Scythe

by

Neal Shusterman

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Scythe: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Scythe Curie writes that humanity's greatest achievement was ending government. As "the cloud" transformed into the Thunderhead, people realized that it was better suited to running things than politicians. All war, waste, and abuse dissolved as soon as the Thunderhead took power. It knew how to care for the population and gave people a utopia. The only thing it doesn't have control over is the Scythedom, which is still the responsibility of humans. This is because killing is "an act of conscience and consciousness." Curie wonders if the Thunderhead would've done the job better than humans.
Keeping the Thunderhead separate from the Scythedom and its aims means, in theory at least, that the society of the novel isn't going to dissolve into a conflict of man versus machines. However, by leaving the responsibility to glean in the hands of humans, the novel is able to explore how humans function when there's effectively very little oversight—there are no politicians or governments with laws to enforce, after all, so the Scythedom is mostly self-governing.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Citra realizes immediately that shopping with a scythe is very different than shopping alone. Some people pretend Faraday doesn't exist, while others run away. Still others go out of their way to suck up to the scythe in the hope that Faraday will grant them immunity. Only one woman seems genuinely pleased to see Faraday and is interested to hear that Rowan and Citra are his apprentices. After she moves away, Faraday explains that she works in the coroner's office and he grants her immunity every other year. Soon, Citra realizes that two teens are trailing them through the store. She wonders if they're "unsavories," people who like breaking minor rules, and points them out to Rowan. Rowan suggests they just want to watch a gleaning.
Because of the control that the Thunderhead has over the population, it's impossible for people to do more than break minor rules. The word choice used for these people, "unsavories," suggests that the general, rule-abiding populace has no issue following the rules of their society and sees rule breaking as a fruitless, silly endeavor. It also implies that there's nothing to gain from breaking the rules, and that breaking rules is something morally inferior—something that Citra and Rowan will later learn is actually untrue.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
While Citra, Rowan, and Faraday are in the checkout line, one teen races forward and kisses Faraday's ring, giving himself immunity. Faraday calmly says that he'll find the teen as soon as his year of immunity is up, and the teens run away. Rowan asks if Faraday will really track the teen down, and Faraday says that it's punishment enough to have to live in fear for a year. In the parking lot, Faraday pulls out his phone and motions to a woman who dropped her purse. He explains that they'll glean her later. When Rowan asks why, Faraday sighs and says that in the Age of Mortality, 1.25% of accidental deaths happened in parking lots.
Though Faraday's choice of this woman appears somewhat random within the parameters he sets up, his choice to work within these parameters shows that he believes the best way to do his job is by being meticulous and relying on these outside metrics in order to choose his victims. This does absolve him of some responsibility—he can blame his choices on statistics and not have to admit any bias or conscious choices by doing this, which might help him cope emotionally with his job.
Themes
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
That afternoon, Faraday, Citra, and Rowan go to the woman's office, and Faraday tells her that he's going to kill her with a life-ending pill that activates when she bites it. He refuses to let her call her children, but promises to deliver a letter to them. Faraday gives her privacy to write it and tells Rowan that even if the woman chooses to splat, she'll still die. Back in the woman's office, Faraday asks Rowan to give the woman the pill. He refuses, as does Citra. Faraday says this was a test—he'd be concerned if either accepted—and gives the woman the pill himself.
Testing Citra and Rowan in this way again reinforces Faraday's assertion that a good scythe shouldn't enjoy killing, and shouldn't want to do it. By giving his apprentices some choice in the matter (or at least the illusion of choice), Faraday helps them learn how to think for themselves, evaluate situations, and push back against authority when necessary.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
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When the woman crunches on the pill, she goes limp. Citra starts to cry and checks for a pulse when Faraday asks her to. Citra is shocked that the death was so uneventful and is even more shocked when Faraday gives her the letter to present to the woman's family at her funeral. Faraday says he goes to the funerals of all his victims as an act of common decency.
Attending funerals is another way that Faraday can make it clear to the public that he cares about his victims and mourns their passing—this isn't sport for him; it's a horrendous, soul-sucking job. Alongside the statistics he uses, attending funerals is another way he can try to atone for what he does.
Themes
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon