Gathering Blue

by Lois Lowry

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How does the society in Gathering Blue maintain itself and control its citizens?

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Gathering Blue is a novel written by Lois Lowry and is a companion piece to The Giver. Gathering Blue tells the story of Kira, the protagonist, who is an orphan with a deformed leg who must find a way to survive in a dystopian society that typically leaves the weak behind to die in the fields.

This society is governed by the Council of Guardians, who use a strict and harsh legal code, misinformation, and a concentration of the Gifts and wealth in order to maintain itself and control its citizens.

One of the prominent members of the society is the Singer, who relays the history of the society to the masses. Kira is a talented weaver, and in order to capture that talent, Jamison, one of the members of the Council, attacks her father in order to take control of the orphan. From the outside, it looks like Kira, the other talented orphans, and the Singer live a wonderful life, but from the inside, they are prisoners. This dynamic is obfuscated and leveraged by the Council in order to control the citizens, because it appears all of the most talented citizens are aligned with the Council.

The weak and disabled are often left to die in the fields, ostensibly at the hands of the Beasts. The decision to leave someone to die is made by the Council. It’s revealed that the Beasts may not even exist. This depicts both the harsh legal code, as well as the misinformation, that the Council uses.

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Gathering Blue is a young adult science fiction novel written by American author Lois Lowry, originally published in 2000. It tells the story of Kira—a young orphan with a physical disability and a weaving talent, who lives in a dystopian society where the weak rarely survive. In the novel, the population is basically under the control of the Council of Guardians. The Guardians know nothing of kindness and compassion, and the only thing they care about is order and control. They create and enforce various laws and regulations, and they arrest and even kill anyone who disobeys their rules. In fact, the citizens have no rights whatsoever, and their destiny is always in the hands of the Council. Essentially, the Guardians are the ones who decide who will live and who will die, and they are the only ones who are actually able to live comfortably and even luxuriously.

The Guardians have learned that the most effective way to control the community and the people is to use their fears against them. The people in Gathering Blue are very easily frightened; they are scared of the dark, the beasts, the secrets of the forest, and many other things. Thus, the Council of Guardians use the people’s fears to establish control over the society.

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The society in Gathering Blue maintains control of itself and its citizens by having very strict rules and codes. When people don't follow them, they are cast out of the community. The leaders also control the story of their community as a way of controlling the population.

One of the most important ways the leaders control the community is by controlling its history. They maintain a rigid grip on stories that are told and passed down. Once every year, the citizens gather to learn about their community and what came before. This is guided by the leaders, even though it appears to be a truthful historical exercise. When people believe that their history is good and the history of other communities is bad, they're more likely to follow the rules that have created their so-called good community.

Another way the society maintains control is by having a strict set of rules and groups. People are obligated to live a certain way based on things like their financial status and health. It keeps people separate which means they're less likely to talk to each other and figure out how unfair things are. Women are kept from the same education and opportunities that men have. The leaders also kill those who they feel don't contribute to society and those who break the strict rules.

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The society in Gathering Blue is led by an oligarchy, a Council of Guardians who enforce the laws and resolve disputes. While the guardians and their functions are rather mysterious to Kira, she eventually learns that the guardians are not above cruel, even murderous behavior. Her father was attacked and left for dead by one of the current guardians who wanted to be appointed to the Council rather than Christopher. It also seems that the Council may have deliberately caused the deaths of one or both parents of Thomas and Jo. The Council is gathering artists whom they can train to carry on the history of the society and to record its future. In fact, "they were forcing the children to describe the future they wanted, not the one that could be." Thus they lock Jo in her room and won't allow her to sing her own songs. Even the adult singer, whom people only see once a year, is actually a captive, as Kira learns when she observes his chained feet during the Gathering.

In the society, the guardians have power over life and death, and the citizens do not have rights. At Kira's trial, although the Council rules to save Kira's life, the chief guardian states to Vandara, "Actually ... you have no rights at all." The guardians evidently enjoy a much higher standard of living than the regular citizens, but there seems to be no thought of revolt. The society easily disposes of "damaged" people, and citizens probably know that the Council can dispose of anyone just as easily. 

The guardians also use the annual gathering, the worship object (cross), and the song, singer's robe, and singer's staff as tools to maintain order and cohesion within their society. Although much of the song is probably unintelligible to the populace, the citizens revere and obey the ritual. Finally, the Council enforces gender roles. Women cannot go on the hunt, and they cannot learn to read. 

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