The Pact

The Pact Metaphors and Similes

"Melanie, who had been too bookish in junior high school to have much of a social life, suddenly had a seventh-grade friend" (p.24) (Metaphor)

Friendship is one of the major themes in The Pact. Melanie and Gus become tight-knit as soon as Melanie moves to town, though during Chris's trial they are not able to remain friends. Picoult here compares their friendship to the friendship of younger people in middle school, who have lots of time and energy to spend on one another. This relationship can be contrasted with the relationship of their children, Emily and Chris, who really do meet as children and become so entangled that it is unclear at times whose emotions are whose.

"...Touching the span of his brows and the slope of his nose and the empty windows of his eyes" (p.37) (Metaphor)

Picoult here compares Chris's eyes to empty windows, as viewed by his mother, Gus. As eyes are said to be the windows to the soul, this shows how bleak Chris's mood has become after only a short time in prison. It also parallels Emily's mood and expression of her depression as revealed later in the book through a painting she has done, labeled as a self-portrait, in which she has empty eyes with cloudy skies inside.

"The water was as familiar as a lover and in its ample embrace Chris heard nothing but his own heartbeat and the intermittent pump of the heater" (p.139) (Simile)

In this quote, Picoult compares the water and the comfort of something Chris has done and been good at since youth to a lover's embrace. This is meaningful because Chris runs to the pool to escape the memorial service held for Emily at school. The pool reassures Chris that there is still something that he knows and somewhere he is comfortable, even though his life has been so rocked by Emily's death. Picoult beautifully and ever-so-slightly personifies the pool by juxtaposing Chris's heartbeat (the sound of one kind of pump) to the pumping of the pool's heater.

"Chris said yes, his voice cracking like a melon on that single syllable." (p.151) (Simile)

This simile describes Chris's voice when he responds to the officer driving him to jail on his eighteenth birthday. It is a strange, vivid simile that is likely jarring to a reader expecting darker imagery. This parallels the way such a joyous situation—a return to familial love at Chris's birthday dinner—was interrupted by a tragic event. It also serves to call attention to the detail of Chris's voice cracking, which underscores his existence in the liminal area between childhood and adulthood, already prominent in the scene because he has been arrested just as he turns eighteen and calls for his mommy on his way out of the house.

"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) (Simile)

This simile is used as Gus thinks about James while talking to Michael at one of their secret meals together. The imagery is detailed and heightened and shows just how terrified James is about the public knowing about or focusing on Chris's trial. Especially terrifying is the idea that the problem would "refuse to go back from where it had come," since all the entire Harte family wants to do is have things eventually return to normal.