Scythe

by

Neal Shusterman

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Scythe: Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In her gleaning journal, Scythe Curie explains that all scythes must keep a record of the "innocents" they glean. She insists that all people she kills are innocent, though she's performing a great service to the world by gleaning people. Her journal, which is public, is the record, and it's intended to justify for the world why she does what she does and to show that she does grieve for those who die. Not grieving would make her a monster.
In these excerpts from gleaning journals, which begin every chapter, scythes attempt to justify their actions for their readers, both the reader of the novel and the prospective readers within their own world. By insisting that scythes have emotions and grieve, Curie suggests that scythes actually have a very difficult job and one that's morally complicated.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
Related Quotes
One day in November, Citra is doing homework when her mom answers the door to find a scythe, Scythe Faraday, outside. Citra's mom is immediately terrified, and Citra is scared as well. Faraday steps inside in his ivory linen robe, which Citra believes is intended to make him look more pleasant, but she's still afraid to have a scythe in her home. He greets Citra and her brother, Ben, by name, and invites himself to stay for dinner. Citra wonders if Faraday is going to eat and then glean someone in the family.
"Gleaning" is permanent killing in this immortal world. Citra's fear shows that she mostly thinks of scythes as having questionable morals—it would be horrible to force someone to serve dinner and then kill them, especially given how scared Citra and her family are of being in close contact with a scythe.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
Citra and Ben sit with Faraday in the living room and discuss the scientist Michael Faraday, who is Faraday's "Patron Historic" (namesake). Citra notices that Faraday looks relatively old and asks if he's old by choice. Citra's mom believes this is rude, but Faraday says he likes direct questions and shares that he is almost 180 years old. He laughs and says that looking older makes people think that he's wise. Citra's dad arrives home from work, shakes Faraday's hand, and then they all sit down for dinner. Citra's dad notes that he hasn't seen Faraday around, and Faraday responds that he believes that in order to do his job well, he needs to be somewhat anonymous. This offends Citra.
Pay close attention to what Faraday says about looking old making people think that he's wise. This word choice suggests that Faraday isn't convinced that he's wise; it's just something he's trying to portray to the masses. This flags for the readers that scythes are more complicated than Citra gives them credit for, and that they specifically struggle with how to present themselves and their profession to the world. While they aspire to look wise and knowledgeable, in reality, they question if they know enough.
Themes
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
Near the end of dinner, Faraday asks Citra's family to tell him about themselves. Citra's dad works in historical research, while Citra's mom is a food synthesis engineer. Faraday suggests that both jobs are useless—society can synthesize everything and anything, while studying the past will never yield new information. Citra gets his point; humans are so advanced now that there's no more to learn. She angrily spits that Faraday should glean one of them and move on. Her parents and Ben dissolve into fearful tears while Citra's dad tries to apologize. Faraday says he likes being challenged before grabbing a huge knife out of their kitchen. He asks Citra's mother to kiss his ring, which will grant her immunity from gleaning for a year. She does, and Faraday explains that he's here to glean their neighbor. As he leaves, he tells Citra she'd make a good scythe.
Citra's understanding of what Faraday is saying suggests that immortality has made living somewhat useless: there's nothing more to learn or strive for, so what's the purpose of even being alive? Citra's anger when she grasps this suggests that though she comprehends the importance of the question, even immortal humans are still naturally offended when their purpose on earth—and by extension, their very lives—are questioned. This implies that even in an immortal world, humans do still want to live. In other words, dying hasn't yet become anything other than the scary unknown that is in the reader's world.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire Scythe LitChart as a printable PDF.
Scythe PDF
After Faraday leaves, Citra's dad turns up the TV volume so they can't hear anything. An hour later, Faraday returns with the knife and gives it back to Citra. She refuses to take it but finally accepts when Faraday gently points out that everyone is complicit in what scythes do. When Faraday leaves, Citra throws the knife in the trash.
Throwing the knife away allows Citra to tell herself that being complicit and understanding that scythes are necessary doesn't mean that she has to like her complicity. She'll later discover that her ability to understand both sides of this is what gives her the compassion that scythes need.
Themes
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon