Hunger Games Ch23

Let’s continue to the twenty-third chapter. In the home stretch now!

Peeta warns her they should only eat a little so they don’t throw up, because clearly Peeta’s the one with the most experience going hungry.

No, really, why is Peeta in charge here?

Afterward, they start talking again.

“What was that you were saying just before the food arrived? Something about me . . . no competition . . . best thing that ever happened to you . . .”
“I don’t remember that last part,” I say, hoping it’s too dim in here for the cameras to pick up my blush.

See, this probably wouldn’t be creepy normally, and yet, it is. And it’s time for more sleeping bag cuddling.

“So, since we were five, you never even noticed any other girls?” I ask him.
“No, I noticed just about every girl, but none of them made a lasting impression but you,” he says.

This is actually very reasonable and kudos, book, for not going with the even more cliché option.

If we win, we’ll each get a house in the part of town reserved for Hunger Games’ victors. Long ago, when the Games began, the Capitol had built a dozen fine houses in each district. Of course, in ours only one is occupied. Most of the others have never been lived in at all.

Oh thank god it’s something else to think about.

I’m pretty sure the math doesn’t work out here. Sure, that’s fine for Katniss’ district with only two winners ever, and would probably work if winners were evenly distributed, but.

There are three districts that train kids. One of those three districts usually wins. Assuming that the wins are fairly distributed between them all, and that they always make sure their tribute is age eighteen to get the best chance, and that every four years none of them win (far lower than is likely, as Katniss’ comments suggest it’s extremely rare for a non-trained kid to win)…

Year1: One 18 year old.
Year 5: One 22 year old, one 18 year old.
Year 9: One 26 year old, one 22 year old, one 18 year old.

By the time you have twelve victors, the oldest is only 62, and that’s assuming starting at age eighteen and that none of the trained districts do better than the rest. I suppose the capital could just keep building new houses, but if they were going to build new houses it’d have made more sense to build one house and then another one each time a tribute won, instead of building twelve houses in year one, when even if one district won every game it’d still take over a decade to fill the last one up. And on the same topic, if they were assuming that the kids would be distributed evenly, then that’s 12 x 12 houses total – 144 years between the first games and the last house being filled. Assuming they picked twelve year olds, that would make the first person 152 years old by the time the last one was housed, or, assuming everyone lives to be a hundred and starts at twelve, about fifty empty houses there forever.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that this is nonsense. You can get across the whole ridiculous opulence thing fine with the idea their district has three standing houses – one was built initially, then when the first winner came back they built a second, then when Haymitch won they built the third, and then with the first winner dead there are two extremely fancy houses being perpetually maintained without occupants, and this kind of thing is normal across the various districts.

Oh! Unless you get something cool for filling up all the houses, like one person leaves for the capital. No idea if that would make social sense, but hey, at least they’d be getting some fresh blood in their gene pool.

A disturbing thought hits me. “But then, our only neighbor will be Haymitch!”

An interesting point you’ve inadvertently raised there.

Haymitch, despite being extremely wealthy, seems just as extremely isolated. In a world where children regularly starve to death and at the end of your working life you’re kicked out onto the street to die, no women have decided to try to attach themselves to the only person who can reliably provide for them. No friends take advantage of his likely well heated and spacious house in the winter. He’s just there, in an empty neighborhood. If he ever had neighbors, it was the other winner, his fellow child-murderer, who hasn’t even been alive for a while.

“You and me and Haymitch. Very cozy. Picnics, birthdays, long winter nights around the fire retelling old Hunger Games’ tales.”

No, seriously, this is incredibly depressing. He’s spent his entire adult life cut off from his community constantly reminded of the fact he murdered other children to live. And here’s Peeta cheerfully talking about their future conversations, discussing that time they too murdered other children to live, because I’m sure the one thing Haymitch wants to is more reminders of that!

I know the audience will enjoy our having fun at Haymitch’s expense. He has been around so long, he’s practically an old friend to some of them. And after his head-dive off the stage at the reaping, everybody knows him.

It’s always very fun to watch the ongoing breakdown of someone you forced to murder children. He’s like a part of their family, really.

She goes on to say he’s probably about to go give some interviews because she’s been mentioning him. Oh thanks for that Katniss, I’m sure he loves the prospect.

He’s at something of a disadvantage because most mentors have a partner, another victor to help them whereas Haymitch has to be ready to go into action at any moment.

Jesus, so he’s probably not even able to sleep. He’s obviously watching them constantly because he needs to reward Katniss every time she does something romantic, but more, he’s solely responsible for them and can’t actually do anything but send them crumbs from the capital’s table and this is the first time he’s known any of the kids to even have a chance and what if while he’s sleeping something happens and –

Haha, it’s funny because this is probably taking years off his life?

Anyway, Katniss thinks about how Haymitch seems to only be trying to communicate with her.

Perhaps he thinks a bowl of broth would just be a bowl of broth to Peeta, whereas I’ll see the strings attached to it.

Much as I’d like to see another glimpse of competent Katniss, this isn’t exactly fair. Peeta thinks the romance thing is natural. It’s quite likely he was barely coached at all. Katniss, on the other hand, has been constantly told to play along or else the sponsors don’t help. So Peeta is not going to think anything of romantic gesture = soup.

Suddenly, Katniss wonders how Haymitch won the games.

This is stupid. For starters, these are once a year events that are incredibly popular. We’re even told people in the capital like to reenact particularly famous bits. So why wouldn’t the games be reshown at other parts of the year? It’s not like there’s any suggestion there’s any other programming on. Next, he’s their district’s only living winner, and he’s only middle aged, so there’d be plenty of people alive who’d remember watching. It should be something that’s known.

They both come to the same conclusion.

“He outsmarted the others,” says Peeta.

Uh. That doesn’t actually follow. The fact adult Haymitch is part of the romance plan doesn’t mean kid Haymitch was necessarily brilliant, and really, it’s not like what he is doing is all that clever. At most, the romance plan was a shot in the dark. If Haymitch encouraged it, it was probably because he figured Peeta was doomed anyway and that maybe working together Katniss might have a chance.

She wonders if the reason Haymitch is helping them is that he thinks they’re smart enough to win as well.

Maybe he wasn’t always a drunk. Maybe, in the beginning, he tried to help the tributes. But then it got unbearable. It must be hell to mentor two kids and then watch them die. Year after year after year.

On the one hand, yes, that’s very understandable and thank you, book, for acknowledging that must be hellish. On the other, it doesn’t excuse Haymitch’s antagonistic behavior toward them. He doesn’t act like someone drinking to dull the crushing knowledge that another two kids are going to die, but like someone who hates his job in the more normal sense.

I realize that if I get out of here, that will become my job.

Oooh, that’s something interesting. It sort of gets back to some of the other stuff I’ve been saying – the games are a situation where various victories tend to propel you into worse situations. If the trained kids do well together, they’re doomed to have to kill each other instead. If Katniss successfully protected Rue, they’d have had to try to kill each other. If Cato doesn’t kill Thresh, Katniss will need to. And now if you win the games, you have to take part for the rest of your life.

The idea is so repellent, I thrust it from my mind.


I have put up with Katniss not thinking about things for a very long time. We are on Ch23 now. The book has another four chapters to go. It is time to stop not thinking about things.

That night, they learn Thresh is dead.

AHAHAHAHAHAHA just how CONVENIENT do you even have to BE to DO something like that…

So Katniss is all upset, because she and Thresh were fridging buddies.

I have to bury the real pain because who’s going to bet on a tribute who keeps sniveling over the deaths of her opponents. Rue was one thing. We were allies. She was so young. But no one will understand my sorrow at Thresh’s murder. The word pulls me up short. Murder! Thankfully, I didn’t say it aloud. That’s not going to win me any points in the arena.

Yep, wouldn’t want to break your perfect streak of not challenging the capital in any way whatsoever.

She does manage to say

“It’s just . . . if we didn’t win . . . I wanted Thresh to. Because he let me go. And because of Rue.”

This is stupid, since the only two dangerous players left are Thresh and Cato, so if Cato lost they’d have to kill Thresh themselves.

A good book might have it be now that our smart little redhead girl starts showing everyone her stabs, but that would be an actual twist. Katniss already said the girl isn’t aggressive, and Katniss is only wrong about love.

I wonder how Foxface is making out.”
“Oh, she’s fine,” I say peevishly. I’m still angry she thought of hiding in the Cornucopia and I didn’t.

So when Katniss says she’s upset by murder, she means of people with names only. Foxes are just animals.

She burrows into the sleeping bag to hide her face so she doesn’t have to worry about people seeing her get upset.

Under the hood, I silently say good-bye to Thresh and thank him for my life.

This is actually a nice flash of how stressful the knowledge you’re potentially on camera at any moment is.

That said, there’s nothing stopping her from doing something like this to explain to Peeta about the whole “I’m not actually sure if I like you but I’m acting like this because otherwise we’ll both die” thing.

When she wakes up Peeta gives her a roll covered in cheese and apple.

“We make a goat cheese and apple tart at the bakery,” he says.
“Bet that’s expensive,” I say.

Uh, no.

Goat cheese is common enough Katniss regularly eats it and apples are relatively common – not only do people get them by crossing the fence, but Peeta’s house has an apple tree just in the back of the house as well. On top of that, apples are among the only fruit that stores well. Things like blackberries and strawberries very quickly go bad and are only available in season, but apples can be stored all the way until the next fall.

The fact it’s a tart suggests it likely involves sugar, but I refuse to believe that alone would increase the price so much when they regularly make normal cakes frosted with sugar icing. If anything, the point of using apple in the tart would be that the fruit makes it sweet in place of the normal amount of sugar.

“Too expensive for my family to eat. Unless it’s gone very stale. Of course, practically everything we eat is stale,” says Peeta


You. Had. A. Pig.

To again bring up the food porn elements, Katniss talked about how awesome that bread was. The edge was burned but the rest was fine, and that was just out of the oven fresh. So why did your mom tell you to throw it to the pig instead? Why was her objection that people wouldn’t pay full price for it because part of it was burned?

Also, I really don’t get why no one seems to understand the concept of ordering. If the ingredients of a particular food are expensive, tell people to come in and ask for it to be made rather than making it and hoping someone wants it right then and can afford to pay.

Peeta has always had enough to eat. But there’s something kind of depressing about living your life on stale bread, the hard, dry loaves that no one else wanted.

This is not how economics works.

Let me tell you about something called opportunity cost. It’s basically looking at the difference in cost between things to you.

Now, they’re bakers. Making bread costs X dollars. When it’s fresh out of the oven, it’s worth Y dollars, and when it goes stale the value turns to Y-n. Unless Y-n is less than X dollars, it’s no more expensive to sell the stale bread and make more fresh bread to eat.

An exception here would be if there was limited space in the oven, so by cooking extra fresh bread to eat you end up with less fresh bread (worth Y) that day than you could have sold. But in that case there shouldn’t be all that much stale bread in the first place.

There are many situations where Y-n will be less than the X dollars of cost. For example, I will completely believe that about America, where people routinely throw out far fresher food. But they live in a place where people regularly starve. Food is food. Grain cooked into an edible form will always be worth money. As I said back with the burned bread, the only way this makes sense is if people either have plenty of money or none at all, so there’s no one in the middle zone to buy the bread, and there’s no sign that’s true.

One thing about us, since I bring our food home on a daily basis, most of it is so fresh you have to make sure it isn’t going to make a run for it.

Yeah, which is why I keep telling you you should have been trading that for something cheaper but with more volume. Like, say, stale bread.

Anyway, then it’s night and the rain’s stopped finally. There’s this big full moon and Katniss spends a while wondering if it’s real or a projection.

Uh, you’ve been outside for quite a while, haven’t you noticed the moon during this time? She goes on to say it’s been about three weeks since she left home and it was a full moon before that, so I’m not sure why this is even an issue of confusion. She really wants it to be real, though.

That would give me something to cling to in the surreal world of the arena where the authenticity of everything is to be doubted.

So basically it’s a bit of nonsense because the author wanted to throw in some stuff that sounds dramatic. This would work better if she was pretty sure it hadn’t been a full month and was hoping she just got the dating wrong.

Also, the arena is really not that surreal. The capital’s interference is generally quite obvious.

She considers what her life will be like if she makes it home and isn’t sure. She’s always spent her time searching for food and can’t imagine what else she’ll do.

I guess this is okay, but it’s startlingly self-aware, especially for someone who’s spent this whole book not thinking about things. I’d expect someone in her position to have ridiculous fantasies, like “We’ll spend all day cooking fancy meals and eating them and then lying around until we’re hungry again.”

Instead, she thinks that without that, she isn’t sure who she is.

I think of Haymitch, with all his money. What did his life become? He lives alone, no wife or children, most of his waking hours drunk. I don’t want to end up like that.

I don’t think he’s drunk because he’s so bored, Katniss.

Anyway, it’s not like you don’t live in a crapsack town full of starving people, I’m sure you can figure out something to do with your time.

She thinks at least she won’t be alone because she’ll have her family, but then that she’ll end up alone when her mother dies of old age and Prim grows up.

I know I’ll never marry, never risk bringing a child into the world.

Katniss, to start with, that’s what contraceptives are for. Next, there’s other stuff you can do that doesn’t lead to kids. Finally, even if you marry you are completely able to not have sex. Your husband doesn’t actually own you.

(And if you want kids, hey, not like there aren’t plenty of orphans.)

Incidentally, this actually raises an interesting question. What’s the birth rate/mortality rate in her district? Between this and the general starvation issue, this should cause a lot of people to try to avoid having kids, and probably some manner of infanticide among those who fail.

It’s never explained, but I think there presumably should be some sort of cost benefit to kids. We know you can use them for grain, but it seems like one tesserae barely feeds one kid and you have to raise them to age twelve before they can start, and they’re only eligible six years. The other option is the elderly, since it’s been suggested the elderly are the other major group that starves and stated that you stop working at a certain point. The thing is, we’ve seen no sign of any family supporting an elder. It’s all nuclear families.

She wonders what Peeta will be like when he gets back.

Who will he transform into if we make it home? This perplexing, good-natured boy who can spin out lies so convincingly the whole of Panem believes him to be hopelessly in love with me, and I’ll admit it, there are moments when he makes me believe it myself? At least, we’ll be friends, I think. Nothing will change the fact that we’ve saved each other’s lives in here. And beyond that, he will always be the boy with the bread. Good friends.

Okay, the book is just fucking with me now. I’ve lost count of the number of times Katniss has realized Peeta’s actually in love with her and then just dropped it again.

Anything beyond that though . . . and I feel Gale’s gray eyes watching me watching Peeta, all the way from District 12.


Anyway she goes to wake up Peeta and they make out for a bit.

They eat all the food left.

“Hey, Effie, watch this!” says Peeta. He tosses his fork over his shoulder and literally licks his plate clean with his tongue making loud, satisfied sounds. Then he blows a kiss out to her in general and calls, “We miss you, Effie!”

Hate you book.

She tells him to keep quiet in case Cato hears.

“What do I care? I’ve got you to protect me now,” says Peeta, pulling me to him.
“Come on,” I say in exasperation, extricating myself from his grasp but not before he gets in another kiss.

So aside from the endless squick there’s genre dissonance. They actually are in a lot of danger. Personally, I think they have the advantage, but that doesn’t mean he won’t take one of them out in the process.

My last seven arrows — of the twelve I sacrificed three in the explosion, two at the feast — rattle a bit too loosely in the quiver. I can’t afford to lose any more.

Why didn’t you ever try making more?

So they get moving to find game, and Katniss discovers Peeta can’t move quietly.

Ideally, I’d dump Peeta now with some simple root-gathering chore and go hunt, but then he’d be left with only a knife to defend himself against Cato’s spears and superior strength. So what I’d really like is to try and conceal him somewhere safe, then go hunt, and come back and collect him. But I have a feeling his ego isn’t going to go for that suggestion.

And we’re back to gender. If you told a girl to sit quietly in the cave, you wouldn’t be worrying about her poor widdle ego.

He keeps insisting she tell him how to find edible plants and that he’ll be fine with a knife and injured leg against a guy with a sword.

I try another tactic. “What if you climbed up in a tree and acted as a lookout while I hunted?” I say, trying to make it sound like very important work.
“What if you show me what’s edible around here and go get us some meat?” he says, mimicking my tone. “Just don’t go far, in case you need help.”

So much understanding of why Meyer liked these books.

Because clearly, it makes so much sense that Peeta is the one in charge, Katniss goes along with this bullshit. She teaches him a whistle so they can stay in contact once they’re out of view. She heads off, shoots some game, but then he doesn’t respond to the whistle and she panics. She runs back, shouting his name, and he shows up. She’s really upset and wants to know why he didn’t whistle.

“I didn’t hear. The water’s too loud, I guess,” he says. He crosses and puts his hands on my shoulders. That’s when I feel that I’m trembling.
“I thought Cato killed you!” I almost shout.
“No, I’m fine.” Peeta wraps his arms around me, but I don’t respond. “Katniss?”
I push away, trying to sort out my feelings. “If two peo­ple agree on a signal, they stay in range. Because if one of them doesn’t answer, they’re in trouble, all right?”
“All right!” he says.

Yes, Peeta, tell us more about how the person who actually knows what she’s talking about has no reason to be upset. Then Katniss points out last time this happened, Rue died.

Peeta apologizes and says he understands.

Haha, no he doesn’t.

Because Katniss is clearly an unreasonable female and probably PMSing or something, she looks around for something to yell about and notices part of the cheese has been eaten, so she says he started eating without her.

“I don’t know what ate the cheese,” Peeta says slowly and distinctly, as if trying not to lose his temper, “but it wasn’t me. I’ve been down by the stream collecting berries. Would you care for some?”

Yes how dare she unreasonably assume that you ate the cheese that someone obviously ate. Focus more on how unfair she is, because that’s clearly the real issue here.

Seriously, Peeta doesn’t react with surprise or confusion or suspicion. There’s no “let me see that” or wondering if it was a person or animal. It’s look at noble Peeta, valiantly being nice to bitchy Katniss.

But Peeta has spoken, so she takes the berries and looks them over.

I’ve never seen this type before. No, I have. But not in the arena. These aren’t Rue’s berries, although they resemble them. Nor do they match any I learned about in training. I lean down and scoop up a few, rolling them between my fingers.
My father’s voice comes back to me. “Not these, Katniss. Never these. They’re nightlock. You’ll be dead before they reach your stomach.”

Could her mother be more irrelevant? I think not.

For the sake of my sanity I’m going to just assume that’s an invented plant.

Let’s talk about nightshade. It’s not actually that bad. It’s merely one of the most toxic berries, but like most plants, it really doesn’t want you to eat it. If you bite into a nightshade berry, it’s bitter. (It also tastes sweet, but like I said earlier, you spit out anything that tastes bitter because you’re not a stupid toddler) It is quite possible to eat a handful and die, but it takes hours to work.

(Also, incidentally, it’s not native to North America. Our local nightshade is black nightshade, edible, and bittersweet nightshade, only mildly toxic. Now, it’s possible now that a given plant is an escaped garden plant and actually deadly nightshade, but I figure after this many unspecified disasters escaped garden plants are not really an issue.)

Then there’s water hemlock. This is pretty nasty, the plant itself can kill livestock in fifteen minutes.

But you know what’s really awesome? Cyanide. Plants love cyanide. If you’re going to genetically engineer a death plant, don’t fuck around with trying to fuse hemlock with nightshade. Just tell a given plant to pump berries full of cyanide. This will also fail the bitter test, but they’ll be dead from just finding that out, so win!

Anyway, the red-headed girl is dead.

This is really one of the cleverer bits, and why I agree with commenters that seeing the game from her viewpoint would have been nice. Her strategy for the games was to work off the knowledge of the other kids, and she’d have told us a lot about how everyone was functioning. She could get through human laid traps and stalk human gatherers, so when Peeta found what he thought was good food, she thought the same.

I particularly like this sequence because I find one of the things a lot of stories fail to consider is certain patterns of human thought that are so normal we don’t even think of them. Humans eat a wide variety of food, and we’re extremely cautious at trying new things, but we’re incredibly trusting of someone who says a food is edible. There are various other minor signs that we’ll automatically notice, believe and use because they’re of human origin. At our core, we’re really supposed to work together. And it’s be interesting to contrast that with the artificial situation the kids are in, where they’re trying to kill each other. Indeed, a large part of the girl’s problem seems to be that as the other kids died, she had fewer people to use.

But the book totally fucks it up. Peeta sees the girl being removed by hovercraft and assumes it means Cato’s coming their way. The chapter ends with

“How could I have killed her?”
In answer, I hold out the berries.

See, this would have been a great line if it hadn’t already explained things. Have Katniss look at the berries and get midway into the paragraph, trying to ID them when the cannon goes off. Or even better, have Katniss be about to pop one in her mouth because she’s making the same mistake of trusting he’s found the right berries. Then she sees the dead girl and that jogs her memory about the berries, but she doesn’t say it to the reader. We end on the berry line here, and next chapter she explains the berries are deadly.

But after already explaining all that this chapter, the dramatic ending line thing here falls flat.


  1. liminal fruitbat says:

    Katniss, to start with, that’s what contraceptives are for.


    I just assumed she wouldn’t have decent sex ed and/or that birth control would be banned by the Capitol; got to keep the workers breeding and hungry, after all. Still, her mother might well know herbal contraceptives and/or abortifacients, so…

    1. Farla says:

      The capital has a monopoly on everything. If they want their workers starving, they can feed them less. And they’re a static society – fixed land, fixed jobs – so they don’t need more people for anything. Worse, the people in charge of policing the districts aren’t drawn from the population as a whole, so you can’t necessarily respond to an upswing in angry young adults in one district by upping recruiting. At best, all extra births and deaths do is make for more bookkeeping and at worst you get wrongfooted by a demographic shift.

      But my real point is that Katniss at no point acts like the problem is a lack of contraceptives. She doesn’t say she can’t be in a relationship because she has no way of avoiding pregnancy. The idea of even desiring to avoid pregnancy isn’t allowed in this story.

  2. CrazyEd says:

    I know the audience will enjoy our having fun at Haymitch’s expense. He has been around so long, he’s practically an old friend to some of them. And after his head-dive off the stage at the reaping, everybody knows him.

    Isn’t he the guy in charge of sending them their sponsorship gifts?

    Perhaps he thinks a bowl of broth would just be a bowl of broth to Peeta, whereas I’ll see the strings attached to it.

    Ah, yes. Katniss, who has been well characterized as being very observant and in tune with other people’s motivations, rather than that dense brick Peeta.

    I wonder how Foxface is making out.”

    Well, if she’s doing anything like you two, I’m sure she found a nice reynard in a hole somewhere, har har har.

    Anyway, it’s not like you don’t live in a crapsack town full of starving people, I’m sure you can figure out something to do with your time.

    People literally hunt for fun, Katniss.

    And we’re back to gender. If you told a girl to sit quietly in the cave, you wouldn’t be worrying about her poor widdle ego.

    While I don’t think Katniss would worry, she’s kinda got a point that Peeta has demonstrated to himself that he thinks he’s just as useful as Katniss, even injured. I think she brought up his ego as a reason why he’d refuse to actually stay put. He’s already threatened to follow after her shouting loudly if she leaves him behind once before.

    Because Katniss is clearly an unreasonable female and probably PMSing or something

    … God, now I’m so glad that the whole thing about the moon and the amount of time wasn’t leading into something about how Katniss happened to have the bad luck to get her period during the games.


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