Thursday, September 2, 2010

Our Girl Katniss is En Fuego

by K.A. Lewis


As I happen to know that discussions of Catching Fire and the like are happening among you, dear readers, away from the wide world of the web, I feel it is important to throw together a new post now so that you can publish your crafty Hunger Games notions right here for all to see.  I'll stick to Catching Fire, but be aware that Mockingjay spoilers could easily creep into the comments.  A thorough discussion of the big finale is planned for our First Book Club Meeting (Whoop!): Tuesday, September 7, 6:30 P.M. at the Reno Barnes & Nobel.  I think it is safe to assume we'll be near the coffee and cookies.  If you cannot be present at the meeting, fear not!  I will post a Mockingjay discussion too.  We will all have plenty to say; I'm sure of it.

I was as surprised as Katniss to learn that she was heading back into the arena for another Hunger Games in the Quarter Quell.  "The Games" are such a dynamite premise that revisiting and reinventing them should maybe have been assumed, but to find our dear protagonists officially back in the Capitol's clutches was for me a shocking and delightful plot twist.  What are your thoughts on the evolving symbolism of The Games, both from the perspective of the Capitol and Districts?  The Capitol is pushing their literal and symbolic power with the 3rd Quarter Quell rules in an attempt to smother the "Girl On Fire" spark, but they just might make the whole thing crack under the pressure.  Putting the victor tributes back in the arena seems a serious but believable blunder.  Here is a governing body so sure of its ultimate efficacy that it thinks it best to bring together and then broadcast the death exploits of a dearly loved group of people: men and women who have long ago proven their cunning, who absolutely despise their leaders, and who have almost nothing to lose.  What I liked best about the action leading up to and during the games in Catching Fire was the building of alliances between clever, nearly-naked winners.  I devoured the hints that so many were on a team revolving around Katniss and Peeta at the unknowing center.  Clearly it is crucial to the developing plot that we, the readers, have no more than a hunch that the other tributes (and even the Head Game Maker) hold a vested interest in keeping Katniss alive: that a much larger rebellion is underfoot.  So what about the reasons given for keeping Katniss and Peeta in the dark until the very end?  Haymitch and Plutarch Heavensbee explain that they couldn't risk telling them, that the less they knew the better since when the force-field blew they would be first to be captured.  I feel this logic has some holes, and that our narrator's lack of knowledge is more a literary device than key plot point ... maybe.  It does serve to clue Katniss in to her role as yet another piece in yet another game, not a Hunger Games this time but a Rebellion: a televised war.  

Prim remains a shadow of a character in this book, but Katniss' nameless mother and Haymitch Abernathy are developed in interesting ways as their relationship with Katniss deepens.  We gain a more detailed picture of just how damaged these two adults are, and can't help but wonder if their feeble stumbling through what is left of their lives is where Katniss, with her debilitating nightmares and mad fits, is headed.  We get more Gale too and at one point, when he is near death and finally vulnerable, Katniss even declares she has chosen him.  She ends up with Peeta again, however, in a life-and-death, albeit chaste, bond.  Katniss is if nothing else consistent in that she repeatedly chooses to align herself with the weakest and most susceptible around her.  The boy that holds her attention is he who needs saving, and the victors she wants on her team are the oldest and oddest of the bunch.

What strikes you about the original and new characters: what they mean to Katniss, what they mean to the story?   Other Catching Fire reflections you'd like to share ....

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