Catching Fire Essay Questions

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Catching Fire (Collins)

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Discussion Questions
(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.)

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?

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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?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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1. How do Katniss’s feelings toward the Capitol and Haymitch change over the course of the novel?

Though she doesn’t like the Capitol by any means, Katniss is not committed to bringing about its fall at the start of the novel. Her main concern is keeping her family safe, and she tries to keep her promise to President Snow that she’ll work to convince the public she’s in love with Peeta. As the Capitol begins to target her and her loved ones more directly, her attitude quickly changes from trying not to anger the Capitol to wanting to punish it. The change is most evident by looking at Katniss’s feelings before and after Gale is whipped. Before the whipping, she wants her family and friends to try to run away. She has no interest in attacking the Capitol and just wants them to avoid it. After Gale’s whipping, however, she no longer wants to flee. She determines to stay and cause as much trouble as she can. Her resolve is only strengthened when she thinks of how the Capitol might go after her family. She realizes then how much suffering the Capitol has already inflicted on them and decides she can’t stand by without acting any longer.

Katniss’s feelings toward Haymitch take much longer to shift, but when they do the change is very abrupt. For much of the novel Katniss confides in Haymitch, believing he’s one of the few people she can fully trust. She even comes to feel a sense of kinship with him after seeing the tape of his Games and realizing he won in a way that still defied the Capitol’s control, much like she did. But when she finds out at the end of the novel that he’s been withholding information about the rebellion from her, even lying to her at times, and that he’s essentially been using her and Peeta, she feels deeply betrayed. The sense of trust she felt switches immediately to distrust, and she’s so angry she goes so far as to physically attack him.

2. Why does Peeta lie about he and Katniss being married and Katniss being pregnant during the tributes’ interview with Caesar Flickerman, and why is the lie effective?

Peeta’s lie is the safest and most effective means he has to publicly attack the Capitol. He knows he can’t openly denounce the Hunger Games and the Capitol without risking punishment, and he’s also aware that the Capitol wouldn’t hesitate to harm his family. Moreover, anything he does that undermines the Capitol’s control could be extremely dangerous, because that also risks him or his family being hurt. Instead, Peeta finds a clever way to use his and Katniss’s popularity as a weapon and makes it clear that the Capitol is the party in control. The audience is distraught thinking that either Peeta or Katniss will have to die in the Quarter Quell, and it has nowhere to turn its anger but toward the Capitol.

The reason the lie is so effective is because it plays into things the audience cares about and reminds them that it’s the Capitol that’s to blame. If Peeta began shouting about how hard life is in the districts, it’s not likely the audience would respond. As we see throughout the novel, people in the Capitol are mostly interested in the tributes as entertainment. Peeta understands this unfortunate fact, so he creates an imaginary storyline he knows the audience won’t like and will find incredibly unjust. What Peeta is counting on is that the audience recognizes that the Capitol controls the Quarter Quell. Rather than fight against the Capitol’s control, he emphasizes it so that the audience recognizes that the Capitol created this very unpopular situation.

3. Why is the mockingjay an appropriate symbol for Katniss and the rebellion?

The Capitol’s main objective is to control everyone and everything in Panem. But as Katniss explains, the mockingjay was a creature that the Capitol never intended to exist, and thus it represents a lapse of control by the Capitol. Notably, the bird came about after the jabberjays, which the Capitol created to use against the rebels, actually backfired and became a tool that the rebels were able to use against the Capitol. The Capitol tried to destroy the jabberjays, but they had already started breeding with wild mockingbirds, creating mockingjays. As a result, the mockingjay is a reminder to the Capitol of its failing against the rebels and is a physical embodiment of the fact that the Capitol can’t control everything, making it a perfect symbol for the rebellion.

It’s also a perfect symbol for Katniss herself. Katniss’s significance to the rebel movement is something that, like the mockingjay, the Capitol never intended to exist, and it became about because their own weapon, the Hunger Games, backfired against them. The point of the Games is to remind the districts that the Capitol has complete control over them. But in the Games, Katniss was able to take back control by threatening suicide. It was suddenly her who was making the decisions, not the Capitol. The Games showed that a single girl could defy the Capitol, and they consequently turned her into a symbol for the rebellion. She essentially became the modern-day version of the mockingjay, reminding the Capitol that it couldn’t control everything.

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