Life as We Knew It

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Life as We Knew It Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
June 2. At school Miranda learns that finals have been cancelled. They’ll be learning their final grades the next day and if they want to bring them up, they can talk to teachers about extra credit. Miranda worries about Sammi, who had been failing French and planning to bring her grade up with her final, but then realizes Sammi probably won’t care, because no one seems to. School will close on June 10, and reopen August 31st.
Miranda’s response to this news shows that her mental parameters have not yet totally shifted. She’s worried about Sammi’s French grade, without factoring in that both grades and foreign language skills are no longer valuable commodities in their current environment.
Themes
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
June 3. For lunch, the school serves each student a stale peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s common knowledge that the schools are closing early because they’ve run out of food. Miranda knows she shouldn’t complain, since due to her mother’s pantry stockpiles she’s eating better than most. She sits with Sammi, Megan, Dave, Brian, and Jenna. Everyone but Megan eats their sandwich quickly, but Megan nibbles at one half and then asks who wants the other. She selects Dave and gives it to him. Miranda is bothered by this exchange.
The value of school has completely shifted. It is no longer a place that provides education; it’s now a place that provides lunch. And once those food supplies are gone, it will cease to serve its purpose and be closed. Since food is such a valued commodity, Megan’s act of very public altruism is unsettling, and Miranda is suspicious of her motives.
Themes
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Faith  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
June 4. Miranda is pleased with all of her grades except for math—when she brings this up to Laura to ask if she should try for extra credit, Laura asks her “What’s the point?” This question leaves Miranda reeling. She seeks out Matt and asks him if their mom thinks they’re going to die. She wants him to laugh, but instead he’s silent for a long time and then says that she and he are both concerned. He elaborates that with the canned goods and garden, they aren’t worried about starving to death, but that they don’t expect things to be back to normal until the fall, give or take.  
The conversation about grades not mattering forces Miranda to realize just how much her mother’s priorities have shifted from achievement to survival. This realization shakes Miranda to the core, and, as always, she goes to Matt for both reassurance and honesty.
Themes
 Survival and Death  Theme Icon
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Faith  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
Miranda asks Matt not to treat her like a kid and explain what he and Laura are worried about. He shares that her current top concern is Jonny’s baseball camp. Laura wants Jonny to have a normal, childhood summer—plus, if he’s away at camp, she won’t need to feed him. Laura has already cut down on her meals, skipping breakfast and lunch unless Matt forces her to eat.
Matt’s candid response to Miranda’s questions is eye-opening. The fact that her mother would view Jonny’s camp as a way to preserve their supplies is telling, since without reliable phone or mail, sending Jonny to camp feels uncertain.
Themes
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
Get the entire Life as We Knew It LitChart as a printable PDF.
Life as we knew it.pdf.medium
Matt reassures Miranda that if things go back to normal then colleges will understand why she had a lower math grade this semester. When she presses him, he adds that if they don’t go back to normal, her grades will be irrelevant. He makes her promise not to tell Laura about their conversation, and not to start skipping meals because “We need you to be strong.” Miranda worries that she’s not strong or good enough—and wonders if she’d give up food for Jonny like Megan had at lunch the day before.
Miranda is constantly comparing her response to those of others. She recognizes that she’s not as religious or sacrificial as Megan—but this doesn’t bother her right now. At the same time, comparing herself against Matt or Laura makes Miranda feel inadequate and unworthy.
Themes
 Faith  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
June 5. Mrs. Nesbitt stops by with eggs that a former student had given her. Laura sautés them with potatoes and onions and they all share. Matt contributes a chocolate bar he found in his backpack. After supper they sing and Mrs. Nesbitt tells stories about when Laura was little. Miranda says it almost feels like happiness.
Miranda’s slide-scale for emotions is constantly being reevaluated. While this scene would not have been something she cherished at the beginning of the novel, it is now. And as things get worse, Miranda leans to appreciate smaller and smaller joys.
Themes
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
June 6. At school Megan again gives away the second half of her sandwich, this time to Sammi. Miranda is concerned, but when she questions Megan, Megan responds, “God sustains me. Food doesn’t.” They fight, as Miranda tries to convince Megan that she’s taking her religion to an extreme, and begs her to eat. Instead, Megan makes judgmental comments about Miranda’s need for divine forgiveness. The argument ends with Megan walking away to join her church friends.
Miranda and Megan’s fights never end with Miranda feeling satisfied, because she’s arguing from a place of logic (i.e.: you need food to survive) and Megan is responding from a place of religious fervor (i.e.: faith will sustain me). This fight foreshadows bigger arguments and the ways their beliefs will continue to diverge.
Themes
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Faith  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
June 7. Miranda dreams of her friend Becky who has passed away. In the dream, Becky is standing on the other side of a locked gate. She looks healthy again, and tells Miranda she’s in heaven. When Miranda asks to be let in, Becky laughs and says that she can’t. Miranda asks if Megan is keeping her out, and Becky says it’s because she’s not dead—and not good enough to be dead. Miranda wakes up shaken, as she remembers how desperate she’d felt to die so she could enter heaven.
Miranda’s fears about her worth—which she has been debating in the past few entries with regards to her willingness to sacrifice for others—here manifest in dreams about heaven. Her rejection from heaven exacerbates her feelings of inadequacy.
Themes
 Survival and Death  Theme Icon
 Faith  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
At school they’re wasting time; the teachers barely attempt lessons. School’s value comes from the rumors and news that spread among the students—today Miranda hears about a secret Dairy Queen that’s still operating, that electricity is gone forever, that solar power is being perfected, and that they’ll all be dead by Christmas. The other benefit of school is lunch—today Megan tears her sandwich in half and winks as she gives a piece to Sammi and Michael.
While most of the rumors being circulated are untrue, in a world where everyone is desperate for answers, Miranda finds comfort in hearing any news—false or not. Megan’s act of generosity with her sandwich is undercut by how she uses the moment to taunt Miranda.
Themes
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Faith  Theme Icon
June 8. Miranda has started to feel numb. She doesn’t want to know about what’s happening in other states or countries. She can’t bring herself to care about people outside her immediate sphere. She judges herself for this because she thinks everyone else in her life does care, but she’s reached her saturation point for fear. And she worries that her diary is going to be “a record of death.”
Miranda continues to chastise herself for her normal responses to this disaster. She’s reached a threshold where she can’t process more tragedy, yet feels acutely that she is flawed for shutting down emotionally.
Themes
 Survival and Death  Theme Icon
 Legacy  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
June 9. On the second to last day of school Miranda is given a flyer about a donation drive for people in New Jersey and New York. While Miranda likes the idea of helping people—the idea of people being worse off than she is—Laura tears up the flyer and vehemently states they won’t be donating. Miranda is shocked because her mother has always been very altruistic, but Laura insists they don’t know what they’ll need that winter if they can’t get heating oil. Miranda argues that things have to be back to normal by winter, but Laura doesn’t budge.
Whereas the day before Miranda had been worried about her own numbness, today she’s galvanized by the belief that she can do something to help others through the drive. Laura’s angry reaction makes it clear that Miranda isn’t the only one whose emotions have shifted, and it takes some of the pressure off Miranda, who was worried about everyone else being more selfless than her.
Themes
 Survival and Death  Theme Icon
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
Miranda seeks out Matt to ask about heating oil. She learns that they haven’t been able to get any, and they expect to run out by fall if the reserves aren’t restored. The fuel companies have all stated that they don’t know if they’ll be able to promise any fuel this winter. Matt says they’re luckier than most because they have a woodstove, which will heat their sunroom. Miranda finds the conversation absurd, because it’s early June and eighty-five degrees out—and no one can predict what winter will be like. Matt makes her promise not to tell Jonny about the conversation. Miranda ends the journal entry by telling how she went in the linen closet to count their blankets—and then stood outside until she felt warm enough to stop shivering.
This is the second time that Miranda has sought out Matt for information, and the second time he’s asked her to keep a secret. Both information and the withholding of information hold power. Miranda wants to be treated like an adult, but also doesn’t know how to process the bleak truths she’s given. While she wants to believe that Matt and Laura’s worries are ridiculous, her actions following their conversations prove how seriously she’s taking this.
Themes
 Survival and Death  Theme Icon
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon