Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
May 19. Miranda wakes up to a phone call from Hal, who has been trying all night to reach them. He and Lisa are fine, and so is Miranda’s Grandma in Las Vegas. As she hears news of how other countries around the world—particularly those with lots of coastlines like Holland and Australia—have been decimated, Miranda struggles to balance her own relief about her family with the growing awareness that the world is not okay.
This is a moment of false hope. While Miranda should celebrate her family’s safety, it highlights the insular perspective they are all taking. It’s shortsighted to think that because they all weathered the previous night, that all is okay. Miranda’s reaction to news of other countries faring worse is a reflection of her perspective beginning to broaden.
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The news that the schools are open that day feeds into Miranda’s confused emotions. On one hand, Hal is encouraging her to “get on with our lives and be grateful that we can,” and Laura is making a special pancake breakfast, but on the other hand she’s learning that while scientists have theories about what happened the night before—namely that the asteroid was denser than they’d predicted and it knocked the moon closer to the earth—they cannot predict what the lasting outcomes will be.
Miranda is uncomfortable with the juxtaposition of being told to go about her own life with gratitude while realizing how many people no longer can—although this also might be a commentary on how many people do this exact thing every day, even in a non-apocalyptic world.
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Attendance is down at school. Miranda notes that Megan and her church friends are all absent. Ms. Hammish attempts to teach a lesson, but is thwarted by a sudden dramatic lightning storm, which causes the school to lose power. Fearing tornadoes, the students are moved to the hallway for an hour. The reactions of Miranda’s classmates vary from joking, to screaming, to crying, to Miranda’s laughter when she imagines the world coming to an end while she’s stuck in a school hallway.
Ms. Hammish’s attempts at school as usual—trying to teach a lesson despite the weather, the absences, and the students’ emotions—build to a failure that dramatically makes the point: normal is over, and things will never be the same. What remains is figuring out how to react to what is happening now and what comes next.
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Laura arrives unexpectedly at school to pick up Miranda. Jonny and Mrs. Nesbitt are already waiting in the car, and Laura hands them each an envelope filled with fifty-dollar bills—she visited the bank that morning before buying gas at $5 a gallon. She tells them they’re going to the grocery store, which has no electricity and is selling everything for $100 cash per grocery cart.
It’s been less than 24 hours since the moon collision and the economy has already reacted—cash only, price gouging for gasoline, and a whole cart of food for a fixed price. Laura is quick to recognize these as symptoms of bigger changes ahead.
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As they drive through the storm to the store, Laura is solemn as she assigns each of them a task: Jonny is in charge of getting water and supplies for Horton. Mrs. Nesbitt is to get paper goods. Miranda is tasked with canned soups, vegetables, and fruits, as well as vitamins and other first aid supplies. Miranda and Jonny make jokes about how all of this is unnecessary and crazy, but Laura refuses to be dissuaded.
Laura’s instincts in this situation are spot on—but they point to a reality that is terrifying: one in which all of these supplies will be necessary. It is their own sense of fear and discomfort that cause Jonny and Miranda to tease their mom for her plans.
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Once they arrive at the store, Miranda is shocked to see that the parking lot is chaos—people are fighting over parking spaces and carts. Inside the store is chaotic too—it reminds Miranda of the emotions she witnessed in the school hallway. While other people focus on meat and produce, Miranda sticks to her mother’s plan and buys nonperishables. She, Jonny, Laura, and Mrs. Nesbitt make multiple trips to fill their carts. A man tries to steal Mrs. Nesbitt’s cart, but she fights back. Despite feeling panicked about getting supplies for her own family, Laura helps a desperate man shop for his toddler and pregnant wife. Once the store is picked through and the car full, they leave.
Miranda’s tone while recording the events at the store is matter-of-fact. She leans on humor to describe the fights among shoppers and her scramble to fill her cart with essentials. Since she is writing this entry after she is safely home, though, we can see it as a mask to hide her true feelings about the events—and how shocked she was when her hopes that these preparations were senseless collides with the reality of so many people fighting (often selfishly and viciously) for resources.
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On the way home they consider what other supplies they may need and stop at a strip mall and convenience store to buy vegetable flats, candles, matches, and batteries. The clerk at one store makes a comment about electricity coming back soon, and Miranda jokingly responds that her mom is panicking and this will make her feel better. Despite her words to the clerk, though, Miranda is no longer teasing Laura. Miranda had compared the first store to a shopping spree game show, but now she’s thinking seriously about survival essentials and is proud of herself for thinking to purchase oil lamps.
Miranda shows initiative in this scene—no longer passively following her mother’s orders, but coming up with the idea of oil lamps on her own. This signals a change in her perspective and agency. The experiences of shopping have changed her, and though she jokes with the clerk, she no longer believes her own words. Despite wanting to think that none of this preparation is necessary, she’s now feeling empowered by her contributions to their collective survival.
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When the supplies are home and unloaded, they celebrate by eating a box of donuts that Laura had impulsively bought along with all the batteries, matches, and soap at the convenience store. She thanks Miranda and Jonny for their help, saying she couldn’t have done this without them, and then she begins to cry. Miranda ends the journal entry by stating it’s been two hours and she hasn’t stopped.
Unlike the rest of this journal entry, there’s no humor as Miranda describes her mother’s breakdown, an indication of how deeply this affects her. Miranda is used to her mother having the answers and doesn’t know how to process Laura’s emotions.
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