The Pact

The Pact Summary and Analysis of Part II (pages 231 - 314)


Now: December 1997

Gus, while grocery shopping, thinks about all the opportunities Chris is denied while in jail. She hears two women talking about her and confronts them, telling them to talk to her directly rather than gossip. One of the women demurs, but one speaks her mind, and Gus, in her anger and embarrassment, leaves her shopping cart behind and walks right toward the store's exit. However, on her way out she sees a copy of the Grafton County Gazette featuring Part II of a story about Chris. Soon, Gus is marching straight into the offices of the Grafton County Gazette and demanding to speak to the editor in chief, Mr. Favre. Mr. Favre is not apologetic but agrees to print a retraction, saying it will not change anything since the public has already started to believe the story he printed.

Selena arrives at Jordan's house and chats with Thomas. Jordan tells her that he got the discovery, which is a mix of good and bad news. He admits to her that he won't want Chris to testify, believing he can create a better case without this element, especially since Chris recently told them he wasn't actually suicidal. They discuss who Selena will need to contact as character witnesses. Selena suggests that it probably won't help to talk to Melanie Gold, but talking to Michael Gold might. Meanwhile, Gus visits Chris at jail again. Chris tells her that Jordan has told him not to talk to anyone about his case, but he wants to talk to her about it. He reveals to her that he was not suicidal, but was in fact trying to save Emily from killing herself. Gus is relieved, and tells Chris that his father will be happy to hear this as well. Chris gets angry at her and tells her that he still does not want to see his father.

On Wednesday, both Chris and Steve are moved up to medium security. They are put in the upper bunks of a four-person cell and the area is a lot larger and brighter than maximum security. Later that week, James and Gus attend a fancy dinner thrown by Bainbridge Memorial Hospital honoring James for his work and for having been included on the "Best Doctors" listing. He gives a speech about sight and patient care and at the end he thanks only his wife and daughter, leaving out Chris. Gus is shocked and leaves the room quickly. James follows her and they argue about whether he left out his son purposefully to distance himself from the trial. Meanwhile, Selena Damascus pursues a meeting with Michael Gold. She has been tailing him for a few days to figure out how best to confront him, and this time she tracks him down in someone else's barn caring for a horse. Selena talks to him briefly about Chris and then they go out to a diner together to talk further. They talk about whether he knew Emily was suicidal and about her relationship with Chris. Selena notes to herself that the children might have been together romantically to live up to their parents' expectations. She asks him if she could have access to Emily's room but Michael refuses, saying his wife wouldn't understand. Michael also refuses to say outright whether he thinks Chris killed Emily. However, they agree to meet again.

Melanie goes into Emily's room, knocking on the door before entering out of habit. She takes down all things related to Chris and puts them in a pile and then goes into Emily's closet. In the closet, Melanie finds a journal that has entries all the way until the day before Emily's death. Reading the journal, Melanie finds entries about Emily feeling like she was kissing her brother while kissing Chris, about the nightmares she was having that made her "feel dirty" (p.252), and about not telling Chris about her pregnancy. Remembering that their case is based on Chris killing Emily because of the baby, Melanie gathers up the relics of Chris along with the journal, goes downstairs, and sets them all on fire in the fireplace. Michael gets home while the things are still burning, but she simply tells him that she was cold.

Then: September 1997

Emily is in Health class learning to put a condom on a banana. She and her partner get their condoms on fastest and the teacher congratulates them and then talks about the effectiveness in preventing pregnancy and STDs. The scene abruptly switches to Emily taking a home pregnancy test and finding out that she is indeed pregnant. The scene switches again to Emily and Chris having sex outside in the moonlight. Again, Emily is tense and does not enjoy the sex, though Chris does not seem to notice. Soon, Emily goes to the Planned Parenthood office a few towns away from Bainbridge. She takes a more official test for pregnancy and she tells them that she will not tell the father. They tell her about the option of abortion and Emily is shocked by the price, $325, which will require her to borrow money. She knows that she cannot ask Chris or her parents for the money without making them suspicious, so one night she gets up very late and takes a check from her mother's checkbook and cashes it at the bank. Emily and Chris have sex again the night before she goes to get the abortion and they have a joking conversation during the act about Emily looking like a centaur. Afterwards, Emily thinks about whether to tell Chris about the baby, knowing he will want to marry her when he finds out. However, Emily doesn't want to marry Chris, both because she feels like she would be lying to him (having been touched by the Creep) and because she simply does not love him enough romantically. When Chris calls her attention back, she tells him that she was thinking about drowning. When Emily goes to get her abortion, it does not go as planned. She is scheduled with a male doctor and she yells and kicks at him when he tries to touch her. They cancel the appointment and suggest again that she tells the father. However, Emily still does not want to and now feels as if she doesn't have any options left.

At dinner one night, Melanie and Michael notice that Emily is not eating much. When Melanie brings up the application from the Sorbonne, an art school, that has arrived in the mail, Emily gets mad and leaves the room. Soon after, Emily asks Chris to teach her how to shoot a gun. At first she does things wrong, even pointing the gun directly at Chris which makes him terrified, but in the end she makes a good shot at a can far away. Later, Emily talks to Chris about what he would do "if things didn't work out the way [he] planned"(p.267). They are happily snuggled together, and Chris talks romantically about their relationship and the stars, but at the end of the chapter Emily brings up a way that things could stay like the present "forever" (p.268).

Now: Christmas 1997

Chris is called to see a visitor on Christmas, though he knows it isn't his mother because she has already told him Kate has a recital at the same time as visiting hours. He is surprised to find that it is Michael Gold. They talk about prison and Michael tells Chris that he doesn't think he killed Emily. Michael tells Chris that the reason he came is to ask what signs he might have missed from Emily. Chris does not answer him, but instead tells him that he "shouldn't be here" (p.271). Gus goes shopping but winds up wandering around the hunting section. Thinking about the case once again, she sinks to her knees, and when someone bumps her foot with their shopping cart she looks up to find it is Melanie. Gus tries once again to talk to get her to talk, but Melanie runs away.

Jordan and Chris go over discovery together in the conference room at the prison. They talk about whether Chris will take the stand at the trial, with Jordan laying out for Chris what will happen if he wants to testify. They go over the fingerprints on the gun and what the autopsy reveals about the trajectory of the bullet. They talk about Chris and Emily having sex and then Jordan casually brings up that Emily's depression could have been affected from a hormonal imbalance from her pregnancy. Chris is shocked by this revelation and faints. Chris wakes up in the nurse's office at the jail and tries to behave normally while still reeling from the news about Emily. He realizes that Emily might not have told him on purpose, knowing that he would want to marry her, and this causes him to punch through the wall.

Selena visits Kim Kenly, Emily's art teacher. Kim talks about Emily's talent and agrees to show Selena some of Emily's work. In the process, she also talks about Emily's relationship with Chris and the way she would draw him, trying to get everything perfect, while he patiently posed. The art teacher reveals that Emily's style had changed recently, perhaps due to her depression, and shows a painting done in black, red, and white of a skull with a snaking red tongue and clouds where the eyes should have been. The painting is titled "Self-Portrait" (p.280). The scene switches to Jordan, who is cleaning his house when he finds a Penthouse magazine in his son's room. He debates whether to confront his son, especially when he himself often flaunts random women around the house, but he decides that he should deal with the issue. He starts a conversation with Thomas, but they end up getting in an argument about Jordan's privacy. The confrontation ends with Thomas grabbing the magazine and running to his room, at which time the doorbell suddenly rings. Jordan thinks it will be Selena at the door, but instead it is a telegram from Jordan's ex-wife inviting their son to her wedding. Selena arrives a few minutes later and comforts Jordan about the situation with his son before informing Jordan about the information she has gleaned from Michael Gold and the art teacher. Jordan responds with his new information that Emily was pregnant, which they agree will be the prosecution's motive for Chris. Selena makes plans to visit Wellspring and Planned Parenthood as well as Chris's high school English teacher. Soon, Selena sits outside Planned Parenthood after getting rejected at Wellspring. The receptionist at Planned Parenthood tells Selena that she'll need to subpoena any records about Emily, but when Selena gets back in her car, a counselor follows her and tells her that she had talked to Emily. She says that Emily said the father of the baby was out of the picture and that as of the day she died, she still had not told him.

Dr. Feinstein meets with Chris at the prison in a session watched over by Jordan McAfee. Chris talks to the psychiatrist about violent dreams he has been having where Emily turns into a baby and then he kills it. The psychiatrist helps Chris to examine his anger, helping him realize that he is angry at Emily for not telling him about the baby, perhaps because she didn't want to marry him. Though Jordan has urged Chris to pretend he isn't listening, this discussion disturbs the lawyer enough that he must leave. At the Harte house, Jordan meets with Gus and James to talk about their testimonies. Jordan informs them that they will be using Gus as a character witness but using James to draw out the possibility that Emily took the gun herself. James interrupts Jordan's planning to say that he refuses to testify. Gus and James start to fight and she accuses him of being selfish and trying to pretend the trial isn't really happening. In the prison, Hector begins to harrass Steve and Chris again. One night, he bangs on the bars of their cell while they are sleeping and reveals to Chris that he knows Chris killed his girlfriend because she was pregnant. Chris attacks Hector, strangling him until his face turns purple. Chris does not stop until he is pulled off and handcuffed, and an officer takes him directly to the isolation cell. The cell is dirty with feces and vomit on the floor from the last inhabitant, and Chris has nothing to occupy himself. He puts out his shirt when other inmates walks by and someone drops a pen onto it which he uses to draw on his clothing for lack of anything else. When he hears someone come by later in the day, he yells to them to help him and they put a Bible through the slot in the door.

Selena meets with Mrs. Bertrand, Chris's English teacher. The teacher praises Chris and says that neither Chris nor Emily seemed suicidal. She offers their student work portfolios and Selena specifically notes that Chris wrote a persuasive essay against abortion. Meanwhile, Chris continues to occupy himself in the isolation cell by reading the Bible. Feeling inspired, he gets on his knees and prays for Hector to be released from prison. He falls asleep while still on his knees and dreams that God speaks to him, saying, "Forgive and you shall be forgiven" (p.303). Gus and James are woken by their daughter Kate and taken downstairs to see a potted plant dressed in ornaments for Christmas. Kate has also gotten both of her parents presents, which they thank her for, but the mood turns sour when Kate realizes that her parents haven't gotten her anything. Kate yells at her parents and Gus slaps her; Kate runs out of the room and when Gus turns to James for support, he walks out of the house. At the Gold house, Michael wakes on Christmas Day and decides to visit Emily's grave. When he gets there, he finds his wife placing gifts on Emily's gravestone and speaking aloud as if to Emily. Michael talks calmly to his wife, reminding her that Emily is dead, and he hugs her after he starts to cry. They go away together, leaving the gifts behind. On the same day, Jordan drops his son at the airport to go to the wedding; they joke about the Penthouses and the fact that Thomas needs to return to use the new skis his father has bought him. In a final Christmas scene, Chris is released from isolation and finds Steve back their cell in the maximum security area. Steve tells him that he has gotten him something for Christmas, and they give each other the gift of matching prison tattoos in the shape of eight balls done with an instrument fashioned from a pen and a needle.

A few days later, Michael watches Chris leave after visiting with him. As he waits to leave the prison, he hears someone else say they would like to visit Chris Harte. He comes face to face with Gus and admits to her that he has been visiting Chris. They awkwardly attempt to talk, then start to leave, but at the last moment Michael invites her for a cup of coffee after her visit.


One of the major themes in The Pact is the lack of communication between parents and their children. Neither Emily's parents nor Chris's foresaw Emily's death or Chris's role in it, even though the teens were deeply distraught and perhaps looking for someone to ask them about it and provide solutions besides the ones they saw available. Analyzing deeper, Picoult also focuses on the difference between motherhood and fatherhood. She does not seem to suggest that one parent's role is to be the more compassionate, as Gus is the more emotional parent to Chris but Michael the more empathetic of Emily's parents. However, Picoult shows and even says directly that mothers can become fiercely protective, even in ways that negatively affect those around them, when their child is threatened. This is shown through both Melanie's rage and attempts at revenge after Emily's death, and Gus's willingness to say anything in court to protect Chris.

While it is clear there was much Emily did not reveal to her parents, it is also surprising just how much she withheld from Chris. Though Emily has discussed her revulsion at the thought and act of sex earlier in the novel, at one point in this section she adds the detail that she often returned home and vomited following sex. Though Chris was not properly responsive to her crying during or after sex, one would imagine that if she told him about the vomiting, he would have taken note. This revelation demonstrates how deep Emily's negative emotions regarding sex go and the amount she was keeping from Chris, and perhaps keeps from the reader, likely because she did not want to communicate about her past and have to relive it for herself.

In this section, Chris lets Emily try shooting a gun. This event is important for a number of reasons. First of all, one claim made in the trial is that Emily is totally inexperienced with guns. This is used both to pin guilt upon Chris for clearly knowing how to handle a gun and to explain how Emily herself could have shot at a strange angle. Picoult also makes an interesting choice with regard to personification. Emily takes a shot and Chris is impressed by her actually doing a good job on her first try, an ominous sign perhaps. Following this, Emily, to whom the gun had previously felt strange, says that the gun was "now as comfortably warm as the hand of an old friend" (p.267). This personification suggests the continuing relationship between Emily and guns and touches on the theme of close friendship that is woven throughout the novel.

Chris's dream in this section is clearly of a different type than Emily's in previous sections. Picoult sets the two kinds of dreams apart by writing Emily's in a different style, in italics, and making references to senses, especially smell; these choices hint to the reader that the dream is based in reality or memory. On the other hand, Chris's dream is clearly fantasy. In the dream, Emily turns into a baby and then Chris kills her. Chris is clearly combining elements from his life—anger and confusion about Emily, fear from prison and the trial, and Steve Vernon's crime and own fears about going to prison for life. The fact that Chris takes this dream to Dr. Feinstein encourages the reader to analyze this dream, and all dreams in the book, deeply for their symbolic meanings.

Selena's meetings with Emily and Chris's teachers serves to reinforce the forces in society that led to Emily's death. Both children are idolized by their teachers; just like their parents, it is clear that expectations were very high for them socially, romantically, and academically. Furthermore, these teachers hold important information about the students as they often asked them to do classwork that expresses their thoughts and emotions. One must wonder whether Emily's art teacher had a responsibility to talk to her more about her so-called "self-portrait" or go to the principal, school counselor, or Emily's parents about her concerns with this shift in style and mood.