Summary and Analysis
Katniss scrambles to get out of her tree and outrun the flames and smoke. She tries to keep up with the animals ahead of her, but has to take time to rest and vomit from the smoke, allowing herself a minute to recover. She can tell that these flames are manmade, that the Gamemakers are creating them in order to drive the tributes together so that the Games don't get too boring.
She outruns the fire but ends up in a section of the arena in which the Gamemakers shoot fireballs at her, and one catches her calf as she runs. She puts the fire out with her hands, leaving them mildly burned and her right calf much more severely injured. She soaks her burns in a spring-fed pool of water, but finds it hard to venture away from it. The relief is too great in the cool water and the pain is too intense when she removes her calf. She thinks of home, about Prim who, while she's afraid of most everything else, can treat the most sever of injuries. Prim is a born healer, as Katniss' mother says.
Katniss understands that in order to maintain her sponsors, she must appear brave in the face of her injury. Pity does not get the tributes any support, so she examines her injury, packs her bag, drinks a bit of water, and eats some water plants' roots. She falls asleep and wakes to the sound of the approaching Careers, then runs to a tree and climbs to get out of their reach.
The five Careers and Peeta trap her in the tree, and Katniss sees that Glimmer, the girl tribute from District 1, has the bow and arrows she saw at the Cornucopia. Katniss climbs higher and higher, knowing that she's much lighter than any of the Careers and that they won't be able to reach her. Still, Cato, the boy tribute from District 1, tries to climb and ends up breaking a branch and falling to the ground.
Peeta says to let Katniss stay up there, that she won't be going anywhere and will have to come down sometime. She makes her bed in the tree branches, her burns screaming, and then notices a pair of eyes in a tree beside her. It's Rue, and she's pointing to something above Katniss' head.
This chapter reveals how much control the Gamemakers have over the Hunger Games. Just as the Capitol manipulates the people in the districts, the Gamemakers are able to manipulate the tributes in the Games, using violent tactics to force them together whenever the Games are moving too slowly. Katniss thinks about how the Gamemakers could kill her at any moment, and how they do kill tributes every now and then simply to remind the tributes that they have this power. Simultaneously, with these spontaneous killings, the Capitol reminds the districts that they have the power not only to take their children from them at the reapings, but also to kill them at will.
Katniss' burns set her up for struggles in the Games, particularly if she isn't able to find relief. She also recognizes the irony that she is known as "the girl on fire," and now she has literally been on fire. Throughout her pain, Katniss still recognizes the importance of masking her fear of her injury, knowing that she must continue to appear strong and resilient in order to maintain her sponsors and, perhaps, receive some sort of aid from one of them. Any signs of weakness must be concealed.
With the reappearance of the bow and arrow, there is hope for Katniss. These weapons are so close to her, and with her retrieval of the arrow that Glimmer shot into the tree, we can sense that one of her next moves will be to get her hands on the bow. At the Cornucopia, she decided that this weapon was meant for her, and she's going to make sure that it gets into the right hands.
She still blames Peeta for distracting her when the gong went off, preventing her from getting the bow and arrow in the first place. She calls him a traitor and believes, in this moment, that that's what Peeta is.
Once up in the tree, Katniss' outlook for survival is not good. She's weak and in pain, but her discovery of Rue, and whatever Rue is pointing to above her head, offers renewed hope for Katniss and hints at their alliance.