Study Guide

The House of the Scorpion Compassion and Forgiveness

By Nancy Farmer

Compassion and Forgiveness

He wasted no tears on the Alacráns or their slaves Felicia, Fani, and Emilia. But he wept for El Patrón, who deserved pity less than anyone but who was closer to Matt than anyone in the world. (25.23)

Matt's a compassionate and deeply conflicted individual, and his love for El Patrón is twisted and confusing and, ultimately, understandable.

As though it could hear, the infant flexed its tiny body in the womb until it was turned toward the man. And Eduardo felt an unreasoning stir of affection. (1.16)

Matt's birth is not your typical birth. The closest thing he gets to the usual tender moment with the mother is this moment with Eduardo, the scientist who creates him.

"Take the creature outside."

Rosa hesitated, obviously bewildered.

The man leaned forward and whispered into her ear.

A look of horror crossed Rosa's face. She instantly scooped up Matt and ran. (3.110-13)

Rosa hates clones so much she's willing to completely change her behavior toward Matt the moment she discovers the truth about his identity. But we can't blame only Rosa. The prejudice is so widespread in Opium that almost everyone feels the exact same way.

Why shouldn't María be his girlfriend? Why should he be different from everyone else because he was a clone? (11.78)

Matt the clone is just looking for some love. We can't blame him for that. But we can blame him for his treatment of María at the birthday party. It's a moment of weakness from an otherwise nice guy.

Matt held his tongue. He wanted to say that he hadn't poisoned Furball and didn't need forgiveness, but he didn't want to spoil María's mood. (16.21)

Way to take the high road, Matt. We were not big fans of María in this scene. Though we ordinarily like her, her dismissal of Matt means deep down, she still thinks of him as not quite human. And that's not quite cool, María.

"You aren't evil, only [...]"

"Only what?"

"You don't have a soul, so you can't be baptized. All animals are like that." (16.35-37)

Yikes. We cringe. As a young girl, María still can't quite rise above all those prejudices that the world has taught her. This must have been hard for Matt to hear, but he's a forgiving guy, so we're betting he'll get over it.

What Matt hated about the creature was everyone's assumption that he and Furball were the same. It didn't matter that Matt had excellent grades and good manners. They were both animals and thus unimportant. (9.6)

Matt misplaces his resentment for being treated like an animal on Furball, because he's the only animal around. Of course this isn't fair to the dog, but you might think of it as form of self-preservation. Matt is angry, and it might be better that he take it out on the dog, rather than the powerful Alacráns, who are the real problem.

I'm different. I wasn't created to provide spare parts.

El Patrón had refused to let the doctors destroy Matt's brain. He'd protected him and given him Celia and Tam Lin for company. (19.49-50)

El Patrón has fooled Matt into thinking he's special, when he's really no different from all the clones before. Matt thinks El Patrón is compassionate and loving, when really he's the worst of all the Alacráns.

Celia immediately knelt down and put her arms around him. "Don't cry, mi vida. I love you more than anything in the world. I'll explain things to you when you're older." (1.7)

What would we do without Celia? She's really a mother to Matt, no matter what she says, and we're pretty sure her loving care is what helps Matt to become such a compassionate person as he grows up.

He grabbed Chacho and pulled him back. "We mustn't kill him!"
"Why not?" demanded the boy. (32.24-5)

Matt's refusal to murder Jorge, even though Jorge totally has it coming, shows just how different Matt is from El Patrón.

He understood the full extent of it now. It wasn't only the drug addicts throughout the world or the Illegals doomed to slavery. It was their orphaned children as well. You could even say the old man was responsible for the Keepers. (38.44)

Matt's world view starts to broaden in the last part of the book, and he's able to think with compassion about some of the world's larger problems – not just his own drama.

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