Hunger Games Ch4

Last time on the Hunger Games, Katniss finds out that the drunken former winner is actually going to be really important to their survival in the games.

So they need to sober him up.


They drag him back to the room and Peeta says he’ll do the job of cleaning the guy off. Katniss suggests getting a servant to help, but he turns it down.

all of a sudden I think, It’s because he’s being kind. Just as he was kind to give me the bread.
The idea pulls me up short. A kind Peeta Mellark is far more dangerous to me than an unkind one. Kind people have a way of working their way inside me and rooting there. And I can’t let Peeta do this. Not where we’re going. So I decide, from this moment on, to have as little as possible to do with the baker’s son.

Yeah I’m getting sick of this. It’s way too over the top, and it makes less and less sense the more I think about it.

Katniss doesn’t seem to have ever been in the position of trusting and getting burned. I can see her not knowing how to deal with kindness, but this is well beyond that point. It’s obsessive and crazy.

I quickly open the window, toss the cookies Peeta’s father gave me out of the train, and slam the glass shut. No more. No more of either of them.

Oh my god why are you wasting food.

Anyway her meaningless symbolic gesture in a world where people regularly starve to death reminds her of the dandelion.

I had just turned away from Peeta Mellark’s bruised face when I saw the dandelion and I knew hope wasn’t lost. I plucked it carefully and hurried home. I grabbed a bucket and Prim’s hand and headed to the Meadow and yes, it was dotted with the golden-headed weeds. After we’d harvested those, we scrounged along inside the fence for probably a mile until we’d filled the bucket with the dandelion greens, stems, and flowers.

Why isn’t anyone else eating dandelion? This is easily the easiest plant to ID. You don’t even really need to wait for the flower if you know what you’re looking for. And the whole plant is edible, just for the record, you can eat the root too. The place should be picked bare.

My mother had a book she’d brought with her from the apothecary shop. The pages were made of old parchment and covered in ink drawings of plants. Neat handwritten blocks told their names, where to gather them, when they came in bloom, their medical uses. But my father added other entries to the book.

Dad continues to be more important than Mom.

Plants for eating, not healing. Dandelions, pokeweed, wild onions, pines.

Wait.

Pokeweed???

The plant that, if prepared exactly right, may not leave you vomiting your guts out?

Now, if the area was actually being heavily harvested by all these hypothetical starving people, I can see there being nothing left but plants like pokeweed. But if you’ve got dandelions sprouting everywhere you don’t need to play russian roulette with your intestines.

There are lots of edible plants around, so I’m honestly baffled why this one is included, unless it’s some horrible prank being played with any kid who reads these books and thinks they’re accurate.

Plants are tricky. Many are edible, but one false mouthful and you’re dead. I checked and double-checked the plants I harvested with my father’s pictures.

Now, despite what I just said, plants actually aren’t that tricky. Very few plants are fatal by the mouthful, and the few that are usually advertise it, like pokeweed.

Here’s how you check if a plant is poisonous:

1) Crush leaves, sniff to see if there’s any bitter smell, rub the sap against your skin. Wait for reaction. If anything happens, wash the sap off and don’t try it again.
2) Bite down on leaf. If it burns or otherwise tastes really bad, spit it out and don’t try it again. Be very careful of anything bitter.
3) Swallow a leaf. If anything weird happens, throw up. Wait an hour or two.
4) Eat more leaves, throw up if anything weird happens, wait another hour or two.
5) It’s edible.

The main drawback with this is you can get false positives with plants that are edible, and it’s a lot more involved when it comes to figuring out what plants are toxic unless cooked. Your taste buds are designed to make you not eat poisonous plants, so if you spit out everything that tastes weird you should do pretty well. I had free run of the yard as a little kid and never managed to poison myself.

The danger here is that if you’re starving you’re going to be more and more willing to take a risk and eat a plant that tastes funny, not that anything you bite might instakill you.

Any sign of danger, a distant howl, the inexplicable break of a branch, sent me flying back to the fence at first. Then I began to risk climbing trees to escape the wild dogs

I’m not really sure why running back to the fence across open ground then crawling under a relatively large hole is actually the safer option to escape dogs.

Her mother eventually comes out of her stupor.

but I kept watching, waiting for her to disappear on us again. I didn’t trust her.

I suspect this is supposed to be the root of her trust issues, but that doesn’t make any sense. The thing with her mom should have taught her people are unreliable and weak and she can’t rely on them, not that kindness is a trick to let people take advantage of you and you can’t afford to accept any temporary help or it’ll make you weak.

once we reach the city, my stylist will dictate my look for the opening ceremonies tonight anyway. I just hope I get one who doesn’t think nudity is the last word in fashion.

That’s kind of counterproductive, so I’d think not.

As I enter the dining car, Effie Trinket brushes by me with a cup of black coffee. She’s muttering obscenities under her breath.

I sympathize, Effie.

Haymitch, his face puffy and red from the previous day’s indulgences, is chuckling.

…well, no one else was taking the drinking seriously, so it’s not really a surprise for the narrative itself to treat it this way.

Also, the fact he’s laughing right as Effie’s leaving means something probably just happened in there.

I realize I detest Haymitch. No wonder the District 12 tributes never stand a chance. It isn’t just that we’ve been underfed and lack training. Some of our tributes have still been strong enough to make a go of it. But we rarely get sponsors and he’s a big part of the reason why. The rich people who back tributes — either because they’re betting on them or simply for the bragging rights of picking a winner — expect someone classier than Haymitch to deal with.

The entire idea of sponsorships doesn’t really make much sense for a punishment game.

Also, if she knows this, why were they shocked to hear it earlier?

Peeta gets mad and knocks Haymitch’s drink out of his hand, then gets punched, then Katniss stabs the table when he tries to reach for the bottle.

“Well, what’s this?” says Haymitch. “Did I actually get a pair of fighters this year?”

Wat.

“No,” says Haymitch, stopping him. “Let the bruise show. The audience will think you’ve mixed it up with another tribute before you’ve even made it to the arena.”
“That’s against the rules,” says Peeta.
“Only if they catch you. That bruise will say you fought, you weren’t caught, even better,” says Haymitch. He turns to me. “Can you hit anything with that knife besides a table?”

And suddenly he’s metamorphized into someone competent, and apparently he was just drunk because he didn’t feel like bothering.

What the fuck.

So yes, actually, Katniss was right about hating him. It isn’t that he’s messed up, he was just sitting back letting kids die because they probably would anyway so why put the effort in.

The bow and arrow is my weapon. But I’ve spent a fair amount of time throwing knives as well. Sometimes, if I’ve wounded an animal with an arrow, it’s better to get a knife into it, too, before I approach it.

Why couldn’t she put a second arrow in instead? This feels contrived.

“Well, you’re not entirely hopeless. Seem fit. And once the stylists get hold of you, you’ll be attractive enough.”
Peeta and I don’t question this. The Hunger Games aren’t a beauty contest, but the best-looking tributes always seem to pull more sponsors.

This feels like a misaimed satire attempt.

Look, I’m quite supportive of satire, but it’s not something you can do halfway. Pretty much by definition, satire is creating an absurd situation that doesn’t make sense. The way it jars with the story and sanity at large are the point, so you can’t both try to write a serious business story with a setting and a satire at the same time. If it makes sense things would work that way, it’s not satire. (You can get pretty close with really dark satire, like Swift, but that’s going to require a situation with more bite than LOL BEAUTY CONTEST)

“All right, I’ll make a deal with you. You don’t interfere with my drinking, and I’ll stay sober enough to help you,” says Haymitch.

Because alcoholism totally works like that. It’s actually a bit surprising given the book just had a pretty good view of depression as an illness.

He tells them that first up are the stylists, and they need to just go along with whatever they’re told.

. The mountains form a natural barrier between the Capitol and the eastern districts. It is almost impossible to enter from the east except through the tunnels. This geographical advantage was a major factor in the districts losing the war that led to my being a tribute today. Since the rebels had to scale the mountains, they were easy targets for the Capitol’s air forces.

…yes, the mountains were a disadvantage to the rebels. Of course! Remember how the Soviet Union curbstomped Afghanistan?

Mountains are protection against armies, in fairness. But that’s because armies move in large masses. Rebels rely on cover rather than firepower.

Being connected by tunnels is even worse. The rebels don’t have to scale the mountains, they can just blow up the tunnels. The Capital relies on the Districts for everything, the Districts don’t need anything the Capital provides. Even if we assume that somehow, the mountains are too well defended, they can blow up any part of the track leading to the tunnel as well.

The Capital itself is all shiny and pretty.

the oddly dressed people with bizarre hair and painted faces who have never missed a meal. All the colors seem artificial, the pinks too deep, the greens too bright, the yellows painful to the eyes

So we’re continuing to see the focus on fake appearance. Generally, this kind of thing should be marked as high-status, but since her area only has intermittent electricity, it’s possible the districts aren’t connected enough to the Capital for cultural norms to be transmitted and they just seem bizarre. Still, it’s really bad sociologically, because one of the ways to keep in control is for people to see you as high class, not freaky painted dolls. You want the Capital to be the center of everyone’s world.

like the flat round disks of hard candy we can never afford to buy at the tiny sweet shop in District 12.

Wait, but sugar is rare. They’re still making regular candy? And there’s enough people buying it for there to be a whole shop for candy?

The government really, really sucks at the whole oppressive government thing.

Anyway, the people of the place start pointing excitedly at the train, so Katniss gets away from the window but Peeta smiles and waves.

He sees me staring at him and shrugs. “Who knows?” he says. “One of them may be rich.”

Well, I guess that’s a reason to play along, but he seems like a remarkably good actor for a baker’s kid.

So Katniss decides everything, including the baker’s cookies, are all part of a trick to worm his way into her confidence.

He hasn’t accepted his death. He is already fighting hard to stay alive. Which also means that kind Peeta Mellark, the boy who gave me the bread, is fighting hard to kill me.

Could you please stop making it all about you, Katniss? You’ve spent the whole time obsessing over how he’s your enemy, as well as repeating that the trained kids will probably slaughter you both. If you can rationalize your own survival instincts as being defensive, give him the same courtesy.

While I know it’s a lot to expect from kids facing their deaths, I wish there was some acknowledgment that playing along in the hope of a sponsorships is giving tacit approval to the whole thing. The sponsors seem to want pretty, cheerful kids, and the whole of the Hunger Games presented so far keeps reinforcing they’re supposed to pretend they’re happy about this. So don’t give them that. Let them see what they’re doing instead of pretending you’re 0kay with it. You’ll die, but come on – you were going to die anyway.

It doesn’t even seem to occur to Katniss. She identifies what her district does, going silent and refusing to clap, as noble rebellion, but doesn’t think the same applies to her.

And it’d be a nice change from her poor-me whining if she realized this but couldn’t bring herself to do it because she didn’t want to let go of the possibility, however faint, of getting back home alive. It wouldn’t make her a bad person to do that. But the way the books don’t even treat it as an option makes it all feel incredibly self-centered.

3 Comments

  1. Necro says:
    You seem to be running afoul of even basic prisoner’s dilemma here. Constantly. I’d explain it in detail to you but there’s Google for that. Basically, Peeta is being rationale here. If no one played along and ruined the fun of the Hunger Games by being a depressive then yes, they would all win. But if just one person breaks ranks and plays along by waving to the crowds then that person has the advantage. So the rationale action is to pander betting that everyone else will be a depressive and get themselves killed. However, everyone acts selfishly because it’s rational to play along.

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    1. Number27 says:
      You expect children on their way to be murdered to make reasoned logical choices? You seem to be running afoul of basic humanity. Much like this series.

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    2. Farla says:
      Game theory says that if someone tells you and another person to say a number up to $100 and get that amount, and whoever says the lower number gets an extra $2, they’d say $2. Game theory is bullshit at predicting people’s behaviors and that’s what makes it interesting.

      Peeta is absolutely being rational here. The problem is this series can’t decide if it’s about flawed people doing the best they can or heroic people, and decides to compromise on flawed people getting treated as heroic but occasionally lambasted for a totally different flaw. In Peeta’s case, it will spend the next book telling me he is the second coming of Christ.

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