The Capitol is not happy with Katniss and Peeta for their show of defiance at the end of the Hunger Games. Uprisings are beginning in some of the Districts, and the Capitol blames this on their act of defiance, which they fear is inspiring other acts of defiance from the Districts. To punish Katniss and warn the people of Panem that defiance will not be tolerated, Katniss and Peeta are again thrown into the Hunger Games, where all of the surviving winners of past games are pitted against one another.
Catching Fire, however, is about more than just the survival of Katniss and Peeta.
Where Catching Fire really adds to The Hunger Games is the shift from this more narrow focus to the broader themes raised by the political situation in Panem; fighting against oppressive governments and bringing hope to the people. In Catching Fire we see the subtle shift in the population – when people stop accepting and start questioning. The government is trying to maintain control of an angry population who have discovered that there’s hope for a better life, as represented by Katniss and her individual act of defiance.
Katniss herself is just as strong and independent a character as she was in The Hunger Games, something I think is hard to come by in YA novels, especially for female characters. The teen angst surrounding her love triangle is still present and is a little teenage for my tastes, but it is a YA novel after all. Nonetheless, Katniss has grown from her experiences in the past. She is more grown up, more cynical and more realistic about the world in which she lives and her role in it. She is strong female character, willing to fight for what she believes in and those that she loves.
Without knowing it, in her final act in the Hunger Games Katniss has come to represent to the people of Panem that spirit of rebelliousness they all feel inside them. In Catching Fire, Katniss becomes swept up in events bigger than herself and bigger even than the Hunger Games and in doing so she begins to question what she can do for the people of Panem.