Katniss and the other tributes stand in a ring around the Cornucopia, a giant golden horn filled with supplies that will help them in the Games. The tributes have 60 seconds to take in their surroundings before the gong sounds and the Games begin. Moving too early triggers land mines. Haymitch instructed Katniss to run away from the Cornucopia immediately, but then she sees a tent and a bow and arrow and starts to think about how she could get to it before anyone else. As she's trying to make her decision, Peeta catches her eye. It looks to her as if he's shaking his head, telling her not to try for anything, to turn and run. Distracted by him, Katniss misses the gong and hesitates. She runs a bit of the way in and grabs a piece of plastic and some bread and fights with a boy over an orange pack. The boy is hit with a knife and dies, and Katniss takes off running. She lifts the pack behind her, protecting her head, and feels a knife embed itself there. Now she has a weapon.
She spends the rest of the day moving, putting space between herself and the other tributes. Being in the woods calms her, and she focuses on finding a source of water. She hears the cannons in the late afternoon, each shot signifying a dead tribute: eleven dead in all, leaving thirteen in the Games. The Capitol will project the faces of the dead later that night, so Katniss doesn't immediately know who's left. She's overwhelmed thinking that Peeta could be dead already, but decides that perhaps it would be better that way, that it was over with for him and that they wouldn't have to face one another.
She takes stock of her knapsack's contents, a sleeping bag being her prized possession, and surveys the land around her, noting the animals and plant life. When night falls, she still hasn't found any water, but she picks a tree, climbs up, and makes a bed in one of the branches, belting herself in. When the death recap airs in the sky that evening, she watches for Peeta's face and is relieved to know that he has made it through the first day. She falls asleep and then wakes to the sound of twigs snapping. Someone is making a fire, something that will surely lure other tributes to their camp. Katniss is angry with the fire starter for being so ignorant and for endangering both of their lives. Soon enough, a pack of the Career Tributes who have formed an alliance finds the girl camped out near Katniss and kills her. Katniss nearly falls out of the tree when she hears Peeta's voice among them.
Tension is high in this chapter as Katniss tries to decide what course of action to take. She second-guesses what Haymitch has told her to do, thinking about how much of an advantage might come from getting the bow and arrow. Peeta, though, makes her hesitate too long and keeps her from making the big dash in to retrieve them. Either he has saved her life or cost her a bow and arrows, which angers Katniss, but she presses on. It is clear that Katniss' hunting skills and her familiarity with the woods' natural elements are coming in handy. Peeta's mother was right about Katniss. She is a natural survivor, and it shows early on as she takes stock of her provisions, rations her food, and builds a bed perched high in a tree. She is smart and knows how to pursue prey, as well as how to evade predators.
The organization of the Games illustrates, too, just how much the people in the Capitol crave violence and entertainment at any cost, including the cost of human lives. They arrange the tributes around the Cornucopia to ensure a bloody beginning, and Katniss knows that the Gamemakers use strategies, too, to force the tributes together if the Games should get too boring. Even in the arena, in the woods where Katniss feels safe, she knows she is being watched and can be manipulated at any moment.
The recurring mention of a need for water, and Katniss' inability to find any, lets the reader know that this will continue to be a problem, and her growing thirst indicates that she needs to fix this problem quickly if she's going to survive much longer.
Again we see Katniss struggling with her emotions about Peeta. When she experiences relief knowing that Peeta has made it through the day, she decides that she doesn't really care about him. She simply wants him to win if she can't since it would mean a better life for everyone in District 12, including her mother and Prim. She still can't figure out how she feels about him, or whether she can trust him.
Then, when Katniss' "neighbor" builds a fire, she is angry with the fire-starter's stupidity, deciding that she will kill the person herself since stupid people are a liability. Katniss isn't surprised when the Career tributes come for the fire-starter in a pack. Alliances are common in the beginning of the Games. She is surprised, however, to hear Peeta's voice among them, which sets her and the reader up for more questions about Peeta's character and more doubts surrounding his previous acts of kindness toward her.