Before I Fall

by

Lauren Oliver

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Before I Fall: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The last time Sam has the dream in which she is falling, the darkness is at last alive around her—she realizes that she is not actually in darkness, but has only had her eyes closed the whole time. She opens her eyes and feels butterflies taking off all around her, flying higher and higher. Sam realizes that all this time she hasn’t been falling—she’s been flying. When she wakes up from the dream, she knows that the time loop was “never about saving [her own] life”—or at least not in the way she thought.
On this new—and what Sam hopes will be final—day of the time loop, Sam knows she has at last unlocked the meaning of the loop and what she is meant to do within it. Her breaking through to flying in her dream represents this breakthrough in the “real” world—she is not doomed to the loop, but has been given an opportunity to save a life.
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Sam reflects on how, when moving through life, you just don’t know when the last time you’ll do something will be—she, however, knows that she is about to do everything for the last time, and she likens it to “being asked to step off the edge of a cliff.”
Sam is both exhilarated and frightened by the realization she’s had—she wants to rise to meet her fate, but there is nonetheless a part of her which is afraid.
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Sam says goodbye to her parents, after telling them that she loves them. As she heads for the door, she takes one last look at them—they are happy, and she watches her father kiss her mother on the forehead. Sam knows that Izzy will follow her to the door with her gloves—this time, she thanks Izzy for bringing them to her, and asks what she would do without her. She hugs Izzy tight, and then gives Izzy her charm necklace. Before leaving, she tells Izzy to be good—Izzy runs back into the house to show her parents that Sam has given her the necklace. 
Sam, once again, tries to express as best she can the love and gratitude she feels toward her family, wanting at least to lessen the pain of the cruelty and ignorance she’s shown them in the past. Sam is brimming with love for the life she’s leaving behind, and attempting to show it is the only way she knows to redeem herself.
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Outside, Sam takes in the cold air and the beautiful sunlight before joining Lindsay in the Range Rover. On the drive to school, as Lindsay complains to Sam and Elody about Patrick, Sam thinks of how much she loves her best friend “despite everything.” Sam savors the perfect drive, and wishes that she could ride around with her best friends forever. She asks to take a detour to Starbucks to extend the drive—Lindsay is reluctant, but ultimately concludes that Sam gets to do whatever she wants: today is her “big day.”
Sam’s love for the world around her isn’t just for other people—it’s for the places and things that she has seen every day growing up and which have helped to make her into who she is. Sam is full of gratitude and abundant joy, even as she prepares to meet a fate which threatens to erase all that she has come to hold dear.
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At Starbucks, the girls place their orders and then head back to the car—Sarah, the girl who Lindsay has been fighting for a spot in the lower lot each morning, is now waiting for their spot at Starbucks. Sam laughs at the irony of the situation, and considers how deeply interconnected everything is.
The small points of connection which terrified Sam at the start of the time loop now comfort and reassure her and strengthen her confidence in her belief that she is doing the right thing.
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At school, Sam splits up with Lindsay and Elody and heads to the room where all the roses are being held. Afterwards, rather than heading to class, she wanders through campus, taking everything in one final time. She reflects on how, for most of her life, each school day has dragged by—now, though, time is “pouring away” through her fingers.
Sam repeats actions she has taken on previous days, but now they all seem imbued with a new wistfulness and a preciousness. Sam is watching her life slip away, but even as she wishes she could hang on toit, she is eager to take the steps she needs to advance her fate.
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When it’s time for calculus, Sam arrives early—she is the first person in Mr. Daimler’s class. Daimler comes over to her desk and asks her if she’s enjoying Cupid Day and if she has any big plans for the evening. Sam answers that she’s not sure yet, and then asks Daimler if he’s going to be all alone at a “table for one.” Daimler flirtatiously asks Sam why she would assume that. Sam smiles at him and replies that if he had a real girlfriend, he wouldn’t be hitting on high schoolers. Daimler jerks away from Sam, but doesn’t reply—other students are beginning to file into the room. He angrily orders the rest of the class to take their seats while Sam stifles her laughter.
Sam is doing everything today with the hopes that the effects will last—she wants Mr. Daimler to feel humiliation for his actions and perhaps even recognize the fact that he is stuck in a sick, twisted “loop” of his very own, still chasing the glory of his high school days. 
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Kent walks in, and Sam watches lovingly as he slides into his seat and fiddles with his hair. Sam can barely focus on the lesson—she is excited and anxious as she awaits the Cupids’ arrival, knowing that Kent McFuller is getting an extra rose today. After class, Sam waits for Kent in the hall. He holds the rose out to Sam and asks her what it’s all about—Sam feigns ignorance. Kent shows her the note attached to his Valogram—“Tonight,” it says, “leave your phone on and your car out, and be my hero.” Sam asks Kent if he has a secret admirer, and can barely resist reaching out and pulling him towards her for a kiss.
By this point in the novel, Sam is over the whole concept of Cupid Day roses as a symbol of status and popularity. She is using them in a practical way now to bolster the self-esteem of those she loves and those she wants to help. As we’ll later find, she’s also using these roses as tools for meting out just desserts.
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Kent tells Sam that he’s having a party tonight—she tells him she’s heard, and that she might need for him to pick her up from somewhere later tonight. She assures him it won’t take long, and that she wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important. Kent flirtatiously asks what’s in it for him—Sam promises that later she’ll tell him a secret. She reflects on how deeply she wants Kent, and how she was never this into Rob. Kent asks Sam how she knew about “the hero thing,” but she deflects, thanking him for his rose—she reveals that she gave all of her roses to Marian Sykes to take home and keep fresh in a vase.
Though Sam knows that Kent has no memory of the past two nights, she is nonetheless aware that he has a crush on her and will therefore be receptive to what she asks of him. Sam isn’t using Kent, though—she’s engaging him in conversation and involving in her life because she wants, at last, to know him and to grow closer to him, and to prove to him that she is the kind of person worthy of his attention and affection.
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Sam asks Kent if she can count on him tonight, and he says that she can. Sam realizes that they are alone in the hallway, and she wonders if Kent will lean in and kiss her—instead, he only touches her shoulder and warns her that her secret had better be good. Kent starts to walk away, but then turns back to ask Sam why she’s talking to him all of a sudden—she tells him that she’s making up for lost time.
There is an easy camaraderie and even a sense of loyalty between Sam and Kent, despite the confusion Kent is no doubt feeling about Sam’s plans and the motives behind them.
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In the cafeteria, Rob approaches Sam to say hello. He tries to put his arm around her, but she steps away. He asks if she got his rose—she tells him she did. There is a single rose hanging from her messenger bag, and Rob asks if that’s his rose. Sam shakes her head. He asks her where all her other roses are, and she tells him they’re “in storage.” Rob tells her that he liked what she wrote in her rose to him—the note said, “You don’t have to wait for me anymore.” Rob lays out a plan for the evening, but Sam tells him he can do whatever he wants—she doesn’t care. Rob asks Sam if she’s still sleeping over at his place, and she tells him she’s not. He doesn’t have to wait for her anymore, she says, because she’s breaking up with him.
Here, Sam is using the rose as an inversion of its original purpose. Roses are meant to signify social status and dictate popularity, love, and attention—with the rose she has sent to Rob, though, Sam has used a rose for the opposite purpose: to bring someone down a rung on the social ladder and deliver news not love of or affection but of revulsion.
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Rob protests that Sam can’t break up with him—he’s been waiting for her for months. His face contorts with rage, and he cruelly tells Sam that he should have slept with another girl when he had the chance before walking away. Sam sits down with her friends and begins eating—a few minutes later, when Juliet Sykes walks into the cafeteria, Sam sees that Juliet has a single rose on her lunch tray, and is scanning peoples’ faces, seemingly looking for clues. Sam knows that the note attached to Juliet’s rose bears a message different from the one she’s received all these years: it says, “It’s never too late.”
Rob reveals his cruel inner self to Sam very plainly in this moment—he sees himself as better than her, and he is incensed that she would act as if she has more social capital than he does. Sam is unbothered, though, and is more focused on continuing to right wrongs and steer the day in the direction of benevolence. Sam is pleased to see that today, Juliet has her rose—her plan, perhaps, has worked. The roses being used as a tool rather than a flimsy symbol of status parallels Sam’s use of her own social capital to effect real, meaningful change.
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On the way to TCBY, Lindsay asks Sam why she’s acting so weird today. Lindsay also tells Sam that she heard a rumor that Sam and Rob broke up—Sam confirms the rumor, and Lindsay is incredulous that Sam wouldn’t have told her first. Sam replies that she didn’t want to tell Lindsay because she knew Lindsay would make a big deal out of everything—Lindsay retorts that a breakup with Rob on the night they were supposed to have sex for the first time is a big deal. Not wanting to spook Lindsay more, but needing to give something to Anna Cartullo, Sam apologizes and ducks into the Chinese restaurant next to the yogurt shop.
Sam is so bold in her renewed sense of purpose that even the fear of Lindsay’s judgement no longer holds her back from doing the things she wants to do and doing them at her own pace, in her own way. This demonstrates major growth on Sam’s part, as at the start of the novel Lindsay was the north star by which Sam navigated her life—often to her own detriment, and to the detriment of those around her.
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Sam greets Anna and tells her she has something for her—she gives her a book of M.C. Escher drawings and apologizes for not being able to explain how she knows it’d be just the kind of thing Anna would like. Anna looks up at Sam and half-smiles, and Sam leaves the restaurant, rejoining Lindsay outside. Lindsay tells Sam she’s gone crazy and asks since when she’s on speaking terms with Anna Cartullo. Sam tells Lindsay playfully that Lindsay doesn’t know everything about her, and though Lindsay is still confused, the two head into TCBY for some yogurt.
Sam delivers the M.C. Escher book to Anna, symbolically representing Sam’s relinquishing of her conceptualization of the loop as an endless, inescapable, confusing maze. The act is more than symbolic, though—it’s one of goodwill, meant to demonstrate to Anna that there are those who see her as more than the sum of the rumors about her.
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At Ally’s house after school, Sam privately lists the things she loves about each of her friends. She loves that Ally is obsessed with porcelain cows, is an incredible cook, and sticks her tongue out when she yawns just like a cat. She loves Elody’s beautiful singing voice and the way she snorts when she laughs. She loves that Lindsay will dance anytime, anywhere, even without music, and that Lindsay once toilet papered a guy’s house every day for a week after he told everyone in school that Elody was a bad kisser. Sam regrets not having told her friends how much she loves them, but knows that there’s no easy or un-awkward way to say it now.
Sam is bursting with love for her friends, and as she prepares for her last night ever with them she gives thanks for all the qualities which have entertained and enriched her over the years. Sam knows she can’t possibly express everything she wants without giving the game away—just as she had to demonstrate restraint around her parents and Kent earlier, she now must do so with her girlfriends.
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The girls pull up to Kent’s house, and Sam tells them to go inside—she’s planning on driving Lindsay’s car back to Lindsay’s house. Lindsay protests—she points out that without the car they won’t have a ride home—but Sam insists she’ll find them one. The girls at last begrudgingly agree to head into the party while Sam takes the car back. Sam planned to drive straight to Lindsay’s house, but once she’s behind the wheel, she finds herself driving to her own house. She pauses in front of it and looks at the faint lights coming from her parents’ room. Sam is overcome with grief for all that she is losing, but quickly remembers that everything is at last going to be right.
As the fateful hour approaches, Sam experiences sadness, but never hesitance, about the events to come. She boldly and bravely shoulders the responsibilities which she knows will keep her friends safe, and in doing so demonstrates how much she has grown—she is willing to put her social capital at risk at last to pursue what truly matters. 
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Sam texts Kent to pick her up at Lindsay’s, and then heads there herself. She worries, though, that he won’t hear a text in the noise of the party, and so she calls him—he answers, and she tells him that she’s “in desperate need of a ride.”
Sam worries that Kent won’t be there for her—not, perhaps, because she doesn’t have faith in him, but because she has so little faith in herself.
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Kent picks Sam up at Lindsay’s, and doesn’t ask any questions—why Sam was there, or why she needed him specifically to pick her up and bring her back to the party. As they pull back into Kent’s driveway, Kent reminds Sam that she owes him a secret. Sam leans forward and tells Kent that his kiss was the best she’d ever had in her life. Kent replies that he hasn’t kissed her since the third grade. Sam tells Kent that he’d better get started—they don’t have much time. The two of them kiss for what “seems like hours” before pulling away from each other. Sam thanks Kent for the ride—she tells him that he has saved her life, and then jumps out of the car and heads to the house for the last party of her entire life.
Sam and Kent’s connection in this scene comes out of their mutual desire for one another and the shared history between them. Sam and Kent, Sam sees now, have always been drawn to one another, and their romantic kiss seems to be both an act of agency and a moment of pure fate. 
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Inside, Lindsay, Elody, and Ally all welcome Sam warmly. They offer her a drink, but Sam tells them she wants to head outside for some air—they tell her she’s been acting weird all day and ask to know what’s up. Sam claims she’s just been having a weird week—she pulls them all into a group hug and reassures them that nothing is the matter. The girls begin drinking, and as they all get busy talking to one another, Sam slips away, tearfully looking back at her friends for the last time. She checks her cell phone: it is 11:45.
Sam’s friends all want to know what is going on with her, but she herself understands that what is happening to her is bigger than them; she does not want to upset or confuse any of them, and she chooses instead to focus her interactions with them on love, gratitude, and celebration of the friendship they have shared.
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Downstairs Sam stands at the doorway, waiting for Juliet. When she walks in, Sam catches her and asks to talk to her. Juliet says she has somewhere to be, but Sam retorts that she knows Juliet was looking for her—Juliet insists that she’s “not here” for Sam. Sam tells Juliet that she knows what she has planned for the night. Juliet whispers that Sam is a bitch. Sam says that she knows she is, and apologizes. Juliet tries to get away from Sam, but Sam refuses to leave her alone. Someone shouts Sam’s name, and in the instant she turns to look, Juliet slips away and out the door.
Sam now knows how to properly head Juliet off—the answer is not in apologizing, and tearing open years of old wounds, but in simply deflecting, and getting Juliet to realize that her tirade is unnecessary. She can’t let Juliet get away from her, knowing now as she does that Juliet is the answer to breaking the time loop.
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It was Kent who called Sam—as he makes his way over to her, Sam is torn between going after Juliet and staying for a dance with Kent. Kent wants to know why Sam ran away from him before, and though she tells him she has somewhere to be, Kent insists on knowing why Sam would, after ignoring him for years, start paying attention to him and then kiss him, “rip[ping his] world up.” Kent asks what Sam meant when she said she didn’t have much time—Sam wants to explain, but knows that Juliet is getting farther away with each second. She tells Kent that she has to help someone, and begs him to trust her, before kissing him once more and running out the door. 
Sam is, in this passage, bearing witness to how her good intentions have inadvertently hurt and confused Kent. The last thing she wants to do is upset or hurt anyone on this day—this day during which she is supposed to be doing only good—but she knows that there are bigger things at work than her relationship with Kent. Sam makes the choice to complete her mission rather than pursue her desires.
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Sam runs through the woods behind Kent’s house, calling for Juliet, while behind her, she hears Kent’s voice calling for her. There’s no time, though, to go back to Kent, and Sam knows she has said everything she can say to him. She hears other voices, too, screaming her name, but tells herself that she is just imagining them. Sam at last comes upon Juliet standing drenched near the side of the road. Sam call’s Juliet’s name one more time, and Juliet turns to look at her.
Sam loves Kent and wants to get as much time as she can with him, but she is no longer motivated by selfish desires—she ignores her nagging need for Kent in favor of going after Juliet, knowing that it is the right thing to do.
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Sam hears a truck engine approaching, but Juliet isn’t moving into the road—she is just standing there, looking at Sam. Sam runs up to Juliet and grabs her shoulders, pulling her farther back into the woods. As the truck roars by, the woods quiet, and Sam hears Lindsay calling her name—along with Kent, Elody, and Ally. Juliet, frightened, asks why Sam couldn’t just leave her alone. Sam tells Juliet she wants to talk, but Juliet insists she has nothing to say. Juliet heads up toward the road, and Sam follows her, feeling calm. She knows that what is about to happen is how things were supposed to happen all along.
Sam has finally obtained the clarity she needs to approach the situation head-on. Though what is about to happen is not pleasant, Sam has come to accept that it is the only outcome which allows everyone to be “saved,” and she marches toward it bravely, despite the voices of her beloved friends calling her back towards them.
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Sam tells Juliet she doesn’t have to do this—Juliet retorts that Sam could never understand her. As Sam’s friends’ voices grow louder, Sam pleads with Juliet to let Sam help her. Juliet, though, says that she can’t be fixed. Sam thinks of standing on the stairs with Kent and saying the same thing—she remembers the way he told her she didn’t need to be fixed.
Everything is interconnected, as Lauren Oliver has demonstrated multiple times. Now, she shows how all of her characters are wrestling with the same fear, despite their disparate social statuses—they are all afraid of being broken, beyond repair, unfixable, unsalvageable, unlovable.
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Juliet tells Sam that it’s too late, but Sam replies that it’s never too late. Still, Juliet launches herself into the road—Sam runs out with her, slamming into her, and pushes her toward the opposite shoulder just as two vans come down the road. Sam hears someone screaming her name, and feels heat spread through her body. She has the sensation of being lifted or thrown by a huge hand, and sees disparate images floating before her.
Sam makes the ultimate sacrifice in choosing to give her life in order to save Juliet. She knows that it is the only way to close the loop, and the only way to truly save Juliet and thus her own soul.
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She sees faces looming above her, calling her name. One of the faces, white and beautiful, says: “You saved me.” Sam feels a hand on her cheek. She tries to speak and tell Juliet that “the opposite” is true, but cannot make the words come out. Juliet’s “crown” of blond hair above Sam is “so bright and white and blinding” that Sam swears it’s a halo.
Sam sees Juliet as a literal angel in this passage—the girl who has saved her soul has become holy to her, in a way, as Juliet herself is the vessel for Sam’s renewal and redemption.
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