In her gleaning journal, Scythe Curie offers the history of her world. In 2042, "computational power became infinite" and "the cloud" became "the Thunderhead." Schooling suddenly became less interesting, as people knew everything, and humans conquered death. People switched to the Chinese calendar method of naming years for animals and the year of this writing is the Year of the Ocelot. The exact history is in the Thunderhead if anyone wants to look.
Curie's tone when she says that the entire history is available for anyone willing to look suggests that there's a degree of apathy among the populace when it comes to learning about or understanding the past. This gestures to the idea that those who forget the past will inevitably repeat it, and in doing so, foreshadows the coming conflict.
In January, Citra receives an invitation to the opera in the mail. Receiving it by mail is the oddest part, as nobody but eccentric people sends mail anymore. At the opera, an usher takes Citra to one of the box seats, which are for the elite. In the box is a boy (Rowan) in an ill-fitting suit. Rowan thanks Citra for the invite and Citra laughs, showing him her identical invitation. Rowan doesn't laugh. The two watch the show, which is an opera from the Age of Mortality. It makes little sense to them, as war and murder no longer exist. During intermission, Citra and Rowan try to figure out who invited them. They have little in common, but when Scythe Faraday steps into the box, Citra is convinced he's going to glean them. Instead, he sits down with them.
The idea that Citra and Rowan cannot grasp an opera about war and murder reveals that immortality has robbed humanity of its ability to feel a wide range of emotions. It suggests that along with this, people have become less empathetic, since they no longer experience as many bad things as they did in the Age of Mortality. Given what the reader has read of Scythe Curie's gleaning journals, it's likely that Faraday likes the opera because his job as a scythe means that he has a greater capacity for compassion and therefore finds the story meaningful.
Rowan thinks back to how things changed after Kohl Whitlock was gleaned. After being beaten regularly for weeks, Rowan told the student body that the scythe was his uncle and will let Rowan choose the next student to be gleaned. Students ignored Rowan after that and Rowan even asked to change schools. He was thrilled to get the opera invitation until Faraday showed up. After the opera, Faraday gives Rowan and Citra a card and tells him to meet him at the address in the morning. The address is for the Museum of World Art. Though they arrive before opening, the security guard lets them guests in.
It's telling that Rowan experiments with power here by threatening other students with a lie, as it plants the seed for the reader that Rowan is capable of saying and doing morally questionable things in order to make his life more comfortable. With this, it suggests that anyone, even someone as kind and compassionate as Rowan, is capable of acting in the wrong.
Faraday leads them through galleries of old masters' paintings and finally, Rowan asks why they're here. Faraday asks what they've learned and then, how it would be different if they were in the post-mortality galleries. Rowan suggests that that art in those galleries is less troubled. Faraday suggests it's uninspired, which Citra says is just an opinion, and Faraday encourages them to look for the emotion in the next gallery. It's filled with huge paintings that move Rowan. Faraday takes them to a diner next and as he talks about world population, he pulls out a ring like the one he wears. Citra shrinks back as Faraday says that he's been given a ring so he can take an apprentice. Both Citra and Rowan try to refuse, but Faraday sternly says that he wants both of them to train, but only one will become a scythe.
Faraday implies in the gallery that once humans became immortal, they lost touch with their emotions and now aren't as capable of feeling anything—good or bad—as they once were. The fact that Rowan can and does experience deep emotions in the gallery indicates that people are still able to reach down and draw on some sense of collective memory in order to tap into those emotions. This, Faraday would likely suggest, will make Rowan a good scythe, especially given that the novel overwhelmingly suggests that a good scythe is an emotional and compassionate one.
When Citra tells her parents later, she's shocked when her mom asks Citra if she'll accept. Citra's mom says she'll support Citra in whatever she wants, but points out that scythes lead comfortable lives. Remembering that the families of scythes get immunity from gleaning, Citra realizes this is about Ben. She goes to bed thinking about how she expected her life to go and wonders if she could find purpose in gleaning. Rowan's decision is easier to make; he doesn't want anyone else to have the responsibility, and the art in the Age of Mortality galleries was moving for him.
It's telling here that Citra makes her decision for the sake of someone else, while Rowan makes the decision mostly for himself. While Rowan's choice can be read as compassionate (the reader will later learn that there are awful, immoral scythes out there), thinking for himself suggests that Rowan is more likely to want to work outside of established systems, even when those systems are family units bound by love and blood.