Picoult is a master wordsmith, and she often uses vivid metaphors and similes to enhance a reader's interest and understanding, especially as pertains to characters' emotional states. For example, Gus speaks of her husband by saying, "James still refused to talk about his son, as if Chris’s name and the accusations against him were a great black bat, which once freed would spread its wings and shriek and refuse to go back from where it had come" (p.322). Using such imagery of a shrieking animal, Picoult personifies the conflict of the story and alludes to the way James conceptualizes the world. In another climactic moment, Picoult writes "Chris said yes, his voice cracking like a melon on that single syllable"(p.151). This simile is jarring, almost strange, and Picoult uses this to draw the reader's focus to the strangeness of the situation as well as Chris's voice crack itself which demonstrates his liminal position between childhood and adulthood.
Sex is an very different experience for Chris and Emily, a fact that partially pushes Emily away from Chris and toward suicide. Picoult uses strongly descriptive imagery to juxtapose these emotional experience. Of Emily, Picoult writes, "Em did not know what sex was supposed to feel like, but she guessed it wasn’t having your skin shrink back from his, your stomach roll, your head pound out that this was wrong"(p.180). Because of sexual abuse as a child, sex for Emily is a horrifying experience. On the other hand, the vivid imagery Picoult uses to describe Chris focuses on the urges that overtake him: "Suddenly he had to be inside her, and with an urgency that surprised him he found himself ripping at her jeans and shoving them down her thighs, wrapping her legs around him as he came"(p.416). This juxtaposition of such strong emotions demonstrates the extent to which Chris and Emily were not communicating.
In terms of descriptive energy, little in The Pact can rival the time and care Picoult put into detailing Chris's trial. The trial spans tens of chapters and is punctuated by flashbacks that shed further light on characters' testimonies, especially Chris's final confession to the jury. Nearly the full testimony of each witness is given directly to the reader, as if they are a member of the jury, allowing them to fully process the details of the case and make their own decision in real time as to whether Chris should be found guilty or not.
The book starts with a brief description of Emily's death, giving a flash of details as if the reader is merely seeing the scene for the blink of an eye. As the story progresses, Chris ruminates on that night and tension builds as the story builds back up to that moment through the punctuating flashbacks interspersed with the current progress of Chris's grief, arrest, and trial. Near the end of the book, the flashbacks finally catch up to that fated, fatal moment and Picoult does justice to it through describing minute to minute how Emily and Chris felt and acted down to the last shiver. In describing the last seconds of Emily's life, Picoult focuses on how thoughts and emotions swarmed from her to Chris, clouding his judgement and his perception so that he, the reader, and the jury are left with no conclusive proof as to whether he caused Emily's death.
The Pact Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Pact is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Sam coped with his failure by working harder than ever. He pushed himself, getting up early in the morning, studying at the library, and pouring over his work with the two girls from his class who'd also failed the test. Next time around, he...