Study Guide

The House of the Scorpion Death

By Nancy Farmer


He saw the fantastic gardens of the Big House, the statues of babies with wings, the orange trees festooned with lights. This was his last night on earth, and he wanted to remember everything. (22.124)

Everything in these lines seems beautiful. But how can it, when Matt knows he's about to die?

"You've had many lives," Celia said. "Thousands of them are buried under the poppy fields." (23.34)

If El Patrón thinks he deserves to live extra for all the siblings he's lost, Celia points out that he's taken enough lives to live thousands of lifetimes. It's time to give up, El Patrón. You lost this round.

"There were eight of us," the old man cried. "We should all have grown up, but I was the only survivor. I am meant to have those lives! I am meant to have justice!" (23.30)

El Patrón's idea of "justice" is warped to say the least. Check out the "Characters" section for more on his fear of death and his obsession with his past.

"Tam Lin says rabbits give up when they're caught by coyotes," Matt said after he'd calmed enough to trust his voice. "He says they consent to die because they're animals and can't understand hope. But humans are different. They fight against death no matter how bad things seem." (33.47)

Well in that case, Matt is definitely human, because he totally has hope. And he perseveres through all kinds of life-threatening situations. Our Matt has some serious staying power.

But never, never, never had anyone dreamed of throwing a party for Death! (35.40)

The Day of the Dead. Okay, we'll be honest and say that sounds a little depressing, but it's really a celebration. And how refreshing for Matt to meet people who honor death, rather than fear it. That must have come as quite a strange surprise.

Before the next minute had passed, they had all fallen to the ground. Just like that. As though someone had reached inside and turned off a switch.

"What happened?" Matt asked, gasping.

I went from one person to the next, trying to wake them up, but they were all dead, wrote Daft Donald. (38.18-20)

For a man who hates death, El Patrón sure is surrounded by it. Even from the grave he murders his entire family. It's almost as if he thinks if he dies, everyone else must, too.

Matt could see the buried tomb in his mind's eye - the broken wineglasses, El Patrón's portrait staring up from the coffin, the bodyguards laid out in their dark suits. (38.35)

Death is very, very real to Matt. The death of the Alacrán clan, while horrifying, also brings some much needed closure. At least now Opium can get out from under El Patrón.

"See, there's an example of someone who didn't get his implants when he should have," said El Patrón, pointing at El Viejo. (11.45)

El Patrón seems to think that El Viejo is a big fat loser for accepting death. It's as if El Patrón is in some creepy competition, where he has to outsmart death at every turn, and anyone who doesn't is a fool.

Inside, looking more like a starved bird than anything else, was El Viejo. He was dressed in a black suit, and his sharp nose stuck up like a beak against the ivory silk lining. (14.37)

El Viejo's corpse is not a pretty sight. In a weird way, it helps Matt (and us) to understand why El Patrón keeps trying to cheat death. If this is what he has to look forward to, it sure isn't appealing.

Tom was there too, his lying, oh-so-believable voice stilled forever. How many times had Matt entertained himself with thoughts of Tom's downfall? Now that it had happened, Matt felt numb. (38.36)

There's no doubt about it: death is no picnic. Though Matt had always anticipated Tom's death with glee, when it comes around, he seems... confused. And we can't blame him. The fact that so many people died is sad, of course, but it also means that Opium might finally have a chance at becoming a better place.

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