Study Guide

Code Name Verity Mortality (Death)

By Elizabeth Wein

Mortality (Death)

That was because Mary, Queen of Scots, is another of my illustrious ancestors. She died messily as well. They all died messily. (1.11.XI.43.19)

Julie mentions several possible ancestors (Mary, Queen of Scots; William Wallace; and Macbeth) who were all accused of treason even though whether they actually committed treason is open to interpretation. You know, kind of like Julie.

It was bad enough Maddie suspected the reason Queenie was at her side now was because she'd had to give up on the lad whose gun they'd taken over. Bad enough. But there had also been a pilot in that ball of flame, a living young man with not much more training than Maddie herself. (1.11.XI.43.61)

People on both sides are dying all the time. War books can be a real bummer sometimes.

"It could." Queenie was sober now. "Unless you were doing them a favor by killing them. Then you'd let them down if you didn't. If you couldn't make yourself. My great-uncle had horrible cancers in his throat and he'd been to America twice to have the tumors taken out and they kept coming back, and finally he asked his wife to kill him, and she did. She wasn't charged with anything—it was recorded as a shooting accident, believe it or not, but she was my grandmother's sister and we all know the truth." (1.11.XI.43.166)

After Julie's death, Maddie surmises that Julie must have included this story because she thought they would have to blow up the Ormaie Gestapo with her inside. But that's only one interpretation. Why do you think Julie tells this story? We love that it turns out to be true.

If I am very lucky—I mean if I am clever about it—I will get myself shot. Here, soon. Engel didn't tell me this; I thought it out myself. I have given up hoping the RAF will blow this place to smithereens. (1.18.XI.43.5)

You know you're in deep trouble when getting shot can be described as "lucky." In the end, Julie does manage to get herself shot. Do you think she's lucky? The bar for luck is certainly set pretty low in war.

I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can't believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant.

But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old. (1.18.XI.43.17-18)

Julie's old fear of the old folks' home seems pretty distant and silly when she's faced with a concentration camp instead. We'd take shuffleboard every time, too.

It's awful, telling it like this, isn't it? As though we didn't know the ending. As though it could have another ending. It's like watching Romeo drink poison. Every time you see it you get fooled into thinking his girlfriend might wake up and stop him. Every single time you see it you want to shout, "You stupid ass, just wait a minute," and she'll open her eyes! "Oi, you, you twat, open your eyes, wake up! Don't die this time!" But they always do. (1.23.XI.43.26)

This is a universal truth about watching Romeo and Juliet, Titanic, and other Leonardo DiCaprio movies made in the 1990s. The end is inevitable, and we feel powerless watching, kind of like we feel when reading Code Name Verity.

Mary Stuart had her Skye terrier—what comfort will I take with me to my execution? What comfort for any of us—Marie, Maddie, the cabbage-stealing scullion, flute girl, the Jewish doctor, alone at the guillotine or in the air or in the suffocating freight wagons?

And why? Why? (1.28.XI.43.15-16)

That story about Mary Stuart's dog makes us tear up every time. Poor little puppy. At least Julie gets to see Maddie right before she dies.

Oh Julie, wouldn't I know if you were dead? Wouldn't I feel it happening, like a jolt of electricity to my heart? (2.13.1)

Oh, Maddie. Worry not—you're going to know. Oh, how you're going to know.

But I don't believe they killed her, either. I just don't believe it. I keep thinking of those pictures of the pilot. They must have shown Julie those pictures by now, and perhaps she thinks I'm dead. But I'm not. And it's the same for her; I'm sure of it. It might look like she's dead, but she's not.

[...]

I don't believe she's dead, I don't believe any of their bluff and lies and bullying threats. I don't believe she's dead and I WON'T believe she's dead until I hear the shots MYSELF and see her fall. (2.13.10,14)

This is what we like to call foreshadowing, sports fans. Maddie is going to come closer to Julie's death than she can even imagine.

I saw her body flinch—the blows knocked her head aside as though she'd been thumped in the face. Then she was gone.

Gone. One moment flying in green sunlight, then the sky suddenly gray and dark. Out like a candle. Here, then gone. (2.17.63-64)

What do you think of this as a description of death? It's awfully short, but it recalls moments from earlier in the novel that make us think of Maddie and Julie's history together.

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