Summary and Analysis
Part 3: Chapter 21
Until nightfall, Katniss does her best to camouflage the cave. She knows that if she doesn't make it back, Peeta doesn't stand a chance, but she still wants him to be somewhat protected. She crawls into the sleeping bag with Peeta and tries to stay warm. The Gamemakers have been manipulating the temperature, making the days scorching hot and the nights freezing cold. Her thoughts race and she knows that she won't be able to get much sleep. Her mind lingers on home, on her mother and Prim and what they must be doing at this moment. She also thinks about Gale and how he's feeling, especially about her and Peeta, and thinks about the possibility of Gale being her boyfriend.
She sets out just before dawn, remembering to give Peeta a kiss for the cameras, and makes her way to the Cornucopia. She positions herself in the bushes and waits. At the first glint of sunlight, a table bearing 4 backpacks rises from the ground in front of the Cornucopia. Foxface leaps from the Cornucopia, snags her pack, and is off to the woods before Katniss knows what to make of it. She's angry that Foxface has once again outsmarted her but focuses on getting to her pack next. She takes off, hears a knife approaching from her right, and knocks it away with her bow. She turns and hits Clove with an arrow in the arm. A second knife slices Katniss across the forehead, and as the blood runs down her face, Clove knocks Katniss to the ground, pinning her. Clove talks about how she's going to enjoy killing her, just like they killed her ally, Rue. Just before Clove slices into Katniss' face, Thresh lifts her off of Katniss, throws her to the ground, and beats her to death with a rock.
He asks Katniss what she meant about Rue, and Katniss explains how she and Rue were allies, how she'd sung to Rue before she died. Thresh says that he'll let Katniss go just this once, for Rue, but he won't give her a second chance. Cato is approaching, calling out for Clove. Thresh takes his pack and Cato's and Katniss takes hers, sprinting back to the cave. She injects Peeta with the backpack's contents and then loses consciousness.
Katniss' thoughts continue to be occupied by her conflicting emotions for both Peeta and Gale. She remains romantic with Peeta, claiming that she has to remind herself to kiss him before she leaves since they're putting on a show for the audience. This premise of a "star-crossed lovers" façade is convenient for Katniss during the Games, but she also has moments of genuine feelings for him, those times when she has worried about being without Peeta and grown fearful at the thought of him dying. She begins to consider Gale in a romantic light, too, wondering if Gale would be her boyfriend if she would only ask. She longs for him during this chapter, wishing that he were there to hunt with her and protect her. It is clear that Gale provides a sense of security for her, especially when she's entering situations that make her vulnerable.
The theme of manipulation reemerges when the Gamemakers begin to adjust the arena temperature in order to make the days and nights more challenging for the tributes. Just as the Capitol is able to manipulate the districts, the Gamemakers are able to manipulate the tributes. They drove them together with fire early in the Games, they alter the temperature, and they arrange the "feast" at the Cornucopia in order to lure the remaining tributes into a bloodbath. Their behavior toward the tributes directly parallels how the leaders in the Capitol treat the people of the districts.
Rue ultimately saves Katniss in this chapter. Katniss' friendship with Rue keeps Thresh from killing her. He feels as if he owes Katniss for her kindness toward Rue and, indirectly, his district, and Katniss of all people understands not wanting to owe anyone. This is another instance of opposing districts cooperating, something that the Capitol discourages and that doesn't often happen during the Games.