The Pact

The Pact Summary and Analysis of Part II (pages 150 - 230)


Part II begins with a quotation from Lord Byron's Don Juan about lies, and an intriguingly loaded quote by Daniel Webster regarding the connection between suicide and confession.

Now: Late November 1997

Chris rides in the backseat of the police car all the way to the Bainbridge police station. He is taken into the station where he answers questions, has his mugshot and fingerprints taken, and is put in a cell. They tell him that he can't stay at the station overnight, but rather will be taken to the county jail. Meanwhile, Jordan McAfee is in bed with a woman—one who is uncomfortably exuberant considering Jordan's son is just down the hall. A call comes in, obviously about Chris's situation, and Jordan tells the woman he has to leave. Jordan and his son Thomas argue lightly as he leaves. Gus, James, and Kate drive to the police station; Kate will wait in the car because she is too young to be left home alone. In the station, Gus and James find Jordan and tell him about the police coming during Chris's birthday dinner. Jordan informs them that there will be an arraignment where they will plead not guilty. They will try to get him released on bail, but this is not likely due to the seriousness of the charge. If this is the case, Chris will have to stay in jail until his trial. The parents say that they would like to see Chris, but Jordan informs them that visiting time is still hours away. James admits to Jordan in confidence that the gun Chris had was his, but Jordan reassures him that since he didn't do anything deliberate, he is not an accessory to any crime. Jordan is allowed to see Chris and Chris tells him that he hasn't said anything to the officers at the station. Jordan tells Chris that he is going to be taken to jail and may stay there for a long time. In the night, James wakes up suddenly in bed. He walks down the hall, finding Kate asleep in her room and Chris's room empty. Downstairs, Gus sits crying in the mud room, but instead of comforting her, James retreats back up to bed and pretends to sleep even when she gets back into bed.

Chris is brought to the jail. Again, Chris is patted down and has his picture taken. He fills out paperwork on which he says he is not suicidal but requests to see his psychiatrist. He is made to change into a blue jumpsuit and then he is brought to the maximum security area of the jail. He is put in a pod with three other men. He crawls onto the bottom bunk of a bunk-bed and starts to cry. When Michael comes downstairs the next morning, he finds Melanie cooking pancakes cheerily. They talk lightly and during breakfast she asks Michael to "take a ride" (p.164) with her to a surprise location. She takes him far away, telling him "There's something here...that I think you should see" (p.165). The scene switches back to Chris, who gets up at 5:45 the next morning at the county jail. A disgusting breakfast is handed out, which Chris eats and then goes to brush his teeth and shower. While he is in the shower, a man asks him why he is in jail. Chris does not tell the man, but the man bluntly tells Chris that he "cut off [his] old lady's head"(p.166). Jordan McAfee comes again to talk to Chris and he finds that Jordan has brought him nice clothing to change into for the arraignment. Chris dresses and then is led to where Jordan is waiting. They talk briefly about the arraignment and then separate again so that Chris can be taken separately to the courthouse. Before they leave, Jordan fixes Chris's tie.

Gus and James Harte wait at the courthouse while other felony charges are heard. Gus chides James for being able to read the New York Times at such a tense moment. Gus sees Melanie and Michael arrive and sit near them. Chris is brought into the courtroom in handcuffs and sits next to Jordan. The charge of murder is announced and while Chris feels again like he might laugh, someone else actually does: Melanie Gold. When Jordan announces that Chris is pleading not guilty, Melanie interjects, "not guilty of what?" (p.171) and is reprimanded by the judge. Barrie Delany calls for Chris to be held without bail, which Jordan argues against. Melanie interrupts the proceedings again and is sent out of the courtroom. Once she is gone, the judge announces that Chris will indeed be held without bail. Chris, shaking from fear, is led back to jail. Outside the courtroom, Gus berates Jordan McAfee for not doing more to keep Chris from jail, but he tells her there was really nothing more to do and that it will likely be many months until the trial. While Gus and Jordan talk, James excuses himself in an effort to keep control of his emotions. The scene switches to Melanie, who after being removed from the courtroom has agreed to give an interview to a reporter from the Grafton County Gazette. At the county jail, Chris changes into a jumpsuit and is led back to his pod. He rattles the bars of the cell after being locked in and then falls to his knees but does not cry. Then he gets up, makes his way to where other prisoners are watching TV, and watches along with them.

Then: April 1996

Emily watches Chris prepare to swim an event at a swim meet. She watches as Chris sets a new personal best and school record for the 100 Butterfly and she rushes down from the bleachers to congratulate him. She ruminates to herself, "The fact that everyone knew someone like him had picked someone like her was one of the things she loved about being Chris's girlfriend. Unfortunately, there were also things she hated" (p.178). A fellow swimmer congratulates Chris in the locker room, and alludes to Chris and Emily having sex. Chris responds vaguely to Carlos's comments thinking about how Emily has not "put out" (p.178) in their nearly three years of dating. TEmily contemplates the mature nature of her relationship with Chris in comparison to other couples in the school and then gives her own views on sex, saying that it felt like "having your skin shrink back from his, your stomach roll, your head pound out that this was wrong"(p.179). She tells the reader of the way Chris has yelled at her for being a "cocktease" (p.180) as she prepares to go to his house to study. Once there, in his room, it is clear that Chris wants to be intimate with her rather than get schoolwork done. They fool around, but Emily gets skittish and starts to cry after Chris forces her to touch his penis.

Melanie and Gus sit on Melanie's porch drinking lemonade and talking about whether their kids are having sex at their age. Melanie suggests that Emily will no longer be hers after they have sex, but Gus counters that Emily already "belongs to Chris" (p.183). The narrator describes how Chris has a job at a playground running the electric carousel. Because he has worked there for a few years, the owners give Chris a key. On a Friday in Spring, Chris takes Emily there after hours and lets her ride the carousel. They lay on their backs as it rotates and Chris starts to touch Emily, first putting his hands in her shirt and then into her pants. She tells him to stop, and when he doesn't, she punches him in the ear. She runs away from him but must wait in his car for him to drive her home. When they arrive at her house, she suggests that they break up and he nods his agreement. Chris starts to date a girl named Donna DeFelice who is a cheerleader with large breasts. He takes her out to dinner, but before even reaching their destination she tells him to pull over and they have sex in his car. Though she is attractive, Chris is distant during and after sex. Emily is devastated to see Chris with Donna at school and watches him leave for his date from her bedroom window. When her mother comes to check on her later in the night, Emily is surprised when Melanie knows she is upset about Chris. After her mother leaves, Emily scratches Chris's name into her arm with a paper clip. When Chris arrives home after 1am, Emily quietly leaves her house, walks the distance to Chris's house, and throws twigs at Chris's window until he sees her and comes outside. Though he is cold to her at first, they soon hug and kiss and he takes her inside to bandage her arm, not prying as to how she hurt herself.

Now: December 1997

Chris begins to get used to life in jail and dream of moving upstairs to the medium security area. He vows to stay out of trouble by not talking to anyone so that his petition to move to lower security will be approved by the classification board on Tuesday. Two men, Hector and Damon, introduce themselves and try to get Chris to talk about killing Emily. They make fun of Chris for his educated language and threaten him before following an officer out to the exercise room. Chris sees Damon hurt another inmate while walking down the hall, choosing the exact time when cameras can't see them, and tells the reader that one passes two isolation cells on the way to the exercise room. In the exercise room, Chris acknowledges a "pecking order" (p.193) he is not yet a part of and opts to walk around the outdoor exercise courtyard instead. He asks another inmate standing outside what crime the man currently in the isolation cell committed, and is informed that he "shook his baby to death" (p.193). Chris calls home collect and talks to his mother but gets off the phone after a brief conversation. As Chris hangs up the phone, Damon comes up behind him and presses their bodies together, putting his groin in contact with Chris's bottom. He yells at Damon to get away from him, causing Damon to laugh at him. Chris tries to sleep as much as possible in the ensuing days, thankful that he does not currently have a cellmate.

Jordan contemplates how he has "stopped believing in the truth" (p.195). He believes that a lawyer should not think about the truth, but rather what story the jury will hear. He brings Selena Damascus, an attractive private investigator, to visit Chris. Chris pleads with Jordan to get him out of jail, and in response Jordan lectures him about how Chris's life is in his hands and he needs this time to build a case that will allow Chris to leave jail at all. Jordan informs Chris that while he will be making a lot of decisions, Chris will have to make three himself: whether to take a plea bargain, whether to have a jury hear the case, and whether to take the stand during the trial. Jordan informs Chris that they will review the "discovery" soon (p.197). Chris asks Jordan whether he can see Dr. Feinstein, which Jordan is wary about. Out of the blue, Chris asks Jordan if he has any children, and Jordan replies that he has a son. Jordan launches into a series of questions about the night of Emily's death, though when Chris tries to reveal too much, Jordan again notes that he does not care about "what really happened" (p.199). That afternoon, Steve Vernon, the man who had been in the isolation cell, becomes Chris's roommate. However, Chris is thankful for Vernon's respect when he has to use the shared toilet near their bed.

At the Gold house, Michael gets a call from his cousin Phoebe. Though they are not close, Phoebe offers her condolences and Michael remembers that Phoebe's husband committed suicide two years before. Michael stews in guilt about Emily and fear due to Phoebe's continued grieving after two years, and after a short conversation, Michael gets off the phone and goes up to Emily's room where he lies on his daughter's bed and thinks about whether he could have somehow prevented her death. Back in jail, a man named Francis Cassavetes who only serves his sentence on the weekends arrives with contraband to dole out. Chris goes to visiting hours with his mother, but the encounter becomes heated when his mother tries to act like everything is normal. At the end of their meeting, Chris asks his father not to come back to visit him. Back in the maximum security area, Steve tells Chris about how two men tried to escape the year before, and they confront one another about their supposed crimes. After dinner, there is a "shakedown" (p.207) and a cigarette is found in Chris's shoe, obviously planted there by Hector. Chris is taken to the superintendent but does not rat out either Vernon or Hector. Instead, he is put in isolation for five days, meaning he will miss review by the Classification Board. During his time in isolation, Chris sleeps and exercises. On Thursday, Chris is returned to his cell and finds Steve Vernon still there; Steve says that he did not petition to move to medium security because he wanted to wait until he knew someone else up there, perhaps meaning Chris. Chris gains respect in the eyes of the other men in maximum security for taking the fall for the cigarette. Hector tells Chris to meet him in private and, once they meet, lets him smoke his pipe stuffed with dried banana peels.

On Saturday morning, Chris gets to visit with his mom again. They talk about his time in isolation and Chris gets angry at her when she treats him like a child. On Saturday night, Chris sees his cellmate Steve cry out in his sleep and start to thrash around. Chris wakes him and Steve tells him he was having a nightmare. Steve tells Chris that he too sometimes has nightmares where he calls out, and he asks Chris if he sees "Em" in these dreams (p.215). Steve confesses to Chris the entire story of killing his baby and they solemnly share the names of their loved ones.

Then: May 1996

This section starts with a dream or memory where Emily is being touched sexually by a man. Emily wakes up covered in sweat and takes a scalding hot shower to try to cleanse herself. In Emily's history class, they watch a disgusting movie about life in colonial times. Class ends with another student fainting from watching the gory film and on her way out, Emily tells Chris that he will like the class. Emily returns to the issue of intimacy with Chris, saying she likes kissing him but not having to fend off his sexual advances. She thinks about how Chris is in some ways like a sibling to her, and that sometimes when they are rolling around in the back of his car she feels like she is wrestling her brother. When she brings this up to Chris, it freaks him out enough to stop his advances, and she is happy to have him simply hold her. Another dream interrupts the story. Again, a man is touching Emily without her consent, but this time she looks up and sees "Chris's teeth sinking into [her] heart" (p.221). The scene switches to Emily in Chris's car again, telling him "No!" (p.222) once again. This time, he gets fed up and leaves her, crawling to the front of the car and starting to drive before she has joined him. As Chris speeds through town, they argue heatedly about sex and love. Yet another dream interrupts, and this time there is again no name to the man touching Emily. However, more details are added to the scene in this dream: the smells of disinfectant and frying grease. Emily wakes up and thinks about how she and Chris have decided they will have sex for the first time the next night. She goes to Chris's house and calls him down by throwing a stone at his window; he is awake even though it is very late on a school night. He comes outside and they go into the forest together. They lay on a large rock together and talk about a memory from their childhood. They start to kiss, but Chris does not push Emily past her comfort level because he knows they will finally have sex the next night.

Chris and Emily lie on the floor of the carousel on the night they have chosen to have sex. Emily says she "want[s] to get it over with" (p.226) but Chris convinces her that they should try to talk and have a good time. They talk about seeing dogs having sex when they were children, and then they start to kiss. They talk about whether sex will hurt for Emily and Chris tells her that he wishes he could feel the hurt for her because he isn't able to stand her pain. Finally, Chris asks Emily whether she wants to have sex and she, knowing how badly he wants to, nods her agreement. They have sex, which does not hurt Emily for long, but which does not seem to give her any pleasure. Chris, on the other hand, pushes and moans until he cries out and rolls off her. After catching his breath, Chris realizes that Emily is crying, and she makes no effort to stop.

A final dream reveals the truth about Emily's past and her fraught relationship with sex. We are brought back to the day of the dare at McDonald's where Emily went into the bathroom and came out shaking. It is revealed that the Creep was in the bathroom when she went in and he grabbed her and stuck his fingers down her pants and into her vagina. She tried to scream but could not, and after the man left she threw up on the floor. Emily has remembered this after falling asleep while still naked next to Chris on the carousel. She wakes to him comforting her since she had screamed in her sleep. He beckons her close to him and tries to be gentle with her, initiating oral sex, but his command for her to not move causes her to sob. Instead of stopping, Chris moves his penis inside of her again, professing his love.


One interesting moment in this section of the book occurs when Chris must fill out paperwork upon entering prison. One of the questions asks him directly whether he is suicidal, and he must make an important choice. Firstly, this choice impacts the way he sees himself; does he truly believe he is suicidal or not? Secondly, he recognizes that it may be a practical decision; if he wants to see his psychiatrist, he may need to state that he is suicidal. Finally, we have entered a section of the book wherein we realize, along with Chris, that everything he does or says may be held against him in court; he will need to keep his story consistent, perhaps even to the point of lying. Instead of seeing depression and suicidal ideation as a complex gray area, this decision makes it clear how the American legal system deals with death.

Another small but telling moment in this section is when Gus criticizes James for being able to read the newspaper at Chris's arraignment. James replies that it is what he needs to do to occupy his mind. This small moment demonstrates one of Picoult's main messages in The Pact: which is that people grieve in different ways. While Melanie Gold becomes vicious and vengeful, Michael remains empathetic and thoughtful, trying to imagine the signs he missed from his daughter. Likewise, Gus is passionately despairing with regard to Chris's situation while James remains stoic and tries to distract himself and others from the problem by feigning normalcy.

An interesting parallel emerges in this section between Chris and Melanie Gold. Both characters, likely the closest characters to Emily and thus most strongly affected by her death, have an almost involuntary reaction of laughter when thinking or hearing things about her death. For Chris, this happens at the memorial for Emily at school, and he rushes to Dr. Feinstein who explains that grief has different ways of manifesting itself. Now, in this section, Melanie laughs and yells out during Chris's arraignment, making such a scene that she has to be removed from the courtroom. Though this behavior, with Melanie discussed in the third person rather than first person as in Chris's case, seems more harsh, the reader should already have the knowledge and empathy to recognize her behavior as a manifestation of grief, albeit a negative, antisocial one.

Two very different comparisons to animals are made in this section, drawing an interesting connection between the moments. In one instance, Chris feels like a caged animal in prison, and even seems to feed into this appearance by rattling the bars and acting aggressively. This shows how inhumane life in prison can be and how circumstances can strongly affect the way one behaves, leading to a vicious cycle of expectation and behavior. In another instance, Chris describes Donna as looking like an animal while they have sex. Though Chris has been desiring sex for a long time, he recognizes it for the simple, animalistic act it is when isolated from a loving relationship. Linking these two moments together, they are clearly both instances where Chris's lacks control over his life, especially as he has lost Emily in both of these moments.

Picoult uses dreams in different ways in The Pact, and this is especially clear in this section. While Gus and Chris also have important dreams throughout the novel, these are always clearly fantastical, including moments of transformation such as a baby into a dog or Emily into a baby. Picoult uses these dreams to call attention to themes and mostly to express the emotional preoccupations of the characters. However, in this section, the reader must untangle what in Emily's dreams is fantasy and what is memory pushing its way into her consciousness. Especially important is Picoult's use of smell as Emily's dreams intensify. Smell is the sense most linked psychologically with memory. Picoult writes that Emily smells disinfectant and grease in her dream, hinting to the reader not only that the dream is based in reality but that it has to do with the dare incident at McDonald's, the only location in the story that would match such sensory memory.