Summary and Analysis
Part 1: "The Ashes":
The next morning, Haymitch calls a meeting to review Katniss’ propo performance from the previous day. He points out that in order to get good footage of Katniss, they need to film her in combat settings. Coin consents. The plan is for Katniss to start in District 8, where a raid has just run its course. She will have bodyguards, and the camera crew will follow her, with Haymitch providing direction from above.
Following the meeting, Haymitch and Katniss acknowledge the lingering anger and tension between the two of them; they haven’t spoken since Katniss scratched his face shortly after her rescue from the Quarter Quell. They both realize that nothing either of them could have done would have saved Peeta from being captured by the Capitol.
In preparation for her journey to District 8, Katniss washes the makeup off her face and removes the armband that covers her scar; she looks like herself again. Once she is strapped into her seat beside Gale and they are ready for takeoff, Katniss realizes she doesn’t quite know what she’s going to do once she gets to District 8 or the state of the war at all, for that matter. Plutarch explains that except for District 2, all of the districts are at war with the Capitol.
Plutarch hands each of the team a violet pill named nightlock. Should the team members be captured, they are to take the poison.
Katniss’ run-in with Finnick also highlights the recurring theme of identity, as Katniss describes Finnick in his distress. The Games have traumatized Finnick in such a way that it’s hard for him to gain control of his life and to return to the person he truly is. For a moment, when Katniss mentions his new trident, Finnick is able to crack a joke, and Katniss recognizes the real Finnick despite his fragile exterior.
The developing relationship between Boggs and Katniss grows stronger in this chapter. Katniss recalls a moment when she saw Boggs with a child, presumably his child, which causes Katniss to reassess her opinion of Boggs toward the better. Boggs’ comment about how he would have hated to arrest Finnick makes him even more likable. Originally considering him to be one of Coin’s cronies, Katniss begins to think that she might like Boggs after all, something that will become more important as the novel progresses.
Additionally, the theme of survival is strong in this chapter. The survival thread first surfaces when Plutarch tells Katniss about many of the Peacekeepers coming from District 2. He explains that the Capitol’s population isn’t large enough to sustain a large force, which mirrors the situation in District 13, where much of the population was killed by a pox epidemic and many who survived are infertile. This need for larger population numbers in order to survive also recalls Peeta’s pleas for a cease-fire. There is an ongoing concern that humans will be the end of humans, who are their own worst enemy against survival.
Naming the poisonous pills “nightlock” is significant as it recalls the symbolic gesture Katniss made during her first Hunger Games, in which she and Peeta prepared to eat the poisonous nightlock berries together. The rebels are acting in defiance of the Capitol, and they will not let the Capitol control their lives. If they should be captured, they themselves will decide when and how to die. Not the Capitol.