Gathering Blue

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Thomas the Carver Character Analysis

Kira’s friend, and another orphaned artist who works for the Council of Guardians, Thomas is a talented wood carver who spends his days repairing the Singer’s staff. Like Kira, Thomas is a compassionate person, though on many occasions, especially around Matt and Jo, his compassion seems far weaker than Kira’s, perhaps because he’s lived in the Council Edifice for longer. Also like Kira, Thomas derives much inspiration from a symbol of his artistic freedom—in his case, a carving he made as a child. Unlike Kira, however, Thomas feels like his long time in service to the Council has cost him the natural talent he had as a child. While he’s more reluctant to disobey the Council than Kira, Thomas agrees to help her take care of Matt, Jo, and Christopher.

Thomas the Carver Quotes in Gathering Blue

The Gathering Blue quotes below are all either spoken by Thomas the Carver or refer to Thomas the Carver. 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

When he read the word hollyhock aloud with his finger on the word, she saw that it was long, with many lines like tall stems. She turned her eyes away quickly so that she would not learn it, would not be guilty of something clearly forbidden to her. But it made her smile, to see it, to see how the pen formed the shapes and the shapes told a story of a name.

Related Characters: Kira (speaker), Thomas the Carver
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Kira watches as Thomas the Carver reads from a book. Kira, as a woman, hasn't been allowed to learn how to read--her community forbids women from educating themselves in any meaningful way. Although Kira can't understand the words she's looking at, she gets pleasure from the pictorial quality of the letters--the fact that certain words and letters look like the things they're describing.

The fact that Kira hasn't been allowed to learn how to read--something we weren't aware of until this moment--reinforces the repressive, sexist nature of her community. Women, because they're physically weaker, are considered less important than men--they can't hunt, so they're certainly not worth educating. And yet Kira's ability to partially grasp the meaning of language, even if she doesn't understand the specific words, shows that her intelligence and creativity are stronger than the restrictions the community has placed on her existence.

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"It's a lovely thing," he said, seeing the small cloth. Kira stroked it before she closed the lid.
"It speaks to me somehow," she told him. "It seems almost to have life." She smiled, embarrassed, because she knew it was an odd thing and that he would not understand and could perhaps find her foolish.
But Thomas nodded. "Yes," he said to her surprise. "I have a piece of wood that does the same. One I carved long ago, when I was just a tyke.
"And sometimes I feel it in my fingers still, the knowledge that I had then.” He turned to leave.
That you had then? No more? The knowledge doesn't stay? Kira was dismayed at the thought but she said nothing to her friend.

Related Characters: Kira (speaker), Thomas the Carver (speaker)
Related Symbols: Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Kira and Thomas compare their prized possessions--Kira has a cloth; Thomas has a piece of wood. Both possessions seem to serve (or have served) a similar purpose: they inspire the owner's creativity, in a way that's impossible to put into words. Thomas and Kira know that their possessions help them think creatively and intuitively, yet they could never teach their creative process to someone else--it's a mystery even to them.

It's important to notice that Thomas is speaking about his piece of wood in the past tense: he once had a strong creative streak, but his time working for the Guardians has restricted this creativity. The passage foreshadows Kira's realization that the Guardians control artists by limiting their creativity: if Kira spends enough time with Guardians, then her cloth will stop speaking to her, too. The passage also suggests that young people in particular have a natural creative tendency, which often vanishes when they get older (although there are many exceptions, of course).

Chapter 15 Quotes

“So we are each artists, and we were each orphaned, and they brought us each here.”

Related Characters: Kira (speaker), Thomas the Carver, Jo
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Kira begins to see that the Guardians aren't as trustworthy as they've seemed. Kira is an orphan, brought to live with the Guardians shortly after her mother's death. The same is true of Jo and Thomas: their parents were mysteriously killed, after which they came to make art for the Ruin Ceremony. Kira realizes the truth: the Guardians are probably responsible for their parents' deaths. Recognizing that art is extremely important to the community, the Guardians have killed villagers in order to control their children.

Kira's realization suggests that art—far from being useless, as she'd previously been taught—is of the utmost importance to the village, and to the Guardians' power. Indeed, art is so important that the Guardians are willing to murder innocent people just to be able to control it. Kira won't fully grasp the importance of art to the Guardians until the book's final chapter.

Chapter 16 Quotes

As Kira prepared for bed, she thought about the frightened, lonely tyke below. What songs were they forcing her to learn? Why was she here at all? Ordinarily an orphaned tyke would be turned over to another family. It was the same question that she and Thomas had discussed the day before. And the answer seemed to be the conclusion they had reached: they were artists, the three of them. Makers of song, of wood, of threaded patterns. Because they were artists, they had some value that she could not comprehend. Because of that value, the three of them were here, well fed, well housed, and nurtured.

Related Characters: Kira (speaker), Thomas the Carver, Jo
Page Number: 170-171
Explanation and Analysis:

Kira has discovered that there's a small child living in the Guardians' building: Jo. Like Kira and Thomas, Jo is a talented artist--her singing will be featured at the annual Ruin Ceremony, alongside Kira's weaving and Thomas's woodcutting. Strangely, thinking about Jo's situation--locked away in a strange building--makes Kira more aware of her own. She and Jo are no different: they've both been ripped away from their old homes and "imprisoned" in the Council Edifice. Although Kira is allowed to leave the building at any time, she's only offered such freedom because the Guardians are confident that she'll come back every time: she's too frightened of beasts, and too addicted to nice clothes and warm baths to run off. Jo, a younger and less complacent child, might run away without warning; as a result, she has to be locked up. Kira realizes that she, Jo, and Thomas are being imprisoned because of their artistic abilities--her task is now to find out what use the Guardians have for them.

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."

Chapter 23 Quotes

The three of them — the new little Singer who would one day take the chained Singer's place; Thomas the Carver, who with his meticulous tools wrote the history of the world; and she herself, the one who colored that history — they were the artists who could create the future.

Related Characters: Kira, Thomas the Carver, Jo
Related Symbols: The Robe, Staff, and Ruin Song, The Singer’s Chain
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important quotation, Kira first begins to realize how powerful she, Thomas, and Jo are. Because they have artistic talent, they've been tasked with performing and depicting the history of the world. Indeed, the Ruin Ceremony--the cloak, the staff, the song, etc.--is itself a history of human civilization, which Kira and her friends are tasked with polishing year after year.

Kira begins to realize how powerful she is: she has the ability to tell a story of the future, rather than merely rehashing the past. As long as Kira obeys the guardians and simply repairs the Singer's robe year after year, she's sending a message to the people of the village that nothing is ever going to change. But if she were to change the robe to depict a better potential future, then Kira could send a different message to her audience of villagers.

The guardians with their stern faces had no creative power. But they had strength and cunning, and they had found a way to steal and harness other people's powers for their own needs. They were forcing the children to describe the future they wanted, not the one that could be.

Related Characters: Kira, Thomas the Carver, Jo
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Kira comes to realize how the guardians use art and performance to control their society. Kira, along with her friends Thomas and Jo, are inadvertently using their gifts to tell a story about society: a story in which there is no progress; just continuous death and destruction. By telling this story at the Ruin Ceremony, year after year, Kira and her fellow artists contribute to the culture of the village--in other words, they're helping reinforce the idea that the universe is dark and dangerous, and it's every man for himself. The guardians want to maintain this worldview, because it allows them to control society, knowing that the villagers are too competitive, disorganized, and afraid to revolt. Throughout the novel, Kira has been told that her gifts are both useful and useless. Here, at the novel's end, she finally realizes why art is so important: it creates attitudes and mindsets. By upholding the wrong status quo with her art, Kira accidentally keeps evil people in power.

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Thomas the Carver Character Timeline in Gathering Blue

The timeline below shows where the character Thomas the Carver 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
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...still young, judging by his three-syllable name, and he wears a wooden ornament carved by Thomas the Carver, a boy whose talents are highly coveted by the few who can afford... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...Kira if she’s a captive, a suggestion that Jamison quickly denies. Jamison tells Kira that Thomas, the boy who carved Jamison’s ornament, lives nearby in the building. With these words, he... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...walks out He addresses her as Kira the Threader, and Kira realizes that he is Thomas the Carver. He shows her around his quarters; they’re identical to her own, except that... (full context)
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Thomas explains to Kira that there are no rules among the council: the two of them... (full context)
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Jamison enters Kira’s quarters after Kira and Thomas eat lunch together. He asks Kira if she’s slept well and eaten all her lunch.... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...There are a few spots of blue, but they’re so faded that they’re almost white. Thomas knocks on her door, and Kira shows him the robe and tells him about her... (full context)
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Thomas, who can read and write, offers to write down the names of the plants and... (full context)
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...area. Jamison tells her she’ll be provided with all of these things. Kira learns from Thomas that he’s given any kind of wood he asks for. One morning, Thomas tells Kira... (full context)
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When Kira asks Thomas what his work for the guardians involves, he explains that he re-carves the Singer’s staff... (full context)
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...job. Her hands are tired, but when she takes her cloth out of the box Thomas gave her, she feels calm. When Kira goes to visit Thomas in his quarters, he... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Kira and Thomas run through the crowd to stop Matt. Kira has very little experience in the world... (full context)
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...at two syllables for many years, and takes the spear away from him. Matt shows Thomas and Kira that he’s covered his body in swamp grass so that he looks like... (full context)
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...to explain how her cloth warned her about Matt, but finds it difficult to explain. Thomas suggests that the cloth speaks to Kira and Kira alone, but shows her the piece... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Later, when Kira is eating with Thomas, she asks him if he’s ever seen a beast. Thomas points out that the hunters... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The morning after her conversation with Thomas, Kira wakes up, conscious that something—she’s not sure what—has changed. It’s raining that day. Lately,... (full context)
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Thomas enters Kira’s room, and tells Kira that Matt and Branch have come to the Edifice—Matt’s... (full context)
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...if he’s ever seen a real beast, and Matt tells her that he’s seen billions. Thomas suggests that the three of them investigate the source of the noise. Matt is very... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Matt, Branch, Kira, and Thomas are investigating the floor of the Edifice beneath the one on which Kira and Thomas.... (full context)
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...child is a friend of his, Jo, who lived in the Fen. Kira, Matt, and Thomas decide to return to Kira’s room and talk there. (full context)
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Later in the day, Jamison comes to Kira’s room. By this time, Thomas has returned to work and Matt has left the Edifice. Jamison examines Kira’s progress, and... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...and prepares for her daily walk to Annabella’s cottage. Before she leaves, she notices that Thomas’s door is closed. He must be sleeping, she assumes. (full context)
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...go to the Edifice and ask Jamison about Annabella. She tells Matt to wake up Thomas, and mentions that Jamison wears one of Thomas’s carvings. Matt shouts out that he saw... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...the day after Kira learned of Annabella’s death. She is standing in her quarters with Thomas, looking out her window at the workers who are building a dyeing-place for her. The... (full context)
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As Kira and Thomas stare down from the window, Kira tells Thomas that she needs to tell him something.... (full context)
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Thomas realizes that the three of them—Kira, Thomas, and Jo—are “artists.” Thomas has seen this word... (full context)
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Thomas doesn’t know what to make of Kira’s theory of artistic knowledge. He shrugs and tells... (full context)
Chapter 16
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In the evening after her conversation with Thomas, Kira goes to Thomas’s room and stares down from the window at the village. She... (full context)
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Thomas and Kira wait until night falls. Without knowing exactly why, Kira tells Thomas to bring... (full context)
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Thomas and Kira quietly walk to the Jo’s room on the lower floor. Kira’s cloth tells... (full context)
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Jo tells Kira and Thomas that the guardians make her learn new songs, and then she sighs like a much... (full context)
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Kira and Thomas leave Jo, and Jo tells them that she feels better knowing that she has friends.... (full context)
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Thomas and Kira return to their quarters. Alone in her room, Kira thinks about Jo, forced... (full context)
Chapter 17
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It is midday, the day after Thomas and Kira unlocked Jo’s door. Kira has just finished eating lunch with Thomas in his... (full context)
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Kira asks Thomas to go to the Fen with her. Thomas is at first skeptical, since he finds... (full context)
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Kira and Thomas walk through the village toward the Fen. As they walk, they ask women and workers... (full context)
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Thomas asks a group of boys if they’ve seen Matt. The group tells him that Matt’s... (full context)
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As they reach the Fen, Kira and Thomas notice various details of the place. There is a disgusting-smelling river, a mass of cotts,... (full context)
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As they walk through the Fen, Thomas and Kira hear a voice asking them what they want. Kira locates the voice from... (full context)
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Kira and Thomas reach the cott with the fallen tree outside. They knock on the door of the... (full context)
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As Thomas and Kira turn to walk away from Matt’s cott, a tyke, Matt’s brother, runs out... (full context)
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Kira and Thomas walks back to the Edifice and talk about what they’ve learned. Kira tells Thomas that... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...for it: the 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... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Kira goes to Thomas’s room and asks him where the staff is. He tells her that the guardians took... (full context)
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...She also notices three empty chairs on the other side of the hall; she and Thomas bow before the cross, and then sit in two of these chairs. As she sits... (full context)
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...He then presents the Council of Guardians, and the crowd nods in respect. He presents Thomas the “Carver of the future,” and then Kira, the “designer of the future.” Finally, he... (full context)
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...his staff and wearing his robe, which is bright and colorful because of Kira’s work. Thomas mutters to Kira that he hears a noise: the clank of dragging metal. Neither of... (full context)
Chapter 20
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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... (full context)
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...of the Song, as Kira thinks of it, is soothing and peaceful. As she listens, Thomas points her to a side aisle; Kira looks, and gradually makes out a small human... (full context)
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...the Singer stops singing so that everyone can eat lunch and relax. As Kira and Thomas eat with Jo in Kira’s room, Matt rushes in, followed by Branch. Matt announces that... (full context)
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When it is time for the Ruin Song to begin again, Kira and Thomas leave Matt and Branch in Thomas’s room and walk back to the hall. The Singer... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...ends with the Singer and Jo waving and bowing before the audience. Afterwards, Kira and Thomas walk back to their quarters. After what she’s seen, Kira is afraid and sad. Before... (full context)
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Kira doesn’t introduce herself, but she offers the stranger a meal. Thomas says that he’ll call for food. The stranger asks who’s there, and Thomas introduces himself... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...on the robe for them. It’s also possible, Kira realizes, that they killed Jo and Thomas’s parents to gain control of other artists, as well. (full context)
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...will not miss the squalor or violence of her old life, but she will miss Thomas, Matt, and Jo. As she thinks of Jo, she remembers what she saw at the... (full context)
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Kira realizes how the guardians maintain their power. By controlling artists—Kira, Thomas, and Jo—the guardians, who have no creativity themselves, can commission and control a vision of... (full context)
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...Christopher back to his home. Later that same night, Kira meets Matt, Branch, Christopher, and Thomas at the edge of the village. Christopher is surprised with Kira’s decision to say behind,... (full context)
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...robe she must begin to weave. She senses that the future is in her hands. Thomas gives Christopher a pack of food to last him the length of his journey, and... (full context)