Welcome back to my discussion of The Hunger Game’s structure. Last post I very briefly touched on the opening.
In retrospect, I didn’t spend much time on it because of all the things I studied in trying to learn structure, the inciting event and openings were never hard for me to grasp. I have started reading more stories than I have finished, surely, as well as the ones I have written (though my start/finish ratio lately is much, much better).
The first quarter of the book can be divided into two parts. In all honesty, there aren’t many surprises in the first part of the book. I would say that most most of the “secrets” in Part 1 are given away on the back cover, the book description, or even a friend telling a prospective reader about the book. After all, the premise makes it clear: Katniss is going into the arena.
In fact, there aren’t many story questions other than “Will Katniss survive?”. And though we are far away from the arena and that danger (especially considering the measures taken to make sure the players can’t hurt themselves before the Games), we still care because of a few tricks that Ms. Collins is using on us.
First, the flashbacks we get, while “normal” for Katniss, show just how much her survival has always been on the line. By looking backwards, we are looking ahead. And through very subtle means, we get some character development.
The first time I read through THG, I remember feeling like the word-space between her being chosen and her going into the games was long, but on second read through it flew and I have a better understanding of why it’s necessary.
Part 1’s first half is building to get her to stand up for her sister. The second half of Part 1 is a series of quiet moments on the train, in stark contrast to the Reaping. It’s no coincidence that after she steps on the train we get more flashbacks and backstory.
One of my favorite moments of this section is one of the conversations between Peeta, Katniss, and their mentor Haymitch. Up until this point, we get a very neutral view of Katniss’s skills. She talks about hunting to survive, but she never brags.
So Peeta does it for her. He mentions she always kills animals through the eyes, she’s a sharpshooter.
Which changes everything I understood about Katniss before that moment. The difference between being able to stick an arrow somewhere, anywhere, on an animal’s body, and being able to aim true in one shot to get an eye… There’s no comparison. Katniss hasn’t lied to us, but she’s not selling herself either.
THG is building up to the first plot point throughout this 2/8 section. Katniss is observing and judging her opponents and the people she encounters. Through this section, survival is hard on her mind, she’s filtering her experiences in the Capitol through the lens of “I’m about to die.” She makes some meager attempts to make plans, but nothing serious, not yet. It’s too early in the story for any real plans or things she can do, but she puts little things into place. Kissing Peeta on the cheek. Making a deal with Haymitch. Trusting her stylist. She’ll be reaping the consequences of those actions in the next section and beyond.
Next up: The First Plot Point!