Lois Lowry

Gathering Blue

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Gathering Blue Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  This 40-pages guide for “Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 23 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Mercy and Power.

Plot Summary

Gathering Blue is the second book in Lois Lowry’s The Giver series and is set sometime in the future, following the end of civilization as we know it.  The novel traces a few months in the life of Kira, a gifted “threader” with a twisted leg.  In this dystopian society, her bad leg should have resulted in Kira being left to die from exposure; however, Kira’s mother, still grieving the death of her husband on one of the village’s “long hunts,” refuses to give her infant daughter up, and thus Kira is saved.

The novel opens with a now teenaged Kira leaving “the Field” where she has sat vigil next to her mother’s body for the four days it takes for her spirit to pass.  Walking slowly back toward the remains of her cott, which has been burned to eradicate any traces of the disease that killed her mother, Kira wonders what she will do now that her mother is no longer there to protect her. On the way, she meets her friend Matt, who tells her that one of the villagers, Vandara, intends to force Kira off her land so she and her friends can use it to build a pen for their chickens and their children.

Despite the risk of going up against Vandara, who is both cruel and fearless, Kira intends to fight for her right to her parents’ land.  After a brief but tense confrontation, Vandara brings her case to the Council of Guardians.  At the hearing, Kira is appointed a defender, Jamison, who successfully argues that, although Kira should never have been allowed to live in the first place, “Exceptions can be made” (38).  The Council decides that Vandara can have Kira’s land, and that Kira will take on a new role—that of Threader—and live in the Council Edifice, where all her material needs will be provided for.

At first, Kira’s new life seems almost too good to be true.  She is well-fed and clothed; her time is no longer governed by the bells that regulate everyone else’s days; and she is provided with all the supplies she needs to restore the embroidered scenes on the Singer’s robe—the most valuable piece of clothing in the village, as it is used by the Singer to illustrate his singing of the Ruin Song.  The Ruin Song is sung at the annual Day of the Gathering and it chronicles the entire history of the people—the pattern of prosperity and ruin that led to their current circumstances.  Kira makes friends with Thomas the Carver, a boy who, like her, is artistically gifted, orphaned, and cared for by the Council.  He is tasked with maintaining the intricate carvings on the Singer’s staff.  And Kira is provided a mentor—Annabella—an old woman who lives in the woods and teaches Kira how to make dyes.

Slowly, though, Kira begins to realize that things may not be quite what they seem.  Thomas hears a child crying in the night, and when they go to investigate, they hear Jamison speaking harshly to a young child in a room on the floor below them, while she cries for her mother.  Then, on her way to visit Annabella, Kira hears a terrifying growling noise in the bushes.  Annabella tells her that there are no “beasts” in the woods, and that any growling she heard was a human pretending to be a beast.  Since “beasts” are supposedly what killed Kira’s father, and “the beasts” are what frightens everyone into doing what they’re told, Kira is troubled that someone she trusts and admires would make such a claim.

Kira is especially troubled when she learns, the next morning, that Annabella has died.  Matt is the one to tell her and he also mentions that he saw Jamison with the “draggers” tasked with taking Annabella’s body to the Field.  He also offers a significantly different picture of Annabella’s corpse—eyes open and arms flung out—than Jamison later does: he insists that Annabella died peacefully in her sleep.

The following night, Kira and Thomas visit Jo, the little girl locked in the room on the first floor of the Council Edifice.  They sneak down after everyone else has gone to sleep and use a key that Thomas carved long ago, when he was young and also locked into his room.  Kira comforts her, and they devise a way for Jo to contact them if she needs help.

The next morning, Kira and Thomas go to the Fen to ask about Matt, whom they have not seen for two days, and to find out more about Jo and her family.  They learn from Matt’s brother that he has gone in search of a gift for Kira: he has gone to find the plant she needs to make blue dye.  Annabella had told her that some people have the means to make blue dye, but that they’re very far away.  Neither can believe that Matt has really gone in search of blue, and they wonder what else may have happened to him.

Finally, the robe is finished and the Day of the Gathering has come.  Thomas and Kira stand at his window watching the villagers entering the Council Edifice below, and prepare to listen to the Singer’s hours-long singing of the Ruin Song.  They are brought down and presented to the audience as the future Carver and the future Threader, and then Jo is brought out and presented as the future Singer.  Then the Singer himself enters, wearing the robe Kira has so carefully restored and carrying the staff Thomas has painstakingly carved.  He is accompanied by a curious metal clanking.

During the morning portion of the Singer’s performance, Matt sneaks in, weaving his way through the audience.  He tries to show Kira what he has brought, but she cannot see it.  When they break for lunch, they find him waiting in Thomas’s room.  He has brought a scrap of blue cloth and promises a bigger gift will be coming soon.

They return to the performance, with the Singer once again accompanied by a curious clanking noise.  At the end of the performance, after the Singer calls Jo over to bow with him, Kira catches a glimpse of its source.  The Singer’s ankles, scarred and bleeding, are encased in iron shackles.

When Kira and Thomas return to her room, Matt is waiting there with someone, a blind man in a blue shirt, one of the far-away people who have the woad necessary for making blue dye.  Matt and the stranger have brought Kira some woad to plant in her new dyer’s garden.  Thomas and Matt leave to get dinner, and the man reveals to Kira that he is her father, Christopher.  He tells her that he was not attacked by beasts.  He was hit on the head from behind, slashed in the face with a knife, dragged to the Field, and left for dead.  But then strangers came and carried him away to the “village of the healing,” and he has been there ever since.  When Kira asks why he never returned to her and her mother, he tells her he had amnesia at first, caused by the blow to his head, and that even after he healed and his memories returned he couldn’t make the journey back without his sight, knowing that the person who tried to kill him would likely do so again.  When Kira tries to convince him to stay with her, he tells her that it was Jamison, her defender, who tried to kill him.

This revelation convinces Kira that she should leave with her father.  But as she plants the woad in her garden, she realizes that if she leaves, she will not be able to protect Jo and she will not be able to write a future different from the one the guardians have in mind.  She decides she must stay.  The book ends with Christopher returning to the village of healing, with Matt as his guide.  Before he goes, he gives her the blue threads he’s unraveled from his shirt so that she has blue thread to use while she waits for the woad to grow.  She holds it in her hand and feels it quiver to life.

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Chapters 1-5