The Pact

The Pact Summary and Analysis of Part I (pages 73 - 147)


Then: 1989

Chris and Emily huddle around a phone and a phone book making childish prank calls. First, Emily calls a man named Mr. Longwanger and then she comes up with the idea to call Chris's mother and tell her that Chris is in trouble. Chris challenges her to do it and she does so, telling Gus to come down to the school for a meeting. The scene switches to Chris being scolded and punished for this by his parents. They ground him for three days and when they leave he communicates with Emily through his window to hers in Morse code. Meanwhile, Gus and James are busy trying not to laugh at the prank; they soon move from joking about it to having sex.

Next we see an entry from Emily's diary that features Chris heavily. She talks mostly about her love of the book she's reading about Lancelot and Guinevere, but she says that she doesn't want Chris to know that she likes romantic stories. Later that week, Chris steals a copy of the book The Joy of Sex from the school library on a dare from Emily and they look at it together in the woods. Soon, Gus finds the book under Chris's bed when she is cleaning his room. She discusses what to do with Melanie and then with Michael and decides to confront Chris. The conversation makes them both quite uncomfortable, but Gus persists in telling him that he can ask his parents if he has any questions.

Later, Emily and Chris sit together under a blanket tent on Emily's bed. They play truth or dare. Chris dares Emily to show him her diary and when she won't he dares her to sneak into her parents' bathroom and bring back their toothbrushes. While she is gone, he quickly peeks at her diary, but he only sees his name all over before she comes back with the toothbrushes. She then asks him to name the prettiest girl in their class, but not knowing what answer to give her he instead asks for a dare. She dares him to kiss her and he does so. Afterwards, they agree that it was gross.

Gus takes Chris and Emily to McDonald's as a treat, and the narrator introduces the reader to a man who works there whom kids call "The Creep" (p.84). As they eat, Emily keeps seeing The Creep looking at her. Even Chris notices, though when Gus asks them what they're talking about, neither child tells her. Chris gives Emily the "ultimate dare" (p.85) of sneaking into the men's bathroom and she agrees. Emily asks to go to the bathroom and says that Gus does not need to take her. They watch her leave and then come back, and Chris notices that she is shaking upon her return, even though she says "It's nothing" (p.86). However, she now can hardly taste her burger from whatever has just happened.

Now: November 1997

S. Barrett Delaney, a lawyer, meets with Anne-Marie Marrone to go over the case against Chris. They discuss the crime scene and the fact that Marrone interviewed Chris at the hospital without reading him his rights. They go over what is necessary to prove before making a conviction of murder: premeditation, willfulness, and deliberation. They agree to take the case to a grand jury.

Gus shows up at Melanie's house, trying again to apologize. Melanie again turns her away, yelling at her and saying again that she believes Chris killed Emily. At a loss for words, Gus runs back home. Chris is allowed to leave the hospital, and as soon as his mother wheels him out in a wheelchair he is ambushed by Detective Marrone who asks him to come to the police station to be questioned. At the station, Detective Marrone reads him his rights and then begins to ask him questions about the night of Emily's death, talking him in circles and recording the whole encounter. At one point, she must turn off the recorder because he is crying. They talk about the gun, the alcohol, the sex, the carousel, and the timing of it all. Chris asks the detective if she believes him and she retorts, "Should I?" (p.95).

Melanie goes back to work at the library on Tuesday, which shocks the other people there. However, when people come and ask her for help, she suddenly starts to give them false information. Jordan McAfee, a defense attorney, meets with the Harte family in their home. Jordan is dressed casually even though the family has heard he is a "legal star" (p.98). He tells them that Chris hasn't formally been named a suspect yet, but it seems very likely that he will soon be tried as an adult, meaning they will take him into custody, he will stay in jail at least over night, and then he will have to go to court and make a plea. The family is indignant that Chris may have to stay in jail even though he is, in their view, not guilty of anything. Jordan McAfee tells them that this is the way it goes and then asks them to leave so he can talk to Chris. At work on Wednesday, James Harte is congratulated. He is confused until he sees that he has been listed as one of the best doctors in The New England Journal of Medicine. He treats a patient named Mrs. Neely who puts her trust in him but also reminds him of how much perception shapes things. At home, Chris argues with his mother about getting to visit Emily's grave and she relents and takes him when he threatens to overpower her. Gus stays in the car while Chris goes over to the grave, and she is surprised when he comes back to the car quickly. However, he simply asks her which way Emily's head should be because there is not yet a gravestone, and then he lays down on top of the grave, pressing his face to the new dirt to kiss her.

Then: December 1993

The couples and their children are on their way to a ski resort for Christmas; Chris rides in the car with the Golds because he and Emily want to link their Game Boys and play together. They argue in the car about cheating, and young Chris gets so mad that he says of Emily, "Sometimes he wanted to kill her" (p.105). James takes Chris hunting with a man and his beagle on Christmas Eve morning and Chris is very excited. However, after Chris kills a hare, seeing the small, mangled body causes him to vomit. Chris feels ashamed and offers to take the animal home and clean it.

In bed that night, Gus and James talk dirtily to one another and have sex. In a room on the bottom floor, Michael and Melanie hear this going on and instead of having sex themselves, which Michael suggests, they talk about whether they think about the other couple's sex life. Even after Michael falls asleep, Melanie continues listening to and thinking about their sex. Chris finds it hard to celebrate Christmas because he's still upset about the hare. So, that night, Christmas Eve, he waits until the parents have set out the presents and then ventures down to the kitchen to try the alcohol he knows is in the refrigerator. He drinks half a glass and feels the kitchen become fuzzy. Emily comes down and he offers her some, but she does not drink it correctly and starts to cough loudly. When the adults hear them and come downstairs, Emily does something strange and tattles on Chris; he starts to try to explain but thinks about the hare once again and runs to the bathroom to vomit again.

Chris is made to stay in his room while everyone else celebrates Christmas, opening presents and going skiing. His mother comes to his room in the late afternoon to invite him to the rest of the day of skiing, but he rejects the offer. However, when Emily comes to personally invite him, telling him that she did a rather hard course that day by herself even though she is not a strong skier, he comes up with a plan to get revenge on her. He takes her to the highest point at the ski resort. She falls once, gets back up, and then has a much bigger fall off the trail entirely. Emily hears people talk about her fall as she rides in the ambulance, Chris at her side. Though Emily's parents aren't there, Chris promises to be there for her, thinking that after this he will be her guardian angel all her life. For the rest of the trip, Emily must stay around the house because her broken leg is in a cast. Everyone stays in from skiing for a day, and then most members of the families go back to normal while Chris stays at Emily's side all the time. They patch up their friendship, talking about the hare and the alcohol. They fall asleep in front of the fire and when Chris wakes up before Emily, he is suddenly attracted to her, getting an erection and growing very aware of her breasts and mouth in relation to him.

During the days between Christmas and New Years, Chris continually tries to get Emily alone and touch her whenever possible. On New Years, the parents go to a party, leaving the kids home alone. Kate falls asleep early, since she is younger, and Chris takes her upstairs. Chris and Emily are left alone watching TV. Chris puts his hand on Emily's shoulder and they both sit very still, touching. At the same time, the adults realize they haven't brought their alcohol to the party. James volunteers to go back to the house to get it. At midnight, Emily mutes the television and the children kiss for the first time. They are awkward, even laughing, but they both enjoy it. James is just in time to witness this from the kitchen and forgets all about the alcohol in his hurry to get back and tell the other adults.

Now: Mid- to Late November 1997

Melanie, Emily's mother, is still grieving. She gets a call from someone asking to speak with Emily. Chris goes to the office of a psychiatrist, Dr. Feinstein, for the first time, and talks to him while having the audio recorded. With the doctor, Chris discusses his parents' differing reactions to the event—his father moving on with life and his mother being overly careful with him—and about whether he is still suicidal. After the appointment, Gus takes Chris home, but he is sullen in response to her many questions. The next section describes James' childhood, demonstrating that his stoicism in crisis comes from being raised in a family where "admitting to pain, to grief, or to ecstasy was frowned upon" (p.126). In the present day, James now looks at his gun cabinet and touches the .22, the gun he taught Chris how to shoot, wondering if he is partially to blame for Emily's death. He goes back upstairs and announces to Gus and Chris that he thinks Chris should go back to school. Both Gus and Chris think this is a crazy idea, but after Gus and James fight back and forth, Chris says that he'll do it.

In the night, Melanie wakes up to the phone ringing—it is the person asking for Emily again. On Sunday, Melanie prepares to do the normal food shopping for the family, and Michael asks to go along. As they head out to the store, they actually laugh briefly together when Melanie chides Michael for being a "backseat driver" (p.129). However, as Melanie drives by the Harte house, she sees Chris outside by the trashcan and aims the car directly at him, driving off the road and only missing him because Michael grabs the wheel and redirects the car. When Michael looks to Melanie to figure out what just happened, she does not seem to feel guilty.

Chris thinks back to when he and Emily, as children, used to pretend they were invisible. Now, at school, he feels as if he could never believe in invisibility again. Nobody talks to him, but he knows everyone is whispering about what happened. He is distracted in Mrs. Bertrand's English class, even remaining in his seat after the bell has rung for the end of class, and she talks to him about writing down his feelings and the staff's plan to hold a memorial assembly for Emily. Back at Dr. Feinstein's office, Chris tells the psychiatrist about his hard day at school. He talks about how the students seem to either think he is suicidal or a murderer; when Dr. Feinstein asks what bothers him the most, he realizes that it is not everyone's suspicion of him but that everyone seems to have forgotten how much he loved Emily. He speaks eloquently about this love to Dr. Feinstein and when they delve into his memories, they find that he doesn't have any early memories that don't include her.

While Chris is in the shower that night, his mother cleans his room. She finds a shoebox full of things Emily and Chris shared and when she finds a mirror and reflects it out the window, she sees Michael standing in Emily's bedroom and reflecting her mirror back. On Wednesday, a memorial is held for Emily at the high school. Her artwork is displayed along with a large picture of her on the stage. An expert on teenage depression speaks, and then all of the students must go up on the stage and place a rose in a kiddie pool in front of the picture of Emily. Chris is the last one, and the principal calls him back as he walks off the stage and asks him to say something to everyone. Chris tries to give a respectful speech, but the strangeness and pressure of the moment causes him to laugh instead. He laughs so hard that he cries, and then he runs down the aisle and out of the auditorium. He runs to the pool, changes into his suit, and then dives into the pool and lets himself sink.

Again, Melanie gets a call from someone looking for Emily. This time, they say they "have something of Emily's" (p.139). Chris arrives at Dr. Feinstein's unannounced to tell him about the debacle at school, starting by announcing "I wasn't going to do it "(p.139-40). After telling the story of his laughing, which Dr. Feinstein attributes to grief, he admits that he was never suicidal. He says that he was pretending with her that he would kill himself so that Emily would let him come along, and then he was going to stop her. Meanwhile, a grand jury listens to S. Barrett Delaney talk about the evidence against Chris, the medical examiner give information gleaned from the autopsy, and information about ballistics and the crime scene. Chris does not know this meeting is going on, and that he has been indicted for murder in the first degree. Melanie gets another call asking about Emily and finally the person on the line admits that they work at The Gold Rush, a jewelry store. Melanie drives over and Donna, the woman working there, shows her an expensive watch engraved with the message "To Chris...Forever. Love, Em" (p.143). Donna reveals that the watch was $500, which shocks Melanie, though she realizes that it was likely bought for Chris's birthday. Melanie takes the watch, but wonders why Emily would have ordered Chris a gift if she knew they would both be dead by the time it was complete. When she gets home, Melanie hears the phone ringing. It is Barrie Delaney, telling her that Chris's hearing will be the next day—Chris's birthday. She imagines Chris's birthday party, an event her family would have certainly been at if the circumstances were different.

Gus makes Chris a beautiful birthday dinner, complete with a delicious, handmade cake. They decide that, for the special occasion, they can start with the cake. The family is talking happily when the doorbell rings. It is an officer with a warrant for Chris's arrest. They come into the house, pull Chris from his chair, put him in handcuffs, and escort him out to the police car. Chris is terrified and confused, with cake icing still on his lip. The last thing he says is "Mommy?"(p.147), but Gus doesn't have time to touch him before he is yanked away.


This section of the novel stresses the theme of gender and childhood development. Besides building suspense, Picoult's structural choice to jump back and forth between the present and various points in the past is useful in calling attention to childhood development and the differences between childhood and adulthood. After showing how Chris and Emily have turned out—Chris fairly stable, Emily fatally unstable though outwardly normal until her death—the story jumps back to formative moments in which the two children met, discovered their sex differences, and explored their sexuality together. In the "Then" flashbacks that Picoult intersperses through the novel, Emily and Chris's mutual fascination with gender and sex differences are clear. In one flashback, they compare genitalia at the beach, wanting to match and being informed that they cannot; in one, they steal a book with pictures of human anatomy from the library and are embarrassed to be found out by their parents; in another, they prank call someone with the last name Longwanger, finding this hilarious. Through these experiences, Chris and Emily's early exploration of sex differences is shown to be healthy and normal.

This section also foreshadows but does not fully explain Emily's problematic relationship with intimacy and sex due to her sexual assault in the McDonald's bathroom by the man called The Creep. This incident is never revealed to anyone but the reader. This gives the reader a very close relationship to Emily and a special understanding of her depression that no character in the story, even Chris, has. A reader must read carefully at this point, however, to intuit what happened to her in the bathroom, putting together the pieces of her shaken emotions after doing Chris's dare and her later emotions about sex.

One emotion that is seen frequently in this section in ways large and small is jealousy. On one hand, there is jealous tension between Gus and Melanie with regard to sex, and we will later see more comparison between the couples with regard to their sexual inhibition. However, Melanie also channels her grief partially into jealously of Gus still having a child, tearing their close friendship apart.

Revenge is also an emotional theme in this section, showing up in surprising ways. Revenge is one manifestation of grief that Picoult demonstrates, especially through the character of Melanie. After Emily's death, Melanie, who was once a quiet librarian and caring mother-figure both to Emily and Chris, turns against many and attempts to get revenge as a way to soothe her grief and her shaken conscience. She tries to get revenge directly on Chris and the Harte family by cutting off communication with Gus and, in a quite surprising moment, trying to run Chris over with her car. When her husband Michael prevents her from doing the latter, she seems unremorseful. This desire for revenge allows Melanie to externalize her feelings of grief and the blame she partially places on herself for Emily's death.

A desire for revenge is also seen in Chris's actions toward Emily after she rats him out about drinking the parents' alcohol. Chris takes Emily out to a ski slope that is too hard for her, hoping to scare her, but she is badly hurt and he is quickly repentant for his malicious actions. This event causes Chris to feel even more as if he has to protect Emily in the future, which plays a role in his decision to help her kill herself. An interesting parallel also arises when Chris does not tell Emily the full extent of her injuries as they drive to the hospital, similar to when people withhold information about Emily when Chris arrives at the hospital on the night of her death.