They Both Die at the End

by Adam Silvera

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They Both Die at the End Themes

The main themes in They Both Die at the End are the meaning of mortality, fate versus free will, and technology and innovation.

  • The meaning of mortality: The novel shows the different perspectives people have towards mortality, especially when confronted with their own imminent deaths.
  • Fate versus free will: The death-prediction technology at the heart of the story raises questions about the role of free will in human lives.
  • Technology and innovation: Silvera explores the nature of a society where death is predictable and thus transformed into a commodity.

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Themes

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The Meaning of Mortality

Everyone has a unique relationship with mortality, and They Both Die at the End showcases a variety of different perspectives on death and dying. For Mateo, who has feared death his entire life, the prospect of dying is nearly paralyzing. He continuously finds excuses to avoid leaving his house, and it is only his connection with Rufus via Last Friend that finally gives him the push he needs. In a way, death becomes a source of freedom for Mateo, as he learns to live without constantly being afraid of the consequences. Once he moves past his fears and insecurities, he is able to live in the moment and be bold, making the most of the time he has left.

Not everyone embraces mortality the way that Mateo does. Vin Pierce is instead overcome with anger and resentment towards a world that prevented him from pursuing his athletic dreams and is now condemning him to an early death. As a way of lashing out, Vin decides to become a suicide bomber, causing as much destruction as possible in order to leave a mark on a world that he feels has wronged him.

On a broader scale, Silvera explores the consequences of living in a world in which Death-Cast exists. Rather than being a great mystery, death is now foreseeable, and the idea the End Day has become encoded into society. As a result, people now livestream their final moments, and funerals are held while people are still alive. Religious groups are also divided on the nature of Death-Cast, with some apparently believing that the technology is powered by “visions from Satan,” while others take a more compassionate approach and offer counseling services for those struggling with the news. Ultimately, mortality is a complex subject, and the novel emphasizes that there is no single correct response to facing the inevitability of death.

Fate versus Free Will

The debate between fate and free will is central to the entire existence of Death-Cast, a mysterious technology that accurately predicts the day on which a person will die. Although several characters talk about the possibility of proving Death-Cast wrong, it is also made clear that this has never happened before. Mateo, who makes a habit of browsing CountDowners—an app where deckers can blog about their final days—notes that even those who try everything in their power to avoid dying still end up dead after receiving their call. The sense of inevitability that accompanies a Death-Cast call heavily aligns it with fate, suggesting that people cannot control how or when they die. Even Mateo, who has lived a relatively safe and isolated life, is set to die young.

However, rather than dwelling on the inevitability of fate, the novel instead emphasizes the idea that the choices people make and the way they live their lives still matters. When Rufus asks whether it is their meeting that is going to cause their deaths, Mateo refutes him by saying that they were going to die anyways; their meeting instead represents a final chance to connect with another person and live meaningfully. In this sense, the idea that death is a fated occurence can provide a source of freedom: if death and suffering cannot be avoided, then people have no reason to stop themselves from embracing life’s opportunities and living in the moment. 

Technology and Innovation

They Both Die at the End is a work of science fiction, and it calls into question the role that technology and social media play in people’s lives. The biggest example of technological innovation in Rufus and Mateo’s work...

(This entire section contains 910 words.)

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is Death-Cast, which can predict the day on which a person will die. Mateo and Rufus speculate as to whether Death-Cast is really an improvement, but the answer is inconclusive. On the one hand, Death-Cast provides people with the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones and make legal arrangements. Mateo comments on the case of one decker who spent his End Day trying to find a good home for his beloved dog. However, Death-Cast has also made death a focal point of society, with deckers representing an entire marketable demographic.

Technology emerges as a neutral force that can be used for both good and bad. Mateo and Rufus condemn Make a Moment as an inauthentic gimmick that is designed purely to profit from the dying. By contrast, the Travel Arena is praised for blending simulations with real experiences. The same can be said for apps targeted towards deckers: Last Friend is free to use and seems to focus on the altruistic goal of helping people connect with each other. Apps like Necro are for-profit, and Mateo indicates that they are taking advantage of deckers’ desire for emotional and physical intimacy in order to essentially turn them into a product. 

Social media also plays a prominent role in the novel. Mateo spends so much time browsing CountDowners that he fixates on death to an unhealthy degree, making himself a constant monitor for the dead and dying. When his own Death-Cast call comes, however, he finds the idea of shallow platitudes from internet strangers and casual acquaintances an insufficient source of comfort. Once he meets Rufus, their Instagram adventures become a sort of memory catalog. Ultimately, rather than using social media to mimic authentic human connection, the novel suggests that it is optimally employed as a way of facilitating and commemorating meaningful moments.

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