Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
June 11. Miranda hears from her father—apparently Hal has been trying to call them several times a day and hasn’t been able to get through. He says that he and Lisa are safe and the pregnancy is going well. Conditions in Springfield, Massachusetts seem similar to where Miranda lives in Pennsylvania. The current plan is still for Jonny to go to baseball camp, then Miranda and Jonny will go spend the month of August with Hal and Lisa. Matt is invited but declines because he thinks Laura will need him at home.
Despite the current global conditions, Laura and Hal are still trying to set up plans for Miranda and Jonny to spend time with Hal. From Laura’s perspective, this has less to do with custody agreements and more to do with making her food supplies last as long as possible. If Miranda and Jonny are in Springfield, she doesn’t have to feed them.
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June 12. Peter stops by for a visit but can only stay for an hour because his doctor’s practice is so busy. He warns the Evanses to start wearing bug repellant, and if they can find somewhere to buy it, “Pay whatever it costs,” because he’s started to see cases of West Nile virus and is hearing rumors of Malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Miranda hears all of this, but still insists in her journal that nothing is going to stop her from swimming at Miller’s Pond.
Peter’s knowledge of the new illnesses and threats to their help is especially valuable now that the news and internet can’t be counted on to give updates—in the rare event they even have electricity to access these. Miranda’s response to his warnings proves that despite the new conditions, she’s clinging to old priorities.
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June 15. It’s stormed for days and the electricity hasn’t come on until this morning, when it only lasts a few minutes. Now that the sun is finally out, Miranda puts on her swimsuit and sneaks out of the house to go swim at Miller’s Pond. Dan from her swim team is already there, and the two of them spend the day swimming together and then talking on the banks. Miranda reports that they tried to talk about “unimportant stuff” but that the conversation quickly turned heavy—to Dan’s grandparents who were killed by tsunamis in Florida, to his belief that the government should have warned people and responded better in the aftermath. They talk about a hypothetical next school year where Dan invites Miranda to prom, and then they kiss. He walks her home and they make plans to meet at the pond again the next day.
Miranda attempts to have a normal day, despite everything that is going on. To a degree, she succeeds—she swims at the pond and has some romantic moments with Dan. But even while they’re flirting and talking, they can’t help talking about all the trauma they have endured and the people they’ve lost. Dan’s prom invitation for the following spring shows their hope that things will go back to normal, and also that they don’t know how to navigate teen romance in this new world—one in which dates and phone calls and the typical forms of flirting and dating are out of reach.
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When Miranda walks in the house, Laura is furious that Miranda had left without telling her. As they argue—Miranda for her autonomy, and Laura from a place of fear—they both come to see the others’ perspective. Miranda is horrified by the idea when Laura asks her to imagine not knowing where she is, but she still insists that she won’t stop going to the pond, no matter the mosquito-risk. Laura relents, saying that as much as she’d like to protect her children from everything, she can’t. And that she also wants Miranda to enjoy swimming, the same way Jonny enjoys baseball, and Matt likes running. Laura’s escape is gardening—though this year she’s growing vegetables instead of flowers.
This moment is a clash of the rules Miranda used to live by versus her new normal. While she’s always had the autonomy to go out and enjoy her summer, Laura is now terrified by the idea of letting her children out of her sight. Miranda isn’t able to understand this until Laura offers a hypothetical where she reverses their positions. Miranda is then able to understand Laura’s perspective and her struggle to let them live while also keeping them safe.
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They end their argument with the agreement that Miranda must tell Laura if she’s going somewhere, and Laura asking if Miranda wants lunch. Miranda doesn’t miss the odd phrasing of if versus what and pretends she’s not hungry. Instead of eating she helps Laura weed the garden.
Miranda’s focus on language and journaling allows her to pick up on the nuance of Laura’s question—there’s a subtle pressure on that if, which influences Miranda’s decision to deny herself lunch.
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June 16-17. Miranda meets Dan at Miller’s Pond, where they kiss and swim. Laura picks up the family mail at the post office. She’s gotten a letter from Jonny’s baseball camp—which will still run for the weeks planned, but will be partnering with a local farm where the campers will be required to help. Laura is ecstatic that Jonny will have fresh, healthy food. And while Jonny is disappointed that this means less time for baseball, Miranda and Laura are doing the calculations about how much food they’ll save by not having to feed Jonny for those weeks. The thought makes Laura smile.
Laura’s decision to allow Jonny to attend baseball camp seems at odds with her current extreme protectiveness. Since mail and phone service is erratic, if he’s at camp she won’t be able to contact him if something were to happen. Laura’s rationale demonstrates her real concern: supplies. If Jonny’s away it will allow them to conserve more of the food in their pantry, helping with long term survival.
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June 19. They try and call Hal throughout the day to wish him a happy Father’s Day, but they are unable to get through. Miranda wonders if Lisa’s baby is replacing her and her siblings, and then feels silly since she’ll see him in a few weeks. She also feels guilty that some days she doesn’t think of Hal at all.
Miranda rationalizes her guilt about Hal with the thought that he’s about to have a new baby—one he’ll get to see and care for on a daily basis. Rather than feel upset about being replaced, she feels relief.
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June 21. The heat has been unrelenting and electricity scarce, so Miranda spends as much time as possible at Miller’s Pond with Dan and other members of the swim team. She has mixed feelings about their other friends showing up, however, because it means she and Dan can’t kiss.
Miranda is attempting to have as normal a summer as possible. At home, she can’t pretend things are normal, but at Miller’s Pond, she’s found an oasis in the middle of the ongoing crises.
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Peter comes to visit and brings canned nuts as well news of the spread of West Nile virus. He says people are also dying from food allergies because they’re so desperately hungry.
Peter’s arrival always heralds bad news. Miranda recognizes this is because he spends his day with the ill and dying, but still dreads it.
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Miranda has a nightmare that starts as a dream date with Dan and ends with Becky guarding a table loaded with food and saying that Miranda can’t have any because she’s not dead. She wakes up still dreaming about pancakes and decides to be grateful for what she has: for each morning she wakes up, for swimming in Miller’s Pond, “fake dates” with Dan, and dreams about pancakes.
Miranda’s dreams about heaven and food always contain a component of her worrying that she’s not good enough. Her reaction upon waking is a furtherance of that theme, as her determination to appreciate what she has and show gratitude demonstrate her desire to be “good.”
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June 22. Miranda has a good day. Laura figures out a way to make modified pancakes out of the ingredients they have, and then later figures out how to make bread with some yeast she’d forgotten she bought. At Miller’s Pond, Dan and Miranda have alone time to kiss and hold hands. Hal calls and tells Miranda that things are going as well as can be expected—the baby is fine and they have enough food. He’s heard the farmers are planting and trucks are driving. The night ends with the electricity coming back on for three hours—long enough to cool down the house, do laundry, and watch sitcoms with the family. Miranda goes to bed grateful for clean sheets, a cool house, a night of laughter, news from her father, and kisses.
A “good day” for Miranda is one in which she can pretend life hasn’t irrevocably changed. Eating foods that aren’t canned or jarred is part of this, as is any time spent at Miller’s Pond. And though the pleasures of the day—a phone call, pancakes, laundry, and sitcoms—are all simple ones, Miranda is learning to value them greatly. Her perspective has shifted so that she can appreciate things she had once taken for granted.
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June 24. Miranda prefaces her entry by stating that she and Laura are in a massive fight, then goes back in the timeline to recount her day and explain how they got there.
Miranda’s extreme shift in mood since the previous entry shows that she’s still sixteen—a teenager going through ordinary stages of growth and rebellion in a situation that is far from ordinary.
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After swimming at Miller’s Pond, Miranda and Dan accompany Laura and Mrs. Nesbitt into town. While Laura is getting gas—a complicated process of alternating between the two open pumps in town, waiting in long lines for the $12 a gallon, three-gallon cap—the others visit the library, which they’ve been frequenting more often in case it closes. After saying good-bye to Dan at the library, Mrs. Nesbitt and Miranda begin to walk to the gas station when they encounter a food distribution line. Miranda tells Mrs. Nesbitt to wait and runs to go get Dan. The line is guarded by troopers and the mood is jubilant, even when it begins to rain. As Dan and Miranda leave with their bags, they hear the trooper shut down the line because there are no more supplies to distribute.
Miranda approaches this day as a smitten sixteen year old. She glosses over the time-consuming task of getting gas, because it doesn’t impact her. Her attention is fixated on getting a ride to town with Dan and spending more time together. Likewise, during the food distribution, her thoughts about Dan come before any thoughts of self-preservation. Miranda is excited by the idea of the food, and also by the idea that she helped Dan—and doesn’t look beyond that.
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As Miranda walks with Mrs. Nesbitt and their bags of food to meet her mom at the gas station, she thinks about how excited Laura will be. Instead Laura becomes very quiet, and instead of driving to the other station to queue up for more gas, she heads home. Miranda recognizes her mood, and once they’re back in their own kitchen, asks what the problem is. Laura is furious that Miranda left the line to go get Dan—risking her chance at getting food for her own family. Miranda hadn’t even considered that the food could run out while she was fetching Dan—but since it didn’t, she doesn’t see the big deal. “Family is all that matters!” Laura screams, and from there the fight escalates.
Much like with the clothing and blanket drive earlier in the book, Miranda doesn’t see the harm in helping other people. Laura, however, has a much more insular view of their situation and sees any act of charity as a threat to her family’s well being. She also feels like Miranda’s relationship with Dan is a threat, since it clouded Miranda’s thoughts and could’ve cost the family a bag of food.
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Miranda accuses her mom of thinking they’re all going to die and Laura rages that Miranda should never say that again. The fight twists into being about Miranda and Dan, when Miranda describes their relationship as “something special” and compares it to Laura and Peter’s. Laura is terrified and demands to know if Miranda is sleeping with him, and says that if she is, she’s never allowed to see him again, or go to Miller’s Pond, or leave the house alone. Miranda responds that her mom doesn’t trust her and that she loves Dan, before running to her room. She confesses in her journal that she doesn’t really love Dan, but that she hates her mom for making it sound like family is the only thing that matters, and that she doesn’t want to live in a world where that’s true.
Miranda’s words in this argument are chosen to provoke her mother. Lying about being in love and comparing their few moments and kisses to Laura’s relationship with Peter is her attempt at getting Laura to take her seriously. Instead it makes Laura more worried that Miranda will do something even more rash than risk food supplies—that she’ll get pregnant, something that would be dangerous and make survival in these times even harder.
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June 25. Miranda skips breakfast and stays in her bedroom the next morning. Matt stops by her room to try and convince her to apologize to Laura, and despite how desperate she is for her brother’s approval, Miranda resists and says that while their mom might not think they’re going to die, she’s refusing to let them live. Matt responds that Laura is scared, and stressed about Jonny’s camp and Mrs. Nesbitt’s safety, and Peter working too hard. He suggests that Miranda to see Sammi or Megan—and not make Dan the only person she sees. Miranda realizes that she barely thinks of her friends, but agrees to Matt’s points and to make up with Laura.
Miranda’s conversation with Matt is all about trying to see other people’s perspective. Miranda hadn’t considered all of the fears Laura is juggling, and also hadn’t realized that she no longer thinks about the friends who filled her mind and journal entries before the moon’s collision with the asteroid. Matt is repeating some of the things Laura has said, but because Miranda so values his opinion, she’s able to better hear them when Matt says them.
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Miranda invites Jonny to come with her to Miller’s Pond and he excitedly agrees. Seeing him play and have fun makes Miranda realize how little she’s considered how he’s handling all of the recent events or how bored he must be with nothing to do all day. On their walk back from the pond Jonny worries that because of the lack of balance in his diet, he’s not going to grow tall enough to be a professional baseball player. Miranda has the urge to laugh at the frivolity of his problems, but remembers how Matt respected hers and she responds seriously. When they return home Laura is preparing to bake bread, and Miranda offers to help. The gesture repairs their relationship.
Miranda’s actions with Jonny are a direct result of her conversation with Matt. She takes the time to consider how he must be experiencing the events of the summer and makes an effort to include him. While she realizes they have much bigger problems than whether or not Jonny is tall enough to be a pro baseball player, she also realizes that he deserves her respect in the same way that Matt had respected her worries and questions.
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