Gathering Blue

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin edition of Gathering Blue published in 2012.
Chapter 1 Quotes

She felt a small shudder of fear. Fear was always a part of life for the people. Because of fear, they made shelter and found food and grew things. For the same reason, weapons were stored, waiting. There was fear of cold, of sickness and hunger. There was fear of beasts. And fear propelled her now as she stood, leaning on her stick. She looked down a last time at the lifeless body that had once contained her mother, and considered where to go.

Related Characters: Kira
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

As the quotation makes very clear, Kira lives in a society where the dominant emotion is fear. In the village where Kira has spent her entire life, the weak are dispassionately dragged to a field to die, and the dead aren't given a burial of any kind. In general, "survival of the fittest" seems to be the only rule. There's no mention of cooperation or collaboration between people--everyone seems to be looking out for him or herself, and no one else.

Although Kira seems to dislike the constant fear of her society, she has no choice but to be afraid herself. Kira is crippled (the passage mentions her "stick"), which means that she's in danger of being regarded as weak and useless. Even more keenly than other people in her village, then, Kira feels afraid of being left to die.

This horrifying rite—of watching her mother's body decay—is also an important step towards Kira growing up. As in many of Lowry's works, Kira as protagonist must suffer a lot of pain, but also be transformed by pain to become a mature young heroine.


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"Of course not. Your strong hands and wise head make up for the crippled leg. You are a sturdy and reliable helper in the weaving shed; all the women who work there say so. And one bent leg is of no importance when measured against your cleverness. The stories you tell to the tykes, the pictures you create with words — and with thread! The threading you do! It is unlike any threading the people have ever seen. Far beyond anything I could do!"

Related Characters: Katrina (speaker), Kira
Page Number: 6-7
Explanation and Analysis:

In this flashback, Kira remembers something her mother, Katrina, told her before her untimely death. Katrina, rather than criticize Kira for her physical weakness and crippled leg, praised her daughter for her intelligence and creativity. Most of all, Katrina encouraged Kira to weave thread--an activity for which Kira showed notable aptitude.

Katrina's behavior toward her daughter shows that in spite of the atmosphere of fear and competition in Kira's world, there are good, kind people who are willing to help others instead of fight with them. Katrina's gentle, encouraging treatment of her daughter might seem perfectly natural to readers, but Lowry makes it clear that in Kira's village, it's not the norm at all: even mothers usually don't treat their own children as kindly as Katrina does. The flashback is also important in that it shows us where Kira gets her aptitude for weaving--a talent that, in the harsh, competitive village, might appear "useless."

Chapter 2 Quotes

Nodding in agreement, the women turned their backs on Kira and moved away, scolding and kicking at the small tykes by their sides. The sun was low in the sky now. They would attend to their evening tasks, preparing for the return of the village men, who would need food and fire and the wrapping of wounds. One woman was soon to give birth; perhaps that would happen tonight, and the others would attend her, muffling her cries and assessing the value of the infant. Others would be coupling tonight, creating new people, new hunters for the future of the village as the old ones died of wounds and illness and age.

Related Characters: Kira
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Lowry describes how the village works--in other words, how a community of harsh, ruthless people could possibly survive for more than one generation.

Many of the activities described in this quotation are brutal and callous. The women help each other give birth, but there's no sign that they show any love or affection for newborns--on the contrary, their job is to dispassionately "assess" babies. And although the people of the community have sex, there seems to be little to no romance between them--the purpose of sex is to breed children, nothing else.

Yet as Lowry makes clear, the people of the village aren't entirely self-interested. Although the majority of the characters we've met so far seem selfish and small-minded, the people of the village recognize that it's important to work together for the good of their community as a whole. They dress the wounds of the hunters, so that everyone can have food to eat. Notably, it appears to be women who are most concerned with taking care of other people--even if they seem harsh, they're still gentler than their male counterparts.

Kira had always had a clever way with her hands. When she was still a tyke, her mother had taught her to use a needle, to pull it through woven fabric and create a pattern with colored threads. But suddenly, recently, the skill had become more than simple cleverness. In one astounding burst of creativity, her ability had gone far beyond her mother's teaching. Nov/, without instruction or practice, without hesitancy, her fingers felt the way to twist and weave and stitch the special threads together to create designs rich and explosive with color. She did not understand how the knowledge had come to her. But it was there, in her fingertips, and now they trembled slightly with eagerness to start. If only she was allowed to stay.

Related Characters: Kira, Katrina
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Lowry vividly describes the nature of Kira's creativity. Kira is a fantastic weaver: she instinctively knows how to manipulate thread to make beautiful, elaborate patterns. The key word here is "instinctive"--although Lira has had her fair share of training, thanks to Katrina, even she doesn't really know how she does it--her talent for weaving is like a magical power, beyond the limits of human comprehension.

It's interesting to note that Kira almost seems more concerned with continuing to weave than with continuing to live in the village at all; put another way, she only cares about her life insofar as she's allowed to continue pursuing her passion of weaving.

Chapter 3 Quotes

"Take pride in your pain," her mother had always told her. "You are stronger than those who have none."

Related Characters: Kira, Katrina
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Kira remembers an important lesson her mother taught her: take pride in pain.

Again and again, Lowry will show us how Kira uses her pain as a learning tool. Kira encounters sadness, pain, and fear during the course of the novel, but she never allows her emotions to paralyze her. Instead, she uses her pain to become more calm and confident in the future. In this scene, for example, Kira doesn't allow her fear of appearing before the village Council intimidate her--instead, she embraces her fear, and prepares to appear before the Council.

Kira's philosophy of pain is also important because it shows why the philosophy of the village, "survival of the fittest," is ultimately wrong. While the majority of the villagers think that people who have endured a great deal of pain have nothing more to contribute to society, Kira knows better: people who've survived their pain have the invaluable gifts of wisdom and knowledge.

Chapter 4 Quotes

Now, secret in her hand, the cloth seemed to speak a silent, pulsing message to Kira. It told her there was danger still. But it told her also that she was to be saved.

Related Characters: Kira
Related Symbols: Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Kira clutches one of her prized possessions--a tiny piece of cloth. When Kira is feeling anxious or uncertain, she touches her cloth, and usually feels better. In this situation, Kira is preparing to listen to the Guardians' verdict about whether or not she'll be allowed to remain in the community.

Kira's cloth is an important symbol of the way her mind works. Unlike most of the people in the community, Kira is thoughtful and has an "inner life"--she has ambitions, sympathies, anxieties, etc. (It's hard to imagine Vandara, for example, thinking deep thoughts.) Kira's thoughtfulness and introspection seem closely tied to her talents as an artist. Many artists say that they have an "intuition" for creation--without knowing why, they're able to make artistic choices that lead them to create beautiful music, art, literature, etc. Kira's cloth, then, makes the artistic process something more literal and even fantastical. Kira doesn't know why her cloth is right, but she trusts it--in other words, Kira's cloth works in the same way as her creative intuition.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Matt heard him and looked up toward Kira in dismay. "No. Me and Branch, we be going now," he said. Then with an expression of concern, he asked, "You don't be captive here, do you?" "No, she's not a captive," Jamison reassured Matt. "Why would you think that?

Related Characters: Matt (speaker), Jamison (speaker)
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Matt--Kira's young, boastful friend--visits Kira in her new home among the Guardians. Although Kira's home is beautiful and luxurious, Matt is suspicious that Kira is a prisoner, a suggestion that Jamison immediately rebuts.

Although Matt's comment seems childish and objectively wrong, there's actually something very perceptive about it. Matt seems to sense that Kira is now under the close control of the Guardians--although she has a nice home, and is even allowed to leave it when she wants, she's being forced to work for the Guardians, repairing the Singer's robe for the Ruin Ceremony. Matt's question foreshadows Kira's realization at the end of the novel: she really is a prisoner to the Guardians--year after year, she'll be forced to work for them to ensure that the all-important Ruin Ceremony goes off without a hitch. Kira lives in the nicest prison cell ever built--but she's still a prisoner.

Chapter 7 Quotes

"This is the entire story of our world. We must keep it intact. More than intact."
She saw that his hand had moved and was stroking the wide unadorned section of fabric, the section of the cloth that fell across the Singer's shoulders.
"The future will be told here," he said. "Our world depends upon the telling.”

Related Characters: Jamison (speaker), Kira
Related Symbols: The Robe, Staff, and Ruin Song
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jamison shows Kira the robe that she'll be working on all year. The Robe is designed to depict the history of the world: an endless process in which civilizations rise out of nothing, become powerful, and then die out once again. Jamison tells Kira that she'll have the job of depicting the future of the world, embroidering a vision of the future on the Singer's Robe.

Although Kira doesn't yet realize how sinister Jamison's plan is, she recognizes that the Singer's Robe is a teaching tool for the entire community, and she also realizes that as a talented artist, she has a lot of power over the community. Every single person in the village attends the Ruin Ceremony--there, they study the Singer's Robe, staff, and song in order to learn about the world. Because the Ruin Ceremony is the villagers' only source of information about the broader external world, the content of the ceremony (what the Robe depicts, for example) is crucial--the villagers can be compelled to do or believe almost anything based on what they see at the ceremony.

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.

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.

"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 10 Quotes

Kira had not been much in the world of men. They led very separate lives from those of women. She had never envied them. Now, as she found herself jostled by their thick, sweat-smelling bodies, as she heard their muttered angry comments and their shouts, she found herself both frightened and annoyed. But she realized that this was hunt behavior, a time for flaunting and boasting, a time for testing each other. No wonder Matt, with his childish swagger, wanted to be part of it.

Related Characters: Kira
Page Number: 111-112
Explanation and Analysis:

Kira lives in a society with rigorously enforced gender roles. Women are forced to care for children, gather fruits and berries, and weave; men, on the other hand, are sent out to hunt for food in the forest. As Kira witnesses a hunt for the first time in her life, she begins to see the problem with her community as a whole. Kira's village is led entirely by men: the all-male Guardians run the village's government, and men have the prestigious job of obtaining food. In the men themselves, this society encourages stereotypical "masculine" traits like aggressiveness, competition, and violence. Furthermore, the masculinity of Kira's community is so pervasive that it gets passed down from generation to generation: here, for instance, Kira that Matt is being trained to think of adulthood as a pattern of violent, argumentative behavior.

Chapter 11 Quotes

Annabella laughed. "There be no beasts," she said.

Related Characters: Annabella (speaker)
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Annabella tells Kira a surprising truth about her community. Like everyone else she knows, Kira has been brought up to believe that the village is surrounded by dangerous beasts. The existence of these beasts requires that everyone live in fear, compete with one another for limited food and shelter, and depend on the protection of the Guardians to survive.

Lowry suggests that the constant sense of fear in Kira's village is just an illusion--Kira and her neighbors have nothing to be afraid of. So although Kira doesn't yet realize it, the nonexistence of the beasts tells us a lot about how the Guardians maintain power over their people. By creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, the Guardians ensure that the villagers remain weak, disorganized, and above all, dependent on the Guardians' authority.

The fabric gave a kind of answer but it was no more than a flutter, like a breeze across her that she would not remember when she woke at dawn. The scrap told her something of her father — something important, something that mattered — but the knowledge entered her sleep, trembling through like a dream, and in the morning she did not know that it was there at all.

Related Characters: Kira, Christopher
Related Symbols: Kira’s Cloth / Thomas’s Carving
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the novel, Kira's creativity and intuition fail her. She's been told that the "beasts" that supposedly surround her village are just myths, and she's beginning to distrust Jamison and the other Guardians who rule her village. And yet Kira isn't sure what the future holds. Basically, she's beginning to doubt the reality of her community, but she doesn't know what to put in its place.

Because Kira's cloth is a symbol of artistic creativity and intuition, the quotation suggests that Kira, in spite of her obvious talent, isn't a full artist yet. Previously, Kira's creative instinct has helped her decide how to interact with the Guardians; now, however, she's clueless. By the time the novel is over, Kira will have discovered a way to use art to tell the truth, exposing the Guardians' lies to the villagers. For the time being, though, she'll have to wait for artistic inspiration to hit her.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Ruin. Rebuilding. Ruin again. Regrowth. Kira followed the scenes with her hand as larger and greater cities appeared and larger, greater destruction took place. The cycle was so regular that its pattern took on a clear form: an up-and-down movement, wavelike. From the tiny corner where it began, where the first ruin came, it enlarged upon itself. The fires grew as the villages grew. All of them were still tiny, created from the smallest stitches and combinations of stitches, but she could see their pattern of growth and how each time the ruin was worse and the rebuilding more difficult.
But the sections of serenity were exquisite. Miniature flowers of countless hues flourished in meadows streaked with golden-threaded sunlight. Human figures embraced. The pattern of the peaceful times felt immensely tranquil compared to the tortured chaos of the others.
Tracing with her finger the white and pink-tinged clouds against pale skies of gray or green, Kira wished again for blue. The color of calm.

Related Characters: Kira
Related Symbols: The Robe, Staff, and Ruin Song
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Kira studies the Singer's Robe and grasps the vast story of history that it's designed to tell. The Robe is covered with cyclical patterns, in which a civilization arises, grows, and then is consumed with fire. If there is an overall arc to history, it's that life is getting harder and harder--rebuilding gets more difficult with every ruin.

Although Kira doesn't fully grasp the implications of the Robe's version of history, she already disagrees with it. Where the designers of the Robe in years past have painted history as a story of death and destruction, Kira--a naturally compassionate person--sees history differently. She focuses on the happy moments in the lifespan of a civilization--the points when communities took care of one another instead of competing or fighting. One could say that the Robe was designed to inspire Kira's village's attitude toward life: the village thinks that life is a constant process of fighting and avoiding danger, so it makes sense that the Robe, which teaches the people of the village, would see history in identical terms. Kira, by contrast, sees life as an opportunity for cooperation and even love--thus, she disagrees with the story the Robe is telling.

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.

Kira did too. She wanted her hands to be free of the robe so that they could make patterns of their own again. Suddenly she wished that she could leave this place, despite its comforts, and return to the life she had known. She buried her face in the bedclothes and for the first time cried in despair.

Related Characters: Kira (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Robe, Staff, and Ruin Song
Page Number: 171-172
Explanation and Analysis:

As Kira spends more time repairing the Singer's robe (and as she investigates the Guardians' deceptions more thoroughly), she becomes increasingly reluctant to cooperate with the Guardians' authority. She enjoys the opportunity to weave, but she resents the fact that she's being ordered what to weave--being forced to work efficiently but not creatively.

In effect, Kira cries during this scene because she realizes that she values artistic freedom more highly than material luxury. The Guardians offer her a fancy lifestyle to ensure that she'll cooperate with their artistic aims. But Kira knows from talking to Thomas that a lifetime spent working on the robe will destroy her innate creativity--like Thomas, she'll lose her "spark" of inspiration, her most precious possession. Overcome with fear of losing her creativity to the Guardians' commands, Kira begins to plan an escape.

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 20 Quotes

"Them be all broken, them people. But there be plenty of food. And it's quiet-like, and nice."
"What do you mean, broken?"
He gestured toward her twisted leg. "Like you. Some don't walk good. Some be broken in other ways. Not all. But lots. Do you think it makes them quiet and nice, to be broken?"
Puzzled by his description, Kira didn't answer. Pain makes you strong, her mother had told her. She had not said quiet, or nice.
"Anyways," Matt went on, "them got blue, for certain sure."

Related Characters: Matt (speaker), Kira
Related Symbols: Blue
Page Number: 210-211
Explanation and Analysis:

Kira reunites with Matt, who's been traveling to a far-away community. Matt describes the community he's just visited: it's peaceful, kind, and "nice." Furthermore, everyone in the community is wounded or disabled in some way: people have broken legs, are blind, etc.

In a way, Matt's report reiterates everything we already knew about pain and kindness, based on Kira's behavior. Kira has spent her life without full control of her legs. Largely as a result, she's grown into a kind, gentle person who doesn't bully others for their weaknesses. So although Kira finds the link between pain and compassion a little surprising, we don't--it's no coincidence that Kira is both the most compassionate character in the novel and the only disabled one. Lowry reinforces the connection between compassion, pain, and Kira in this passage by then alluding to the color blue--both Kira's favorite color and an important symbol of compassion. Blue is missing from the village, the Guardians, and the Singer's robe, just as compassion is—but according to Matt, blue is plentiful among this community of the disabled.

Chapter 21 Quotes

"Kira," he said, but he did not need to tell her now, because she knew, "my name is Christopher. I'm your father."
In shock, she stared at him. She watched his ruined eyes, and saw that they were able, still, to weep.

Related Characters: Kira, Christopher
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Kira reunites with her father, Christopher, whom she can barely remember. Christopher (who was driven out of the village by his rival, Jamison) has spent the last decade living in the community of invalids--a place where compassion is celebrated instead of condemned.

The scene is interesting because there's no way for Kira to know, to a certainty, that the blind man standing before her is her father. And yet Lowry makes it clear that Kira and Christopher are related: she shows that they're kindred spirits, linked by their disability and their compassion. The fact that Christopher's eyes, though ruined, are able to weep suggests that he's a gentle, compassionate person in spite of (or because of) his physical weakness--just as Kira is a more gentle, compassionate person because of her lame leg.

Chapter 22 Quotes

“We have gardens. Houses. Families. But it is much quieter than this village. There is no arguing. People share what they have, and help each other. Babies rarely cry. Children are cherished."
Kira looked at the stone pendant that rested against his blue shirt. She touched her own matching one.
"Do you have a family there?" she asked hesitantly.
"The whole village is like a family to me, Kira," he replied.

Related Characters: Kira (speaker), Christopher (speaker)
Related Symbols: Blue
Page Number: 228-229
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Kira reunites with her father, Christopher. Christopher has spent many years living in a faraway community that--it's pretty clear--is altogether unlike Kira's. While Kira's community is barbaric and cruel, Christopher's is compassionate, and everyone looks out for everyone else. Christopher describes how babies are cherished instead of neglected and tortured (as they are in Kira's village). One could say that Christopher's new community believes in the principle of compassion--everyone should love and help each other--while Kira's community believes in the principle of "survival of the fittest."

The presence of the color blue in this scene is another important sign of Christopher's compassion. Just as the color blue (symbolically, the emotion of compassion) is almost entirely missing in Kira's community, it's overflowing in Christopher's new home.

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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