worrying that all of his actions are motivated by his desire to win. At times she's convinced that he's scheming, deceiving her and the others; at other times, she thinks that he might be acting out of kindness, which is more dangerous to her since she knows she won't be able to kill a kind Peeta Mellark.

The image of the dandelion returns. Just when Katniss has decided that it's in her best interest to be done with Peeta, the dandelions bring her back to how Peeta is responsible for saving her life and the lives of her mother and sister.

This chapter reveals, too, how comfortable Katniss is in the woods. The hunting and gathering and hiding from predators that she did in the woods foreshadows much of what Katniss will have to do in the Hunger Games. It is ironic, too, that Katniss is named after an edible tuber that saves her life, and, as she enters into the Hunger Games, she recalls her father's words: "As long as you can find yourself, you'll never starve." This quote holds a double meaning, applying both to the katniss roots as a food source as well as to the idea that she must know who she is, have confidence in her strengths, and trust herself in order to survive.

The theme of putting up masks returns in this chapter, but where earlier chapters focused on the negative side of these "masks," in this chapter, Katniss begins to understand how wearing a mask can help her survive. For example, the bruise on Peeta's face from Haymitch's punch recalls the same bruise he had as a boy. Just as that bruise won Katniss over as a girl, Haymitch instructs Peeta to allow this bruise to win the crowd over while simultaneously intimidating the other tributes, simply by letting them come to their own conclusions about where the bruise came from.

Haymitch also discusses the importance of the stylists and doing as they say. Katniss recalls that the best-looking tributes usually get more sponsors. She also notes the unrealistic appearance of the Capitol people and how their appearances have been altered. It's difficult to see who and what people really are. The chapter ends on this note, with Peeta waving and smiling to the people watching their train, hoping to get some sponsors, causing Katniss to distrust him even more and believe that he is doing all that he can to kill her.

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