Scythe

by

Neal Shusterman

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Thunderhead Symbol Icon

The Thunderhead—a sentient, all-knowing version of the Age of Mortality "cloud"—symbolizes the best and the worst elements of humanity. The Thunderhead is impartial, kind, and does the work of caring for the entire population by spearheading public works projects and policing infractions. However, the Thunderhead’s oversight abilities only go so far since it's forbidden from interfering with anything related to the Scythedom, which is supposed to be self-policing. In this way, the Thunderhead mirrors the way in which the immortal humans of Scythe have become both godlike in that they can't die naturally and don't experience pain or suffering, while also remain, in a number of important ways, shockingly and vulnerably human. Immortal humans, and the Thunderhead, cannot control humanity's worst impulses and grabs for power as represented and carried out by select scythes, particularly Scythe Goddard.

Thunderhead Quotes in Scythe

The Scythe quotes below all refer to the symbol of Thunderhead. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Scythe published in 2017.
Chapter 5 Quotes

When it was decided that people needed to die in order to ease the tide of population growth, it was also decided that this must be the responsibility of humans. Bridge repair and urban planning could be handled by the Thunderhead, but taking a life was an act of conscience and consciousness. Since it could not be proven that the Thunderhead had either, the Scythedom was born.

Related Characters: Scythe Curie (speaker), Scythe Goddard
Related Symbols: Thunderhead
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

"But people could read it. The Scythe Archive is open to everyone."

"Yeah," said Rowan, "like the Thunderhead. People can read anything, but no one does. All they do is play games and watch cat holograms."

Related Symbols: Thunderhead
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

He clicked on each name and brought up four pictures. He immediately regretted it, because the moment those names had faces, they became people instead of parameters.

Related Symbols: Thunderhead
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

The Scythedom uses the Thunderhead for countless tasks—but to us, it's simply a database. A tool, nothing more. As an entity—as a mind—the Thunderhead does not exist for us.

And yet it does, and we know it.

Estrangement from the collective consciousness of humanity's wisdom is just one more thing that sets scythes apart from others.

Related Characters: Scythe Curie (speaker)
Related Symbols: Thunderhead
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 28 Quotes

Would the Thunderhead grieve our passing, I wonder? And if so, would it grieve as the child who has lost a parent, or as the parent who could not save a petulant child from its own poor choices?

Related Characters: Scythe Curie (speaker)
Related Symbols: Thunderhead
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Scythe LitChart as a printable PDF.
Scythe PDF

Thunderhead Symbol Timeline in Scythe

The timeline below shows where the symbol Thunderhead appears in Scythe. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 5
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
...and didn't accept Curie's explanation that her memories and "life recording" are stored in the Thunderhead, while her body would be buried. After Curie gleaned the woman, she admitted she doesn't... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Faraday then tasks Rowan with doing research for his next gleaning. Rowan almost lets the Thunderhead help him, using Faraday's list of parameters, but catches himself—scythes can't ask the Thunderhead for... (full context)
Chapter 10
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
...stealing cars. Now, nobody rages against the system. Curie wonders if this is why the Thunderhead allows for a bit of economic inequality, as it gives people something to strive for.... (full context)
Chapter 12
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
...and Rowan what the conclave is. It exists because the Scythedom isn't controlled by the Thunderhead, so scythes get together to resolve disputes and discuss policy three times per year. He... (full context)
Chapter 13
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
...system. She wonders if it will ever change. The population is growing still, but the Thunderhead can provide for the increase in people. It does suggest when there needs to be... (full context)
Chapter 15
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
Scythe Curie writes that she sometimes wishes she could have a relationship with the Thunderhead. Others call on it for advice, but scythes are forbidden from using it as anything... (full context)
Chapter 19
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
...this is why Faraday chose her as an apprentice. Citra remarks that she's surprised the Thunderhead didn't see her push Rhonda, but Curie says it probably did, since it has so... (full context)
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
This idea sticks in Citra's head. She thinks of how, before becoming the Thunderhead, criminals and governments abused the information stored in the cloud. Since Thunderhead came to power,... (full context)
Chapter 21
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 22
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
...left is death by fire. She finds it comforting that there's one thing that the Thunderhead can't control, though it tries. It monitors smoke and heat everywhere. The Tonists sometimes try... (full context)
Chapter 23
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Scythe Goddard writes that his purpose is the opposite of the Thunderhead's. While the Thunderhead sustains humanity, he "prunes" it. He also believes that it's freeing to... (full context)
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
...hour or two every day on Scythe Curie's computer, looking through the "backbrain" of the Thunderhead for anything that would help her piece together what happened on Scythe Faraday's last day.... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
...that she was born Susan. When they get home, Citra uploads her photos to the Thunderhead and sneaks out of bed late at night to revisit them. She begins to explore... (full context)
Chapter 25
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
...and senseless deaths that happened when humans tried to colonize Mars and the moon, the Thunderhead now proceeds cautiously with space exploration. He believes that one day, humans will conquer the... (full context)
Chapter 26
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
...hope that the scythes' laws will help curb its worst impulses. He hopes that the Thunderhead will help them if they ever need it. (full context)
Chapter 28
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
...scythes' commandments, and now there are few alive who remember the Age of Mortality. The Thunderhead didn't fight it and simply witnessed the Scythedom's mistake. Curie wonders if scythes decided to... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
...who is now a professional partier. Tyger admits that his parents surrendered him to the Thunderhead because he splatted too many times, and the Thunderhead doesn't care if he wants to... (full context)
Chapter 29
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
...changes. Scythe Mandela accuses Citra of trying to erase evidence of killing Faraday from the Thunderhead's backbrain. He pulls out his evidence: one of Faraday's journal entries, saying that his apprentice... (full context)
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
Xenocrates isn't concerned until he sees that Nimbus agents—people who work for the Thunderhead—are the ones scraping Citra off the pavement. An agent says that while Citra is dead,... (full context)
Chapter 30
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
Citra can hear someone talking to her and realizes that it's the Thunderhead. When she points out that they can't communicate, the Thunderhead says that Citra is dead... (full context)
Chapter 31
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
...Citra notices that there's snow outside, and Curie explains that they're in the Chileargentine Region—the Thunderhead moved Citra away from Xenocrates. Curie says it's time to go so that Xenocrates can't... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Morality, Compassion, and Choices Theme Icon
...They both wanted to make the world a better place, as people still distrusted the Thunderhead and wanted to oppress others. (full context)
Chapter 32
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mortality and Life Theme Icon
Surveillance, Corruption, and Justice Theme Icon
...foot, wondering what it will be like to confront a murderer. She knows that the Thunderhead usually prevents murder, but an ordained scythe would be able to murder. She thinks that... (full context)