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Introduction

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins

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Movie

Author

Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins

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About the Book

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have just returned home after being the first ever dual victors of the Hunger Games, an annual event in which 24 children between the ages of 12-18 fight to the death in an arena created by the Capitol of their country, Panem. They became dual victors by threatening to eat poisonous berries at the same time when they were the only two remaining, which would have left no victor of the games.

The story picks up with Katniss and Peeta residing in the Victor’s Village with their families where all winners of the Hunger Games go to live when they return home. The only other resident of this village is Haymitch Abernathy, the winner of the 50th Hunger Games and mentor to Katniss and Peeta. The first task that must be completed upon winning the games is a Victory Tour to each of the 12 districts in their country, Panem, and the Capitol. In anticipation of this tour, the president of the country, Coriolanus Snow, comes to Katniss’s home in District 12.

He informs her the show of affection her and Peeta put on during the games must continue in order convince residents of the country they acted on love, not rebellion. If they are unable to convince the country and President Snow himself, there will be dire consequences. The first stop on the Victor’s Tour is District 11. Upon making a speech about her fellow competitor in the games, Rue, an outpouring of affection is shown to Katniss.

Subsequently, a man is shot and killed proving to Katniss how sensitive the situation actually is. Once they arrive in the Capitol, Peeta publicly proposes to Katniss in an effort to convince the President that their love is real and keep the country from thinking it was a ploy to win the games. Despite their attempts to prove it was not rebellion, President Snow lets Katniss know the efforts were not substantial enough to convince him. This leads her to believe herself and her family are in danger. She also has an encounter with the head game maker of the 75th Hunger Games, Plutarch Heavensbee, which has her quite confused. He flashes her a watch with a Mockingjay on it and says “It starts at Midnight.”.

Upon returning home to District 12 after the tour, Katniss comes upon two women who are on the run from District 8. The women inform her they are running to District 13, which is known to have been completely destroyed years earlier. They also present her with bread that resembles the Mockingjay pin she wore in the games. Though she does not believe District 13 exists, she helps the women by giving them food and clothing. It is now time for the 75th Hunger Games to be announced. Every 25th game is what is known as a Quarter Quell.

The Quarter Quell always houses a change in the rules to celebrate the landmark, for example, the 50th games had twice as many competitors as normal. The twist to the Quarter Quell this time around is all competitors will be previous victors. Because Katniss knows Peeta will not let Haymitch compete and she is the only female victor in District 12, she will be competing against Peeta. She instantly pledges she will do whatever it takes to save Peeta, even though she knows that will ultimately result in her death.

Peeta and Katniss now head to the Capitol for training. It is a much different scene then the first time around. They get a chance to meet their fellow tributes at this time. Haymitch tells Katniss and Peeta their best shot is to form an alliance with other victors. Katniss decides she wants to team up with the reputable Finnick Odair who comes with Mags, his eighty year old mentor, Beetee and Wiress from District 3 who are incredibly smart, however lacking in social skills and Johanna Mason a feisty victor from District 7.

The evening of pre-game interviews arrives. Peeta announces at the interviews that he and Katniss are already married and are expecting a child, which of course is a lie in a last attempt to get others to save her.

The time for the games has now arrived. When the competitors rise into the arena, it is revealed it consists of mainly water. Katniss instantly goes to the weapon pile and retrieves a bow and arrows. Katniss and her crew now head for the forest to try to figure out the arena. While exploring, Peeta walks directly into an electric force field surrounding the arena and is essentially killed, only to be revived by Finnick via CPR.

A series of events leads the group to figure out how the arena is arranged. First it is a crippling fog, followed by a hoard of vicious monkeys attacking them, a horrendous lightning strike to an unnatural tree, and jabberjays imitating screaming from loved ones of the tributes. This leads them to figure out the arena is designed as a clock. Each awful occurrence happens for one hour right after each other moving clockwise around the arena.

The group now devises a plan to try to eliminate the other tributes by running a wire Beetee retrieved from the weapons pile beginning at the tree that gets struck by lightning to the water electrocuting anyone who is on the beach at the time the lightning strikes. It is Johanna and Katniss’s job to run the wire from the tree to the water. While doing this, Johanna strikes Katniss in the head with a piece of metal knocking her out.

Right before she is knocked out, she hears Peeta yell for her and she knows they have been betrayed by their alliance. When Katniss wakes up, she realizes Beetee was attempting to blow up the force field around the arena with the tree and the wire. She then takes the wire, ties it around her arrow, and shoots a flaw she sees in the force field at the same time the lightning strikes the tree, blowing up the force field.

Katniss wakes up on a hover craft whose passengers include Beetee, Haymitch, Plutarch and Gale. She confronts Haymitch about what is going on and he informs her there was a plan to get them out of the arena as soon as the Quarter Quell was announced. She also learns the capital has picked up Peeta and Johanna. Gale then informs her that there is no longer a District 12, that the Capitol destroyed their home.

About the Author

Since 1991, Suzanne Collins has been busy writing for children’s television. She has worked on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows, including the Emmy-nominated hit Clarissa Explains it All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. For preschool viewers, she penned multiple stories for the Emmy-nominated Little Bear and Oswald. She also co-wrote the critically acclaimed Rankin/Bass Christmas special, Santa, Baby! Most recently she was the Head Writer for Scholastic Entertainment’s Clifford’s Puppy Days,and a freelancer on Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!

While working on a Kids WB show called Generation O! she met children’s author James Proimos, who talked her into giving children’s books a try.

Thinking one day about Alice in Wonderland, she was struck by how pastoral the setting must seem to kids who, like her own, lived in urban surroundings. In New York City, you’re much more likely to fall down a manhole than a rabbit hole and, if you do, you’re not going to find a tea party. What you might find...? Well, that’s the story of Gregor the Overlander, the first book in her five-part fantasy/war series, The Underland Chronicles.

Her next series, The Hunger Games Trilogy, is an international bestseller.

At present, Suzanne is at work on a picture book with James Proimos.

She currently lives in Connecticut with her family and a pair of feral kittens they adopted from their backyard.

Discussion Questions

  1. How did Katniss’s participation in the Games change her relationship with Gale? Why does she say, “The Games have spoiled even that…There’s no going back.”
  2. What emotions does Peeta stir in Katniss? Though she is stiff and formal with him, what are her true feelings? How did the events in the first Games affect their relationship?
  3. Why does President Snow come to Katniss’s home? What does he mean when he says, “you have provided a spark which left unattended may grow into an inferno....” What, exactly, was the significance of the handful of poisonous berries at the end of The Hunger Games?
  4. How do the events of the Victory Tour affect Katniss and Peeta, their relationship to each other, and their feelings about their future?
  5. Why does the Capitol devise a special reaping procedure for every 25th Game? Do you believe the requirements for this Quarter Quell were decided in the past or were they designed for this Game to force Katniss and Peeta back to the Arena?
  6. What is the significance of the mockingjay image? What does it mean to the people in the Districts and the people in the Capitol? Why does Plutarch Heavensbee show Katniss the hidden mockingjay image on his watch? Discuss how the mockingjay species developed and how Katniss happened to wear the pin during the first Games.
  7. Why does Gale refuse Katniss’s offer to try to escape into the wild? What does he mean when he says, “It can’t be about just saving us anymore”? How does Gale’s whipping change Katniss’s thinking about escape and her feelings for Gale?
  8. What makes Katniss say, “No wonder I won the Games. No decent person ever does.” Is she being too hard on herself? What makes her realize that fighting the Capitol is more important than running away? What is the importance of her meeting with Bonnie and Twill in the forest?
  9. Why does the Capitol push plans for the wedding of Katniss and Peeta if they know that they will be returning to the Games in the Quarter Quell? What does the Capitol hope to gain by sending previous victors back to the Games? Is it really, as Katniss says, a way to show “that hope was an illusion”?
  10. What do Katniss and Peeta learn when they watch the video of Haymitch’s Hunger Games, the 2nd Quarter Quell? How does it affect their understanding of Haymitch and the mockingjay symbol? How did Haymitch trick the Capitol?
  11. How do both Peeta and Katniss mock the Gamemakers during the “talent show” portion of the training? Why do they each take the chance of offending those who will control the Games? How does this change their feelings for each other?
  12. Discuss the effect on Katniss of what happens to Darius and Cinna. Why are the Capitol officials attacking those who have befriended her? Why is Cinna attacked just before Katniss is placed in the Arena?
  13. Why is Katniss determined to keep Peeta alive during the Games, even at the expense of her own life? When does she realize the importance of forming alliances with the other tributes? Why does Finnick save Peeta’s life? When does Katniss realize that her first impression of Finnick was wrong?
  14. Describe the relationship between Katniss and Johanna. What made Katniss realize that Wiress and Beetee would be helpful allies in the Arena? What important contribution does each one of the allies make to keep the group alive? What is the role of the unseen “sponsors”?
  15. What is more harmful to the players in this Game—the physical traumas like the fog and rain of fire, or the emotional trauma of hearing the jabberjays?
  16. What does Haymitch mean when he tells Katniss before the Game begin, “You just remember who the enemy is—that’s all.” Who is the enemy? Have the other tributes been trying to keep Peeta or Katniss alive? Which of them is most important to the rebellion?
  17. Why were Katniss and Peeta not aware of the plans for the rebellion? Why were they kept in the dark when other tributes knew about it?
  18. What is the meaning of the title? How many different ways can you identify the theme of “catching fire” in this volume?

Comparing The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

  1. Discuss the differences between the Games in the first volume and the second—the training sessions, the interviews, the set-up of the Arena, the strategies that Katniss and Peeta use. How is each of them changed by the time they spend in the Arena?
  2. What are the forces that contribute to the rebellion in Catching Fire? Were they already starting to happen in The Hunger Games? What clues can you find in the books about the rebellion?
  3. Why are all citizens of Panem required to watch the Hunger Games on television? How does this affect the people? Why haven’t they rebelled earlier against the brutality of the Games? Discuss the effect of television and reality TV in your own life.
  4. What are your predictions for the third volume in the series?
  5. Compare the society in Panem (the government, its tight control on the population, and the growing rebellion) to others that you have studied or encountered in books or films. Consider historical and contemporary nations as well as fictional worlds. What does Panem have in common with these cultures, and how does it differ? What can we learn about our own world from studying and reading about historical and fictional societies?

(Scholastic, Inc., the publisher, has provided two sets of questions—one set for Catching Fire and the second set compares Catching Fire to The Hunger Games.)