Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
October 2. Miranda turns on the stove and it’s no longer working—their gas has run out. Now the Evanses have to heat food and boil water on the woodstove. This means cutting back from once weekly showers to none at all, and reducing the amount of clothes washing. Miranda is upset by this, not because of the work, but because it’s an indication that things are getting worse again. This belief is confirmed when she, Jonny, and Matt go into town and Mrs. Hotchkiss tells them that the library is closing for good.
After the hopeful tones of the last chapter, this one opens more ominously. It’s not that things had been getting better, but there had been a kind of status quo for a while, and Miranda had normalized to those conditions. Any change for the worse—even if they have provisions for it, like the wood stove—impact her equilibrium and make her fearful.
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Mrs. Hotchkiss makes a comment about the temperature already being below freezing for two weeks in October, meaning that none of them will survive the winter in Pennsylvania. This causes the Evans siblings to bicker about whether or not their family should stay or leave. Jonny wants to go find Hal, even though they don’t know where he is. Matt asserts that they have the greatest chance of surviving where they are—reminding them that the disasters are global, not local. He also reveals that Hal must’ve used black market connections to get the supplies and fuel he’s had so far: a fact that stuns his siblings and make Miranda feel naïve. Matt tells them they just have to wait for things to get better—Miranda doesn’t believe it, but thinks as long as they stick together, it’ll be all right.
Miranda loses a bit of her naivety when Matt reveals that Hal had used black market connections to gain supplies. Miranda equates this to the looting men with guns who had scared her in town, or forty-year-old George who used his connections to persuade Sammi to go away with him. Jonny, however, is heartened by this and wants to go join Hal. Matt is the voice of reason between Miranda’s emotionality and Jonny’s impulsivity. Despite this, Miranda is not reassured.
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October 6. Miranda is having a hard time remembering what rain and sunlight are like. With the mail becoming increasingly unreliable, they have no idea what is happening in the larger world, but since the ash cloud is worsening, they think volcanoes must still be erupting. Matt and Jonny continue to chop wood, despite the worsening air quality. And Miranda is grateful that the ash cloud blocks her view of the moon.
Increasingly, the fundamental beliefs that Miranda has about normal life are being stripped away: her memories of rain and snow, reliable mail, news of the larger world. Despite all this, she still remembers what the moon should look like, and is grateful she’s not constantly faced with the view of it now.
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October 10-13. The Evanses all decide to cut off their hair because it’s becoming harder and harder to keep clean. Matt and Laura argue over whether or not to use the last of the heating oil. He wins, and they will use the oil, but they also decide to close off the upstairs and move all the mattresses down into the kitchen and living room. Miranda mourns the loss of her bedroom, but doesn’t feel like she has a place to cry about it.
For Miranda, having a place of her own where she could go and write in her journal was incredibly important. The loss of her room is the loss of much of her remaining privacy. She spends so much of her day in close quarters with her family that this small change hurts—even though it means the physical comfort of heat.
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October 14-15. Matt tells Miranda that Megan and Mrs. Wayne’s names appear on the ‘dead list’ posted in town. Miranda struggles to process this, especially since Megan had wanted to die, so she goes to see Reverend Marshall to seek out more information. He tells her that Mrs. Wayne hung herself after they’d buried Megan, and that he won’t allow her to be interred beside her daughter. She is horrified to see that while his congregants are all starving, Reverend Marshall hasn’t lost weight. Miranda calls him out on his hypocrisy and is escorted from the church.
Miranda feels no comfort in the news that Megan achieved the death she had sought as a sign of her piety. Miranda has long been suspicious of Reverend Marshall and the type of religion he preaches. His judgmental comments about Mrs. Wayne and the way he’s profited at the expense of his congregants confirm this. The fact that Miranda calls him on his behavior is a testament to how strongly she loathes him—perhaps comparing his false appearance of sacrifice to the very real sacrifices Miranda and her family members have been making.
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Miranda bikes over to the Waynes’ house, but finds that it’s been looted. She sits in Megan’s empty room and reminisces about their friendship. When she goes home, she sits in the pantry until it’s time for supper. She’s not hungry, but eats anyway to prove that unlike Megan, she’s going to endure and survive this—especially so that her mom doesn’t have to go through what Mrs. Wayne did with losing a child.
Megan’s death is a galvanizing event for Miranda. It not only strengthens her resolve to survive, but it also makes her truly consider the impact her death would have on her mother.
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October 18-21. Miranda dreams of Megan and hell. She wakes up in the kitchen beside Laura and misses the privacy of her bedroom. Matt volunteers to work at the Post Office on Friday so they don’t have to close. When Laura applauds the purpose this gives his life, Jonny and Miranda scoff. Laura tells them “do whatever you want. I’m past caring.” This sentiment terrifies Miranda.
Miranda is used to her mother badgering her to work on schoolwork and being a source of optimism. Thus Laura’s disinterest in how her children are spending their time disquiets Miranda, who feels like it’s an indication her mother has given up on them.
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October 24. The temperature reaches 29 degrees and Miranda decides to go skating on Miller’s Pond. She arrives to see that world-famous figure skater Brandon Erlich is also there, and the two of them skate together. He encourages her and praises her—even when she gets winded after just a few minutes because of the air quality. They discuss his Olympic dreams, her fandom, and their new reality. He asks her to come skate with him again tomorrow.
Throughout the narrative, Miller’s Pond has been a place of escape for Miranda. This entry takes that idea to a new (and almost fantastical) level, providing not only space away from her family and a place to skate, but also Miranda’s hero/celebrity crush as a skating partner. Even now, though, nothing is perfect. She tires quickly, and they can’t escape talking about their bleak realities.
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