Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is the evening after Kira visited Annabella. Back in her quarters of the Council 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 shows him the robe and tells him about her day with Annabella. She wants to return to her mother’s cott and find the garden plants she used for color, though she’s afraid of running into Vandara. Even Thomas has heard of Vandara and her cruelty.
It’s clear that the faded blue on the robe is a symbol of something—it remains to be seen what, exactly, it’s a symbol of. For the time being, we can surmise that the village has “lost touch” with blue, hence the fading of blue into white. It’s also worth noting that Kira is still worrying about Vandara—at this stage in the book, she’s still very much a child of the village, not of the Edifice.
Themes
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Self-Interest versus Compassion Theme Icon
Thomas, who can read and write, offers to write down the names of the plants and their colors that Kira learned that day. Kira is unsure if this will work, since she won’t be able to read the names—it’s forbidden for girls to learn how to read. Thomas offers to read her the names when she needs him to, and she accepts. He writes down all the names Kira tells him; when he writes down “hollyhock,” Kira notices that it is a long word with many lines, and thus looks something like the hollyhock plant itself. She turns away from the word so that she won’t learn how to read it.
Thomas helps Kira, but not too much; in other words, he helps her learn the names of plants, but he doesn’t break the rules of the Council by teaching Kira to read. Lowry alludes to a well-established theory of language: letters were designed to look like the things they describe. There are many alphabets (Chinese, or Egyptian hieroglyphs, for instance), where this is the case.
Themes
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Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
At sunrise the next morning, Kira goes to her mother’s cott garden. Almost no one is awake. She sees that pieces of the old cott are being converted into a pen for tykes. This makes Kira sad, but she knows that there’s nothing she can do about it. She finds her mother’s garden nearby, and notices that women have been walking over it while they build the pen. Nonetheless, there are still plants growing there. She picks the plants she needs, except for those like bronze fennel, which can only be used fresh. As she works, the village begins its morning routine: men shout at their wives and slap their tykes. She senses that she no longer belongs to the village. As she returns to the Edifice, a woman sarcastically asks her if she’s enjoying her new life, a question that lingers in her mind as she walks through the village.
Kira begins to distance herself from life in the village. Her lame leg has already distanced her from the village (she couldn’t participate in games as a child, for instance), but now it becomes clear to her that she doesn’t belong to the village at all. It’s as if the Council is encouraging Kira not to care about the injustices she sees, such as the tykes being imprisoned in a pen. Kira will revise her opinion of the village later on, but for now, she seems content—with a little reluctance—with living in the Edifice.
Themes
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
A few days after visiting her mother’s cott, Kira asks Jamison for a few things: a garden, an area for fire, pots for dyeing, and a drying area. Jamison tells her she’ll be provided with all of these things. Kira learns from Thomas that he’s given any kind of wood he asks for. One morning, Thomas tells Kira that he heard a child crying the previous night. Kira heard nothing, and he concludes that it must have been a dream.
In contrast to her life in the village, where no one receives anything for free, Kira is able to ask Jamison for whatever she wants and receive it in a few days. Yet there seems to be a dark side to this luxurious new life, symbolized by the baby’s cry.
Themes
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
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When Kira asks Thomas what his work for the guardians involves, he explains that he re-carves the Singer’s staff in the areas where it’s been worn down. The Singer uses his staff to keep track of his place in the Ruin Song. There is a large place at the top of the ruin staff where Thomas will add his own carvings. He also gives Kira a gift: a small box, carved to resemble the plants Kira is learning. Kira places her piece of cloth in the box, and tells Thomas that the cloth speaks to her. Thomas shows her that he has a similar possession: a piece of wood he carved when he was a tyke. He adds that when he feels it with his fingers, he remembers the knowledge he had as a tyke. Kira is confused when Thomas talks about his knowledge in the past tense, but doesn’t ask him about this.
Like Kira, Thomas is a servant of the Council, and therefore an artist for the Gathering ceremony. The box he gives Kira is a gesture of friendship; at the same time, Thomas implies that he’s lost a fundamental connection to his abilities as an artist. While it’s not quite clear why this is the case, we can guess: Thomas has been employed by the Council for too long. Kira, who’s only just arrived at the Edifice, can still access her creativity fully. This would imply that the Council, despite seeming to sponsor or act as a patron of art, somehow actually limits artists’ abilities.
Themes
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Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
Kira falls into a schedule: she visits Annabella regularly, but spends most of her day working on the robe. She also begins to enjoy her bath instead of preferring the stream.
Kira adjusts to her new life fairly quickly. The Council encourages her to live in the Edifice, not by forcing her, but by giving her nice things like baths.
Themes
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Power and Freedom Theme Icon
As she works, Kira examines the Singer’s robe more closely. It tells a long, complicated history. One part of the robe shows a sea, full of enormous fish. Nearby, the robe depicts men armed with spears. This makes Kira think of her father, even though what the robe shows happened long before her father was alive. Rather than continue to look over the robe, Kira reminds herself that there’s no time for her to waste. She begins to repair the worn parts of the robe, noting that whoever wove the original robe was very talented. Her work is very slow.
Kira’s first impressions of the robe are scattered, but they still tell us a lot. The robe is designed to tell the history of the world. Evidently, a large portion of this history consists of violence, warfare, and death, hence the men with spears. This is, unfortunately, probably a fair assessment of the history of the world.
Themes
Art and Creative Instinct Theme Icon
Power and Freedom Theme Icon
Pain and Maturity Theme Icon
In the late afternoon, Kira stops to examine her work, and concludes that she’s doing a good job. Her hands are tired, but when she takes her cloth out of the box Thomas gave her, she feels calm. When Kira goes to visit Thomas in his quarters, he points to the village from his window: a hunt is being organized. Kira notices with horror that Matt, armed with a tiny spear, is preparing to join the hunt. At first, Thomas can’t understand why Kira cares about Matt and notes that there are too many tykes, anyway. But when Kira tells Thomas that Matt is her friend, he seems to understand. Kira feels her cloth and senses danger—she begs Thomas to help her stop Matt from joining the hunt.
For the time being, Kira derives great pride and satisfaction from her weaving. It’s a little strange that it takes so long for Kira to convince Thomas to help her save Matt—Thomas seems amazingly unsympathetic and tactless, but of course, he’s only echoing what he’s learned in the village and the Council Edifice. It’s important to notice that we see Matt carrying a spear, imitating older hunters, immediately after Kira examines the robe and sees that it depicts men with spears. In the grand scheme of things, Matt and the village hunters are one and the same: Matt imitates the hunters, and the hunters imitate the robe.
Themes
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