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I’ve ridden the elevator a couple of times in the Justice Building back in District 12. Once to receive the medal for my father’s death and then yesterday to say my final goodbyes to my friends and family. But that’s a dark and creaky thing that moves like a snail and smells of sour milk. The walls of this elevator are made of crystal so that you can watch the people on the ground floor shrink to ants as you shoot up into the air. It’s exhilarating

This is pretty good again, giving a look at how impoverished her home was compared to this place.

That said...I was thinking this is meant to be a reflection of American culture, but it's just too alien. Most of our elevators aren't glass, most of our buildings aren't twenty stories tall, just as few kids literally get food at the touch of a button. The world she's describing is opulent even by our standards, which reduces the bite a great deal. We put ourself in Katniss' place when she describes her misery, and then keep putting ourself in her place while she describes her envy for this opulence. It glosses over the fact Katniss would be just as amazed and jealous if she was dropped into a current American city.

Effie is in a good mood because they've been doing so well. Apparently she's been trying to get them sponsorships.

“I’ve been very mysterious, though,” she says, her eyes squint half shut. “Because, of course, Haymitch hasn’t bothered to tell me your strategies. But I’ve done my best with what I had to work with. How Katniss sacrificed herself for her sister. How you’ve both successfully struggled to overcome the barbarism of your district.”
Barbarism? That’s ironic coming from a woman helping to prepare us for slaughter. And what’s she basing our success on? Our table manners?


No, it's not ironic at all. You live in a culture where, very literally, the civilized people behave in this way.

Let's go check out Wikipedia again.

The primary function of the word "barbarian", and its cognates, is to differentiate members of one's own society from people perceived as being "outside" of it, and to posit that one's own culture is superior. The word barbaros in Ancient Greek was anantonym for civis and polis. The sound of barbaros onomatopoetically evokes the image of babbling (a person speaking a non-Greek language).

Violence has nothing to do with it. They're from a far flung district and probably speaking some hick dialect. They are currently in the Capital, or head city. Civilization, civilized, all these things are what the people of the city, civis, say they are. And for all Katniss' comments about their weird accent, it's the city accent. She's the one babbling away with a barbarian accent.

Now, fine, it's not like Katniss has had the best education. On the other hand, it's not like Katniss has had the best education, so where does she get the idea things aren't supposed to be like this? Who dared refer to violence and murder as "barbaric" for her to hear, let alone enough times and enough people for her to pick up the opinion herself?

This is a terribly common writing issue, where the main character mirrors our beliefs rather than having beliefs that fit with the setting. Katniss doesn't live in a world where the government and civilized society think violence is barbaric.

The correct response here is "maybe we're barbaric but you're the ones murdering children", not "it's barbaric to murder children".

Next up, let's just point out what Effie is doing. She's getting them sponsors so they won't die. When Haymitch grudgingly gives them a few words of advice, the narrative treats it like he's a good person. When Cinna makes them look pretty so he'll look like a good designer, he's portrayed as a wonderful person. When Effie tries to talk people into giving them money so they might survive the games, she's a bad, stupid person.

“Everyone has their reservations, naturally. You being from the coal district. But I said, and this was very clever of me, I said, ‘Well, if you put enough pressure on coal it turns to pearls!’“ Effie beams at us so brilliantly that we have no choice but to respond enthusiastically to her cleverness even though it’s wrong.

All of my hate, book. All of it.

Coal doesn’t turn to pearls. They grow in shellfish. Possibly she meant coal turns to diamonds, but that’s untrue, too. I’ve heard they have some sort of machine in District 1 that can turn graphite into diamonds. But we don’t mine graphite in District 12.

Oh, now research is important to you, author?

Anyway, that's not strictly true either. Graphite is more refined carbon and it's currently the only form we can use to make diamonds artificially. Coal has a lot more impurities and the carbon arrangement is even further away from diamond structure as graphite. Furthermore, coal is generally not in the position to get a lot of heat and pressure because it forms near the surface. That's not the same thing as just "no, it can't".

So for some reason the author did extra research and then went with the kind of inaccurate answer, just to make the original statement she put in the character's mouth look even dumber.

But she couldn't do any research about pigs. Priorities.

Also - why would the Capital be uneducated? Why would the kid of a coal-mining slave town have a reasonable education while the people here barely know anything?

That was part of District 13’s job until they were destroyed.

Uh...so where does the graphite come from, then? Especially since you just said District 1 has a machine to use graphite to make diamonds.

“Unfortunately, I can’t seal the sponsor deals for you. Only Haymitch can do that,” says Effie grimly. “But don’t worry, I’ll get him to the table at gunpoint if necessary.”
Although lacking in many departments, Effie Trinket has a certain determination I have to admire.


Finally. Maybe next you can acknowledge that also what she's doing here is helping you and give her a fraction of the praise you're lavishing on the guys.

My quarters are larger than our entire house back home. They are plush, like the train car, but also have so many automatic gadgets that I’m sure I won’t have time to press all the buttons. The shower alone has a panel with more than a hundred options you can choose regulating water temperature, pressure, soaps, shampoos, scents, oils, and massaging sponges. When you step out on a mat, heaters come on that blow-dry your body. Instead of struggling with the knots in my wet hair, I merely place my hand on a box that sends a current through my scalp, untangling, parting, and drying my hair almost instantly. It floats down around my shoulders in a glossy curtain.
I program the closet for an outfit to my taste. The win­dows zoom in and out on parts of the city at my command. You need only whisper a type of food from a gigantic menu into a mouthpiece and it appears, hot and steamy, before you in less than a minute. I walk around the room eating goose liver and puffy bread


...yeah, any possibility this is meant to hold up a mirror to American lifestyles has flown out the window.

Anyway, the implicit attitude here is actually a weird thing I see in a lot of these type of fish out of water stories. The impoverished character somehow gets access to the upper class opulence, but they act like the upper class are just preventing everyone from having it, instead of the fact that the opulence is at the expense of everyone else.

Why doesn't her district have electricity most of the time? Why don't they have food? Because everything is diverted here. Food doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from the districts.

This place isn't being condemned, it's being coveted. And that's terrible.

This could work well if it was leading up to the moment of reveal where Katniss realizes what I just said, but Katniss isn't that young and she's been portrayed as quite self-aware of how much the government sucks. She shouldn't need to have it shoved in her face when her life has revolved around watching people toil in the mines to send almost all of it away to the Capital while they shivered in their home.

She heads down to dinner and is glad to hear that the designers will be there.

dinner isn’t really about food, it’s about planning out our strategies, and Cinna and Portia have already proven how valuable they are.

Yes, but only at designing clothing, their job. I really don't see how that translates to everything else.

I’ve never had wine, except the homemade stuff my mother uses for coughs, and when will I get a chance to try it again? I take a sip of the tart, dry liquid and secretly think it could be improved by a few spoonfuls of honey.

Then ask for honey. She's acting like she's a guest or something. And it can't just be innate politeness of something, because we saw she had no trouble eating with her hands when it was to annoy Effie.

Now, this would work really well if it was more consistently done, and if there was the sense that she felt Capital people were better and she subconsciously wanted them to like her. But neither of those things have been true.

Also, homemade wine? So they have grapes now, and time and volume enough to try to make a drink out of them? No. Homemade wine is what you have on farms with fruit. They're coal miners and the only fruit that's been mentioned are apples and imported oranges.

They should have some kind of whiskey (probably unaged), especially if the reason they have it is to try to treat people using alcohol, and beer. The one thing they do have plenty of is bad tasting grain rations, so that should be what people try to ferment.

The servers, all young people dressed in white tunics like the one who gave us wine, move wordlessly to and from the table, keeping the platters and glasses full.

Hey, remember how you were mad about how people in the capital didn't do anything with their time, Katniss? Why aren't you at all curious who the servants are? I mean, at least you're acknowledging their existence as people instead of them just being there by implication like on the train, but still.

She suddenly notices one of the servers because she thinks she recognizes her.

oh! I know you!”
I can’t place a name or time to the girl’s face. But I’m certain of it. The dark red hair, the striking features, the porcelain white skin. But even as I utter the words, I feel my insides contracting with anxiety and guilt at the sight of her, and while I can’t pull it up, I know some bad memory is associated with her. 


Wow, that's bad writing.

See, it's possible to be subconsciously reminded of something, and not be able to pinpoint it. But in this case she's recognizing this girl, so not being able to remember where she saw her despite it apparently being a traumatic memory seems really, really forced. Perhaps recognizing her and not remembering at all where she's from, or even starting to feel uncomfortable but not quite knowing why, but this level of a reaction should really require actual memory.

Anyway, it turns out that was a bad idea.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Katniss. How could you possibly know an Avox?” snaps Effie. “The very thought.”
“What’s an Avox?” I ask stupidly.
“Someone who committed a crime. They cut her tongue so she can’t speak,” says Haymitch. “She’s probably a traitor of some sort. Not likely you’d know her.”
“And even if you did, you’re not to speak to one of them unless it’s to give an order,” says Effie. “Of course, you don’t really know her.”


So taking people's kids and making them kill each other is insanely stupid, it's not actually the stupidest thing the government does.

The dumbest thing would be taking traitors who hate you and making them your servants.

Anyway, this jogs her memory, although she doesn't say what about yet. Peeta rescues her by saying she must have mistaken her for a girl from their district.

Delly Cartwright is a pasty-faced, lumpy girl with yellowish hair who looks about as much like our server as a beetle does a butterfly.

The pretty people/everyone else divide continues. The girl in red is clearly very pretty and matters, while Delly is a side character so she can look ugly.

With that issue dodged, they rewatch their debute.

“Whose idea was the hand holding?” asks Haymitch.
“Cinna’s,” says Portia.
“Just the perfect touch of rebellion,” says Haymitch. “Very nice.”
Rebellion? I have to think about that one a moment. But when I remember the other couples, standing stiffly apart, never touching or acknowledging each other, as if their fellow tribute did not exist, as if the Games had already begun, I know what Haymitch means. Presenting ourselves not as adversaries but as friends has distinguished us as much as the fiery costumes.


The exceptionalism continues.

Now, I can sort of see this. They're really stressed kids and they know only one person is coming back. But some of them are volunteering for this. The winning district gets food. Katniss was willing to bet her life for extra food for her family and she's far from the only one in her district who did this - why isn't it possible some people are willing to bet their lives again and hope their district wins even if they don't? Why not agree to work with the person from your district?

And there must be plenty of kids who both know neither one of them stands a chance. Katniss and Peeta kept holding hands because they were both terrified, is it really impossible anyone else would want to cling to the one other person you knew before your horrible death?

From this, it's not only that no one else this year is like that, but no one in years past either. And it ends up dehumanizing the rest of the kids a bit, because they're all acting exactly the same way.

After supper, Peeta comes over and asks to talk about how surprising it was to see someone who looks like Delly. Katniss, for once, seems to actually understand this like a normal person instead of assuming it's some sort of threat and that he just wants to know why she recognized the girl.

And she kind of wants to talk too.

Besides, the idea of the girl with her maimed tongue frightens me. She has reminded me why I’m here. Not to model flashy costumes and eat delicacies. But to die a bloody death while the crowds urge on my killer.

How did you manage to forget?

This doesn't even make much sense, because the narration has been mentioning the games quite steadily this whole time.

“Have you been on the roof yet?” I shake my head. “Cinna showed me. You can practically see the whole city. The wind’s a bit loud, though.”
I translate this into “No one will overhear us talking” in my head. You do have the sense that we might be under surveillance here.


You know, so what. They're going to die. Who cares what they say? Playing along to the crowds makes a sort of sense because they're hoping it'll give them an edge, but worrying about what the government spies think is excessive.

Also, just an aside - so the main way the Capital keeps an eye on people is with bugging devices, and they cut out the Avox's tongues so they can't communicate out loud...god, this just gets dumber and dumber.

The Capitol twinkles like a vast field of fireflies. Electricity in District 12 comes and goes, usually we only have it a few hours a day. Often the evenings are spent in candlelight. The only time you can count on it is when they’re airing the Games or some important government message on television that it’s mandatory to watch. But here there would be no shortage. Ever.

But Katniss continues not to put two and two together. She can see how awesome life is there, but not why. Here there's no shortage because making the place sparkle is more important than letting people in her district have freezers.

Anyway, there's a weird forcefield on the roof to stop them from jumping off. I really don't see why they're worried about being overheard in that case. The government obviously doesn't want to lose any of them before the designated murderdeath game time. Why bother killing a kid for saying something if you're going to kill them anyway in a day or two?

Katniss gets to the center of the garden amid the noisy wind chimes and finally explains where she knows the girl from.

She and Gale saw a battered girl and boy running through the woods. Out of nowhere, a hovercraft appears. It nets the girl and spears the boy, then disappears.

So, more evululz. Why not net them both or spear them both? The author just wanted them to do two different evil things, so they did.

I mean, I can sort of think of a reason why they'd do treat the two differently, but a) it didn't say the servers were all or even mostly female and b) I really don't think rape is supposed to be a factor in this book. For which I'm grateful, by the way, let's keep it that way.

Anyway, the girl saw them for a second and called for help right before the hovercraft arrived, but they stayed hidden. Katniss goes further and says that when they first saw the pair, there was time to get them hidden under cover as well, and it was obvious they needed help, but that they stayed hidden anyway.

This is actually pretty good. From the description, it sounds like there was very little time and a good chance that if they had done anything, they'd just have been found as well, but it's very human to think that maybe you could have done something and blame yourself.

The two are confused about why anyone would rebel against the Capital.

Haymitch had called the Avoxes traitors. Against what? It could only be the Capitol. But they had everything here. No cause to rebel.

This is bad writing, because there was nothing about what they were told that said the girl was from the Capital, just that she was a traitor. I'd assume she was from one of the districts. Maybe the same place as the red-haired girl mentioned earlier, since gene flow seems pretty poor between places and red hair is a very rare trait.

Also, how do they know? They haven't seen the place, just a few buildings. For all they know, there are slums and starving people even here. I realize that expecting them to look beyond the surface of what they're seeing is a lot to ask, but after getting it rubbed in their face that all's not well in paradise, they should start thinking about this sort of thing.

They go back inside but keep talking. She says his father met her on the train right before she left.

“Really? Well, he likes you and your sister. I think he wishes he had a daughter instead of a houseful of boys.”

And yet, Katniss nearly dies of starvation and keeps going on about how hungry and desperate her family still is. He doesn't seem to have done much to help. For that matter, there's no lack of poor orphan kids if he wants a daughter. They can obviously afford to feed an extra kid easily, since again, these assholes were keeping a pig.

The idea that I might ever have been discussed, around the dinner table, at the bakery fire, just in passing in Peeta’s house gives me a start. It must have been when the mother was out of the room.

Knock it the fuck off, book.

“He knew your mother when they were kids,” says Peeta.
Another surprise. But probably true. “Oh, yes. She grew up in town,” I say.


The more this comes up the less sense it makes. The district at large is terribly impoverished, how is the town managing to stay separate from the rest of the people? How can there enough of an economy to support so many of them they can all stay in their own bubble?

In fact, I'm pretty sure there have been references to people from the Seam not being able to afford things from the town class people at all, so how on earth does the economy work at all? The coal miners should be the only place money flows into the district. You can't have the baker and butcher keeping each other afloat by buying each other's wares. I guess there are the peacekeeper forces, but that can't support an entire town's worth of people, unless most of the town is the peacekeepers.

Anyway, when Katniss goes back to her room, the redhead girl is cleaning up.

I want to apologize for possibly getting her in trouble earlier. But I remember I’m not supposed to speak to her unless I’m giving her an order.

So?

This is really getting kind of frustrating. It's not just that Katniss is going along with what she's supposed to do, but she doesn't even seem to admit that it's a choice she's making.

I’d set out to tell her I was sorry about dinner. But I know that my apology runs much deeper. That I’m ashamed I never tried to help her in the woods. That I let the Capitol kill the boy and mutilate her without lifting a finger.

And so, she doesn't apologize at all.

The shivering hasn’t stopped. Perhaps the girl doesn’t even remember me. But I know she does. You don’t forget the face of the person who was your last hope. I pull the covers up over my head as if this will protect me from the redheaded girl who can’t speak. But I can feel her eyes staring at me, piercing through walls and doors and bedding.
I wonder if she’ll enjoy watching me die.


STOP MAKING IT ALL ABOUT YOU, KATNISS.

It's actually really amazing how much portrayal changes the actual event. I'm sympathetic toward characters beating themselves up over stuff that they really didn't have much choice in. The bit earlier where Katniss is talking about how she should have known and acted to save the pair was good. But Katniss instead comes off like she's looking for pity - it's so hard on her to feel bad about this. She does sound guilty, but it's all so focused on her feelings and not the actual person who suffered.

For example, a good reason to not apologize is to worry it'd just get the girl in more trouble. Katniss feeling paralyzed because she doesn't want to make things worse and she just doesn't know what to do is far more sympathetic than Katniss not saying anything because she doesn't want to go against the Capital's rules in even the smallest of ways, or possibly, since this sequence mirrors the bit about never saying thanks to Peeta, not saying anything because she's just not sure what to say. And Katniss being unable to sleep because she can't stop thinking about how horrible she feels over letting this happen to the girl is sympathetic, while being unable to sleep because she can't stop imagining the girl's glaring at her isn't.

The only time focusing on how much the other person hates you works is if you're in a situation completely beyond your control, and part of what's wrong with the situation is the other person is told you could have done something. Then the tragedy is that this person (understandably) hates you when they're a perfectly decent person, and how awful it is to be hated (by someone who's not a bad person) for something you wish didn't happen too, and how the government/world is terrible to set things up so this happens. That, too, is sympathetic. It hurts to be hated by people you sympathize with.

Katniss doesn't sound like that. She just sounds selfish.

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April 2011

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