Katniss Everdeen, 16, wakes up surprised to be alone in her bed. Her sister, Prim, has crawled into bed with their mother. They live in a part of District 12 known as the Seam. It’s very early, and on a normal day Kat would see coal miners heading for the mine. But today is the Reaping, so everyone is still asleep, so Kat goes hunting. She has to crawl under the fence (that’s supposed to be electrified) to get outside of town to hunt. Once outside of the fence, she gets the bow and arrow her father made her, before he was killed in the mines, and heads for the woods. Going into the woods is illegal, as is hunting and owning weapons, but since the town officials like the meat too, they ignore the rule.
District 12 is one of twelve districts in a country called Panem (formerly North America), ruled by the Capital. Kat hates the control the Capital has, but if she said them allowed she would be severally punished. She especially hates today, Reaping Day, and the Hunger Games. Her best friend, Gale, hates it even more than she does, but he only complains in the woods with Kat. He is the one who taught Kat how to hunt. Gale meets her with a fresh loaf of bread, and Kat pulls out some cheese that Prim left for her (Prim makes cheese with the milk from her goat).
Kat’s mother worked in an apothecary, since hardly anyone in District 12 can afford doctors. Her parents met that way-her father would collect medicinal herbs in the woods and sell them to her mother. Being an apothecaries meant her mother came from a richer class, so Kat tries to remember that means her mother truly loved her father to move to the Seam. Kat nearly hates her mother because after her father died, her mother disappeared into herself and Prim and Kat nearly starved.
As Kat and Gale eat, he tells her they could just run off and survive in the woods. Kat is shocked, but Gale quickly says “if we didn’t have so many kids”-meaning Gale’s four siblings and Prim, plus their mothers. Kat and Gale’s families would starve without their hunting-both for the meat and the trade it provides. Kat says she never wants kids, and Gale says he would if he didn’t live in District 12. Kat thinks Gale would have no trouble finding a wife, all the girls stare at him. She’s jealous in a different way-Gale is her hunting partner. They decide to fish for dinner tonight, to celebrate. Everyone does, except for two families whose children have been reaped. They catch fish, pick strawberries and head to the Hob (black market) to trade. The strawberries go to the mayor, who loves them especially. His daughter Madge is Kat’s age. She wishes them good luck in the Reaping. At age 12, each child must put their name in to be drawn, and if they aren’t chosen that year, their name is added twice when they’re 13, three times when they’re 14, and so on until 18, the last year they can be drawn. You can put your name in extra times (once for each member of your family, called tesserae) because doing so will gain you extra food, but that means the poor are more likely to be chosen. This means Kat’s name is entered 20 times this year, and Gale, who’s 18, has 42. Kat and Gale split what’s left of their hunting spoils, and Kat heads home. Her mother and Prim are ready when she gets home, so she bathes and gets dressed quickly. Everyone wears their finest cloths, and Prim is wearing Kat’s first reaping outfit even though it’s too big for her. Kat’s mother lets her wear one of her old apothecary dresses, and does her hair. Kat feels bad for Prim since this is her first reaping, and wishes she could protect her-but this is the one thing she can’t protect her from. But Prim is only entered once, so she should be fine.
They head to the square for the reaping and the children are herded off, divided by sex, the lines up by age (oldest in the front). One boy and one girl will be chosen as tributes. The reaping begins, and the mayor reads the history of Panem-the droughts and devastation and war, followed by the peace brought by the Capital to the nation, then the rebellion and eventual destruction of District 13. Which is why the Hunger Games exists: to remind the remaining districts how foolish it would be to revolt, and to display the Capital’s power over them. The Hunger Games pit each tribute against each other in the wild-a fight to the death. The last one standing wins. The winner receives enormous amounts of food and treats (even sugar) for their district. Each year the Capital sends an official to conduct the Reaping, Effie Trinket. She begins her speech: “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!” and draws the first name: Primrose Everdeen.
“District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety,’ I mutter.”
“I protect Prim in every way I can, but I’m powerless against the reaping. The anguish I always feel when she’s in pain wells up in my chest and threatens to register on my face.”
“Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. ‘Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there’s nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen.”
Why do some districts treat the Reaping and the Hunger Games as a day of celebration?
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