The Pact

The Pact Summary and Analysis of Part III (pages 316 - 360)


Part III begins with two quotations; one, from Kahlil Gibran, is about love and separation while the other, from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is about lies and truth.

Now: February 1998

Two months have passed since Christmas and the story now turns to the judge for Chris's trial, the Honorable Leslie F. Puckett. He holds the pretrial privately with the two lawyers due to the serious and dramatic nature of the case. The lawyers argue about Delaney's interview of Chris done without giving his Miranda rights and then tell the judge what evidence they'd like to contest or need more time getting together. They promise to send the judge their motions by the end of the week and set the date of jury selection for May seventh. The two lawyers continue to argue when they leave, and Delaney suggests to Jordan that Chris take a plea bargain of thirty years in prison. Jordan legally must report this to Chris, and does so in the next scene, and they debate the merits of taking the offer. When Jordan reveals the day chosen for jury selection, Chris laughs because the day would have been Emily's birthday. In the end, Chris decides that they shouldn't take the plea bargain.

Gus and Michael start to meet regularly for lunch after each visiting Chris. The two adults are somewhat awkward due to knowing both so much and, in a sense, so little about one another; they compliment one another on their looks and commiserate about how quickly their children grew up. They avoid the topics of their spouses as much as possible, focusing on Chris and the trial much of the time. Gus is shaken when Michael mentions Jordan McAfee having a "secret weapon" (p.325) because she thinks this weapon is actually the lie that Chris was suicidal. Gus enjoys it when Michael touches her hand briefly and they admit to one another that they've been keeping these meetings a secret. The story moves to James, who has been trying to make things right with Kate since Christmas and is now preparing to take her and Gus to dinner at a fancy restaurant. Next we turn to Melanie and Michael, between whom conversation has all but dried up. Michael tells Melanie that he had lunch with Gus, leaving out that this has become a ritual or that he has been visiting Chris in prison. Melanie yells at him for associating with Gus. Next week, Kate and James wait for Gus at the fancy restaurant Kate has chosen for her birthday lunch. When Gus arrives, apologizing for her lateness, they talk about Kate getting her ears pierced while James focuses on the way she smells. Gus excuses herself after a short time, saying she wants to go back to see Chris again because there are additional visiting hours that day, but James realizes as she leaves that she does not smell the way she usually does after a visit to the prison, meaning she wasn't there before lunch. When Gus gets to the prison, Chris is mad at her for being late, and she tells him that she was at Kate's birthday lunch and before that had a "prior engagement" (p.329). Gus reveals to him that she has been meeting with Michael and Chris asks her to send his father to visit him.

Selena and Jordan talk about the case again over a meal of greasy pizza. They discuss how they decided on the jobs they have, with Jordan talking once again about how there is no truth or "one correct story" (p.333) in law or life. It is time for the ceremony at which Emily's gravestone is put in the cemetery. The gravestone is pink marble with the word "BELOVED" (p.333) on it. Michael and Melanie stand together, and when Gus arrives she stands near them. Michael walks her back to her car, thanks her for coming, and then, hesitating only a little, kisses her on the mouth. Gus starts to drive home and then pulls her car over, her thoughts racing with the fact that both she and Michael are in very stressful situations but that she is definitely attracted to Michael. Though Gus had been sleeping in Chris's room rather than with James in their room ever since James refused to testify in the trial, this night she waits for James to come out of the shower and they have sex in their bed. They make love quickly and almost violently, to the extent that Gus notes the bed looks like "the scene of a crime"(p.337).

Jordan gets notice back from the judge that the prosecutor's motions have all been denied and his, to suppress the interview with Chris at the hospital, has been granted. The scene shifts to Chris as he waits for his father in the visiting area of the prison. He and his father shake hands and speak formally. Instead of what he has intended to say, Chris asks his father, "In your whole life, haven't you ever done anything wrong?" (p.339) James admits that he has failed a class and stole something when he was young, but after he states that he "never came close to murder"(p.339), he and Chris get into a discussion about the case and the need to face reality. The conversation ends on an emotional note with James admitting one thing he's done that was really bad was staying away from Chris while he has been in prison. The scene switches to Chris and Steve's cell the night before Steve's murder trial ends. Steve is extremely worried about being charged as guilty and being transferred to the "State Pen" (p.340) so he sharpens a razor blade to kill himself. Thinking of Emily, Chris calls for the officers to stop Steve from doing so. Steve is taken to a private cell for observation and, in the meanwhile, his fate is decided: a sentence of life in prison. Upon finding this out, Chris sobs in his bed.

Barrie Delaney finds Melanie Gold at the library to tell her that her husband has agreed to testify for the defense. The prosecutor tells Melanie that she can still persuade him to change his mind. When Michael gets home, there is music playing and Melanie is making a fancy dinner. She sends him up to take a shower and then follows him with the food and glasses of wine. She lets her robe fall open and seduces her husband by kissing him with wine in her mouth. However, when Michael thinks about how out of character this is for her, he laughs. Still attempting to entrance him, she presses against him, touching his body, but he pulls away and asks her what she's trying to get from him. She accuses him of trying to help Emily's killer and they argue violently, Michael shocked that she could view sex in such a way. Michael calls Gus and they meet at the Happy Family Chinese restaurant. He tells her about what happened with Melanie and then the waiter comes to take their order, believing them to be a couple. Gus tries to explain his mistake, but Michael simply orders and then they sit awkwardly, thinking about how their attraction feels strange but natural.

Then: October 1997

It is now only a month before Emily's death and Chris reflects on how Emily began to talk repeatedly about killing herself. One day, Emily falls asleep while Chris is driving her home, something that has been happening more and more at odd times of the day. When he wakes her up, Emily starts to cry, saying she'll miss Chris. He tries not to understand, but she is persistent in talking about killing herself. He tells her that she can't and that he doesn't understand, but when she tells him, "You'll listen" (p.350) he understands that his role has always been to support her. She makes him promise that he won't tell anyone and he promises. When they look at one another, it is as if they can feel one another's feelings, and Emily tells him that it isn't his choice if she lives or dies. At swim practice, Chris thinks about Emily and decides on his plans to pretend he isn't going to stop her and then do so at the last minute. After practice, Chris finds Emily waiting for him to drive her home and he tells her that he wants to be there when she commits suicide, which she agrees to. Over the next few weeks, Chris tries to show Emily everything she'd be missing by taking her out to fancy restaurants and for romantic outings. Emily does not change her mind.

Once, while they do their homework, Chris tries to convince her to wait just for six months and she tells him no definitively, clearly thinking about her pregnancy. They talk about how she will kill herself, comparing the methods in terms of pain and surety. She brings up the idea of a gun and asks to use his father's Colt. They tear up together and he agrees. At the movie theater a few days later, Emily brings up the idea of them committing suicide together, but he doesn't say anything. Finally, one night, Chris goes downstairs to get the gun. He knows that Emily will ask to see the gun, so he cannot go without it. He also takes two bullets, but he notes that he doesn't know exactly why he does.


Sex is used throughout the novel to give information about characters' emotional states and the states of their relationships. In this section, a sex scene between James and Gus is shown, providing information about Gus and James's relationship and reminding the reader of how closely love and violence can be linked. Picoult writes "James thrust again and Gus bit dow hard on the skin of his shoulder, afraid of what she might say...James went off to the bathroom, nail marks raking his back. Gus patted her breasts, rubbed raw with beard stubble, and looked down at the bed...There was even blood on the sheets, from James's back, and they'd knocked over a nightstand lamp. It did not look like the site of a reconciliation, or a bower of love. In fact, Gus thought, it did not look like anything so much as the scene of a crime" (p.337). We understand this sex to have been consensual and pleasurable for both parties, though we see it only from Gus's perspective. This underscores Jordan McAfee's point later in the trial that skin under one's fingernails—not to mention blood—does not necessarily indicate that sex or violence was forced upon someone. In recognizing that the bed looks like a crime scene, Gus recognizes how closely violence and love can be linked and how perceptions can be misleading without testimony from the people involved.

The motif of sex appears again just pages later, now in the home of Melanie and Michael Gold. However, what this sex—or failed attempt at sex—says about the Gold's relationship is very different from what is revealed in the Hartes' lovemaking. Melanie attempts to seduce Micheal in order to get him not to testify on Chris's behalf. Michael is very turned on at first, but when he realizes that she is "using sex as a down payment, instead of a gift" (p.344) he immediately retreats from her both physically and emotionally. This attempt at sex, rather than demonstrating closeness, shows just how far Michael and Melanie have grown apart since Emily's death.

After Melanie's attempted seduction, Michael asks Gus to meet him at their traditional Chinese restaurant. It is likely only when the Chinese restaurant is reintroduced that its name takes on irony. The name "Happy Family" 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 near 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.

In Chris' trial, a psychiatrist who testifies in Chris's trial makes explicit what has been a driving question behind Picoult's novel. This question is whether children, or any people, can be too emotionally close. Is it dangerous, in some ways, to have an incredibly close relationship with a romantic partner or best friend in that it limits one's worldview and support system, making the two people emotionally interdependent and even intertwined. The jury's decision of guilty or not guilty rests in no small part on this testimony, since it is unclear whether Chris pulled the trigger (he even admits that he thinks he did), but the psychiatrist argues that Chris could be completely, physically overwhelmed by Emily's emotions and desires due to their close emotional relationship.

The two bullets Chris takes on the night of Emily's death are symbolic, and a baffling bit of evidence to everyone involved in the trial. Chris tells the reader that he himself didn't know why he took them, but they end up being important evidence for Jordan's defense, making it easy to claim Chris intended to use one for Emily and one for himself. However, Chris was supposedly not planning to kill Emily or himself, and though he argues that he needed to bring bullets to make Emily believe he was really going to let her kill herself, bringing bullets at all does seem to show he was not entirely committed to Emily not committing suicide. Chris's admission that even he does not know why he brought two bullets shows how there will always still be questions left open in a trial and how one can at times not understand even their own emotions and behavior.