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The City of Ember

The City of Ember


by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember Man and the Natural World Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

"Take a lamp, for instance. When you plug it in, it comes alive, in a way…But a bean seed isn't connected to anything. Neither are people. We don't have plugs and wires that connect us to generators. What makes living things go is inside them somehow." (4.92)

Clary spends a lot of time with plants, being a greenhouse manager and all, so we can see where she'd have an inkling about how they work. Plants and people do have this in common: neither is battery-powered (yet). But what makes us tick? It's a mystery even to Clary, who's a keen observer of natural life. We're guessing the biology curriculum in Ember is rather sparse.

Quote #2

Fire was rare in Ember. When there was a fire, it was because there had been an accident—someone had left a dishtowel too close to an electric burner on a stove, or a cord had been frayed and a spark had flown out and ignited curtains… But it was, of course, possible to start a fire on purpose… The trick was to find a way to make the light last." (8.16-17)

This tells us that there are no candles in Ember, or fireplaces, or flamethrowers (what would they do if zombies attacked?). They don't even have matches or lighters here. Because really, what do you need fire for in a community that's been planned out to the last detail? Everyone has a stove to cook on, and the lights are on during daylight hours so you can see. Probably having a flashlight would help when things get dropped into dark corners, but otherwise, fire just doesn't have a place in Ember, which is more than a little ironic, given the name.

Quote #3

Heavens above – Indicates surprise. What "heavens" means is unclear. It might be another word for "floodlight." Hogwash – Means "nonsense," though no one knows what a "hog" is or why one would wash it. (8.22)

Yep, this is how out of touch Ember citizens are with the natural world. They live in a cavern, but they don't know it, so they have no idea of what the sky or heavens might be. There's nowhere to keep animals, so they don't know what hogs are. But since the original citizens of Ember came from our society, they maintained some of the sayings and expressions they were used to. Their descendants picked up these phrases because that's how language transmission works—and besides, you don't need to know the origin of every phrase you use, as long as you use it correctly.

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