Gathering Blue

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Blue Symbol Icon
As Kira becomes more familiar with the art of weaving, she comes to understand that different colors correspond to different emotions, and, conversely, that some feelings have a particular “color.” (This way of looking at color is called synesthesia). Yellow and orange are angry, hot colors (mostly because of their association with fire), while green and yellow are more peaceful (on the robe, they indicate eras of calm and happiness). Blue is almost entirely missing from the robe. Because the robe is an explicit symbol of the society of the village, this would suggest that blue symbolizes an emotion that is particularly lacking among the guardians and the villagers. This is exactly what Lowry intends: blue symbolizes love and compassion. Lowry implies this in various ways. Kira’s mother, Katrina, who’s one of the few compassionate people in the village, dies of sickness. While she’s alive, she sings a song about how blue never lasts. When Matt returns from Christopher’s new home, he says that the new community has blue everywhere, and makes it clear that this community’s most noticeable quality is the compassion of its citizens for one another. Thus, when Kira decides to stay in her village and decorate the robe with blue thread, she aims to pass on love and compassion from a community that has both emotions in abundance to one that barely knows them.

Blue Quotes in Gathering Blue

The Gathering Blue quotes below all refer to the symbol of Blue. 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 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 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.

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Blue Symbol Timeline in Gathering Blue

The timeline below shows where the symbol Blue 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
...remembers her mother complaining that she couldn’t find a plant that could produce the color blue. (full context)
Chapter 8
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...what Annabella has showed her, asks Annabella if she knows how to make the color blue. Annabella replies that blue can be made from a plant called woad. The weaver must... (full context)
Chapter 9
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
...Edifice, Kira examines the robe she is to repair. There are a few spots of blue, but they’re so faded that they’re almost white. Thomas knocks on her door, and Kira... (full context)
Chapter 12
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
...that even the skies, as they’re depicted on the robe, are gray or green, never blue. She longs for blue, the color of calm, and remembers Annabella telling her that there... (full context)
Chapter 17
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...tyke what Matt’s gift was to be. The tyke says that Matt was searching for blue. With this, the tyke’s mother calls him inside, and he runs away. (full context)
Chapter 18
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...the Singer’s staff with thick oils. Matt has not returned from his quest to find blue, even though he’s been gone for many days. Kira touches her cloth, hoping for consolation,... (full context)
Chapter 20
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
...him: a dirty square of cloth. Kira is excited to see that the cloth is blue. (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Matt explains how he found the blue cloth. After stealing food from his mother in preparation for his long journey, he followed... (full context)
Chapter 21
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Kira’s notices that the man’s shirt is blue, and wonders where he came from. Matt shouts that he brought the stranger from “yonder,”... (full context)
Chapter 22
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
...Then, he gradually began to remember a song Katrina used to sing, about how the blue sky always fades into night. Kira remembers this song, too. Christopher’s memory slowly returned about... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
...Matt arrived in Christopher’s new home, Christopher says, Matt said that he was looking for blue for his friend, a talented weaver. Based on this description, Christopher knew instantly that Matt... (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
...that small woad shoots survive after a storm and go on to produce the color blue. Kira senses that the woad she’s planted in the grass will survive. And, as she... (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...one two-syllable boy who he thinks Kira could marry, and adds that the boy has blue eyes. Kira smiles and shakes hear head. (full context)
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion  Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
...sight he’s become excellent with his hands. Earlier that night, he explains, he unraveled his blue shirt (the shirt he’s wearing at that moment is one that Matt stole for him).... (full context)