Summary and Analysis
Part 2: “The Assault”:
Seeing Peeta beaten overwhelms Katniss with grief. Haymitch alerts everyone in the command center that Peeta’s words are a warning to District 13 that they are going to be attacked. After a short debate about whether Peeta can be trusted, Coin decides to institute a Level Five security lockdown, and District 13’s citizens move farther underground to a bunker with multiple living compartments.
The first bomb drops. Katniss believes they are going to die underground and wonders about the struggle Peeta seemed to be going through when he made his announcement on television, as if he were fighting against himself to give the warning.
Alone with Prim, Katniss tells her about Peeta and how much pain she is in, worrying that the Capitol is killing him at that very moment. Prim assures Katniss that Snow will keep Peeta alive because Peeta is all that Snow has to use against Katniss.
Peeta’s warning District 13 of the imminent bombings places him in great danger, yet he still does everything he can to protect Katniss and keep her safe. By warning District 13, the district’s citizens have enough time to make it into the deep bunkers. Along with the endless terror Katniss feels knowing that Peeta is in so much danger, she is also confused as to exactly what he was struggling against in order to get those last warning words out. He seemed to be against himself, which foreshadows more discoveries to come.
Even during this time of distress, Katniss must maintain her Mockingjay identity as Plutarch reminds her that others will be watching her. Whether she believes it or not, Katniss is setting an example, and no matter what she’s feeling, she must maintain the outward appearance of calm and control. This instance emphasizes the ongoing thread about identity and the masks Katniss must wear in order to contribute to the revolution.
Gale rescues Prim before the bombs go off, and he is doing more than just saving Katniss’ sister. He is upholding their ongoing promise to each other, one they made before Katniss’ first Hunger Games: No matter what, they will watch over each other’s families. In this moment, Gale comes through for Katniss, saving Prim as well as some of Katniss’ most valued keepsakes. Within those keepsakes is Peeta’s pearl, which symbolizes his presence and his kiss. Without knowing it, Gale is helping to keep Peeta alive in Katniss’ heart.
In the bunker, Katniss and Prim strengthen their relationship, something they haven’t had much time for during the last few years. Katniss recognizes that Prim is growing into a young woman and that she has had to grow up quickly. It’s sobering to Katniss to see this, but she is also impressed by her sister and her ability to care for others, as well as her uncanny understanding of the world. Katniss also recognizes that as much as she worries about Prim, Prim worries about Katniss and her safety. Oftentimes Katniss is so caught up in protecting others and risking her life that she doesn’t take into account the distress her actions must cause to both her mother and Prim. The possibility that Prim might one day be a doctor gives Katniss a glimpse into the world that is possible if the Capitol weren’t in control.
Prim’s final remarks about Peeta are comforting in that Katniss thinks Prim is right, that the Capitol will keep Peeta alive in order to use him against Katniss. Nonetheless, Katniss wonders how much she can take until she breaks because of what the Capitol is doing to Peeta. Again, we are reminded of “The Hanging Tree” song as Katniss tries to discern what it would take — what horrible thing they could do to Peeta — that would render her useless. Perhaps Peeta’s death would be better than what he will have to endure.