The Pact

The Pact Irony

Happy Family Chinese restaurant

The novel opens with the two adult couples—Melanie and Michael, Gus and James—meeting at their favorite Chinese restaurant, called the Happy Family Chinese restaurant. This name does not seem particularly interesting or at all ironic at the beginning of the book, since this is a common American Chinese dish and the families seem to have nothing to complain about. However, when Gus and Michael secretly meet there just months later, towards the end of Chris's trial for Emily's murder, the name and the fact that the reader did not notice it at the outset take on a dark irony.

Melanie Gold's testimony

When asked in court about whether Emily's death could have been a suicide, Melanie Gold strongly opposes this idea. She says, "She wasn't sad; she wasn't depressed; she wasn't crying. She was the same wonderful young woman we'd always known. And she'd never used a gun in her life; she didn't know anything about them. Why would she have tried to shoot herself with one?" (p.403). The reader knows how wrong she is, and sees that her very confidence in her closeness with her daughter led her to miss what was really going on in Emily's life. Chris knows that Emily was sad and crying for an extended amount of weeks, pointing to depression, and he knows further that Emily had taken an interest in guns and even shot one accurately before. While he does not get a chance to respond directly to Melanie, the reader sees how Melanie's emotions are clouding her ability to accurately perceive her daughter and their relationship.

Emily's decision not to leave a note

On the night she has designated for her suicide, Emily contemplates leaving a note behind for her family to find. Since this moment is placed far into the novel, once the reader has experienced through Chris and all of the supporting characters how lengthy and painful the trial has become, there is a dramatic irony in this moment of decision. Emily decides not to leave a note, which would likely have cleared up many things including her plans for suicide without implicating Chris as a murderer. Instead, the police and eventually the jury are left only with testimonies and the facts of the crime scene to make their judgement.

"She wanted to end it before other people she loved were hurt" (p.414)

Picoult again writes with dark irony when she says that Emily, "wanted to end it before other people she loved were hurt" (p.414). As we see throughout The Pact, a person's suicide can cause not only grief for all of those surrounding the person, but also practical issues such as determining if the death really was a suicide, which often will implicate those closest to the person. Though Emily truly believes she is saving everyone pain by dying, in reality her death causes a great deal of pain, especially to her mother and Chris, two people she likely cared most about sparing.