Study Guide

Fallen Southern Charm and Southern Gothic

By Lauren Kate

Southern Charm and Southern Gothic

Chapter 1

"Over here you'll find our state-of-the-art gymnasium," she said, assuming a nasal tour guide tone of voice. "Yes, yes, to the untrained it looks like a church. It used to be. We're kind of in an architectural hand-me-down Hell here at Sword & Cross." (1.139)

In another of Arriane's wonderful tour-guide moments, she points out the church-nasium to Luce, a building that is a combination of religious sanctuary and athletic facility. Only at a place like Sword & Cross would buildings like this exist.

"That cell block over there is Augustine. It's where we have our so-called Social events on Wednesday nights. And all of our classes," [Arriane] said, pointing to the buildings the color of yellowed teeth, two buildings to the right of the dorm…It was dismally square, dismally fortress like, fortified by the same barbed wire and barbed windows. An unnatural looking gray mist cloaked the walls like moss, making it impossible to see whether anyone was over there. (1.116)

Arriane, ever the helpful tour guide, tells Luce all about the various delights that Sword & Cross has to offer. So far, it sounds absolutely charming, even if it's meant to intimidate and keep its students in line.

Chapter 4

The delicate gates were all that divided the cemetery from the parking lot. Pretty remarkable for a school with so much barbed wire everywhere else. Luce ran her hand along the gates, racing the ornate floral pattern with her fingers. The gates must have dated back to the Civil War days Arriane was talking about, back when the cemetery was used the bury fallen soldiers. When the school attached to it was not a home for wayward psychos. When the whole place was a lot less overgrown and shadowy. (4.8)

Here's a moment of quiet, when Luce is waiting for her cemetery detention to begin. During this moment, Luce seems to experience a tiny bit of the historical, Gothic beauty of the campus, even if it only comes at the beginning of the morning, just as the sun rises. The fact that the school even has a cemetery on its campus makes it pretty unique, and that cemetery will play a larger role later.

Chapter 6

There was a row of pretty stained-glass windows, with only a few broken panels, spanning the walls near niches along the wall. A diving board had been installed where the alter probably used to be. If Luce had not been raised agnostic, but rather as a God-fearing churchgoer, like the rest of her friends in elementary school, she might have thought this place was sacrilegious. (6.37)

Inside the church-nasium, Luce is almost awestruck by the strange mixture of beauty and utility. Luce, in fact, uses the pool for contemplation when Daniel's roundabout behavior gets to be too much for her and she needs to clear her head.

Chapter 7

She followed Cam to the bottom of a bowl-like graveyard and the more ornate tombs and mausoleums. On the slope above, the headstones seemed to be looking down at them, like Luce and Cam were performers in an amphitheater. The midday sun glowed orange through the leaves of a giant oak tree in the cemetery, and Luce shaded her eyes with her hands. (7.32)

At this moment, when Luce is in the cemetery with Cam, there's an atmosphere of presentation and performance. The fact that Cam takes her out in the middle of the day also speaks to his attitude and personality: he's flashy and personable, and he's comfortable being the center of attention. After all, the cemetery isn't an entirely private place for them to hang out.

Chapter 8

Luce let Daniel lead her past the scrutinizing gaze of the girls and the little grove of half-rotted peach trees, around the back of the old church-gym. They were coming up on a forest of gorgeously twisted live oak trees, which Luce never would have guessed her tucked away there…

Now she was going into the bosky woods, the dark under the thick foliage pierced every so often by a small shaft of light from above. The stench of rich, dank muddle filled the air, and Luce suddenly knew there was water nearby. (8.106-107)

When they go out together, Daniel takes Luce takes to a secluded place, somewhere serene and lush, private and secluded—but also safe. There are no prying eyes, not even from statues, and that speaks to Daniel's personality. Unlike Cam, Daniel prefers to be away from the spotlight.

Chapter 14

The rain was coming down in sheets. The field outside was dark, except for the light that came through the library windows. It was so muddy and slick, it was hard to see anything at all. Then two figures sprinted out to the center of the commons. Both of them were soaked instantly. They argued for a moment, then started circling each other. (14.165-166)

Here the weather goes against both guys, pitting them against each other to test them—and serving as a disadvantage to both. We could say that this is God crying because his angel babies are fighting, but it's probably just for dramatic effect.

Chapter 15

But Daniel had turned off the road and brought the car to a stop at the end of a sandy path. He switched the headlights off and they stared out at the ocean. The dusky sky was a deep plum shade, and the crests of the waves looked almost silver, sparkling. The beach grass whipped up the wind, making a high, desolate whistling sound. A flock of ragged seagulls sat in a line along the boardwalk railing, grooming their feathers (15.178)

While Cam is outwardly flashy, Daniel is shy and attentive, and the settings in which they choose to share their time with Luce are reflective of these differing qualities. Daniel's sandy beach road is practically a paradise after the bar where Cam met Luce. Clearly, Daniel is much better at planning dates.

Through the tinted windows, the trees outside and the gray paved road beneath them all looked brown. At the turning whose westward fork led to Thunderbolt, the black sedan turned east. They were following the river toward the shore. Every now and then, when their path and the river's converged, Luce could see the brackish brown water twisting beside them. (15.26)

The path Luce takes in the car on the way to meet Cam is a winding river road that will take her to a seedy bar called Styx. The very winding nature of the drive itself reflects not only the twisty feelings Luce is experiencing, but it also adds to a sense of unease about what's going to happen at the bar. It's definitely not a comforting feeling.

Chapter 16

Daniel led her toward a part of the cemetery Luce had never seen before, a clear, flat space where tow peach trees had grown together. Their trunks bowed toward each other, forming the outline of a heart in the air below them.

He led her under a strange, gnarled coupling of the branches and took her hands, tracking her fingers with his.

The evening was quite except for the song of crickets…It was as if, all of a sudden, she and Daniel were on a different plane of being from the rest of the school. Everything but his hand around hers, his hair shining in the light of the setting sun, his warm gray eyes—everything else felt so far away. (16.111-113)

For this most important scene—in which Daniel takes Luce to talk to her about the untold truths of how they know each other—Daniel picks the perfect spot: something a bit secluded but also safe. It's also a touch mysterious and mythical, so it conveys the right mood of both privacy and magic. He's stepping out of time and place with Luce to show her the truth of her past and present. Yeah, he's way better at picking nice date spots. Sorry, Cam, but it's no contest.