Chapter 1 Summary
Matched opens with the protagonist, Cassia Maria Reyes, daydreaming about flying on green wings of silk with darkness behind her and stars ahead. She snaps quickly back to reality, reminding herself that people cannot fly, though before the time of the Society, the dystopian land in which she lives, it was rumored that there were those who could. She is on an air train, heading toward her Match Banquet, a monthly ceremony held by the Society in which 17-year-old males and females are paired with one another for life. She is talking with her best friend, Xander, also 17. Both of their parents are on the train as well.
Cassia and Xander discuss the coming ceremony. Cassia admits that she is nervous, but Xander claims not to be. In her hands, Cassia keeps opening and closing a compact, a small golden artifact with a mirror and place for makeup powder inside. Each person in the Society is allowed a single artifact, although they are hard to come by. She tells Xander that her grandfather gave it to her for her birthday, and that it belonged to her grandfather’s mother. Engraved on the compact are the letters ACM and the numbers 1940. In place of makeup powder, Cassia has placed inside it the three emergency tablets that everyone is required to carry: one green, one blue, one red. The purposes of these tablets are not yet revealed.
Xander reveals that he too has been given an artifact, although only temporarily: a pair of his father’s gold cuff links. Upon viewing them, Cassia takes a moment to appreciate Xander’s good looks, including his blonde hair, blue eyes, and handsome face. She says to the reader that whichever girl is matched with Xander will be thrilled. She tells him he looks nice and he says she looks beautiful, which makes her blush.
The air train pulls up in front of the gleaming city hall, which Cassia has seen from a distance her whole life but never entered. She pauses to check her appearance in the shining surface of her compact, observing her green eyes, “coppery-brown hair,” “straight, small nose” and dimpled chin (Page 7). She takes a moment to reflect on how perfectly things are coming together for her: she is being matched precisely on her 17th birthday, the way she’s always wanted. As they exit the train, Cassia wishes Xander optimal results, the highest of greetings in the Society. She notes that she wishes her 10-year-old brother, Bram, could join her for the event, but that no one under 17 is allowed to.
At the party inside, those being matched are dressed formally, while all others are dressed in plainclothes. Cassia notices a girl she knows named Lea Abbey, looking worried and twisting a jeweled red bracelet, her own artifact. Cassia expresses surprise at seeing Lea in attendance, having always pegged her as a “Single,” a term not explained. Cassia’s father reveres the china, a fascination with such artifacts that stems from his job restoring old buildings and neighborhoods in the Society for public use. Cassia’s mother praises the beautiful flower arrangements, which amuses Cassia because her mother is an Arboretum worker. When dinner is announced, the guests rush to their seats, eager for the excellent food.
A cheerful man at Cassia’s table jokes about the Matchees being too nervous to eat, but Cassia manages to enjoy her meal nonetheless, especially the delicious chocolate cake that has her father enraptured. Cassia wishes she could take some home to her brother in her mother’s purse, but knows that her mother would never agree because it’s against the rules. Just as Cassia is finishing her last bite of cake, it is announced that the Matching will begin.
Lea, Cassia’s friend, is first to be Matched, as the Matching goes alphabetically by the girls’ last names, leaving the boys unaware of when they will be called to receive their Match. The Matching transpires by displaying the boy and girl to one another on a screen from wherever in the Society their Match Banquet is being held that night. Lea is Matched with a handsome blonde boy named Joseph Peterson. The hostess then presents Lea with a small silver box containing a microcard with background information on him.
More Matches are made and more silver boxes are presented. Cassia observes with pleasure that she is the only girl that night who chose to wear the green dress given as an attire option. When Cassia’s name is finally called, she stands, holding her compact in her hand, but the screen before her remains dark, causing whispers throughout the room. Cassia says “that can only mean one thing” (Page 14).
Chapter 2 Summary
The hostess informs Cassia that her Match is present at her banquet that evening. As Cassia’s mind races with who it might be, Xander’s name is announced. Cassia is elated. Xander stands and the room applauds. They are then told to take their seats, and their silver boxes are brought to them. Cassia contemplates how much of the information on Xander’s microcard that she already knows. Her parents are both ecstatic. The previously cheerful man across the table remarks unhappily about how lucky Cassia is to not have her Match be a stranger, a comment that makes his daughter uncomfortable.
Before leaving the ceremony later that evening, the hostess pulls Cassia, Xander, and their families aside. She tells them that their situation is “unusual,” and then corrects herself to call it just “uncommon” (Page 17). She explains that though they know each other well, there are new courtship guidelines on their microcards that they should be aware of. Cassia remembers from the briefing material on matching that she read that she and Xander’s marriage contract will take place when they turn 21 to give them a few years to get to know one another, although they uniquely shouldn’t need that long. The material also said that they would be optimally fertile at age 24. Cassia remembers that that means that she and Xander will have children together.
Cassia expresses a momentary feeling of loss at having no aspect of mystery in her connection with her new match. However, when Xander asks her what she’s thinking of, Cassia says that they are lucky. The hostess politely reminds her that there is no luck in the Society. Cassia reprimands herself for using such an ancient term when she knows that the Society believes not in luck but in probability alone. Cassia also reflects on how the Matching System is the reason for the Society members having such long and healthy lifespans: the offspring of the well-matched couples tend to be very physically and emotionally healthy.
When the air train arrives to take them home, Xander helps Cassia into the car by hand and then doesn’t let go. Cassia observes the luxury of being able to touch her match on the night she receives him, and thinks of the strange new direction that their relationship has taken, and that now “everything is different.”
Bram is surprised to learn that Cassia was matched with Xander when they arrive home. Cassia teases him that maybe he will be matched with Serena, the young girl next door, to Bram’s annoyance. Cassia remains on the house steps for a few moments after her family goes inside to reflect on the events of the night, wishing they wouldn’t end. But careful to observe the Society’s curfew, she heads inside before long. She says that tomorrow she must report early for her trial work position at the sorting center, after which she will have Saturday night free-rec hours, where she’ll get to see Xander. Before bed, she removes the three colored pills from her compact and returns them to their usual metal cylinder, saying that she knows what the blue and green ones do, but that no one knows what the red one does, although there are rumors. She then climbs into bed, happy to be able to dream of Xander.
Chapters 1-2 Analysis
The dystopian world that Ally Condie has created in Matched is one of order and mathematical precision. More than in technology, the Society in which Cassia and Xander live is advanced in its understanding of human compatibility and the statistics behind creating good, happy lives. There is sound structure behind everything: the clothes people where, the food they eat, and especially the people they are allowed to love.
The tone of the book begins as lighthearted. Told from Cassia’s perspective, she describes things with an air of matter-of-factness, more observational than flowery. Condie peels back the basic facts of Cassia’s unique world piece-by-piece, describing Cassia’s parents’ occupation, the regulations that the citizens live under, and the importance behind the Banquet that we open with. There is purpose behind every detail of the dystopia.
There are easily spotted parallels between Matched and the first books of other well-known young adult dystopian series. Cassia’s world is separated into Cities, each of which holds its own official ceremonies when children come of a certain age. This is reminiscent of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, where the individual districts of the country of Panem hold annual “reapings,” though for a very different purpose—to select tributes for a fight-to-the-death competition. In Matched, however, the illusion exists that the citizens’ dystopian way of life is a good one, whereas in The Hunger Games, the way of life is understood to be awful but cannot be helped.
There are parallels between the opening of Matched and Veronica Roth’s Divergent as well. In Divergent, teenagers are similarly subjected to a ceremony where they must decide a huge portion of their lives, in that case, a Choosing Day where they decide which of the five societal factions they wish to live in. Though there is no choice in who a person is Matched with, the Matching Banquet is nevertheless reminiscent of this type of event. In Divergent, however, the factions are in charge of the government, whereas in Matched the citizens’ have no say in the rules that govern them.
Ally Condie has said in interviews that she was inspired to write Matched after chaperoning a Junior Prom as a high school teacher, as well as following a conversation between her and her husband about the role that society plays in a person’s marriage. She also drew inspiration from a “matching” dance she went to in high school. From her answers, it’s clear why the central focus of Matching two people together for life is the central plot point from which the rest of the plot stems.