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A Thought-provoking Summary of 'Gathering Blue' By Lois Lowry

Summary of 'Gathering Blue' by Lois Lowry
Author Lois Lowry paints a futuristic world where people with deformities are considered ugly, weak, and left to die. In such circumstances, Kira, an orphaned crippled girl, attempts to change the society with her beautiful talent. Buzzle summarizes the courageous story of 'Gathering Blue' by Lois Lowry.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
On Parallel Lines...
M. Night Shyamalan's The Village eerily resembles the theme of Gathering Blue. The blind protagonist of the movie uncovers society's dark secrets while trying to break its ancient traditions.
Enchanting the lives of children and young adults with her futuristic books, author Lois Lowry is a two-time Newbery Medal winner. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on March 20, 1937. Her vivid imagination and love for books helped shape her career as a writer. Her books deal in sensitive topics with a disguised sense of humor, and portray strong characters who defy odds to reach their goals.

Her sci-fi Gathering Blue was published in the year 2000, and is part of her quartet book series which project barbaric human civilizations ruled by mysterious governments and stuck in age-old patterns of superstition. The story is about a disabled girl who struggles to find her identity in the 'perfect' society, and wills to change the perception of the community with her inspiring talent.
Theme
The color Blue smooths, refreshes, protects, displays royalty, symbolizes heaven and spirituality, but all these are lost symbols in Kira's world, that is rigid, bland, and hostile. The theme of the story is set in a new age civilization, which believes in the survival of the fittest. People who are weak or disabled are either killed or left 'in the field' (a place were the dead are laid to rest) to be eaten by wild beasts. The strong ones are so full of hatred that they take up violence as their way of life, and look for every opportunity to trample upon the dejected ones. In order to get spared from the face of death, the imperfect ones must possess a special talent that can earn them favor in the eyes of the Council, who manage the age-old traditions of society.

The story revolves around isolation of the feeble ones, prejudice of society, and hunger for domination by the Council of Guardians, who can go to any length just to instill fear and repression in the minds of the community. Above all these, social ugliness rises the formidable spirit of the girl who thirsts to find out the truth, the loyalty displayed by her best friend Matt, and emphasizes on overcoming one's difficulties by never giving up.
Character Sketch
Kira: A young, crippled, orphaned girl, who possesses the talent of weaving, and is determined to fight the odds in order to survive.

Vandara: The woman with a scar on her face, also Kira's arch enemy. The one who presses the community and the Council to send Kira off to 'the field' to die.
Annabella: An elderly woman who lives in the woods, and teaches Kira about color dyes. It is suspected that she is killed by the Council after revealing the secret to Kira that there are no beastly animals in the woods.

Thomas: Kira's neighbor and friend, who is also a talented wood carver.

Jo: A toddler girl possessing the exceptional gift of a melodious voice.

Matt: Kira's best friend, who is loyal to her and helps her out by finding her father.
Jamison: An old man who is the member of the Council of Guardians. He acts as Kira's mentor and sponsor. He is also the one who tried to kill Kira's father.

Christopher: Kira's father who is believed to be dead, but resides in a village for the disabled, where the color blue originates.

Katrina: Kira's mother who protected her from being killed by the Council when she was young, but later died from a mysterious illness.
Summary
''That fragile ancient cloth...told the history of the worlds...And here and there, faded pale, almost reduced to white, there had once been blue.''
Kira's world turns upside down after the sudden death of her mother due to a mysterious illness. The house that they lived in has been burnt to the ground in order to contain the sickness from spreading over to others in the vicinity. She feels feeble, alone, and isolated in the community of the 'perfects'. Her mother had been her sole protector against them. She was born a cripple, and the community did not want her as she was of no value to them. Yet, she hoped to survive with the gift that she possessed - weaving.

The villagers had a strange practice for the dead. They believed that a person's spirit lingered near the body several days after the departure from life. Hence, it was necessary for a loved one to keep vigil over the body until the soul finally left in peace. Kira had to do the same; she kept vigil beside her mother's body in 'the field' until she felt her last presence had faded away into glory. Upon her return to civilization, she finds out that Vandara, her enemy, has been plotting behind her back, and has turned the Council against her. Due to Vandara's accusations, she is presented before the Council of Guardians to face her final judgment.

During the trial, she is given a defender, who is also a member of the Council. His name is Jamison. He strikes out Vandara's claims, and offers Kira the chance to live, by proposing to her the position of the Threader, and an opportunity to reside at the Council Edifice. Her job is to repair, restore, and eventually create a new depiction of her people's history on the Singer's robe.

The role of the Singer is highly respected in the community. It is his job to sing the lost pieces of history once a year during the annual gathering, reminding the people of their grand heritage. Kira is thrilled with the new job, as it allows her to live in clean surroundings, with food and electricity. She soon finds out that her neighbor is Thomas, who is a talented wood carver, and has the responsibility of beautifying the Singer's wooden staff.

Jamison instructs Kira to learn the art of dyeing from Annabella, who lives in the woods. Kira soon learns the tricks of the trade, and Thomas helps her record the various plants used for dyeing, on a piece of wood. From Annabella, she is surprised to learn that there are no wild beasts in the woods. This puts her in a state of confusion, as she remembers being told that her father had been killed by the beasts. Kira continues to weave a masterpiece on the robe of the Singer, but at the same time is pressed with great disappointment, as she cannot find a substitute for the color blue on the robe. During the next visit to Annabella's hut, she learns that the color blue can be obtained from the 'others' who grow it in a far-away village.

Kira later questions Jamison about the beasts. He grows wild when he learns that Annabella has spilled the secret. Kira finds out that Annabella has suddenly died, and has been taken to 'the field'. Kira and Thomas further find out that there is an orphaned toddler named Jo living in the Council Edifice, who possesses the talent of singing. It is rumored that she will be the next Singer. Their little discovery horrifies them, as they realize that they are mere prisoners of the Council, and that their parents were killed by the same men who use their talents.

Meanwhile, Matt wanders off to the far-away village in search of the color blue. Upon his return, he tells Kira and her friends that he found the source of the color, and also has a second gift waiting for Kira in her room.

In her room, she finds a blind man who is one of the 'others', and his shirt is made of pure blue fabric. The man reveals that he is her father, and gifts her the plant from which she can make blue dye. When they are alone, the man tells Kira that he wasn't killed by beasts, but was brutally assaulted by Jamison, that left him blind.

The 'others' who were cripples like him took him back to their village and healed his wounds. But they couldn't heal his sight. Her father insists that she must come and live with him. But Kira knows she must help Jo and Thomas first. She chooses to stay behind, as she is determined to revolutionize her village.

The story talks about a society being obsessed with prejudices, perfection, and the greed to remain in power at the cost of other people's lives. It is also inspiring, as it encourages to believe in oneself, and conquer the obstacles that block destiny.