Before I Fall

by

Lauren Oliver

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Before I Fall: Chapter 2  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sam is dreaming. She is falling, but there is no up or down—she is frightened, but cannot scream, and she wonders if she will keep falling forever. She wakes up suddenly and realizes that her alarm has been going off for twenty minutes—it is six fifty in the morning. Sam sits up in bed, covered in sweat. She remembers all the horrible events of the night before.
Sam experiences a terrifying dream in which she is falling endlessly—as she wakes up, she believes that the entire night, car crash included, was all a part of the unsettling dream. 
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Izzy bursts into the room and tells Sam that their mother has sent her to wake Sam up. Izzy tugs at the necklace Sam wears—a gift from their grandmother. Sam protests that it is a Saturday, but Izzy only giggles, bounces off into the hallway, and shouts that Sam refuses to get up. Sam hears her mother’s voice urging her to get out of bed. She checks her phone and sees a text from Lindsay: “I’m outside. Where r u?” it says. Sam catches the date in the corner of her phone—it is Friday, February 12th.
As the events of Sam’s previous morning repeat themselves, in her disoriented state she still believes that perhaps she was dreaming it all before—or perhaps she is dreaming things now.
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Sam is disoriented, and when she tries to stand up, she nearly falls over. She rushes to the bathroom, sure that she is going to throw up, but nothing happens. She turns on the shower, but there is a pounding on the door—it is Lindsay, and she tells Sam that there is no time to shower. Sam asks Lindsay what happened last night—Lindsay apologizes for not calling Sam back, as she was on the phone with Patrick until the early hours of the morning. Lindsay seems to have no recollection of the events of the night before, and even asks Sam if she is excited for her big night with Rob.
Sam is disturbed to realize that Lindsay has no recollection of the night before—this knowledge isolates her, and she is unable to connect to her funny, bold best friend’s excitement for her.
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Sam again tries to get in the shower, but Lindsay insists that she can’t be late for Cupid Day. She tells Sam that she looks like “shit,” and offers to lend her some MAC makeup, which she has waiting in the car. Lindsay goes back out to the truck, while Sam, hurriedly, begins getting dressed for Cupid Day—again. 
Cupid Day is important to Lindsay—so important that she’s willing to let Sam’s morning get off to a hurried, unfinished start in order to make sure that she doesn’t miss a second of the frenzied popularity contest.
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On the drive to school, after the girls pick up Elody, Lindsay swerves and jerks her Range Rover. Sam begs Lindsay to drive carefully, and Lindsay, echoing the very thing she said the day before, promises she’d never let Sam “die a virgin.” Sam wishes she could tell Elody and Lindsay what’s going on, or ask them if they’re having a similar experience, but she can’t think of any way to broach the topic.
Sam has an uncanny experience on the drive to school—Lindsay’s swerving reminds her of the danger she was in the night before, while Lindsay’s repetition of the things she said yesterday echo strangely in Sam’s ears. Sam is too afraid to appear weird, spastic, or uncool in her friends’ eyes to say anything to them despite her own discomfort.
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Elody picks up on Sam’s nervous energy, but, assuming it is because she’s nervous about losing her virginity, reassures her that she’ll be fine. Lindsay jokingly tells Sam it’ll be just like riding a horse, and begins to tease her about her childhood riding obsession. Sam, unable to handle being teased, goes quiet and looks out the window. As Lindsay puts on an upbeat song for the rest of the drive to school, Sam leans back in her seat and tries to focus on the music.
Sam is disoriented, confused, and isolated, and her friends, rather than attempting to soothe her when they pick up on this energy, only harass and tease her more. Sam cannot handle the cruelty, and retreats further into herself, now for sure feeling like she can’t say anything about what’s happening to her to anyone.
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As the girls pull up to school, running late, Sam takes in the familiar outfits her classmates are wearing—everything looks exactly the same as it did yesterday. Sam actually feels a wash of relief, believing that perhaps all of the previous day’s events were nothing more than a bad dream. Lindsay searches for a choice spot in the lower lot, but the girl she cut off the day before has snagged the last one. Lindsay begrudgingly drives to the upper lot, and as she does, Elody remarks that she’s having déjà vu. Sam says that she is, too, but the conversation doesn’t go any further.
The events of the morning are going slightly differently as the girls arrive to school—they have missed out on their spot, and this combined with Elody’s expressing her feeling of déjà vu makes Sam begin to think that perhaps she’s just been confused all this time—perhaps yesterday really was just a dream.
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Elody digs through her purse and passes Sam a condom. Before Elody can say it, Sam does: “No glove, no love.” As the girls step out of the car and head into school, Sam tries to ignore the foreboding feeling within her, and focus on the fact that today is her day.
Still, some of the events are too similar to ignore, and Sam can even predict what her friends are going to say as she heads into school to begin her day.
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As Sam begins her school day, she feels as if she has been split in half—she knows that there is a real her and a shadow her, but cannot tell which is which. As the morning goes on, Sam realizes that she is having more than déjà vu—while the uncanny feeling, which she knows is caused by the two hemispheres of the brain processing something at slightly different speeds, lasts only a few seconds, her “déjà vu” goes on for hours. She watches her classmates have the same conversations, use the same words, and do the same things. Even weirder than the repetitions are the small things that have changed—the girl Lindsay cut off in the parking lot the day before is no longer disqualified from the swim meet because she made it to class on time today.
Sam cannot ignore the uncanny, foreboding feeling within her, despite all her best efforts. She believes that one reality is false and one is true, but can’t yet see which is which—she can’t understand what is happening to her, unable to keep track of the repetitions and differences between the two days, which seem to Sam entirely random.
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Feeling shaken up, Sam ducks into a bathroom, where Ally is waiting for her. Sam goes into a stall for some privacy, but Ally wants to know why Sam’s acting weird. Sam opens the stall door and asks Ally why she thinks Lindsay wrote mean graffiti about Anna Cartullo in the stall—Ally says, though, that there are now “copycat artists” imitating the graffiti Lindsay has written in other bathrooms throughout the school. The bell rings—though Sam wants to hide out in the bathroom all day, she dutifully heads to class.
The “copycat artists”’s graffiti which lines the walls and stalls of the bathroom seems to mirror the motif of duality, facsimile, and repetition which has dogged Sam throughout the morning.
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Sam already knows what happens next: she goes to chem class, takes the last available seat next to Lauren Lornet, and begins the pop quiz. Though Sam has now seen the quiz two days in a row, she still doesn’t know the answers to any of the questions. Again, Sam asks to borrow a pen, and again Lauren makes a big deal of insisting Sam keep the pen for the rest of the day. As Sam moves through her classes that morning, she feels as if she is going insane.
Sam is unsettled by her ability to predict what is going to happen to her again and again, certain that what is happening to her signals that she has become unhinged in a terrifying way.
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In calculus, when Sam’s roses get delivered, she feels a wild bit of hope that Rob’s note will say something different and more romantic, but instead his lukewarm note is exactly the same. The pale, blond Cupid delivers Sam’s rose from Kent, again, and though the Cupid comments on how beautiful the rose is, Sam snaps at her and tells her to move along. When class is over, Sam deliberately leaves Kent’s rose behind on her desk. As their class floods into the hall, Kent catches up with Sam to tell her that she forgot her rose from him, but Sam cruelly states that she didn’t want it. Kent jokingly asks Sam whether she’s heard that on Cupid Day, roses equal popularity, but Sam tells Kent that she doesn’t need any help “in that department,” especially from him. Sam cannot help but replay the tense, cruel conversation she had with Kent at his party.
Sam has seen a mix of repetition and change throughout her morning as it compares with the events of the previous day, and she hopes now that Rob’s half-hearted note will be one of the things that changes. It is not, and Sam realizes that perhaps these things aren’t up to her, though she cannot shake the lingering knowledge of the things that happened last night in the alternate universe—or the true universe, perhaps. Even with that knowledge, though, her behavior is not becoming less cruel or more self-aware.
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Kent, deflated, nevertheless still invites Sam to his party that evening, but before he can get the details out, Sam spots Rob and takes off down the hall calling his name. She catches up with Rob and embraces him—she tells him how happy she is to see him and confides that she is not feeling well. Rob tells Sam, however, that she is “not getting out of” their planned evening—he’s been looking forward to it for too long.
Sam thinks that Rob will bring her comfort and understanding, but instead he cruelly berates her for putting her own needs above his wants.
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Sam tries to convince Rob that they should hang out earlier that evening, but Rob tells Sam that he wants to go to a party he’s heard about tonight. Sam tries to manipulate Rob by telling him that attending the party will mean he gets less time alone with her, but Rob insists on going. Sam feels her phone buzz in her pocket—it’s the same text from Lindsay as yesterday, asking if she is in for Kent’s party. Sam writes back her same reply, “Obv,” and then heads into the cafeteria for lunch.
Sam feels powerless to change things as she realizes the day is headed in the same direction as the previous one—everything is converging around the party at Kent’s house, just as it did yesterday.
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That evening, at Ally’s, Sam and Lindsay lie on Ally’s bed. Sam has had four shots of vodka and is feeling sick and feverish—Lindsay is giving Sam slightly foreboding and unhelpful advice about sex while Elody and Ally sing along to the radio in the next room. Lindsay asks Sam if Rob has told her that he loves her yet—when Sam hesitates, Lindsay assures her that Rob will say it tonight. Sam asks Lindsay if she was nervous the night she lost her virginity—the question catches Lindsay off-guard. Lindsay tells everyone that she lost her virginity to Patrick, when in reality, she had a one-night stand with a stranger while visiting her stepbrother in New York City.
Sam’s friends interpret her nervousness as being related to losing her virginity, and Sam herself seems to still believe that perhaps the events of last night won’t repeat themselves, and she will actually get the chance to be alone with Rob. In this passage, virginity is again shown to be something Sam and Lindsay see as a thing which needs to be erased  or eradicated as soon as possible.
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The true story of how Lindsay lost her virginity, though, is never talked about among their friend group—just like the girls don’t discuss Elody’s alcoholic mother, Ally’s eating disorder, or the fact that Lindsay was the one who made up the cruel song about Sam back in elementary school. Best friends, Sam says, help one another keep their own secrets safe.
Though Sam and her friends seem in love with one another and on top of the world with regards to their social status, Sam reveals in this passage that each of them have dark secrets which the others help them keep safe (or ignore).
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Lindsay insists she wasn’t nervous the first time she had sex, and begins making lewd jokes about how “horny” she was. Both girls dissolve into giggles, until Lindsay suddenly gets serious, and asks Sam if she can tell her a secret. Sam’s heart flutters—she thinks that Lindsay is having a repeat of yesterday, too, and is about to confide in her. Instead, Lindsay gets close to Sam’s face and lets out a large burp. Sam is disappointed and suddenly feels very alone—she wonders whether she has really gone insane. Elody and Ally burst back into the bedroom and ask whether it’s time to go to the party. Sam, dizzy and unsteady, stands up and proclaims that she’s ready to go, though her friends make fun of her for being so drunk so early in the night.
In this passage, Sam thinks for a fleeting moment that perhaps she is not alone in her disorientation—she thinks that she is going to discover that she and her friends are all in this together, and that whatever has happened to time is happening to all of them. Lindsay is just playing another of her cruel pranks, though, and Sam, once again feeling hopeless and alone, agrees to go along with the events of the night despite knowing, or fearing, what they’ll hold.
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The girls, once again, pull up to Kent McFuller’s house and enter the party, heading upstairs to the center of the action. Lindsay tells Sam she’s going off to find Patrick, but Sam doesn’t want to be alone, and asks to come with her. As the girls push their way through the party, Sam convinces herself that she is dreaming, and that as soon as she wakes up, the strange events of the day will be washed away. As she believes her own lie more and more, she starts to relax, feeling as if she could do anything she wanted and none of it would matter—she spots Kent McFuller and thinks that if she wanted to she could just go up to him and kiss him. She is instantly startled by the idea, and shakes it away.
Sam experiences, for the first time all day, a strange sense of comfort in the uncanny events taking place around her. She believes at last that she is really dreaming, and that nothing she does within this strange space will have any repercussions either in her own life or in the lives of others. Sam is relieved, and begins to wonder how she can wield this new power she feels.
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Sam realizes that someone is talking to her—Bridget McGuire is asking about whether an assignment was passed out in English class. She is asking for her boyfriend, Alex Liment, who had to skip class to go to the doctor. Sam knows that Alex is lying about the doctor, as she and Lindsay saw him, once again, sitting in the Chinese restaurant with Anna Cartullo when they cut class to get ice cream. Today, however, Lindsay hadn’t gone inside to mess with them, and they apparently weren’t busted by Ms. Winters for smoking.
Despite the powerful feeling Sam experienced just a few seconds ago, she is again confronted with how the events of “today” differ in small but significant ways from yesterday. Where major things were altered in the “other” world, they remain the same here, and Sam is perturbed by her inability to understand how or why.
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As Sam realizes that the events of today are different than yesterday, she at last understands that the events of Cupid Day are really and truly repeating themselves. Sam feels her body turn to ice, but then a pair of arms wrap around her—it is Rob. Sam tells Rob she needs to talk to him privately, but Rob is drunk, and assumes she wants to pull him away from the party to have sex. Sam tells Rob that she’s not feeling right, and Rob retorts that Sam “always” has an excuse for why she doesn’t want to have sex. Sam starts crying, and Rob apologizes. He tells her that the two of them can find somewhere to talk, but he wants to top his beer off first. He promises to come back in five minutes, and Sam waits for him.
Sam is no longer able to hide away or falsely comfort herself in the belief that she is simply dreaming. She understands that somehow, impossibly, both versions of Cupid Day are actually real, and the knowledge overwhelms her to the point of hysteria. Rob is no comfort to Sam in her moment of need, and instead he berates her for not bending thoughtlessly to his will.
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After ten minutes have passed, Sam realizes Rob isn’t coming back for her. She begins feeling more and more anxious, but tries to force herself to calm down. She hears some nearby sophomore girls talking about how Rob is downstairs doing a keg stand—one of them says he is “so hot” before realizing that Sam is standing nearby. Sam notes that if Lindsay were there, she would call the girls whores and have them thrown out of the party, but Sam doesn’t have any energy to give the girls attitude.
Sam feels isolated both internally and externally, abandoned first by reason and then by Rob. She is so confused, upset, and disoriented that she doesn’t even have the “energy” to behave in the cruel ways Lindsay has encouraged—she is too exhausted and frightened to engage with the world around her.
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Sam, feeling weak and lightheaded, wants to find somewhere dark and quiet to be alone. The line for the bathroom is long, though, and she tries to let herself into a bedroom—it is locked, and Kent McFuller comes up behind her to joke that it is the “VIP room.” Sam, overwhelmed, goes to find Lindsay, planning to ask her if they can leave. When Sam finds her friends, she tells them she doesn’t feel well, but they tease her about having been upstairs having sex with Rob. Sam insists that she’s leaving with or without them—she is angry at all of them for making fun of her, and angry at Rob for abandoning her. As Sam’s anxiety mounts she looks to the door—where she sees Juliet Sykes standing at the edge of the party.
Sam’s anxiety is mounting rapidly and exponentially as she senses the most painful, uncanny moment of the night growing closer and closer. Her friends won’t listen to her, though, and she is unable to change them in any way—she feels like a pawn in a cruel game of fate she can’t understand, and when Juliet walks into the room, Sam realizes that she is powerless to change what is about to happen.
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Once again, Juliet approaches Lindsay and calls her a bitch. One by one, she calls Elody, Ally, and Sam bitches, too. The events of the previous night repeat themselves—everyone at the party calls Juliet “Psycho” and throws their drinks on her. Once again, Sam pushes Juliet hard. Sam begins pushing her way out of the room, and when she finally makes it to the front door, Kent is standing there, ready to confront her. “Don’t even think about it,” Sam says, and pushes her way out the door, wondering why these things are happening to her.
Sam doesn’t know why what’s happening to her is happening, but she feels compelled to keep some of her actions the same and change others. She is not yet clear on how she can keep her actions consistent while avoiding consequences, but she senses that she has some modicum of agency in this “world,” whatever the rules of it are.
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Sam and her friends are all in Lindsay’s car, heading home from the party. It is 12:38 a.m. Sam is nervous, and her heart pounds in her chest. Lindsay drives erratically, and Sam reaches over to steady the wheel. She pleads with Lindsay to pay attention to the road, and then suddenly asks her friends how they would want to die, if they knew they were going to. The girls flippantly express their desires to die while having sex or eating lasagna before putting on some music and lighting up cigarettes. The clock strikes 12:39, and, once again, Lindsay drops her cigarette on the seat. Once again, there is a flash of white in front of the car, and once again Lindsay screams before driving off the road.
Sam gives herself over to the timeline of the previous night, despite knowing what will happen to her and her friends as they drive home from the party. She thinks that maybe if she encourages Lindsay to drive more carefully, things will change, but Sam’s actions in this part of the night have no effect—she has no agency when it comes to preventing this particular occurrence, and again finds herself face to face with death itself.
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