Hunger Games Ch2

Last chapter, Katniss’ sister had just been chosen for murderdeathball. Katniss volunteers herself in her sister’s place.

And fridge logic kicks in.


Katniss last chapter kept insisting there was nothing she could do if her sister was picked, and that’s why she was the only one putting her name in extra times and all that. Yet the volunteering thing isn’t some obscure detail, it’s something that comes up every year after the tributes are picked, so Katniss really should have already decided she’d do this if her sister was picked and just viewed that as her own name being in there an extra time.

I was thinking it’s for pathos, but actually the whole scene still works fine with Katniss always intending to volunteer. Just lose the paragraph on how Katniss can’t believe her sister was picked. Her reactions work just as well if she’s stunned by her own imminent death, and it’s not like a spur of the moment decision to take her sister’s place is more noble than always intending to do so if it happened.

In some districts, in which winning the reaping is such a great honor, people are eager to risk their lives, the volunteering is complicated. But in District 12, where the word tribute is pretty much synonymous with the word corpse, volunteers are all but extinct.

Considering that this is a twenty-four person deathmatch with only one winner, I kind of find this suspect. If nothing else, two kids come from each district, so only one can make it back alive. Katniss seems to be assuming no one but her could have decent motives for volunteering. The odds are just so hugely against any particular kid, so brushing off all of them as gloryhounds doesn’t follow.

“Lovely!” says Effie Trinket. “But I believe there’s a small matter of introducing the reaping winner and then asking for volunteers, and if one does come forth then we, um . . .” she trails off, unsure herself.
“What does it matter?” says the mayor. He’s looking at me with a pained expression on his face. He doesn’t know me really, but there’s a faint recognition there. I am the girl who brings the strawberries. The girl his daughter might have spoken of on occasion.

The girl he didn’t give a fuck about when he was blowing enough money to feed a family for months on a pin.

Really, book, don’t try to convince me she’s an airhead while he’s full of serious feelings. At least she’s not supposed to be the one running the town.

I don’t want to cry. When they televise the replay of the reapings tonight, everyone will make note of my tears, and I’ll be marked as an easy target. A weakling. I will give no one that satisfaction.

Or you could see it as playing into their hands. I mean, it seems like the whole idea here is that they’re forced to act like this is a celebration, so by acting brave she’s just going along with that. And under the circumstances, what’s gained by trying to look strong? It’s a last-one-standing deathmatch, it’s not like going after the easy targets helps you in the least.

“Well, bravo!” gushes Effie Trinket. “That’s the spirit of the Games!” She’s pleased to finally have a district with a little action going on in it.

So she’s totally insincere and should be hated for it except when she’s saying something Katniss doesn’t like, in which case she’s sincere and should be hated for it.

Come on, everybody! Let’s give a big round of applause to our newest tribute!” trills Effie Trinket.
To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from the Hob, or knew my father, or have encountered Prim, who no one can help loving. So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong.
Then something unexpected happens. At least, I don’t expect it because I don’t think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become some­one precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love.

This would be more moving if not for the bit about how it’s completely not how things usually go. That they respect her for sacrificing herself like this would have worked, but instead Katniss chooses to go on about how it’s because they know her or a family member, as if Katniss is just automatically more worthy of mourning by virtue of who she is rather than what she just did.

No. All those other people who’ve been picked had families and friends. People knew them and people cared about them and they mattered. It’s actually repulsive to act like Katniss is the only one whose loss is actually a tragedy. The focus here is completely on Katniss, not the fact the event itself is horrible.

It’s the second chapter, and already we’re seeing protagonist-centered morality.

Effie Trinket is trying to get the ball rolling again. “What an exciting day!” she warbles as she attempts to straighten her wig, which has listed severely to the right.

Seriously, book, knock it off.

Anyway, Katniss’ life continues to get worse when the second name is called, since it’s some boy she knows.

Flashback time to right after her dad died.

The district had given us a small amount of money as compensation for his death, enough to cover one month of grieving at which time my mother would be expected to get a job.

Why wasn’t her mom already working, seriously.

But her mom is completely useless, so Katniss desperately tries to keep things together. Unfortunately there’s no money and no money means no food.

if it had become known that my mother could no longer care for us, the district would have taken us away from her and placed us in the community home. I’d grown up seeing those home kids at school. The sadness, the marks of angry hands on their faces, the hopelessness that curled their shoulders forward.

Seriously, does everything suck? Why do they even bother having an orphanage?

Starvation’s not an uncommon fate in District 12.

Okay, so yes, all the stuff she’s been saying about starvation wasn’t hyperbole. This just makes her blowing money on fresh baked bread and eating blackberries look even dumber.

. Who hasn’t seen the victims? Older people who can’t work. Children from a family with too many to feed. Those injured in the mines.

So kids starve to death if their family can’t feed them, but the community’s able to run an orphanage? Why don’t they just have some basic dole system?

Starvation is never the cause of death officially. It’s always the flu, or exposure, or pneumonia. But that fools no one.

Why does the government care about covering it up when they’re fine with murdering twelve year olds? This is obviously trying to make them look extra evil for hiding the truth, but they have no one to hide it from.

So she goes to go try to find garbage in the hopes there’s something they can eat.

Suddenly a voice was screaming at me and I looked up to see the baker’s wife, telling me to move on and did I want her to call the Peacekeepers and how sick she was of having those brats from the Seam pawing through her trash. The words were ugly and I had no defense.

So. Two evil women, zero evil men.

Then the bakery boy burns some bread.

His mother was yelling, “Feed it to the pig, you stupid creature! Why not? No one decent will buy burned bread!”

More economics time!

Pigs eat people food. You don’t have them in where people are at starvation levels for pretty much exactly this reason. A single pig eats about twice a person’s worth of food every day. Twice a well-fed adult American male’s worth. I can’t find the calorie count but probably enough to keep a decent number of people from starvation.

Now, you’re generally going to lose a lot trying to convert plant to meat, but pigs are especially bad because they’re directly competing for the same food as humans. At least with grazers, you can put them on land that isn’t able to produce any crop other than grass.

Also, this is apparently taking place in April. Why are they still feeding a pig in April? I mean, god, there’s a reason why Lent is right around this time, it’s because you slaughter the animals and eat them all winter. Is this a breeding sow? Because being able to raise a pig alone is extremely expensive, but keeping one through the winter to breed – well, if you have that much money you shouldn’t really notice two burned loaves.

Now, there are instances where keeping pigs makes sense. See, on a farm in the summer you’re going to have a lot of waste food that either you won’t get enough money for to justify the cost of transporting it to sell or will spoil before it can be sold. In this case, converting damaged vegetables and fruit to meat instead is a good idea. You then kill the pig in the fall when the harvest is done and all the remaining food is undamaged and stored away.

None of this applies to the baker’s family. Even if we assume that there’s some sort of weird economics going on so that people either have enough money to buy unburned bread or no money at all, they’re just not going to be producing enough waste food to justify keeping a pig. So it’s got to be a luxury in their case, in which case they’re equivalently feeding an extra two to three adults and through the winter no less just because they can.

The boy never even glanced my way, but I was watching him. Because of the bread, because of the red weal that stood out on his cheekbone. What had she hit him with?
My parents never hit us. I couldn’t even imagine it.

So the woman is not only evil to Katniss, she’s evil toward her son. Meanwhile her son is extremely generous and gives the loaves to Katniss, and the baker himself got referenced earlier as making a generous trade with them.

Katniss, unfortunately, is dumber than a chicken, and as we all know chickens are dumber than a bag of rocks. (Incidentally, why doesn’t anyone have chickens? They’re much cheaper than a pig and they don’t directly compete with humans for food.)

It didn’t occur to me until the next morning that the boy might have burned the bread on purpose. Might have dropped the loaves into the flames, knowing it meant being punished, and then delivered them to me. But I dismissed this. It must have been an accident. Why would he have done it? He didn’t even know me. Still, just throwing me the bread was an enormous kindness that would have surely resulted in a beating if discovered.

Oh come the fuck on. It’s just beating you over the head with trust issues trust issues trust issues, but more than that, why would he be beaten for giving her the bread? It’s not like it was going to be a substantial part of the pig’s meal. So it’s also further hammering in how selfless he is and evil his mom is, even to the point of absurdity.

And really, why is Katniss so mistrustful anyway? At least with current!Katniss, you can excuse it as years of trying to keep her family together and possibly some hard times from that, but her dad dies in January, so it’s only been a few months. There’s no sign people have been malicious toward her, and since she’s keeping how bad things are a secret from everyone, it’s not really like they let this happen.

At school, I passed the boy in the hall, his cheek had swelled up and his eye had blackened.

I GET IT.

and that’s when I saw it. The first dandelion of the year. A bell went off in my head. I thought of the hours spent in the woods with my father and I knew how we were going to survive.

…so people are dying of starvation, but she’s the only one bright enough to know you can eat dandelions?

This book just doesn’t manage a consistent setting. The land should be picked bare. People just don’t act like this when they’re starving, you can’t control them with nebulous threats or even keep them in line with ignorance. They should be boiling grass by this point.

I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people.

So I guess this is meant to be a situation where she feels she can’t pay him back because he saved her life with the food, but really, the sane thing to do here was to try to pay him back. That’s actually understandable behavior for someone who finds the idea of a gift without expecting any return payment so upsetting. She could have insisted on giving him a bunch of dead animals whenever she had extra without any explanation or something. Instead she’s just doing the whole whiny navel gaze thing.

And now it’s too late because they’re going to fight to the death.

Maybe if I had thanked him at some point, I’d be feeling less conflicted now. I thought about it a couple of times, but the opportunity never seemed to present itself. And now it never will. Because we’re going to be thrown into an arena to fight to the death. Exactly how am I supposed to work in a thank-you in there? Somehow it just won’t seem sincere if I’m trying to slit his throat.

Eh, she could still say she’s really glad he did that and sorry about being in a competition to kill him and all that. (And if she really wants to make it up to him, she could promise to not murder him during the game.) She’s really making a bigger deal of this than it is.

In fact she’s kind of twisting it around to be all about her. Instead of it being about how much it sucks that someone who was kind to her is now going to die, it’s how awkward she feels about not knowing how to thank him.

This is getting so stereotypical. I’m really sick of how all strong female protagonists not only have trust issues but manifest them in exactly the same way, usually with a stopoff at not understanding emotions along the way.

And the way everything has to be all about Katniss is a terrible way to look at it.

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