In Chapter 17 of Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue, what was the condition of the area where Matt lived?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lois Lowry's young reader's novel Gathering Blue is a futuristic dystopian novel warning what type of society our current values and politics could lead us to. The orphaned protagonist Kira lives in a compound in her village and learns how to overcome the obstacles keeping her society from becoming prosperous.

In Chapter 17, Kira and Thomas venture into the village to find Matt. As they wander about, asking villagers if they know and have seen Matt, they learn that his home life is disturbing. Some boys playing in the mud inform them that his mother had recently been seen yelling and throwing a rock at Matt because he had taken food and said he was "goin' on a journey." As they keep following a lane into the poorer area of the village, near the edge of the woods, they observe that the "huts were closer together," and "smelled of dankness and rot." There is also a very polluted stream; we can tell it's polluted due to the stench coming from it and the filth on its surface. When they cross the polluted stream into Fen, they see narrow cotts cramped close together, hear crying children, and smell other foul stenches characteristic of poverty. The term "cott" is short for cottage and represents a small hut with a dirt floor. They are told by a woman that Matt's cott stands further down and find it behind a rotting tree. They knock on the door and find Matt's mother, but she confirms that Matt has indeed run off. The cott's interior is described as dark, unkempt, and crawling with insects, which also reflects their poverty.