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As far as I can tell, neither the books or the film make this particular scene very clear. I will describe the scene from the film's retelling because that is currently fresh in my mind.

Katniss returns to the lightning tree after Johanna has unceremoniously ripped the implant out of her arm and then lead the Careers away from her. She finds Peeta has vanished and sees Beetee's body fly back from an explosion at the edge of the Arena. Beetee was holding a stick with a piece of metal at the end and tied up with his precious wire that leads back to the tree.

My intial assumption is that Beetee tried to somehow interfere with the forcefield using this stick. However, his character is clever enough to have previously gained a comprehensive understanding of force fields, as is demonstrated during the training sessions and his interest in hanging on to the long coil of wire and attaching it to the lightning tree. He also recently witnessed another tribute die due touching the forcefield whilst he was with Johanna and so must understand how dangerous it is to interact with the force field. He therefore must have known that (a) he would get harmed by touching the forcefield and (b) the force field would not be destroyed unless the stick was currently conducting lightning, which it was not. Any misunderstanding of the force field is betraying his character.

Was there something in the books that later on explained Beetee's point of view? Did I miss something out of the scene? Or are we simply restricted to the scene as Katniss witnessed it?

  • Did my answer solve this well enough, or were you hoping for something more before awarding an acceptance? :-) – Rand al'Thor Nov 26 '15 at 12:39
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Beetee was planning to do exactly what Katniss ended up doing: conduct the electricity from the lightning into the forcefield to blow up the arena.

He had wrapped one end of the wire from the tree around the metal blade of a knife, which he had planned to use to touch the forcefield as the lightning struck, destroying the arena and allowing the rebels from District 13 to rescue the tributes. You describe it as a "stick with a piece of metal on the end"; I don't recall the stick, but it makes sense because wood doesn't conduct electricity. Thus Beetee would be able to touch the forcefield with just the metal part of what he was holding, at just the right moment, so that the forcefield would be destroyed but he himself would not be electrocuted.

From the book (emphasis mine):

This is when I notice he's holding a knife, one Peeta was carrying earlier, I think, which is wrapped loosely in wire.

Perplexed, I stand and lift the wire, confirming it's attached back at the tree. [...]

I squint hard up the hill and realize we're only a few paces from the force field. There's the telltale square, high up and to my right, just as it was this morning. What did Beetee do? Did he actually try to drive the knife into the force field the way Peeta did by accident? And what's the deal with the wire? Was this his backup plan? If electrifying the water failed, did he mean to send the lightning bolt's energy into the force field? What would that do, anyway? Nothing? A great deal? Fry us all? The force field must mostly be energy, too, I guess. The one in the Training Center was invisible. This one seems to somehow mirror the jungle. But I've seen it falter when Peeta's knife struck it and when my arrows hit. The real world lies right behind it.

As things turned out, he failed - probably by touching the forcefield too early and being thrown back by its power (the electric shock wouldn't have reached him, but the physical shockwave certainly would). Katniss found him lying helpless on the ground. Fortunately she was clever enough, by looking at the stick and knife Beetee was holding and by remembering Haymitch's advice "Remember who the enemy is", to understand what Beetee had been planning to do and to put his plan into action herself, only with an arrow instead of a knife.

Again from the book (emphasis mine):

I finally see Beetee's knife with clear eyes. My shaking hands slide the wire from the hilt, wind it around the arrow just above the feathers, and secure it with a knot picked up in training.

I rise, turning to the force field, fully revealing myself but no longer caring. Only caring about where I should direct my tip, where Beetee would have driven the knife if he'd been able to choose. My bow tilts up at the wavering square, the flaw, the ... what did he call it that day? The chink in the armor. I let the arrow fly, see it hit its mark and vanish, pulling the thread of gold behind it.

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