Rereading The Hunger Games so closely, I really have to hand it to Collins. She brings across the sheer injustice, the unfairness of life in Panem, without ever overtly saying “this is unfair”. That is “show not tell”ing. Katniss’s ability to outsmart trouble in the Arena is behaviour that wins her admiration and praise from her Capitol watchers, but when she gets around the rule change suddenly it’s not so cute. Essentially what happens is that the Gamemakers position themselves as a threat within the confines of the Arena, and they don’t like it when they’re treated in the appropriate way (the way that they themselves have driven all these kids to react to such threats, no less).
What makes this twist stand out is that Katniss has all this time never entertained political thoughts. She’s overtly non-political, as we saw on the rooftop of the training centre. It’s not treated as a poke in the eye to the Capitol, but as a pure survival tactic, and that it proceeds to be punished so ruthlessly is what makes the world of Panem feel so horrendous. It’s a good evocation of a totalitarian world that really rules by terror, and in particular the kind of terror that relies on a network of arbitrary invisible rules, the least infringement of which will result in dire consequences for anyone even remotely connected.
I’d also say this is why so much other (recent) YA dystopian fic fails. They try to emulate the Hunger Games, but only the spectacle. All circus, no bread. It’s all about tests and competition-to-the-death, and no one else has managed to capture the fear that Collins evokes so well. No other YA revolution fic that I’ve read has managed to capture the sheer grubbiness of how Panem is won back, the fakery, the lies, the way Katniss is manipulated from beginning to end – and is punished even there for going off-script. God damn, what a good book series. Even with the later worldbuilding issues, it’s pretty fantastic.
Anyway, this is all far in the future. In Chapter 24 we’re still in the Arena, feeling vaguely bad for accidentally poisoning Foxface/Fuchsgesicht and being herded towards Cato…
Lunte riechen: to smell a rat (or literally, smell a fuse/match? I guess as though someone’s just lit a bomb fuse? Incidentally, die Lunte is also a fox brush, appropriate for talking of Foxface.)