Reached The Poetry of Reached

Ally Condie employs poetry as a means of interpersonal connection, event description, and character development throughout the Matched trilogy. For Cassia, poetry is a means of powerful creation, and so important to her after escaping the originality-punishing Society.

One of the most frequently referenced poems in the series is Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s "Crossing the Bar," a four-stanza elegy that uses an extended metaphor about crossing the sand bar of a water channel to represent the transition from life to death. Following the loss of his younger son to an illness abroad, Tennyson fell into an episode of anxiety about death and desire for immortality. While later experiencing a serious illness at sea in 1889, crossing the Solent from the Isle of Wight to the mainland of England, he wrote the poem in what some have referred to as a "moment of serenity." The poem employs a standard ABAB rhyme scheme and rhythmic pattern, mimicking the content of the push and pull of waves. It is said that Tennyson, on his deathbed, asked his elder son to ensure that "Crossing the Bar" be published at the end of all future collections of his work, which to this day is tradition when republishing them.

The second most frequently mentioned poem for Cassia and Ky would be Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night." Written in 1951 as Thomas' father was fighting for his life, the poem uses strong language to "rage" against death, refusing to go quietly into whatever lies beyond a man's last breath. The poem is written as a villanelle, a specific form of poetry that incorporates nineteen lines divided into five three-line stanzas and a sixth stanza with four lines, written in iambic pentameter (ten syllables to a line with alternating syllabic stresses). That Thomas used his father's death as inspiration for the poem suggests a parallel with the death of Cassia's grandfather in Matched, who himself made arrangements to defy the Society as he died by asking his son to destroy his tissue preservation sample post-mortem. Cassia's grandfather's gift of "Do Not Go Gentle" along with the Tennyson poem in her compact is the match that ignites her transformation from Society pawn to Rising radical. As such, the words take on even more meaning in the context of fighting against an enemy that seeks total submission: when one refuses to go quietly, one is able to fight back, something that Cassia is prepared to do by Crossed's end.

Mentioned only briefly in Crossed, Emily Dickinson's "I did not reach thee" takes on a new significance in Reached. Many of its images and elements are echoed in the Matched series, including journeying across hills and deserts to reach an unidentified "thee." (Ironically, a specific person is not designated as a goal - a parallel to Cassia's indecision between pursuing Xander or Ky.) Of particular note are the ominous last two lines, "Now Death usurps my Premium / And gets the look at Thee." These suggest the possible death of a prominent (or "Premium") character in Cassia's future, over which Cassia experiences much anxiety in Reached and which she is determined to avoid.