Gathering Blue

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The Singer Character Analysis

An artist whose sole responsibility is to sing the day-long Ruin Song before the entire village at the annual Gathering. The Singer is highly respected in the village, though he lives a hard life, studying the Ruin Song throughout the year. As Kira discovers, the Singer is literally a prisoner of the Council of Guardians: he wears a heavy chain on his leg, and leaves a trail of blood wherever he walks. He wears a robe (repaired by Kira) and carries a staff (carved by Thomas), both of which represent the Ruin Song in pictorial form.

The Singer Quotes in Gathering Blue

The Gathering Blue quotes below are all either spoken by The Singer or refer to The Singer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin edition of Gathering Blue published in 2012.
Chapter 9 Quotes

The Singer's robe contained only a few tiny spots of ancient blue, faded almost to white. After her supper, after the oil lamps had been lit, Kira examined it carefully. She lay her threads — the ones from her own small collection and the many others that Annabella had given to her — on the large table, knowing she would have to match the hues carefully in daylight before she began the repairs. It was then that she noticed — with relief because she would not know how to repair it; and with disappointment because the color of sky would have been such a beautiful addition to the pattern — that there was no real blue any more, only a hint that there once had been.

Related Characters: Kira, The Singer
Related Symbols: Blue, The Robe, Staff, and Ruin Song
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

In this symbolic scene, Kira studies the Singer's robe and realizes that it's almost entirely missing the color blue. Traditionally, the color blue has been associated with mercy, love, and intimacy. Thus, for the Singer's robe to be missing blue is a sign of a broader problem in the society that's based around the Ruin Ceremony: it's missing compassion. Based on everything we've seen in the village, Kira's world is cruel, brutish, and competitive; it's rare that one person will help another person out.

The passage also suggests that there was blue in the Singer's robe--in a symbolic sense, one could say that there used to be compassion in the world. From the reader's perspective, most of the behavior that goes on in Kira's world is barbaric, and her society seems dystopian. By craving the color blue (and the emotions that go with it), Kira seems to be yearning for contact with an earlier time, and also for contact with us, the readers.

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Chapter 17 Quotes

"Why must there be such a horrible place?" Kira whispered to Thomas. "Why do people have to live like this?" "It's how it is," he replied, frowning. "It's always been."
A sudden vision slid into Kira's mind. The robe. The robe told how it had always been; and what Thomas had said was not true. There had been times — oh, such long ago times — when people's lives had been golden and green. Why could there not be such times again? She began to say it to him.
"Thomas," she suggested, "you and I? We're the ones who will fill in the blank places. Maybe we can make it different."

Related Characters: Kira (speaker), Thomas the Carver, The Singer
Page Number: 177-178
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Kira talks with Thomas about the Fen—a place that seems similar, but even worse than Kira's home village. Kira is well-aware of the horrors of life in her village: infants are murdered, children are beaten, the sick are left to die, etc. She asks Thomas why these things continue to happen, and Thomas offers the conventional wisdom: "that's just the way it is."

In effect, Thomas is saying that the force of routine (and, in a broader sense, tradition and history) keeps the villagers (and the people of the Fen) passive and complacent. They have no model for how life could be, other than the way it is now; thus, they continue hurting one another, unsure of any other kind of culture. Kira, on the other hand, thinks that she can use her artistry to make the village and Fen a better place: by exposing the people to happiness, peace, and cooperation, she can prove that life need not be harsh and cruel--in short, that constant pain is not necessarily "the way it is."

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The Singer Character Timeline in Gathering Blue

The timeline below shows where the character The Singer appears in Gathering Blue. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...in fact, Katrina was responsible for coloring the threads used to decorate the robe that the Singer wore when he performed his Ruin Song. As a small child, Kira watched with fascination... (full context)
Chapter 5
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...wasn’t there before lunch. The chief guardian tells the guard to open the box, revealing the Singer ’s robe. Everyone, including Kira and Vandara, leans forward to get a closer look at... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...tells her that Kira will stay in the village and continue her mother’s work, repairing the Singer ’s robe—he points to a large undecorated patch of fabric on the back of the... (full context)
Chapter 6
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...shows her that she has access to drawers of threads and other supplies for repairing the Singer ’s robe, which is kept in another drawer in her quarters. (full context)
Chapter 9
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...Kira asks Thomas what his work for the guardians involves, he explains that he re-carves the Singer ’s staff in the areas where it’s been worn down. The Singer uses his staff... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
As she works, Kira examines the Singer ’s robe more closely. It tells a long, complicated history. One part of the robe... (full context)
Chapter 16
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...Jo: although she can come and go as she pleases, she’s forced to work on the Singer ’s robe. As she realizes this, Kira realizes that she is losing all interest in... (full context)
Chapter 17
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...a walk outside. As she suggests this, she notices that Thomas has been working on the Singer ’s staff. Much like the robe, the staff has intricate carvings, but also an empty... (full context)
Chapter 18
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...weaving shed has been closed, people are quieter, and some even bathe. Thomas is polishing the Singer ’s staff with thick oils. Matt has not returned from his quest to find blue,... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...shouldn’t be expected to listen to all of the Song. He tells Kira about how the Singer prepares for his performances: he begins studying the Ruin Song when he’s a tyke, and... (full context)
Chapter 19
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
The chief guardian then presents the Singer , who enters, holdings his staff and wearing his robe, which is bright and colorful... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
The Singer stands in the center of the hall, and the scraping sound stops. He holds out... (full context)
Chapter 20
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
It has been several hours since the Gathering ceremony began. Thomas and Kira listen to the Singer perform the Ruin Song while Jo sleeps. Kira listens to the Song, and is surprised... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
The Singer moves through a quiet portion of the Song, which corresponds to a green section of... (full context)
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
It is midday, and the Singer stops singing so that everyone can eat lunch and relax. As Kira and Thomas eat... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...and Thomas leave Matt and Branch in Thomas’s room and walk back to the hall. The Singer enters with his staff and robe, and the village applauds him. Kira notices that his... (full context)
Chapter 21
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
The Gathering ends with the Singer and Jo waving and bowing before the audience. Afterwards, Kira and Thomas walk back to... (full context)
Chapter 23
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...Jo. As she thinks of Jo, she remembers what she saw at the Gathering. When the Singer finished his performance, he lifted his robe slightly, and Kira saw his feet, which were... (full context)