Throughout Red Queen, Mare Barrow often feels backed into a corner, forced to lie to her family and others. Others also lie to Mare throughout the novel, and she becomes increasingly distrustful of everyone, including herself. While Mare hardly trusts anyone at the end of the novel, the experience of mutual betrayal nevertheless creates another kind of powerful bond between Mare and other characters. The novel ultimately takes a complex view of the concept of trust: sometimes it is necessary to break one’s trust for the sake of a greater goal, and sometimes there is no choice in the matter, but the victims of betrayal and broken trust can still find solidarity with each other.
Mare does not feel particularly trustworthy herself, especially with regard to her family. While some of her lies have negative consequences, she nevertheless tries to protect her family and friends by, in her mind, betraying them. For example, Mare thinks that Gisa’s broken hand, broken as punishment for picking a Silver’s pocket, is her fault for bringing her younger sister to help her steal in the first place. Gisa trusted Mare to keep her safe, and Mare failed to do so. The consequences of this instance of broken trust do not fall back only on Gisa but also on Mare’s entire family, because Gisa is now unable to bring in money by sewing. Although the consequences seem to suggest that Mare would have done better not to bring Gisa to the robbery, Mare’s reason for doing so to begin with is selfless, not self-serving: she is attempting to get money to buy her friend Kilorn’s passage out of town to keep him safe from the army draft. What Mare sees as a betrayal of Gisa’s trust thus doubles as an attempt to fulfill the trusting relationship she has with Kilorn.
Mare also breaks the trust of her community and of her mother by secretly picking pockets for a living. Mare knows that her mother thinks of this activity as immoral, and Mare is ashamed of it, yet she persists not out of self-interest but because it is the only way she knows how to provide for her family. In order to spare her mother the shame, Mare withholds the information about where the goods she brings home come from. She thus betrays her family’s trust in order to benefit them.
Mare’s lies to her family grow in magnitude across the novel as the Silvers force her to tell them that she is staying at the palace by choice, not as a captive. Mare is unhappy that she must both abandon and lie to her family, but she does so as part of a bargain with the Silvers to bring her brothers home from the war. Once again, her lies bring about an ultimately positive outcome for her family members, even if her relationship with her family is irreparably damaged by her dishonesty.
Mare’s relationships outside of her family are damaged by dishonesty and betrayal as well. The result is that Mare becomes emotionally isolated, but she nevertheless finds herself in a kind of a tactical union with others who have been betrayed alongside her. Julian, Mare’s tutor at the palace, tells her in one memorable instance, “Anyone can betray anyone.” This phrase becomes Mare’s mantra throughout the novel, showing her increasing wariness of trusting anyone.
Mare eventually uses the phrase with regard to both Cal and Maven. She was once close to each of them, but distances herself emotionally from them when she realizes that they have been working against her. Mare decides that her relationship with Cal can never be romantic because of all the ways they have betrayed one another. However, the novel ends with Mare’s realization that they share the desire to kill Maven for the betrayal he has inflicted on both of them. The phrase “anyone can betray anyone” ostensibly narrates the way relationships are torn apart, but it also describes how a relationship might be formed: Mare and Cal are forged into the “anyone” Maven has betrayed.
Mare also feels a lack of trust at the end of the novel for the Scarlet Guard. It may not be responsible for all of the terrorist activities she once supposed it had perpetrated, but she is nevertheless unsure of exactly its core tenets. However, because Maven and Queen Elara have betrayed both Mare and the Scarlet Guard, Mare feels the same kind of alliance with the Scarlet Guard that she feels with Cal.
While Mare desires trusting relationships, it seems that betrayal and broken trust are inevitable in the crisis situations and power plays of the novel’s world. The outlook is not entirely sinister, however. In fact, Mare learns that betrayal can result in strong political alliances amongst those who have been betrayed. Everyone must vigilantly look over their shoulder, but there is nonetheless hope for cooperation.
Trust and Betrayal ThemeTracker
Trust and Betrayal Quotes in Red Queen
He’s right. It’s cruel to give hope where none should be. It only turns into disappointment, resentment, rage—all the things that make this life more difficult than it already is.
I don’t know who hired you or what they told you about the job, but it starts to wear on you. It’s not all changing bedsheets and cleaning plates. You have to look without seeing, hear without listening. We’re objects up there, living statues meant to serve….Especially now, with this Scarlet Guard business. It’s never a good time to be a Red, but this is very bad.
From my vantage point, hidden behind the flowers, I’m level with the king’s box and slightly behind it. Mare Barrow, a few yards from the king. What would my family think, or Kilorn for that matter? This man sends us to die, and I’ve willingly become his servant. It makes me sick.
Remember the person you’re supposed to be, and remember well…You are pretending to be raised Red, but you’re Silver by blood. You are now Red in the head, Silver in the heart….From now until the end of your days, you must lie. Your life depends on it, little lightning girl.
After a moment of tense silence, the queen turns on her heel. “Very well.” Like any wife, she hates her husband for challenging her, and like any queen, she hates the power the king holds over her. A bad combination.
Thinking all Silvers are evil is just as wrong as thinking all Reds are inferior….What my people are doing to you and yours is wrong to the deepest levels of humanity. Oppressing you, trapping you in an endless cycle of poverty and death, just because we think you are different from us? That is not right. And as any student of history can tell you, it will end poorly.
…[Y]ou’re in danger, from everyone. Even Maven. Even me. Anyone can betray anyone.
Think what their lives will buy, what their deaths will accomplish. How many of your people could be saved?
It’s not long before I find myself standing in the doorway of Julian’s old classroom, and the sight shocks me. The stacks of books, the desk, even the maps are gone. The room looks larger but feels smaller. It once held whole worlds but now holds only dust and crumpled paper. My eyes linger on the wall where the huge map used to be. Once I couldn’t understand it; now I remember it like an old friend.
The king’s corpse lands with a thud, his head rolling to a stop a few feet away. Silverblood splashes across the floor in a mirrored puddle, lapping at Cal’s toes. He drops the melting sword, letting it clang against stone, before falling to his knees, his head in his hands. The crown clatters across the floor, circling through the blood, until it stops to rest at Maven’s feet, sharp points bright with liquid silver.
A strange warmth falls over me, a warmth like the sun though we are deep underground. It’s as familiar to me as my own lightning, reaching out to envelop me in an embrace we can’t have. Even though they call Cal my enemy, even though they fear him, I let his warmth fall on my skin, and I let his eyes burn into mine.