One recurring auditory image in Prep is that of students yelling and talking loudly. In fact, Lee often feels surrounded by noise, and her own quietness feels more noticeable than her classmates' loudness. One instance of this image occurs when "surprise holiday" is announced Lee's freshman year. She hears "loud, frequent bursts of laughter" before the announcement. After, she explains that "everyone around me was screaming." When the school-wide game of assassin is announced, Lee notices that "the farther back you got in the room, the more loudly people were yelling and clapping." This imagery of loudness occurs most frequently early in the book, when the constant activity of Ault still feels overwhelming for Lee.
The Beauty of Ault's Campus (Visual Imagery)
Though social life at Lee's school is chaotic and busy, the school's campus is tranquil and beautiful. In fact, images of natural and man-made beauty on Ault's campus help anchor the story and provide respite for the reader. The images of Ault's campus are primarily visual and evoke grandiosity and oldness. For instance, Lee sees "low, distant, fuzzy mountains that turned blue in the evenings, the perfectly rectangular fields, the Gothic cathedral..." This beauty both makes Lee's own mundane life feel imbued with importance, and helps her worries feel small and temporary beside the long-lasting loveliness of her surroundings.
The "Trashy" Mall (Visual Imagery)
Before Lee heads to the mall near school for surprise holiday, Dede warns her that it is "trashy." Upon arriving, Lee is forced to agree with her. Lee's examples of what makes a place "trashy" are telling, and reflect the lessons she has internalized about wealth. The description of the mall is packed with images of glossiness, shininess, and glitter: "The lighting was bright white, and the floor was made of shiny, fake-looking orange bricks." The food court has a "diner with lit-up panels of glistening hamburgers." Already, Lee has discovered that wealthy people reject flashiness and glitz, favoring a subtler approach: shiny decorations are considered "trashy" and lower-class.
Conchita's Dorm Room (Visual Imagery)
Lee finds the decorations in Conchita Maxwell's room strange and even sad. It looks "like the set of a television show," ornamented with "ruffly pink curtains... the pale blue throw rug spread over the standard tan carpet, the framed poster of the Eiffel Tower, the heart-shaped mirror encased in a heart-shaped frame of white wicker. There was a low white plastic table with a large dish of candy, a vase of fake pink and blue flowers, and white beanbags on either side." The room's decor is almost hauntingly generic, as Lee notes, and images of the traditionally girlish colors pink and blue recur throughout the description. Conchita comes from an extremely wealthy family and is very close with her somewhat-overprotective mother. As a result, she lives a sheltered life, and faces pressure to live a safe but exciting life at Ault. Her room is decorated lavishly, but impersonally: it is designed in keeping with a generic teenage femininity, which Conchita is expected to represent, rather than in keeping with her own interests and lifestyle.
Sin-Jun and Clara Having Sex (Visual Imagery)
After Sin-Jun attempts suicide, Lee goes to check on her friend and is shocked to find her in a clearly sexual situation with her roommate, Clara. What captivates and surprises Lee the most is neither the personal nature of the situation now her discovery of Sin-Jun's homosexuality: it is the intensity and enthusiasm that Sin-Jun and Clara show. Lee uses images associated with both violence and animals in her description: the girls are "writhing and clawing and panting," and Lee even briefly fears that Clara, who is larger, is "smashing" her friend. At Ault, this kind of "frenzied" abandon is considered socially unacceptable, since it violates the school's unofficial social code, according to which students act jaded and constantly perform for one another. The unself-conscious way in which Clara and Sin-Jun act here, reflected in animalistic imagery, bears an intense contrast to the school's norms.
Prep Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Prep is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.