Summary and Analysis
Part 2: “The Assault”: Chapter 18
Katniss throws herself completely into her training, including a special training course that simulates fighting in the Capitol’s streets. Meanwhile, Peeta has also started doing drills, something Katniss raises concerns about. Plutarch claims the people of Panem need to see Peeta training and fighting for the rebels; he won’t actually go into combat.
Soldier York, in charge of training, approves Katniss and Johanna for the exam, designed to target a soldier’s greatest weakness. During her exam, Katniss is ordered to hit the ground. Realizing that her greatest weakness must be following orders, she throws herself to the ground and successfully completes the exam.
Along with Gale and Finnick, Katniss is assigned to Unit 451, with Boggs as their leader. Plutarch shows them a holograph of the Capitol, pointing out pods, or booby traps, and Katniss and Finnick immediately recognize that the layout is exactly like the arenas designed by Gamemakers. Katniss and Finnick know they are the most prepared of anyone to enter this battle, which they name the Seventy-sixth Hunger Games.
Plutarch informs the squad that they have been selected for a special mission: They will serve as the “Star Squad” and be followed by a film crew. The squad protests, but Katniss remains quiet because she plans on separating from the squad once she’s in the Capitol.
In the Capitol, for three days the squadron does very little and grows restless. Katniss has her eye on Boggs’ Holo, a voice-activated handheld device that displays a holograph of the Capitol and the pods; should the commander be captured, the Holo will respond to anyone’s voice saying “nightlock” three times in a row. When someone does this, the Holo will explode. On their fourth day in the rebel encampment, unit member Leeg 2 is killed by a mislabeled pod. When the replacement arrives, everyone is shocked: Coin has sent Peeta to join Unit 451, which makes Katniss believe that Coin wants her dead.
Peeta’s training represents another way in which even the rebels are trying to construct particular identities and portray these identities to the masses through propaganda. Plutarch maintains that Peeta’s training is simply for appearance, to make the people of Panem believe that Peeta is supporting and fighting for the rebel cause, once again manipulating audiences through staged footage.
During Unit 451’s training, Plutarch takes the squad through a holographic representation of the Capitol and the pods within. Apparently Gamemakers like Plutarch were in charge not only of designing the arena for the Hunger Games, they were also entrusted with protecting the Capitol. Katniss and Finnick quickly recognize that they are about to enter another arena: the Seventy-sixth Hunger Games. The similarities and differences between the war and the Hunger Games are quickly apparent. The two are similar in design and construction, which Finnick and Katniss recognize with the pods, the train ride to the Capitol, and the fact that the war is going to be filmed with this unit serving as the “Star Squad.” However, in contrast to the Games, the war has many different rules: The primary differences are that more than one victor can survive and that Snow is a player in these Games, something Katniss has wanted for a long time.
Coin’s sending Peeta, who remains unstable and a danger to himself, to the unit, and especially to Katniss, into the Capitol to fight verifies Katniss’ longstanding distrust of Coin. Whatever Coin’s intentions, she certainly has a strategy of her own, and it involves either endangering or killing Katniss.