Chapter 7 Summary
Chapter 7 opens on the day of Cassia’s grandfather’s 80th birthday, when he is scheduled to die. Cassia says that “all the studies show that the best age to die is eighty,” and that the Society’s implemented death policy once that age is attained is a “triumph of planning” (Page 69). In the old days, death was less regulated, and people died haphazardly and without warning. Things, she claims, are fairer now.
Cassia’s family is arriving at her grandfather’s apartment complex very early in the morning, each with their own gifts for him. Most people don’t have as close a relationship with their grandparents as she and Bram do. It is more common to talk via port and visit only every few years. Many grandchildren experience Final Banquets from the port screen, which Cassia doesn’t envy. Bram is carrying a small rock that he found at the base of the Hill, which he plans to give to his grandfather as his gift. Cassia has made her grandfather a letter from bits and pieces of writing on her port’s letter-making program, including a poem from the decade in which he was born.
As the family is getting off the elevator, an old woman who lives in the building stops them, lamenting that their grandfather’s Final Banquet will not be public, as hers is two months away and she would like to get ideas for it. As the family excuses themselves, Cassia sees that the nameplate on the woman’s door says Mrs. Nash, who her grandfather has spoken of as being nosy before.
Cassia’s grandfather is bedridden on this day as his body begins its scheduled shutting down. He is behaving whimsically, musing over what lies beyond the sky, and beyond life. All people’s bodies shut down at different times on their Final Banquet day, but it is always some time before midnight. A committee of government officials is to arrive first, after which the grandfather’s friends will visit. When they leave, he will ask to speak privately with each of Cassia’s family members.
The committee arrives, bringing clothes for Cassia’s grandfather to die in, equipment to preserve his tissue, and a microcard with a summary of his life on it. Cassia is emotional to see that her grandfather has chosen a light green for his final outfit. The committee gives him a gold case with his life microcard on it, which Cassia’s father will take possession of when her grandfather dies. The committee also informs her grandfather that he has the privilege of qualifying for tissue preservation, and that he should swab the inside of his cheek and have the sample sent to the Biological Preservation Department by Cassia’s father. This sample will be kept in the event that technology one day allows the Society to bring people back from the dead, a feat that Cassia assumes is only a matter of time since the Society never seems to fail in reaching their goals. The committee congratulates Cassia’s grandfather (although Cassia wonders if it’s on his life or death) and then leaves.
Grandfather swabs his cheek for the sample. Cassia notices the pain on her father’s face at having to lose his final parent. It makes her think of the strange and exceedingly rare death of the Markham’s son. Bram is eager to give his grandfather his gift. When his grandfather agrees, he bestows upon him the small rock, to his grandfather’s delight. The other family members ask to give him their gifts in private. The guests then arrive and Cassia’s grandfather reveals that he has ordered slices of pie for everyone to enjoy.
Everyone enjoys the pie except for Cassia’s father, who is too emotional to eat. Once the other guests leave, Cassia, Bram, and their mother head into the kitchen to give their father some time alone with their grandfather. Bram falls asleep on the table, but Cassia doesn’t wish to miss a moment of her grandfather’s final day. Bram is next to speak privately with his grandfather, and then Cassia’s mother, who has brought for him a leaf from his favorite tree at the Arboretum. Finally, it is Cassia’s turn.
Her grandfather enjoys her letter, but acknowledges that the words are not her own, to Cassia’s miserable disappointment. Trying to console her, he tells her that she has beautiful words of her own and she should trust them. Attempting to redeem the moment, Cassia pulls out the Cottonwood seed she had pocketed on the train the day before and gives it to him, to his great pleasure. He then asks to see her compact and, to her surprise, pulls from it a hidden piece of paper. He reads it carefully, trembling. He then gives it back to her, saying that it’s precious, and that she’ll understand someday, “more than the rest” (Page 83). He reminds her that it’s all right to wonder. A while later, he finally dies, after saying the words “I love you” to each family member in turn. Cassia holds his hand when he goes.
Chapter 8 Summary
A week later, Cassia is deciding how to spend her Saturday free-rec hours with Xander and her friends Sera, Em, and Piper. As they are leaning toward seeing a “showing,” a movie, Ky Markham joins them, saying there is one he hasn’t seen. Cassia is taken aback, having not seen him since she stepped on the tablet container in the game center a week prior. When Piper asks how Ky could’ve missed a showing—everyone sees the showings, especially when they’re new—he explains that he worked late the night that the rest of them went, which silences the group, as no one knows what to say when he mentions his undesirable job.
Cassia thinks about the fact that the Society wants Ky to keep his Aberration status a secret, but that she doesn’t know what they would do if they learned about the secret paper in her compact. She then takes a moment to observe Ky, seeing that his eyes are dark blue and very deep. She wishes she had a microcard about him the way she has about Xander. It seems for a moment that Ky is going to ask her what she is thinking about, but he doesn’t.
As they sit waiting for the movie to begin, Xander notices Cassia’s discomfort and asks if she’s all right. She says she is, unable to talk about Ky because he’s with them and unable to discuss the paper in her compact because of the large crowd. Ky expresses gladness that Cassia and the others don’t mind his spotty attendance at their free-rec hours, to which Cassia says that they don’t mind because they’re his friends.
The theater goes dark and the showing begins. It’s all about the Society’s history, with great aerial views of its various cities, including Cassia’s. Cassia sneaks glances at Ky throughout its duration. In the beginning, his face is alive with wonder. As it progresses, it relaxes back to its regular smoothness. Xander’s grip on Cassia’s hand helps her forget about Ky for most of the rest of the showing.
At its end, during a seemingly fictional scene of destruction and death, she looks over to see that Ky is crying silently. Unfamiliar with human suffering, she looks away. No one else notices his pain. Cassia says nothing because that’s “who she is,” although she think to herself that it’s not who her grandfather thought she could be. She wonders if Ky is watching her when the movie ends, but when she looks over, he isn’t.
Chapter 7-8 Analysis
The institution of a Final Banquet in Chapter 7 is a testament to the precarious balance between sympathy and firmness that the Society demonstrates toward its citizens. While the concept of scheduled deaths may seem horrifying and unjust to the average reader, the sugarcoated details of the procedure, with the dying person free to choose delicious food for the guests, the color of their clothes, and receiving a microcard of their life and the potential for tissue preservation, all serve to make it seem inaccurately fair and appropriate to the citizens of the Society.
Cassia’s gift for her grandfather and the way he reacts is a moment of character development in the making for Cassia. Where she initially tries to use the words of others, piecing together bits of what other had written, contributing nothing new, the way Society wants, her grandfather’s encouragement to embrace her originality and independent voice marks a shift for her, one that will continue to unfold as the story progresses.
Chapter 8 marks a bit more character development for the mysterious Ky Markham. The reader finally gets to see the dynamic he adds to Cassia’s social group when he is present, particularly when he brings up his job in the nutrition disposal center and none of them, including Cassia, know what to say. He wondrous reaction to the sweeping aerial views of the Society during the opening of the showing demonstrate how unfamiliar he is with such beautiful depictions, and his grieving near its end show how much more sensitive he is to death and violence than his friends.
Ky’s unique sensitivity reveals the illusion under which most members of the Society live, including Cassia, Xander, and their friends. Their only image of death, on the whole, is the proceeding of a Final Banquet, an orderly and mathematically logical event scheduled by the government. Their conception of the violence displayed in the showing as being laughable is a testament to their ignorance, while Ky’s reaction is a bit more like the one the reader might have when watching a tragic movie, although Ky’s past living in the Outer Provinces gives him an even greater appreciation for it. In this way, as with many others, there are barriers separating Ky Markham from those around him.
Chapter 8 is also an opportunity for the reader to see Cassia’s further acquisition of secrets, something she identifies with Ky Markham about possessing. Where she initially withheld the incident of her microcard’s malfunction, now she is also harboring an unauthorized item within her artifact, one that may potentially be very important. Additionally, she is the only one to see Ky Markham’s unusual displays of emotion, from his excitement at the showing’s opening to his misery at its end. This gives her insight into his mysteriousness that she hasn’t had before and that her friends still don’t.