The book opens on Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist, waking up on the day of The Reaping. She gets dressed to go hunting for the day. As she is getting ready the narrator introduces us to Katniss’ family who consist of her mother and Primrose, her younger sister who she describes as beautiful, gentle and sweet. As she is walking to the woods, Katniss is reflecting on the area where her family lives called the Seam, which is part of District 12. This district is primarily home to poor coal miners. District 12 is located in the country of Panem and is one of 12 Districts ruled by the Capitol. They live at the edge of the district, which is enclosed by an electric fence that only works every once in a while. Katniss often crawls under the fence to enter the woods to hunt to feed her family. Hunting outside the district is illegal but most turn a blind eye to it and even buy the extra meat that she has since most people in the district do not have enough food.
She reflects on how her father taught her these skills before he died in a mine explosion when she was eleven and prides herself on how well she has learned to use her bow. Katniss offers more information about her family and remembers how her mother came from a family of merchants that ran an apothecary shop but fell in love with Katniss’ father and left her life to live in the Seam.
After her father died her mother fell into a deep depression and became blank and unreadable, which Katniss resents. In the woods, she meets up with her hunting partner and long-time friend Gale who jokingly calls her Catnip. They stop to have a meal and discuss the Hunger Games and The Reaping. Gale suggests running away together and living in the woods, but Katniss dismisses this since they both are the main providers for their families. Katniss mentions that she never wants to have children of her own. We find out that Katniss finds Gale attractive but they are not romantically involved. They catch some fish and then go to the district’s market called the Hob to trade for bread and salt. They then drop by the mayor’s house to sell strawberries and talk to the mayor’s daughter Madge about the reaping.
It is explained that once citizens reach the age of twelve their name is put into the pool for The Reaping. Each year an additional entry is put for them until the age of eighteen when they are no longer eligible. However if you are living in poverty, you can get a year’s supply of grain and oil, called a “tesserae,” by adding your name into the pool another time. Poor people often need tesserae to survive, so the poor have their names entered numerous times. Katniss recalls that she now has her name entered twenty times so that she could provide for her family. Gale points out the inequality of the system and is quite angered by it.
Katniss returns home to get ready for The Reaping. She watches as her younger sister Prim gets ready for her first Reaping and feels powerless to protect her. She is relieved that Prim, being only twelve, has only had her name put in once. The family eats dinner and heads to the square where there are banners and cameras everywhere. The Reaping is televised nationally and is treated like a festive event but there is still a somber air in the crowd. The mayor gives a speech that provides the history of the Hunger Games and we learn that due to many natural disasters, a place called North America was essentially dissolved and Panem rose from the ashes. The country of Panem used to have thirteen districts but the Dark Days came and the districts rose up against the Capitol. Twelve of the districts were defeated and the thirteenth was destroyed. To bring peace, the Treaty of Treason was established which included the Hunger Games as a reminder of the Dark Days. We find out that the Hunger Games are a punishment for the districts where a lottery is held each year and a boy and a girl from each district is chosen to be a tribute. These tributes, all teenagers between the ages of twelve and eighteen must fight to the death in a large outdoor arena. The last standing tribute wins the Games and the tribute’s district gets extra food.
The mayor reads out a list of the past victors, of whom there are only a few from District 12 and only one still alive. We are introduced to Haymitch Abernathy, a middle aged drunk who stumbles on stage and tries to hug Effie Trinket. Effie is a public figure from the Capitol who acts as an escort to the District t 12 tributes. She is also in charge of choosing the names of the tributes out of the hat. She pulls out the first name and announces that the female tribute from District 12 is Primrose Everdeen, Katniss’ younger sister.
This chapter introduces the readers to Katniss, the story’s narrator and protagonist and the world in which she lives. We learn that the book is set in the future, and that the countries of North America have dissolved into Panem, a totalitarian society with twelve districts. Katniss explains her family history and how she has learned to hunt to keep them alive in a place where many starve after her father’s death. We are introduced to her best friend Gale and her family while learning about the extreme poverty they live in. The readers learn that the Hunger Games is a cruel punishment from the Capitol and a reminder to each of the districts that rebellion will not be tolerated. The history of Panem’s civil war and the rebellion from the districts is explained and the inequality of the rich and the poor are talked about when the characters are discussing the tesserae.