scythe book review

scythe book review

The Impact of “Scythe” by Neal Shusterman

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1. Introduction to “Scythe”

The novel “Scythe” by Neal Shusterman is set to be a gripping dystopian fantasy. The book is the first in a planned series and it was released in 2016. The first page of the book captivates the audience by showing a glowing blue, talking ring that is presented to the readers. The ring’s character stirs up interest in the storyline of “Scythe.” As the pages progress, the aura of the book becomes very dark. Shusterman chops off the heads of characters that he seems to have no relevance to the closeness of the storyline but can keep the reader on the edge of their seats. With these events occurring, the reader realizes that this dystopian fantasy is one that is unlike any other. The plot gives no remorse to the characters of the novel and it is evident that everyone and everything is involved in the storyline of “Scythe.”

2. Themes Explored in the Book

The book of Ecclesiastical Faraday, “edition 509,325,924,545,981,010… The Faraday family of scythes,” in which Rowan is immersed, serves as a symbol for this perversion of the value of life. Faraday is a scythe who performs only the most noble of gleanings in a world where such things must occur. However, as seen in the life of his grandmother, he shows remarkable respect for the lives of the individuals he is about to glean until their very last moments. This philosophy is one that he tries to impart to his grandniece, Citra. It is only after it is too late, as Citra goes through an identity crisis being taught first by Goddard and then by her own gleanings, that there is an easier and more humane way to do the job of a scythe. At this point, she tries to return to the life and home she once knew but is forever changed and will eventually become Faraday’s apprentice.

A. The value of human life The value of human life is a prominent theme in Scythe. In the novel’s utopian world, where death by natural causes and disease has been eliminated and the only way to die is to be gleaned by a scythe, the meaning of human life becomes perverted. Upon becoming scythes, both Citra and Rowan struggle with their new identities and the theme of the value of human life. They are both taught that the gleanings they carry out should be performed with the utmost humility and understanding that the tragedy of ending a life should be counteracted with the joy and wonder of the life the scythedom has created for the human race. However, this is not the philosophy and the actions of some of their scythe mentors. Throughout the novel, the two protagonists are exposed to a more sadistic and less noble way of ending life. Scythes like Goddard and the members of his inner circle perform the mass killing of the unfortunate and innocent for mere sport and also engage in the vile practice known as “unsavory gleanings” or the mass torture and killing of civilians in ways that are not deemed humane and instantaneous.

3. Character Analysis

The main character in the novel “Scythe” is Rowan Damisch. Suffolk Far Rockway is the place where he lives with his parents and three brothers. Rowan can be described as a “loner.” He is a very quiet and introspective person who is not good in social gatherings and feels really awkward around people. However, deep down, he is a person with a kind heart. His family, on the other hand, is not a ‘typical’ family. People who are well-off and happy are seen as ‘not normal’. This family seems to be the exact opposite of that. This is because they are a family of ‘gleaners’. Scythes are allowed to take the lives of normal people who are supposed to be gleaning in order to reduce the population. This may seem outlandish, but it is definitely something that makes the reader want to know more about Rowan’s family and what their motives are. Later in the novel, after the ‘gleaning’ of his brother, Rowan ends up tricking a scythe into gleaning him. This is mainly because he feels the need to join his brother in the afterlife and because he now feels that there is no longer a place for him in the world in which he lives.

4. Plot Summary and Key Events

The following day, when Faraday goes back to Citra’s house, Citra tells him that she needs some cleaning up before she dies and that her parents are away and will be enraged if they see her dead. Faraday gleans Rowan. At the moment, he is still a compassionate man and says the glean was for Citra’s parents, not himself. Out of fury, Citra goes with Faraday and decides to become his apprentice. Rowan is taken to the scythe conclave where he is told he will be missed at his gleaning and that he will have any possible death of his choosing by entering the scythe workforce with a true scythe’s immunity. He has chosen not to do that but instead become a scythe during a time unknown to Faraday and Citra.

Faraday didn’t come to kill, however, he was there to glean Citra’s neighbor Ben. Filled with rage, Faraday takes Citra to the city and tells her that his gleaning was the hardest thing he had to do and he would like to pick an apprentice and teach them the way of being a scythe because he will not live forever. Faraday gives her a day’s time to think about whether she would like to learn under him and let him glean her. He tells her that if she decides to do it, that he will come and glean her that day. Faraday goes to a church where there is a Scythe conclave taking place and asks High Blade Xenocrates, out of the three gleaning tests that he had failed, if it is possible for an ordinary human to still kill in a humane way.

The first key event occurs when Rowan Damisch thinks about his life and the way the world is scheduled. He doesn’t really have anything special happening, and the rest of the world lives by a strict code in which no one is discriminated against and where there is no war. While this is happening to Rowan, Citra Terranova is in school talking with her teacher about her upcoming apprenticeship. She comes from an underclass uncommon family and is quite excited to be an apprentice. After school, a scythe named Faraday comes to her house and gleans (kills) a man.

5. Conclusion and Implications

The Scythe, with its contradictions and conflicting elements, is an important book for our current society, especially for the youths. Not only because of the increasing productivity and functioning of the Thunderhead centralized around its decision making, but also to engage in public discourse. This discourse can focus on a plethora of themes, from the acting of the individual in society, subjective experiences, to the essence of morality. Indeed, Gray admits that the book does not provide any answers and he too is conflicted on many themes brought up throughout the book. The importance of public discourse in a time where many feel censored is essential in making our society one of understanding and progression. Without discourse and understanding of different perspectives, society can never hope to work towards common goals. With the performing of role plays and reading parts of the book to gather his inner thoughts, Gray has shown that a reflective individual can delve deep into an analysis of multiple themes. Whether this is a societal commentary on different cultures or the subjective experiences of characters, many layers of the book can be peeled away and discussed at length, a useful tool for Gray’s teaching purposes.

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