Scythe

by

Neal Shusterman

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Scythe: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In her gleaning journal, Scythe Curie writes that gleaning is difficult, even though it's necessary. Now, there are no diseases or accidents, but people still must die. Humans failed to colonize the moon and Mars, so there's nowhere else for all the people to go. She understands why scythes must do their work, but wonders why she was chosen and what fate she might experience after she dies.
It's important to keep in mind that failing to start colonies in space means that while humans may be immortal, they're not infallible. In other words, they're still human and aren't yet entirely godlike—and in important ways, society as a whole still experiences failure and difficulty.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Rowan sits next to the bed of his friend Tyger in the revival center, as Tyger recently threw himself out of a 39th story window. Rowan doesn't want to be at home, as his grandmother recently reset down to age 25 and is pregnant again, much to Rowan's mom’s annoyance. Tyger awakes and is thrilled to learn that he'd been "deadish" for four days, a new record for him. Rowan immediately begins to lose patience with his friend's obsession with making a mess by "splatting," but laughs when Tyger says he has to remind his parents that "the lettuce" is still around. Both Rowan and Tyger are middle children and have declared themselves "lettuce kids" that are easily forgotten. Tyger started splatting a few months ago and likes that he can force his parents to spend money on him by doing so.
The idea of Tyger and Rowan being "lettuce" kids speaks more broadly to how it feels to live in an immortal age: while Tyger and Rowan might experience more acutely a sense that they don't matter, in reality, nobody truly matters anymore. Because of this, people like Tyger are drawn to spectacle and display by doing things like “splatting.” Later in the novel, this idea explains some of why Scythe Goddard likes to glean so violently—instead of splatting, he wants to make his mark by becoming famous for his violence.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
The next morning, Rowan runs into Scythe Faraday at school. Rowan offers to walk with him to the office since he's going there too. In the office, Faraday asks for Kohl Whitlock. Rowan scornfully points out that Kohl is the star quarterback and then makes a point of following Faraday and Kohl into the principal's office. Faraday grudgingly agrees that Rowan can stay, especially when Kohl asks that "Ronald" stay. Rowan pulls up a chair and asks why Kohl has to die. Faraday sighs and explains that he selected Kohl to follow statistics from the Age of Mortality, when .303% of deaths were of teens that drove drunk—which Kohl does.
Faraday's explanation as to why he chose Kohl shows that while there may not be anything of note to learn from the past, people in the novel's present still draw on the information there to make decisions about how to act. This also suggests that while death may be less common in an immortal world, it's still something that can come up suddenly and dramatically—not much has actually changed since people lived mortal lives.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
Faraday explains that he's going to kill Kohl by electrocuting him. Hearing this, Kohl grabs Rowan's hand. Rowan asks if Kohl has any last words. Kohl doesn't, but Rowan decides to make up something good. Faraday attempts to make Rowan let go of Kohl's hand, but Rowan refuses and painfully flies backwards when Faraday electrocutes Kohl. Rowan thanks Faraday for letting him stay, and Faraday notes that Rowan did a good thing by comforting Kohl. Rowan insists that anyone would've done it, but Faraday points out that nobody else offered. Rowan says that he doesn't want immunity, and Faraday warns him that nobody will thank him for what he did.
Choosing to stay, comfort Kohl, and honor him by making up last words shows that Rowan is already a compassionate character. It's worth keeping in mind that in a world where nobody dies naturally, it's not as societally necessary for people to behave like this—the success of a society doesn't depend as much on cooperation and alliances as it does today, when not cooperating can result in deadly war.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Just before lunch, Marah Paulik, Kohl's girlfriend, slaps Rowan for letting Faraday kill him. Rowan tries to explain, but Marah won't listen. A crowd forms around them and students begin to mutter when Rowan says he held Kohl's hand. Marah insists this is a lie, as Kohl wouldn't have touched someone like Rowan. Rowan understands that his classmates want someone to blame, and he hates that Faraday was right that nobody will appreciate his kindness.
Remember that Faraday is quite old; he no doubt has had many years to observe how people handle death, and, specifically, how people want to be able to blame others for bad things. This experience allows Rowan to learn the rather bleak lesson that behaving compassionately won't always earn him respect or help him get ahead.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon