Scythe

by

Neal Shusterman

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Scythe: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Scythe Curie writes that those who revere scythes disturb her. Plenty of people want to be scythes, and long ago, people would dress up and pretend to be scythes. There were no laws against it because of the separation between the Thunderhead and the Scythedom, but scythes voted to glean impersonators publically. Curie rarely hears about impersonators now, but she wonders if they want to die and know this is the only surefire way.
Recall that there's no way for people to die of their own volition now; splatters like Tyger are revived immediately, and scythes cannot glean those who ask to die. The idea of scythe impersonators, however, especially given the fact that scythes are supposed to symbolize goodness and humanity, suggests that this is one of the few ways for people to connect with their humanity.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
The party at Scythe Goddard's mansion continues for another day. Rowan almost enjoys it, but he's jerked back to earth when scythes shake his hand and wish him luck in the competition against Citra. On the afternoon of the second day, Goddard calls an end to the party, and it's over within the hour. Volta fetches Rowan from outside and takes him to a wine cellar in the basement. Scythes Goddard, Rand, and Chomsky are there, and Rand passes a "tweaker" over Rowan's body to do something to his nanites. Then, the scythes strip down to their undergarments and begin to beat Rowan. Rowan discovers that they turned off his pain nanites.
Beating Rowan without his pain nanites effectively plunges Rowan back to the Age of Mortality (though he can't die from the trauma). While it's easy to dismiss Goddard's methods as inhumane, it is important to note that again, he's drawing on the same logic as Curie and Faraday did—that something like this will connect Rowan to the Age of Mortality, and that that connection is necessary to be a good scythe.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
The first day after the beating, the pain is so bad that Rowan wants to die. Volta visits and spoons soup into Rowan's mouth. He speaks to Rowan with genuine compassion. Late the next day, Esme visits Rowan. Rowan asks why she's with Goddard, and she explains that he told her to follow after gleaning at a mall. Rowan believes there's more to her presence, but he can't figure out what it is. Esme says that she thinks Rowan will be a good scythe. He tells her he won't be a scythe, but she suggests that he'll want to.
The way that Esme speaks to Rowan indicates that as mysterious as she is, she's a naturally compassionate person, given that she can clearly tell that Rowan isn't a bloodthirsty monster like Goddard and his cronies are. She also suggests that she's aware of how powerful and attractive Goddard makes scythehood look. She is, in other words, a mini, human surveillance system.
Themes
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
Goddard visits Rowan on the third day. He helps Rowan out of bed and stands him in front of a mirror so Rowan can see his bruising. He insists that Rowan's adult self will emerge from this broken body, but Rowan spits that that's silly. Goddard says that Rowan has been given the opportunity to become greater than anyone else. Goddard pulls out a tweaker and activates Rowan's healing nanites so they can begin training tomorrow. Rowan asks why he didn't reactivate Rowan's painkilling nanites, and Goddard says that Rowan needs a clear mind—and that means experiencing pain.
Goddard shows here that he likes to dramatize and romanticize his work and his beliefs in a way that makes them attractive to some and ridiculous to others. Again, however, he's drawing on the idea that scythes must give up something in order to be a good scythe. Faraday lived simply; Citra allowed her dog bite to heal naturally. Goddard, on the other hand, believes that scythes should give up their comfortable positions as painless creatures.
Themes
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
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