Hunger Games Ch20

Wherein Katniss continues to be reactive and unheroic.


Getting the broth into Peeta takes an hour of coaxing, begging, threatening, and yes, kissing,

Oh book. And you’re written by a woman, this is sad.

After he finishes drinking he goes to sleep and Katniss eats her own food. She doesn’t seem to be thinking that she’s got a pot and she should consider making more stuff for Peeta to eat. Basically just throw shit in and boil it, whatever ends up in the water is still better than the nothing he’s been having. Personally, I’d suggest cooking blood and meat, but we’ve established Katniss is too picky to cook anything icky like that.

Katniss is about to go sleep in a tree like usual when she remembers Peeta needs defending.

I can’t very well leave Peeta unguarded on the ground. I left the scene of his last hiding place on the bank of the stream untouched — how could I conceal it? — and we’re a scant fifty yards downstream.

a) It’s mud, you could just fuck around a bit so it’s not person-shaped, assuming it even still is. Then it’ll just look like someone dug up some roots.
b) The fact he was hiding there then doesn’t mean he’s nearby now. I mean, you know he’s not able to walk, but no one else does.

It’s cold so she ends up getting in the sleeping bag with Peeta and notices again that he’s got a bad fever.

I don’t know what to do. Leave him in the bag and hope the excessive heat breaks the fever? Take him out and hope the night air cools him off? I end up just dampening a strip of bandage and placing it on his forehead. It seems weak, but I’m afraid to do anything too drastic.

Katniss does not seem to get what fevers are.

Cooling his head actually is a good idea, because again, you can get brain damage from high temperatures. I think putting a cloth on his neck might actually be more effective, since that’s where the blood is flowing in. Depends how bad the fever is. But generally, you don’t cool people down with a fever because the whole point of a fever is the body has decided the proper temperature to be is X temp, and chilling them will just make them burn more energy.

Now, if you’re in a situation where the primary component of an illness is the fever, and you’re in a first-world country with medical care and antibiotics and all that, that’s one thing. But Peeta’s main problem is infection, and heat slows infection.

So Katniss stays up all night, refreshing the cloth.

trying not to dwell on the fact that by teaming up with him, I’ve made myself far more vulnerable than when I was alone. Tethered to the ground, on guard, with a very sick person to take care of.

Katniss, you are whiny. You have a bow and arrow, if anyone shows up they’ll die. Now, the lack of sleep thing is definitely an issue, but if you were smart you could easily rig something up so you’d be alerted if anyone tried to get into the cave, and as long as you know you can shoot them.

In the morning, she sees he’s started to sweat, which means the fever’s broke.

So she knows that yet she doesn’t know anything else? Like, for example, the fact he’s sweating means he’s now too hot and should be taken out of the sleeping bag really fast because he can’t afford to lose electrolytes to sweat right now?

Also, why would it break and why would this be a good thing? His temperature going down just means his leg will cool and the bacteria will be closer to their optimum temperature.

Anyway, next morning Katniss gets some berries for him to eat.

We finally learn District 2 girl’s name.

“Clove? Which one is that?” I ask.
“The girl from District Two. She’s still alive, right?” he says.
“Yes, there’s just them and us and Thresh and Foxface,” I say. “That’s what I nicknamed the girl from Five.

So Katniss knew the name of all the boys and none of the girls.

You know, I’m sure some of this is a coincidence, but only so much can be coincidence.

This is an enormous improvement over the mud,” he says. “Clean clothes and medicine and a sleeping bag . . . and you.”
Oh, right, the whole romance thing. I reach out to touch his cheek and he catches my hand and presses it against his lips.

Yeah, still kind of creeped out.

I remember my father doing this very thing to my mother and I wonder where Peeta picked it up. Surely not from his father and the witch.

And suddenly blinding rage sweeps that aside.

Fuck you, book.

Peeta realizes Katniss hasn’t slept and offers to take over keeping watch.

“Go to sleep,” he says softly. His hand brushes the loose strands of my hair off my forehead. Unlike the staged kisses and caresses so far, this gesture seems natural and comforting. I don’t want him to stop and he doesn’t. He’s still stroking my hair when I fall asleep.

This is actually pretty decent, but by now I have no trust in the book and assume it means she’s falling for him.

“Peeta, you were supposed to wake me after a couple of hours,” I say.
“For what? Nothing’s going on here,” he says. “Besides I like watching you sleep. You don’t scowl. Improves your looks a lot.”

And this is pretty neutral, except I’m already kind of on edge, so it sort of grates. There are two ways of looking at this: things were fine, so he let her sleep – okay. Or Peeta ignored what she said because he figures he knows better – not okay!

And generally, Katniss has done a hell of a lot better than him at the games and does know what she’s doing, so…

Katniss gets him to drink more water. He wouldn’t eat her meat and it doesn’t seem to occur to her that she should be soaking the meat in the water to make a sort of tealike broth.

She checks his leg.

My heart drops into my stomach. It’s worse, much worse. There’s no more pus in evidence, but the swelling has increased and the tight shiny skin is inflamed. Then I see the red streaks starting to crawl up his leg. Blood poisoning. Unchecked, it will kill him for sure. My chewed-up leaves and ointment won’t make a dent in it.

Now, in the context of my complaining last chapter, this actually makes sense. She washed it with cold water from a muddy stream and got plenty of spit in it, then closed it up to fester. But I doubt the book intends that. And once again: so damn convenient that his wound is only going septic right after she finds him.

Anyway, the best idea here is to hack it open and this time clean it properly and leave it open to the air, ideally near something hot, like a nice fire. A hot compress is even better. (Remember, the other kids now avoid the fires, they think they’re a trick. Katniss has repeatedly used fires as a distraction when she’s actually somewhere else.)

The reason blood poisoning is a big thing for us is that usually it only shows up in injuries that aren’t too treatable. See, normally, if you’re injured you’re getting treatment already, so if that’s not enough for your body there isn’t much more medicine can do. Peeta just spent several days lying in cold water with a festering wound and no food. In fact, as blood poisoning symptoms are often caused in part by the immune system ramping up, it’s possible his system just overreacted and is about to drive back the bacteria.

I mean, it’s pretty serious, but it’s only his leg, so still contained. And it’s still treatable with surgery – remove some of the infected tissue, and his immune system will only have to deal with what’s left.

You know, I wonder if charcoal would do any good? I know activated carbon is used to treat poisoning, I wonder what packing the wound would do. And ashes are part of making lye, and alkaline environments kill bacteria. I mean, it might hurt the flesh around the wound, but I’m currently advocating taking a knife to that stuff. Can’t be worse than plastering it with spit-covered leaves.

Katniss, being a wuss, instead thinks the only solution is getting sent drugs.

If Haymitch pooled every donation from every sponsor, would he have enough? I doubt it. Gifts go up in price the longer the Games continue. What buys a full meal on day one buys a cracker on day twelve.

This is terribly, terribly stupid. Much like what I was complaining about with the tessarae, there’s an obvious hack here – buy really expensive stuff on Day 1. The smart way to bet is to pick one and give them a big lump sum immediately to get all sorts of stuff.

And looking at the conversion here, it suggests that sending a couple medicines on the first day would have been a great idea. They may or may not actually need it, but it’s the only time it can be afforded.

Also, how much would it cost to send her a piece of paper with STOP PUTTING SPIT IN THE WOUND USE THE IODINE. Or, actually, a piece of paper with the kind of plant you’re actually supposed to use drawn on it.

Peeta, despite having no useful input when she’s actually doing stuff, does know he’s got blood poisoning.

“You’re just going to have to outlast the others, Peeta. They’ll cure it back at the Capitol when we win,” I say.

Finally! This is what could have been an interesting thing with Rue’s wound, the concept that they’re on a time limit. Katniss must murder the remaining other children before Peeta dies of infection, so just hanging out passively as she’s done for most of the games (barring the explosion) is no longer an option.

Peeta says they can’t risk a fire. Since, once again, arrows, I don’t see why not, but instead Katniss finds hot rocks from the sun and uses them to heat a soup of shredded everything. Dammit! Put the rocks on his leg!

She wonders what the other kids are doing. She knows three were relying on the stored food but thinks Thresh wasn’t, he probably knows how to find roots like Rue. Again, I don’t see why none of the other kids took the crash course in edible plants.

Are they fighting each other? Looking for us? Maybe one of them has located us and is just waiting for the right moment to attack. The idea sends me back to the cave.

Once again, an issue is that I really have no idea what the surroundings look like. If they’re mostly open, this is stupid because Katniss can kill anyone who approaches. If not, then quite reasonable, but Katniss should mention that and look for a better location.

Peeta asks for a story, so Katniss tells about how she got the goat.

But carefully. Because my words are going out all over Panem. And while people have no doubt put two and two together that I hunt illegally, I don’t want to hurt Gale or Greasy Sae or the butcher or even the Peacekeepers back home who are my customers by publicly announcing they’d breaking the law, too.

So instead, yet again, Katniss defiantly whitewashes the truth to be exactly what the capital wants to hear.

See, the fact she was hunting to feed herself is actually kind of something you should say. That she had to break the law to live is a condemnation of how the districts are run and condemnation of their laws. What she’s doing here, avoiding the issue, leaves the implication you can do fine following the rules. See also BOOTSTRAPS!!1!

She claims it’s to protect the people who buy at the black market. I’m not sure why, since there’s no need to actually name them.

The actual way was she and Gale shot a deer. For no clear reason deer are really rare in the area, and this is the third they’ve ever managed.

we knew from that experience not to go dragging the carcass into the Hob. It had caused chaos with people bidding on parts and actually trying to hack off pieces themselves. Greasy Sae had intervened and sent us with our deer to the butcher, but not before it’d been badly damaged, hunks of meat taken, the hide riddled with holes. Although everybody paid up fairly, it had lowered the value of the kill.

Okay, so I mostly quote this because hey, we get to amend our list to say that Sae gets portrayed positively. She’s still a pretty bad stereotype, but at least we have a woman doing something without being evil.

But anyway, this is dumb. It’s part of the general failing of the book, the flipflopping between people being desperate and very much not. You would not get a riot over deer in a world where people keep pigs.

The butcher, a short, chunky woman named Rooba, came to the back door when we knocked. You don’t haggle with Rooba. She gives you one price, which you can take or leave, but it’s a fair price.

Another decent woman. The non-nonsense cook is another stock character, and the description is stupid because she’s got a monopoly here, of course it won’t be a fair price, but still, we now have two random women characters who aren’t evil or victims.

I’m even willing to give the book “chunky” even though no one should be fat in Katniss’ world. It may just refer to the fact that a butcher would be heavily muscled (although generally, one says “stocky” when they mean that).

Anyway, that’s how she actually got the money. What she says is she sold a silver locket her mother had, which is very, very different and implies her family was doing far better than it actually was. If they had a locket this whole time, they were never starving. Just say you shot a deer and sold it, there’s no need to detail here.

There’s an old man who keeps a small herd of goats on the other side of the Seam. I don’t know his real name, everyone just calls him the Goat Man. His joints are swollen and twisted in painful angles, and he’s got a hacking cough that proves he spent years in the mines. But he’s lucky. Somewhere along the way he saved up enough for these goats and now has something to do in his old age besides slowly starve to death. He’s filthy and impatient, but the goats are clean and their milk is rich if you can afford it.

So why don’t more people keep goats?

(Also, wait, do you mean normally people starve once they’re too old to work in the mines because they have no other source of money? And in that case, what’s so slow about it? And if so, why do they stop working instead of going until they die?)

Owning a nanny goat can change your life in District 12. The animals can live off almost anything, the Meadow’s a perfect feeding place, and they can give four quarts of milk a day. To drink, to make into cheese, to sell. It’s not even against the law.

SO WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE KEEP GOATS?

I mean, there are totally communities where people are living so hand to mouth that they can’t afford to buy an animal to set themselves into a better path, but this is not one. More, what’s keeping the number of goats down? A nanny goat will produce one or two kids a year. Assuming one, that means you get a new milk goat every other year, and goats can easily breed for a decade. So one doe leads to at least five new milk goats before she’s too old and gets turned into meat. It should be really easy to get too many goats and lead to overgrazing problems. Now, if they were occasionally getting hit by predators, that might explain it a bit, but we’re told the fence works.

I really feel like the author doesn’t get that animals producing milk and animals making more of themselves are connected.

Anyway, they see one of the goats has a horribly infected shoulder and he’s going to sell it. The butcher woman shows up and, when she realizes Katniss is interested, says she doesn’t want it because it’s too infected.

As she marched off, I caught her wink.

So we are seeing some evidence that Katniss was getting help and people did like her. But then that raises the question of why she thinks no one ever helps her and doesn’t have any sense of community. They bring the goat to Prim.

She was so excited she started crying and laughing all at once. My mother was less sure, seeing the injury, but the pair of them went to work on it, grinding up herbs and coaxing brews down the animal’s throat.

See, and that was an infected wound. No freaking out, no running off and having no idea what they did. She should have seen how her mom handled that.

Huh, it’s actually kind of writing fail, because Katniss doesn’t seem to even realize she’s thinking about how her mom dealt with that kind of injury and should try to remember the plants involved.

“I can see why that day made you happy.”
“Well, I knew that goat would be a little gold mine,” I say.
“Yes, of course I was referring to that, not the lasting joy you gave the sister you love so much you took her place in the reaping,” says Peeta drily.
“The goat has paid for itself. Several times over,” I say in a superior tone.

And it’s more look at Katniss being stupid because she doesn’t get emotions. Honestly it’s Peeta who’s dumb – considering the whole STARVING STARVING STARVING thing, it’s quite easy to believe Katniss is legitimately happy that they had a source of milk to drink and her beloved sister will be able to grow bones. It’s also a bit weird that he’d think none of Prim’s happiness was that she was going to get milk and cheese now. Once again, the whole exchange seems to be ignoring the fact they were going hungry.

Peeta says he promises to pay her back for all the trouble as well.

It’s my new best friend, Claudius Templesmith, and as I expected, he’s inviting us to a feast. Well, we’re not that hungry and I actually wave his offer away in indifference when he says, “Now hold on. Some of you may already be declining my invitation. But this is no ordinary feast. Each of you needs something desperately.”

So obviously, it’s medicine for Peeta.

You know, this is actually a bit off. Peeta and Katniss are both still technically in the game, so they should each be sent something here.

“Each of you will find that something in a backpack, marked with your district number

Okay, so this is even worse than just saying to pair up by district, because remember, both kids from the second district are still alive. So it’s blatantly just for Katniss and Peeta, as they’re the only ones who both want the same item dropped. I mean, yeah, the other district is working together so they’d probably divide up whatever’s in the bag, but it should still be one bag per person.

All the items will be dropped at the cornucopia at dawn. You know what would be a great idea? Going there, hiding, and shooting everyone.

Actually, that’d have been a good idea in general. Katniss has yet to care about the implied time limit. She’s still a reactive character. There are four other kids left alive, she has more than four arrows. She’s mentioned several times that sometimes they put out food for kids to fight over, and three of the four were using the blown-up supplies for food. So why wouldn’t they be drawn out by the promise of food? Katniss could go there as well with the intent of picking them off, and then there’d be the issue of how long can she afford to wait there for people to show up and risk leaving Peeta?

Peeta tells her not to go, and she says she isn’t.

“You’re such a bad liar, Katniss. I don’t know how you’ve survived this long.” He begins to mimic me. “I knew that goat would be a little gold mine. You’re a little cooler though. Of course, I’m not going. He shakes his head.

Fuck you, Peeta, the goat was a gold mine. Milk is valuable.

“All right, I am going, and you can’t stop me!”
“I can follow you. At least partway. I may not make it to the Cornucopia, but if I’m yelling your name, I bet someone can find me. And then I’ll be dead for sure,” he says.

Here’s where gender dynamics get interesting.

In general, the female character objects and is told she can’t stop him from going, but the male character objects, then threatens something and says she can’t go or else. Basically, women can’t control men but men can control women.

Now, yes, Peeta has good intentions here, but he’s also being really controlling and honestly, this is almost a temper tantrum. Crawling out yelling will not only get him killed but make it more likely Katniss dies as well, and he must know that. And Katniss accepts this instead of getting upset that he won’t let her decide, and she also doesn’t call his bluff.

I’m sure it’s supposed to look really noble on Peeta’s part, but consider how badly hurt he’s been to protect Katniss, and yet he doesn’t respect her making the same decision. Especially when she’s the competent one of the pair.

The air’s gone cold even though the sun’s still up. I’m right about the Gamemakers messing with the temperature.

If they could do that, why didn’t they just warm things up that one year everyone kept freezing to death? Pay attention, book.

While Katniss is trying to figure out what to do, a new gift arrives. It’s some knockout drug. So she mashes it up with some berries and feeds him it.

“They’re sweet as syrup,” he says, taking the last spoonful. “Syrup.” His eyes widen as he realizes the truth. I clamp my hand over his mouth and nose hard, forcing him to swallow instead of spit. He tries to make himself vomit the stuff up, but it’s too late, he’s already losing consciousness. Even as he fades away, I can see in his eyes what I’ve done is unforgivable.

Their relationship really sucks.

One Comment

  1. CrazyEd says:

    Personally, I’d suggest cooking blood and meat, but we’ve established Katniss is too picky to cook anything icky like that.

    Ex-Feral Child Yells at Young Adult Novels.

    So Katniss knew the name of all the boys and none of the girls.

    I think what really bothers me most about this, from a worldbuilding perspective, is that she seems to have a perfect knowledge of which districts each kid came from, but not their names. Katniss should have a far easier time remembering Foxface’s name than the fact that she’s from District 5, especially if she’s ignored Foxface to the point where she can’t even remember her real name. At least the book remembered to give Clove a name, even if the protagonist couldn’t be bothered to remember it…

    Between that, and the fact that their names aren’t given anywhere in the book, to highlight the fact that Katniss has just forgotten them, it makes it really apparent that Collins literally never even named them. I guess depersonalizing them would make it easier to kill them later on. No chance of her getting attached to them and wanting to figure out how to keep them around for the next two books.

    I remember my father doing this very thing to my mother and I wonder where Peeta picked it up. Surely not from his father and the witch.

    … Perhaps from basic human instinct? Then again… I guess it’s pretty in character for Katniss to be mystified by someone acting according to basic human instinct and reasoning…

    And this is pretty neutral, except I’m already kind of on edge, so it sort of grates. There are two ways of looking at this: things were fine, so he let her sleep – okay. Or Peeta ignored what she said because he figures he knows better – not okay!

    If I was giving this book credit, I’d be totally okay with the first part, because… well, things were fine, and she didn’t have any reason to wake up early, so… she really should be getting more sleep. If I were in Peeta’s situation, I could easily see myself letting Katniss sleep as much as she needs to, because… well, she needs to sleep, and it’s not like she needs to do anything else more important.

    What grates on me, and I’m surprised you didn’t mention it, is the second half of his answer. If I were giving Peeta passes, I could even probably give him a pass for saying he likes watching her sleep. It’s… actually a pretty common and innocuous thing for a person to enjoy the sleeping face of their romantic partner. It’s kinda weird to say it to someone who isn’t quite his romantic partner (at least, not his real romantic partner, but you could justify it by saying he was saying it for the cameras), but whatever.

    But the part about her scowling and looking better when she’s not scowling is just… The way it’s phrased is just… He’s not saying “you look more peaceful when you sleep” or that she looks happy or content or any of the other positive things a constantly scowling person might look when not scowling.

    She’s prettier when not scowling. She’s more enjoyable for him to look at when she’s not scowling, and she doesn’t scowl when she’s sleeping, so Peeta enjoys looking at her more when she’s asleep. It turns letting her get a few extra hours rest into something he’s doing for her benefit, into something he’s doing for his own benefit. A few extra hours rest for her means a few extra hours he gets to look at Prettier Katniss.

    You know, I wonder if charcoal would do any good? I know activated carbon is used to treat poisoning, I wonder what packing the wound would do.

    As far as I know, activated charcoal only works for a variety of inorganic chemical compounds ingested orally. So I’m gonna have to go and say that it’s probably not a good idea to try to treat what’s almost certainly a leg wound with a bacterial or parasitic infection with activated charcoal. You can you wood ash (or sand) as a substitute for soap, but I think that’s only for external cleaning. You can scour your hands with ash and water and get them pretty clean, but it’d probably do more harm than good inside your body.

    If I recall, to get lye, you need to pass water over a mixture of wood ash and quicklime (which she could get by cooking calcium carbonate, which she could probably get from bird eggs), and then to make that soap you have to add lard or tallow or something, otherwise you’ll just get chemical burns. So… she’d need to collect some bird eggs, cook the shells down into dust, mix that with the ash from the fire, run water over that until it becomes caustic, and then mix it with some kind of fat or lard. I… think? It’s harder to make soap from lye than soda ash.

    Which would get her soap. Which would’ve been really helpful a few days ago, but far more trouble than just using her iodine. In this case, I think just taking a hot knife to it would do a lot more good than going through all that trouble just to give him chemical burns that could also get infected. But yeah, I guess you’re right, even chemical burns would probably be better than spit. That stuff is, like, anti-soap.

    She claims it’s to protect the people who buy at the black market. I’m not sure why, since there’s no need to actually name them.

    Even if she did name them, is it really a crime to buy a hunk of meat? After being butchered, it’s pretty easy to say “it’s meat” and leave it at that. “I shot a deer, and cut up, it looks no different from the feral dogs we eat, so that’s what I told my customers”.

    It’s kinda weird how she picks this story to tell him, since it’s just… so utterly boring. “I sold a locket, and bought a goat from the man who legally has a herd of goats to sell to whomever he wishes.”

    What she should’ve told is the story of the avox girl.

     More, what’s keeping the number of goats down?

    Literally the only thing I can think of is The Goat Man wanting to protect his monopoly.

    Okay, so this is even worse than just saying to pair up by district, because remember, both kids from the second district are still alive.

    Giving a face to the gamemaster in the movie and second book actually made this so much worse for me. When it came time for Seneca to eat the poisoned berries, it didn’t come off as an oppressive government turning on one of its own like I think the movie intended, but an oppressive government punishing a man for such gross incompetence that it borders on treason. Between creating the rule where Peeta and Katniss could both live, giving them this medicine, and then undoing the rule and almost immediately reinstating it so they don’t eat the berries, I would not at all be surprised if President Snow suspected Seneca of intentionally working to topple the delicate balance he describes to Katniss in the second book. If he wasn’t doing it on purpose, he definitely did it through incompetence. How did this man ever become master of the games in the first place, if he’s so fucking bad at running them?

    “I can follow you. At least partway. I may not make it to the Cornucopia, but if I’m yelling your name, I bet someone can find me. And then I’ll be dead for sure,” he says.

    Please, Peeta, do this and save us all the trouble.

    I’m sure it’s supposed to look really noble on Peeta’s part, but consider how badly hurt he’s been to protect Katniss

    You know what’d be really great? If Katniss pointed out that literally the only reason he has this wound is because he previously protected Katniss from the person currently most likely to kill her. Have her actually feel guilt over his wound, because in her mind, it’s her fault. Of course, it wouldn’t line up with how Katniss has been characterized the entire book, but… she could at least lie?

    He tries to make himself vomit the stuff up, but it’s too late, he’s already losing consciousness.

    You know what would’ve been super duper great? If Katniss returned to find Peeta dead, because he ate too much of it, or it had some kind of reaction with the sugars in the berries or something. She goes to the cornucopia, gets a possible game-losing injury getting the drugs, and comes back to find it was all pointless because she killed Peeta.

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