Chapter 15 Summary
Cassia observes the freshness of the new day as she heads to the air-train in the morning. While hiking, she sees that Ky feels a similar invigoration. Before they begin their trek up the hill, he wordlessly and discreetly places what Cassia thinks is her compact back into her hand. They then head into the woods, where Cassia realizes that he in fact did not return her compact, but a similar artifact. Although she doesn’t know what it is, her description of its N, E, S, W letters and spinning needle tell the reader that it’s a compass. Cassia wonders why Ky would give her such a thing.
A boy comes to the top of the hill where Ky and Cassia have already climbed to inform the Official that Lon is injured. The Official gives Cassia his datapod and tells her to take attendance as people reach the hilltop before heading into the woods with the messenger. When they are alone, Ky begins writing in the grass using his hands, a skill that Cassia has never seen anyone have, as writing is illegal—she herself cannot write at all, only type on screens. She asks him how he learned to do it, but he doesn’t say. Cassia notices that the big difference between herself and Ky is that she sorts while he creates. She momentarily tries to mimic the writing patterns that Ky is performing, but to no avail. She tries to convince him to teach her how to write too, but he doesn’t agree. Their privacy is broken when other hikers begin arriving atop the hill.
Lon’s injury turns out to be just a twisted ankle. The Official insisted on bringing him all the way to the top of the hill before having everyone head back down to avoid missing quota. This makes the group late for their various post-hike activities, and as Cassia and Ky both head for their respective trains, he breathes the word yes into her ear, indicating that he will teach her to write.
Chapter 16 Summary
Cassia and Ky begin a daily routine of learning how to write letters. Cassia is getting good at C. Ky says she could just mimic the words on her scribe or reader to learn, but she says she prefers Ky’s archaic cursive. Ky says the next letter he’ll teach her is ‘A’ because it’s the next letter in her name. They share an intimate moment as he guides the stick she’s holding with his hand to draw an A in the dirt. They stop when a girl named Livy arrives to the top of the hill. Cassia tells Ky that more than just her name, she’d like to learn to write down the words of the poem. Ky asks her tell them to him so that two people will know them. Cassia decides to trust Ky and tells them to him. When she’s done, he slips something “rough and papery” into her hand (Page 176).
Cassia comes home and discovers that Ky slipped a used napkin with writing on it into her hand. He has drawn two versions of himself on it, one seeming younger and happier, the second older and looking down at the ground. On it, he has written, “Two lives. Which one is the true one, I don’t ask, they don’t tell” (Page 178). Cassia understands it to represent his life before and after moving to her City. She is interrupted and forced to incinerate the napkin when her father comes in to say that there is a message for her on the port.
The message is from an Official from the Matching department, who says that while most Matches are getting ready to meet via port for the first time, it would be more appropriate for she and Xander to have an evening out together, supervised by an Official. She agrees, and the Official signs off. A call from her mother comes in next. She asks to speak with Cassia’s father alone. At that time, Xander comes to the door and asks to spend time with Cassia before curfew. They chat briefly about their scheduled outing the following night, and then Xander asks her if she used to daydream about her Match before the Banquet. Cassia answers yes before realizing that that’s not what Xander wanted to hear. She wants to take it back, and to kiss him again, but she does neither of these things. Instead, they say goodnight with the squeeze of a hand.
Ky appears among the workers on their way home to make curfew and hands Cassia a brown envelope with her compact inside. She offers to retrieve his artifact (which she still doesn’t understand is a compass) from her house, but he says he’d like her to look at it for a bit. They say goodbye and Cassia goes back inside to inspect her compact. She wonders if Ky left a message in the compact’s secret compartment, but he did not. Cassia feels, like the needle on Ky’s artifact, that she doesn’t know where to go now.
Chapter 15-16 Analysis
Chapter 15 shows us the effect that Ky is having on Cassia, not just emotionally, but in what he can teach her. Learning to write, while forbidden by the Society, is the exact kind of creative ability that Cassia feels absent of. Where she ordinarily can only take what others have created and rearrange, sort, or modify them, Ky is giving her the ability to produce her own original creations using the voice that her grandfather told her to trust. This is an important character development for her.
We get a momentary look into the power dynamic surrounding the Official in charge of supervising the hiking in Chapter 15. The Official is worried about not having Lon complete the hike to the hilltop because that means missing a designated quota, which Cassia knows is implemented by people higher in rank than him. This gives the reader another glimpse into the tiered system of authority that runs the Society, a system we’ve seen in other instances, like the high-level Official who confronted Cassia about the microcard malfunction, who possessed a larger-than-standard tablet container, as well as the Official watching Cassia’s father, another Official, while he worked. The tiered system demonstrates that even those in positions of authority in the Society have authority to be wary of.
In Chapter 16, Cassia unintentionally brings up an interesting dichotomy: while she is conversing with the Official on the screen about her Match outing, she expresses being glad that her father is there, not just watching her, but watching over her. This is an important distinction. While the Society claims to watch over its citizens for their own safety and protection, what they’re really doing is supervising them in order to keep them in line. Cassia’s father represents a more authentic form of protection. He doesn’t watch Cassia to motivate her to behave, but because he loves her and feels defensive against potential trouble for her. His greatest concern is her wellbeing, while the Society’s is its own. Watching Cassia and all other citizens ensures that none of them rock the societal boat, so to speak, while Cassia’s father watching over her ensures that the thing he loves most is safe.
Chapter 16 ends with an important metaphor: that Cassia feels much like the directionless needle in Ky’s artifact. Cassia doesn’t understand that the item is a compass that helps give direction when one is lost. Ky, however, does seem to know this, and his giving it to her when she feels without a direction is symbolic of the guidance he is concretely providing by indulging her fascination with the forbidden poems and teaching her how to write them down.