Life as We Knew It

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Themes and Colors
 Survival and Death  Theme Icon
 Currency, Commodities, and Value  Theme Icon
 Faith  Theme Icon
 Legacy  Theme Icon
 Perspective  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Life as We Knew It, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
 Legacy  Theme Icon

As Miranda and the others come to grips with their own mortality and the very real chance they might not survive, they grapple with the idea of legacy, what is or is not left behind to represent their lives. A number of characters in the novel seek to create a kind of artistic legacy, a record to capture what they think and experience in the catastrophe, from Mrs. Nesbitt’s photographs, to Matt’s sketches, to Miranda’s diary entries. Miranda’s mother, however, creates a different sort of legacy. She’d spent her career as an author prior to these disasters, yet the legacy she seeks to create has nothing to do with art. Knowing the unlikelihood of her whole family surviving, she chooses to make sure her children have a greater chance of living by eating less food. She sees her children as the legacy that will stay behind in the world, and sacrifices herself for that cause.

Actively choosing not to leave a legacy is another possibility in the story. Mrs. Nesbitt burns her journals and letters before she dies so that no one is tempted to read them – in destroying her legacy she erases her pain and suffering from the world. Mrs. Nesbitt’s action leads Miranda to question her own purpose for writing her journal. Is it boredom? Is she writing for a future reader? Does she believe that there will be a future with readers who could learn from her experiences? Ultimately Miranda decides that she’s writing the journal for herself, to document what’s she’s endured so that she can look back. This decision comes from a place of hope, because it’s based on Miranda’s belief that she will survive.

As characters are stripped of their opportunities to create futures, the records they leave behind become increasingly personally important. But, with the uncertainty of the times in which they live, it is also clear that there’s no way to ensure that what they leave behind will ever be considered, and no way to govern the way in which it is interpreted. Thus the act of leaving a legacy, as presented by the novel, is less about creating a record for those who follow, and more of a way of creating a personal record for the present, as a way of processing experiences as they occur.

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Legacy ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Legacy appears in each Chapter of Life as We Knew It. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Legacy Quotes in Life as We Knew It

Below you will find the important quotes in Life as We Knew It related to the theme of Legacy .
Chapter 2 Quotes

Sometimes when Mom is getting ready to write a book she says she doesn’t know where to start, that the ending is so clear to her that the beginning doesn’t seem important anymore. I feel that way now only I don’t know what the ending is, not even what the ending is tonight.

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker), Laura Evans
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Miranda is writing in her diary after the asteroid’s collision with the moon, and even though the collision has happened and the day is over, she’s struggling with how to gather her thoughts and put them in context. Her comparison to the way in which Laura writes novels is apt, because Miranda is recognizing that the details she thought were important and relevant that morning have been rendered obsolete by the events of the night. Despite this, Miranda recounts her entire day in her journal, even the parts that no longer seem important. She does this to create context for the events of the night and also as a delay tactic, since she’s not quite ready to process what has just happened. The fact that Miranda doesn’t know what will happen next has left her shaken, and even the act of writing about it doesn’t bring the comfort she craves.

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Chapter 4 Quotes

One thing Matt did say to me was that no matter what the future is, we’re living through a very special time in history. He says that history makes us who we are, but we can make history also, and that anyone can be a hero, if they just choose to be.

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker), Matt Evans
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Miranda records Matt’s pep talk in her diary, but she’s feeling skeptical as well as insecure about her own ability to be heroic. While Miranda idealizes Matt, she feels like her own cravings for ice cream and swim team and normalcy disqualify her from the category of hero. Miranda does recognize that Matt is her hero, but she also fails to realize that being heroic and being human are not mutually exclusive, and that Matt, like her, probably craves an escape from the burdens that have been thrust on him since his return from college. Like Miranda, there are surely things about life before the moon collision that Matt misses as well.

Chapter 5 Quotes

“I’m the one not caring. I’m the one pretending the earth isn’t shattering all around me because I don’t want it to be... I don’t want anything more to be afraid of. I didn’t start this diary for it to be a record of death.”

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker)
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

Miranda has seemingly reached her tolerance threshold for disaster and bad news. Rather than compulsively seek out information like they all had in the days after the quake, Miranda has now begun to try and insulate herself from new information. She berates herself for this action, and for the numbness she’s begun to feel—comparing her reactions to those of her family and other people around her, and judging herself as lacking because she isn’t exhibiting the same types of compassion she attributes to everyone else.

While Miranda criticizes herself for “not caring,” she fails to recognize just how human her reactions are. Her responses to the incremental traumas of the past few weeks have actually resulted in a normal self-preservation response. The fact that the very next day she gets so excited about the idea of a blanket drive to help those in New York and New Jersey proves just how inaccurate her self-reflection is—she isn’t devoid of compassion, she actually cares a great deal, and it was simply the lack of an outlet for those feelings that led her to shut down emotionally.

Chapter 10 Quotes

I write stuff down in here and I don’t read it. Things are bad enough without having to remind myself of just how bad things are.
But I just read what I wrote a couple of days ago. All about how wonderful school is and all that crap. Tests. Whoo-whoo. Report cards. Whoo-whoo. The future. Biggest whoo-whoo of them all.

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker)
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

Miranda has repeatedly stated that her journal is an ongoing record, not something she re-reads, or has any desire to re-read. But in this entry Miranda does look back to what she had written a few days before—when she had been cautiously optimistic about school and looking forward to the purpose it would give to her days. She had stated that no one talks about the future for fear of jinxing it—and that fear had turned out to be prescient, because she’s just returned from a meeting where it was announced the schools won’t be opening as usual this year.

Miranda records a dramatic change in her perspective, one that occurred over the course of just a few days. Having dared to hope, she’s opened herself up to the possibility of disappointment, a possibility that has manifested. All those times where people reassured her that things would be back to normal ‘by fall’ have proved to be false. And school as she knew it is unlikely to occur again.

Chapter 15 Quotes

I’ve never really thought about what it would be like to be an old woman. Of course nowadays I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to be any kind of woman.
But I hope when I get closer to death, however old I might be, that I can face it with courage and good sense the way Mrs. Nesbitt does. I hope that’s a lesson I’ve truly learned.

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker), Mrs. Nesbitt
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:

Once Laura is confined to their home due to her sprained ankle, the task of visiting their neighbor, Mrs. Nesbitt, becomes another of Miranda’s chores. Since Mrs. Nesbitt has been like a member of Miranda’s family, when she starts to matter-of-factly discuss her death and the things she’d like done after she’s passed, Miranda is understandably shaken.

She quickly comes to realize, however, how Mrs. Nesbitt’s plans are an act of love and a blessing. Mrs. Nesbitt doesn’t want the others to worry after she’s gone. She doesn’t want her body to be a burden, and she wants to make sure her belongings and supplies go where they’ll be of the most use. Unlike Miranda’s friend Megan, who not only embraced death, but actively sought it, Mrs. Nesbitt has no desire to rush her demise. She simply knows that it’s inevitable and accepts that fact with calm certainty.

Miranda does internalize these lessons, and when things become grim and her own survival seems unlikely, she faces it with stoicism and courage.

Chapter 17 Quotes

“If we all die, you’ll leave,” I said. “Because you’ll be strong enough to. And maybe someplace in America or Mexico or somewhere things are better and you’ll manage to get there. And then Mom’s life and Matt’s and mine won’t have been a waste.”

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker), Matt Evans, Jonny Evans, Laura Evans
Page Number: 273
Explanation and Analysis:

Miranda is trying to comfort Jonny about what will happen if they all don’t survive. She’s trying to make sense of why everyone in their family insists Jonny eat the most, even though they’re all starving. Much in the way Matt treats her with respect when she asks questions she suspects are ridiculous, Miranda is trying to answer Jonny’s questions with the dignity and seriousness they deserve.

Once Miranda had resented the same plan she now repeats to her brother—she’d been jealous that Jonny was given more food and that her mom had pinned all her hopes on him. Now, however, she embraces it. It’s not that Miranda wants to or expects to die, but she is grateful that if she does, the choices and hunger they’ve faced will give Jonny a chance to leave and survive. She’s started to view him as a part of her legacy. Her sacrifice being the price of his survival is a price that she’s willing to pay.

Chapter 18 Quotes

Do people ever realize how precious life is? I know I never did before. There was always time. There was always a future.
Maybe because I don’t know anymore if there is a future, I’m grateful for the good things that have happened to me this year.

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker)
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

It seems almost ridiculous for Miranda to spend her New Year’s Eve expressing gratitude for the previous year. Since the asteroid’s collision in May, her life has only gotten increasingly painful and more difficult. But despite this—in fact, because of this, Miranda has come to appreciate aspects of life that she’d taken for granted before the disaster. Miranda no longer takes anything for granted, not even her life or the idea that she’ll have a future. Instead she’s taken to using her diary not only to chronicle her hardships and complaints, but also the simple joys she experiences with her family—sharing stories, playing poker and Scrabble, things that make their cat purr, joking about the horrible haircuts they’ve given each other to help stay clean, ice skating, etc. Her change in perspective reflects the fact that she knows they may not survive, so she wants to make the most of the time she does have with the people she loves.

Chapter 19 Quotes

I don’t even know why I’m writing this down, except that I feel fine and maybe tomorrow I’ll be dead. And if that happens, and someone should find my journal, I want them to know what happened.

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker)
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:

Miranda has woken up to discover that the rest of her family has fallen ill with the flu that has decimated the local population. She doesn’t know if they’ll survive, but the two surviving nurses at the hospital tell her it’s very unlikely. Miranda is exhausted from caring for Jonny, Laura, and Matt all day. She’s terrified that they will die and she’ll be left alone, but also scared that if she falls ill, there will be no one left to take care of them. Despite the fact that she’s stretched herself to her limits, physically and emotionally, Miranda still takes the time to record her thoughts about the day before going to sleep. This is an indication of how uncertain she feels about the future. Though she feels fine right now, she knows there’s no guarantee that she’ll wake up in the morning. In case that happens, she wants there to be a record—for some hypothetical future reader—of how hard she tried to save her family and what has happened to them.

Chapter 21 Quotes

I’d left a record. People would know I had lived. That counted for a lot.

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker)
Page Number: 330
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point Miranda has resigned herself to the fact that she won’t survive. And much like she admired Mrs. Nesbitt’s courage and dignity in the way she faced her death in Chapter 15, Miranda is now trying to come to terms with her own mortality. One of the ways she justifies this to herself is by reflecting on her journal. Unlike Mrs. Nesbitt, who had burned all of her journals and letters before death, Miranda finds comfort in the idea that her words could outlive her. As she walks to what she believes will be her death, she is grateful for the journal’s existence—and the fact that it proves her own existence. She’s struggled so hard to survive since the moon incident and overcome so much, and the idea that people could read about her life and she wouldn’t be forgotten, wouldn’t be just another name on the list of the dead, is something that brings her comfort.

But today, when I am 17 and warm and well fed, I’m keeping this journal for myself so that I can always remember life as we knew it, life as we know it, for a time when I am no longer in the sunroom.

Related Characters: Miranda Evans (speaker)
Page Number: 337
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout the novel Miranda has questioned the purpose behind her journal. She has objected to it being a record of the dead, thought of it as a record she’s kept to be read by the survivors, something to keep away from nosy little brothers, and documents that proved her existence. As the book ends, however, Miranda spends its concluding lines redefining what the journal means. She no longer pictures it as an artifact for someone else—Miranda has now embraced her journal as something she’s keeping for herself. This is the ultimate act of hope, because it requires Miranda to change her perspective on her own mortality, a complete shift from earlier in the same chapter when she was convinced that she would die. Now Miranda is determined to live, determined to celebrate the moments of her life, and determined to reach a future where she no longer lives within the confines of the sunroom and can look back and reflect on how far she’s come.