Chapter 23 Summary
Cassia wakes to terrifying shrieking the next morning. She runs to Bram and her parents’ rooms, but they’re all empty. Her mother comes from the kitchen to comfort her and tell her that the Officials are cutting down all the maple trees on their street. They go outside and join their neighbors watching the trees be cut down in their sleepclothes. Cassia’s mother tells her that the leaves make a mess in the fall and they don’t grow uniformly. She appears visibly angry. She says that it’s a warning for her, but Cassia privately feels that it’s for herself.
Before being awoken by the shrieking of the tree saws, Cassia had been dreaming of Ky being taken away in handcuffs by Officials, looking unafraid, even though Cassia knew that he was. The red sun looked like blood on his face.
Later that day, Cassia and Ky are once again marking obstacles on the Hill. They briefly discuss how Officials contacted them both the previous day about their feelings for one another. Ky produces a piece of paper with part of a new forbidden poem on it as a late birthday present for Cassia. Cassia is so emotional that she needs him to read it to her. After he does, they embrace one another intimately and he kisses her cheek.
Chapter 24 Summary
Cassia thinks of Ky and the kiss on her cheek for the rest of the day, even while she sorts. At night, she dreams of a normal life with him in a way that she knows that can never have. The next day, she questions what they were thinking in defying the Officials who threatened them. Ky explains the prisoner’s dilemma to her, not the game, but the real theory. Two criminals are captured and separated for interrogation. If they are both silent, neither is worse off. If they are both honest, both are worse off. If one condemns the other, the condemner gets off easy and the condemned is punished worse for lying. The best scenario is for both to remain quiet, but this requires a level of trust. Ky says he trusts Cassia. While she feels the same way, she knows that to kiss Ky would be to commit an Infraction, a betrayal to the Society and to Xander. She doesn’t know what to do, because she knows she and Ky both want to kiss one another.
One Saturday night, Cassia, Ky, and their social group go see a showing. Cassia is holding Xander’s hand as usual. When the showing is done, Cassia sees the Official who called her out of school and threatened her watching them. She feels guilty about Xander and wishes things were back to the way they’d been before the Matching.
One day while hiking, Ky recalls Bram’s first day of First School with Cassia. Despite the promise of balloons and cake when it was done, Bram refused to get on the train, even bursting into tears. In those days, an Official lived in the neighborhood to maintain peace, and someone went to get him to cite Bram. To get him to get on, Cassia challenges him to be a grown up and not a baby, and then lets slip that she knows how to play games on their scribes. This convinces him to get on. Over the next few months, she spent hours coming up with games on the scribe for him, even though there technically weren’t any.
Ky tells Cassia that that day was when he first “saw” her—when he realized how caring and smart she was (Page 266). He asks when she first saw him, and though she wants to tell him that it was when he accidentally appeared on her microcard, she lies and says it was the first time they reached the hiking hilltop together. Later that night, Cassia wonders what happened when the Officials took Ky away beneath the red sky, as depicted in his drawing.
Chapter 23-24 Analysis
The destruction of the maple trees at the start of Chapter 23 is an escalation of the aggression the Society has begun expressing toward the citizens, following the first instance when they confiscated everyone’s artifacts. The fact that Cassia’s mother thinks it’s a warning for her foreshadows a possibly sinister plot point forming behind the reason for her business trips. it also shows another instance of Cassia’s mother expressing outright anger at the Society, if not verbally then on her face. Cassia has noted that her mother doesn’t speak out against the Society outright. Nevertheless, the destruction of the trees reveals her contempt for them as much as Cassia’s.
We see a new peak in the intensity of Cassia and Ky’s relationship, despite their respective warnings from Officials. Ky’s gift of a new piece of poem to Cassia falls in line with everything he’s done for her so far: helping her remember the poems from her secret piece of paper, teaching her to write, sharing his back story, including his confidential Aberration status. Ky’s restrained kiss on Cassia cheek is a reminder, as we’ve seen so far, that there is a certain boundary they still cannot cross, no matter how openly they’ve expressed their desire to be together, and Cassia addresses this boundary in full in Chapter 24 as well: to kiss will be to commit a real Infraction and put both of their lives in jeopardy.
Cassia’s longing for the way things used to be between her and Xander show that she doesn’t feel for him what she feels for Ky. Rather than wish for Xander’s companionship on a romantic level, she wishes to have back the more stable, platonic relationship they enjoyed prior to the Matching Banquet. Her continued willingness to hold his hand and put on a show in public, especially under the watchful eye of the Officials, is testament to her desire to protect her secret feelings for Ky and the way of life that those could upset.