Choose another dystopian novel you’ve read; compare and contrast its key dystopian elements with those of Matched.
One can see similarities and differences between Ally Condie’s Matched and any number of dystopian stories. In Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, for example, there is also a female teenage protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, whose life is changed forever by a ceremony hosted by the government, beginning a trek of rebellion and loss. In her world, however, there is no denying that the totalitarian government treats its citizens inhumanely, particularly Katniss’ impoverished District 12. In Matched, the citizens at least believe in the false illusion of a utopia. There is more faith in the government, but there is also more government involvement. The heavy presence of government rules and regulations are coupled with the notion of safety and protection. In contrast, Collins’ dystopia is themed with government apathy, and subsequent notions of isolation and abandonment.
Describe the arc of Cassia’s character development in the book.
Cassia begins the book as a happy, comfortable member of the Society, who loves her country and has no trouble relying on it. Her grandfather’s influence encourages her to think for herself, trusting in her original voice and convictions. When she is presented with the chance to fall in love with someone who the Society did not choose for her, she begins to see the fallibility inherent in its controlling ways. Her artifact is confiscated and she grows angry. The trees of her neighborhood are cut down and she grows angrier. By the time she’s aware of the manipulative role that the Society played in her relationship with Ky, she’s completely disillusioned and comes to see the Society as an antagonist. She becomes stubborn, unsatisfied with the life of order they’ve planned for her, and this dissatisfaction molds her rebellious mindset -- the mindset that eventually convinces her to defy the Society, whatever the cost, to find Ky again after he’s taken.
Compare and contrast Xander and Ky’s influences on Cassia's life.
In many ways, Xander represents the life that Cassia has always known. He is the childhood friend who loves her and wants her to be safe. He represents an easy, trouble-free process of growing old and forming a family under terms sanctioned by the Society. Inherent in Cassia’s Match to him is compliance with the Society’s stipulations. Ky, on the other hand, represents everything that Cassia comes to embrace over the course of the book: rebellion, aberration, freedom. He is a chance at happiness on their own terms, and his teaching her to write and encouraging her to embrace forbidden poetry nurtures her increasingly rebellious mind.
Describe some of the ways in which Ally Condie reveals the Society’s antagonistic nature over the course of the novel.
The development of Cassia’s Official’s character, from a source of reassurance when Cassia’s microcard malfunctions, to a conniving, apathetic authority figure, personifies how the Society treats Cassia and her loved ones as the story progress. Aside from the fact that the overly controlling nature of the government toward its citizens is inhumane to begin with, the confiscation of Cassia’s artifacts, the cutting down of the maple trees, and the eventual forced recruitment of Ky into the military also serve to peel back the Society’s antagonistic layers and make them the central source of Cassia’s problems.
Describe the influence that Cassia’s grandfather had both on her life and her character development throughout Matched.
In many ways, Cassia’s grandfather molded both the parts of her capable of rebellion as well as rebellious thoughts themselves. He was the one who literally encouraged her to stop sitting at the edge of the pool and figuratively to be brave in the face of risk. His actions, from telling Cassia that it’s okay to wonder about Ky to giving her the secret paper of poems in her compact, motivate her subsequent willingness to form a relationship with Ky and question the Society’s perfection. He was also the one who advised her to be stronger than taking the green tablets, which are a metaphor for giving into the Society’s ideals. His final wish to Cassia’s father, to destroy his tissue preservation sample so that he could die on his own terms, sets the example for Cassia to not live on the Society’s terms either.
Describe Cassia’s view of her parents’ relationship on its own, as well as in relation to her relationship with Xander.
Cassia sees her parents’ relationship as a means of safety and comfort. They depend on, feel for, and defend one another. When Cassia’s father is berated by Officials for losing his father’s tissue sample, Cassia’s mother passive-aggressively shoos them out so that they can eat, an action just slightly below the line of "too defiant." At the book’s climax, when Cassia’s father asks the Official where Ky is being taken, even though he’s not supposed to ask this, Cassia’s mother looks on with pride. In these ways, they demonstrate their value for their loved ones just slightly beyond the regulations of the government.
In relation to her and Xander’s relationship, Cassia continually uses her parents’ relationship as a point of reference. She inquires about their time together as new Matches, wondering whether they had any doubts about the Match. When she learns that her father is keeping a secret from her mother, she calls the perfectness of their Match into question, and by extension, her Match to Xander. How can they be a flawless Match if they can’t entirely confide in and trust one another? Is Cassia capable of a happy Match with Xander despite the things she’s already keeping from him? It’s questions like these that she seeks to answer through the example of her parents.
Explore the role that colors play in Matched, and their significance in relation to the work as a whole.
The two biggest colors that Condie employs in Matched are green and red. Green is particularly important to Cassia. It is the color of her eyes, her Matching Banquet dress, and the color that her grandfather favored. Condie has expressed in interviews that green is a color of growth, employed to represent Cassia’s transformation over the course of the book. Red becomes a prominent color in the book’s latter half, in which Ky insists that red is the true color of growth, rebirth, and new beginnings. He describes the place he used to live in the Outer Provinces as being more red and orange than the green, brown, and blue Oria Province, establishing a dichotomy in which green represents where he is now, and red represents where he used to be and eventually returns to.
Choose a character other than Cassia from Matched. Describe the story might change if it were told from their perspective.
The most obvious choice for a character to retell the story of Matched is Ky Markham. His backstory as an Aberration from the Outer Provinces adopted by his aunt and uncle would provide a much darker exposition than Cassia’s comfortable, law-abiding identity at the story’s beginning, and would more immediately paint the Society as an antagonist. His being told about his mistaken Match to Cassia would maintain the book’s theme of fighting for the freedom to choose, and the way he does and does not play by the Society’s rules would give a more nuanced look at the themes of order and limitation, and the benefits and hardships that they create. His being recruited to fight in the Society’s war at the end of the book would also give the reader more immediate insight into the country’s conflict with the Other Nations.
What role does poetry play for Cassia in Matched? How does it shape her character arc? What role does it play in her relationship with Ky?
Poetry acts as both an instigator and a means of drawing Cassia and Ky together in Matched. From the book’s beginning, Cassia expresses an affinity for poetry with the way she references Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” as she watches the rain of Cottonwood seeds falling. When she reads the poems by Thomas and Tennyson hidden in her compact, she finds immediate invigoration in the way they tell her to fight, an invigoration that persists throughout the rest of the book. She uses inspiration drawn from the poems to stay resilient when the Society begins to push back on her values and desires. She and Ky even find a special bond in being the only two who know of the forbidden poems, demonstrated in the way they continually recite them to one another when alone on the Hill. Cassia is greatly moved by Ky’s birthday gift of a piece of another forbidden poem, showing how important new poetry is to her and how grateful she is that he would risk acquiring some for her.
How does Ally Condie use foreshadowing to advance the plot of Matched?
Condie makes references of things to come through Cassia’s thoughts at multiple points throughout the book -- some subtle, others more blatant. Cassia feels that her time is running out as she leaves her visit with her grandfather, a reference to the irreversible changes she will soon experience following the discovery of the forbidden poems in her compact and her affection for Ky. At one point, Cassia observes that Em’s maple tree won’t last -- a passing thought initially, but one that proves to be more of an unintentional prediction when the Society decides to cut down all the maple trees in the neighborhood. And at the book’s end, when Cassia’s is on her work detail, she says that she will see Ky again; having already expressed plans to find him, this foreshadowing drives the story straight into the second book of the series.