Study Guide

Legend Poverty

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Congress bars you from high school. You join the poor, like my family. You'll probably either drown while working the water turbines or get steamed to death in the power plants. (1.1.39)

Options for poor children in the new Republic are pretty grim. They can hardly get ahead in life because if they don't do well in the Trial at the ripe old age of ten, they're pretty much sentenced to a life of poverty and misery.

The third, a girl who couldn't have been more than ten years old, stayed where she was, trembling when she saw me. She was skinny as a rail, with a tattered shirt and trousers. (1.9.18)

Day connects with Tess as soon as he meets her because she comes from a background like his. She's poor, and in this cold unfeeling world there's no one around to take care of her.

I can't believe how filthy the streets are here. Probably even worse than the dilapidated outskirts of Los Angeles. The ground sits low against the water (not unlike the other poor sectors, which all seem to look the same), so that whenever there's a storm, the lake probably floods all the streets lining the shore with dirty, sewage-contaminated water. (1.10.39)

June's certainly been sheltered from the harsh realities of life by living in the richer sectors. The truth of how most of Los Angeles lives shocks her—and makes her feel like maybe she's been spending and consuming in excess this whole time.

Then I stop myself. Metias had told me never to judge the poor like that. Well, he's a better person than I am, I think bitterly. (1.10.41)

Unlike a lot of other rich people in the rich sectors, June tries not to judge the poor because her brother taught her that. That's some of Metias's good nature and compassion shining through—and it's served her well.

My hair grows tangled and dull in the heat and smoke, and dirt has started to coat my face. When I look at my reflection in the lake, I realize that I look exactly like a street beggar now. Everything feels dirty. (1.10.54)

June always thought she was so different from the dirty street scum in the poor sectors, but she's really not. It just takes a few days and she literally becomes one of the masses.

The bedroom looks exactly the same, the few things in it old and worn but still comfortable. There's the tattered mattress Eden's on, and next to it is the scratched-up chest of drawers that I used to doodle on. (1.13.45)

Even though Day grew up in an impoverished household, his family still managed to infuse their meager surroundings with warmth and comfort.

But when he speaks, his voice has a sad tinge to it. "Money is the most important thing in the world, you know. Money can buy you happiness, and I don't care what anyone else thinks. It'll buy you relief, status, friends, safety… all sorts of things." (1.16.11)

Money is still something that Day wants badly—not because he wants to be rich or powerful, but because he wants to feel relief. He wants to be able to provide for his family and not worry for them anymore.

I've worn nicer dresses before, and this one feels too modern and lopsided. This dress could've bought a kid in the slum sectors several months' worth of food. (2.2.9)

After coming back from the slums, June's perspective has shifted. Instead of just seeing a fabulous dress, she sees an expensive item that could have fed a child for months. How wasteful the rich are… and at such cost to the poor.

But I don't mention to her why my parents died or what Metias had revealed about the plagues in his blog entries. I'm too ashamed to say it straight to the face of two people living in the poor sectors. (2.12.42)

June can't even explain to Tess and Kaede the fact that the government—the very government she's been working for—has been knowingly poisoning and killing the poor people off. It's too horrible.

Kaede grunts in disbelief. "You're living a sweet life, you know. Tucked in a cozy apartment in some rich sector. You know if the Republic finds out you've been talking to me, they'll put you in front of a firing squad. Same as Day." (2.12.49)

June has led a pretty privileged life, and it makes Kaede skeptical of her idealism and her grand idea to break Day out. But what she doesn't realize is that June has already lost everyone she loves—she has nothing left to lose. She'll help Day even if it means her death.

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