Summary and Analysis
Part 3: “The Assassin”: Chapter 24
The next morning, the group watches Tigris’ television and sees that the rebels are making progress into the Capitol’s heart. Refugees move through the cold weather toward the president’s mansion as their streets are evacuated. Katniss, however, still wants to finish her personal mission and be the one who kills Snow. Additional propos request that shops open their doors to those without shelter. Katniss knows that they must leave Tigris’ shop and tries to talk Peeta into staying behind; Peeta agrees it’s too dangerous for him to remain with the squad but insists on going out alone to act as a diversion should the squad require it.
The following morning, the squad, expertly disguised by Tigris, leaves in three separate groups: Cressida and Pollux; Katniss and Gale; and Peeta. Gunfire erupts, and Katniss watches as a little girl is killed. Katniss realizes it’s the rebels who are doing the shooting, aiming at Peacekeepers with little regard for accuracy. Katniss and Gale press onward, determined to get to Snow. They move forward through a scene of chaos.
Suddenly the ground beneath their feet begins to tilt, and Katniss uses all of her strength to get to safety. Peacekeepers haul Gale inside an apartment. Knowing that Gale is now in the hands of the Peacekeepers, Katniss realizes that her only hope of rescuing Gale is to get to the City Circle and kill Snow.
When Katniss arrives at the City Circle, she finds crowds of refugees milling about and sees a concrete barricade that holds only children, from toddlers to teenagers. She realizes that Snow is using these children as a human shield for his own protection. Just then, the rebel army pours into the City Circle. Katniss climbs up a flagpole to escape the crushing crowd.
A hovercraft with the Capitol shield appears and drops silver parachutes down to the barricaded children, who grab at them excitedly. Shortly after the hovercraft disappears, the small packages detonate, killing many of the children and severely wounding others. A stream of rebel medics, including Prim, rushes toward the children. Katniss drops from the flagpole and pushes through the crowd to get to her sister. The remaining parachutes explode.
As Katniss watches the barefoot children of the Capitol fleeing their streets toward the City Circle, she thinks about the children of District 12 and how they, too, must have fled as the Capitol was decimating the district. Her guilt continues to increase as she thinks about how many innocent people have lost their lives during this war. It seems that all the pain and suffering that the Capitol has caused has now entered the Capitol itself with the coming of the rebels. The Capitol is no longer a protected fortress.
When Gale gives Peeta his nightlock pill and says that he — Gale — will be okay because he has Katniss to kill him, Katniss again thinks of “The Hanging Tree.” She knows that she can’t let Gale live if he should fall into the Peacekeepers’ hands, and she understands, too, that he will do the same for her. Katniss believes that death would be better for any of them than being captured.
Katniss’ closing Peeta’s hand around the nightlock pill recalls the image of her holding out the nightlock berries to Peeta in their first Hunger Games and telling him to trust her. In both instances, Katniss extends the nightlock to Peeta as a way to keep him safe and protect him. In this case, though, she means for him to take it and kill himself should he be captured.
Peeta’s choosing to split up from the group makes Katniss think of the Quarter Quell, when Beetee sent Katniss and Johanna away with the coil of wire. Katniss has always regretted leaving Peeta at that moment, and she hesitates now to do the same thing. She wraps her arms around his neck; Peeta’s hugging Katniss recalls for her how he has protected her countless times. In Peeta’s arms, Katniss feels all of the history between them.
As Gale and Katniss enter the throng of people, it’s as if they’re going on a hunt together — the most terrifying one of all. To Katniss, the only person who exists in that moment is Gale, especially when the shooting from both the rebels and the Peacekeepers becomes so haphazard and frenetic. The disregard for human life in this chapter is strong, as illustrated by the indiscriminate shooting, capturing the panic and terror of war.
The ground cracking beneath Katniss’ feet emphasizes all the chaos that has been happening around and within Katniss. For instance, Peeta has a difficult time not breaking apart as the stressors of the war consume him. He begins to crack psychologically and struggles to hold himself together. Katniss, too, has been fighting against mentally breaking apart throughout the novel. When she believed that Snow was torturing Peeta, she began to break, and then even more so once she realized what Snow had done to Peeta, altering his memories so that he would be lost to Katniss forever. And now, when she sees that Gale has been captured by the Peacekeepers and she failed to shoot him, she believes she has failed him in every way possible. The only thought that prevents her from shattering completely is that the more quickly she can get to Snow and kill him, the better the chance that Gale — and everyone else — has of survival.
Despite Prim’s maturity and growth, Katniss still sees the young girl she once was when Katniss spots her sister’s untucked duck tail as Prim races toward the injured children. It’s as if Katniss can sense that something terrible is coming as her mind turns to the day of the reaping two years earlier when Prim’s name was called and Katniss volunteered to take her place in the Hunger Games. She wants to get to Prim, desperate to protect her from whatever is going to happen next, but she’s too late.