Study Guide

Legend Themes

By Marie Lu

  • Betrayal

    In Legend, there is actually a great deal of backstabbing that goes on. June betrays Day to the authorities after pretending to be another street rat like him, then she finds out that Thomas probably betrayed her and killed her beloved brother Metias while blaming it on Day (gasp)… And then she finds out that the Republic killed her parents for knowing too much about the plague… so there's another twist.

    The book shows that betrayal is only necessary if you're doing it for the right means—for example, betraying Day out of an idea of revenge was a bad idea, but going against the Republic because it fits with June's morals makes sense. Finally June is sick and tired of all this backstabbing by Republic minions and decides that she's going to betray the Republic by helping Day to escape. Phew—let's hope the betrayal train stops here.

    Questions About Betrayal

    1. Why does Day eventually forgive June for betraying him?
    2. How does June feel toward Thomas once she realizes that he's lying to her?
    3. What big secret does June learn when she discovers the blog entries that Metias left for her?
    4. Does Day ultimately feel more betrayed by the Republic or by June?

    Chew on This

    June's loyalties to the Republic shift over time because of the different ways in which the government has betrayed her and the people she cares about.

    Even though Commander Jameson is a cold and unfeeling person, it's really Thomas who commits the greatest atrocities and betrayals toward the Iparises, since they considered him a close family friend.

  • Revenge

    After June hears of her brother's death in Legend, she is immediately hell-bent on revenge. After all, Metias was her last living relative and she loved him dearly. Because she's convinced that Day has killed him, she wants to track him down and bring him to justice. When she realizes that she's been mistaken though, her revenge plan has to find a new target—the Republic of America. Even though June's been a die-hard patriot from the privileged class, she recognizes that the Republic has been lying to her and killing off her family all along.

    And Day recognizes the same thing, thereby uniting them both in their shared need for justice, rather than revenge. Instead of seeking to kill those who hurt their families (most notably Thomas), June and Day leave the revenge notion behind and decide to take on the Republic—and fight for everyone's justice and freedom instead.

    Questions About Revenge

    1. How does the Republic betray both Day's and June's families? Why do they want to seek revenge?
    2. Does June want to seek revenge on Thomas for killing her brother? Why or why not?
    3. How does June's original revenge plan change when she starts getting to know Day?
    4. Is revenge still important to June by the end? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Even though June initially thinks that getting revenge for Metias's death will make her feel better and give her a sense of closure, in the end it just makes her feel worse about everything.

    Day doesn't take out his anguish about his mother's death on June because he knows that revenge wouldn't help anything and that she has suffered enough already.

  • Poverty

    Oh boy—things are not looking so great for the citizens of the Republic of America in Legend. Even though families like June's get to live in fancy homes with really over-the-top clothes (she has a dress with diamonds stitched onto it), most people are living in relative misery and poverty. 

    Take Day's family for example: they live in the slums and can only afford a chicken when they've worked overtime all week and have sold their good clothes.

    In this book poverty symbolizes how the Republic of America has failed its people; it hasn't made it so that most people can live comfortable, safe lives at all. All of Los Angeles (where the story takes place) is pretty much overrun with slums and people desperate to find their next meal. So much for progress.

    Questions About Poverty

    1. How does the Republic of America compare to the current United States economically?
    2. Why are the children who fail the Trial taken away from their families? What is the economic impact of this?
    3. Where does the government get its money?
    4. Why are Day and Tess stealing and saving up so much money?

    Chew on This

    June used to see the poor people of the slums in an unfavorable light, but her time chasing Day really makes her rethink her position. She comes to see the poor as people—just like her—because she spends so much time around them.

    To the Republic, the poor are a disposable group to be used for governmental gain. Instead of taking care of poor people, the new Republic sees them as a group to be exploited for labor and experimented upon.

  • Family

    Both of our main narrators in Legend care deeply about their families, even though they come from vastly different circumstances. Day remains in Los Angeles even though it's dangerous for him because he wants to keep an eye out for his family; and June loves her brother Metias so fiercely that when he dies she makes it her personal mission to find his killer.

    Though these initial circumstances set them on opposite teams, June and Day eventually bond over their similarities and learn that the Republic is the true enemy of their families—and then they unite to fight the Republic in order to avenge the family members that they've both lost unfairly.

    Questions About Family

    1. What is June's relationship with her brother like? How is it different from her relationship with Metias?
    2. Why does Day have to stay in Los Angeles to be near his family? Why doesn't he go somewhere safer?
    3. How does June feel when Thomas shoots Day's mother and kills her?
    4. Why does John take Day's place in the end?

    Chew on This

    Even though they come from such vastly different backgrounds, it is their mutual fierce love for their families that brings June and Day together—and helps them to understand each other.

    The new Republic of America doesn't place any importance in the family unit—which is why so many people rise against the Republic.

  • Lies and Deceit

    No one's really telling the whole truth in Legend. June and Day both realize over the course of the novel that the Republic isn't being honest with its citizens about the plague or the Trial—there's something fishy going on with how the infections start up or how children disappear after failing their Trial.

    And when June goes on her plan to avenge Metias's death, she has to lie and pretend that she's another street rat in order to get close to Day—and, of course, the Republic has lied to her about who killed her brother in the first place.

    Even at the very end, we see Day's brother John deceiving the public in order to save his brother—he puts on Day's execution blindfold so that he will be killed instead of his brother. Though everyone lies in Legend, it's more important to look at the motives behind the lies than the lies themselves. That's where the difference between good and evil lies in this book.

    Questions About Lies and Deceit

    1. How does June deceive Day into believing that she's a street rat like him, and why?
    2. Why does Day let his mother think that he's dead for so many years?
    3. How has the government been lying to its citizens, and how do Day and June find out about it?

    Chew on This

    June comes to help Day because he is the only person who does not lie to her at some point in the book.

    The whole mission to capture Day is just a highly orchestrated lie by the government to hide the fact that it's behind Metias's death—and behind June's parents' deaths.

  • Patriotism

    When we first meet June in Legend, she is a true patriot to the Republic of America. She wants to go into the military, defends the government at every turn, watches propaganda films, and even attends nationalist concerts. However, over the course of the novel she starts to understand that the country she loves so much isn't what it seems. And when she realizes what the Republic of America has really been doing, she finds that her loyalties start to change. She doesn't want to be a part of this legacy anymore—she wants to be a rebel. 

    Questions About Patriotism

    1. Was Metias still a true patriot when he died?
    2. How does June's view of the Republic of America change throughout the novel?
    3. If Day hates the Republic so much, why doesn't he join the Patriots?
    4. Why are the Patriots called that if they hate the Republic so much?

    Chew on This

    In the Republic, only those who grow up in a truly privileged and sheltered environment can still be patriotic.

    The faction against the Republic calls themselves the Patriots because they are the ones who are actually upholding true American values and treating the country with love and respect.

  • Choices

    Even though Legend takes place in a totalitarian state, the characters all have the free will to make the choices that they believe are right. It may be difficult to turn her back on everything that she has in the Republic, but June has to make the decision to fight against the corruption and deceit that she encounters in the system. Similarly, even though Thomas is just following orders, he's still making the final decision to kill people when the Republic tells him to do so. He doesn't have to do those things, and neither does June.

    The government may be holding a gun to their heads (figuratively and literally), but in the end, it's the individual's choice to obey an order or to rebel.

    Questions About Choices

    1. How has the choice to fight against or expose the government negatively affected June's family in the past?
    2. Why does Day choose to forgive June for betraying him? Why do they end up allies?
    3. How does Metias's choice to resign change his standing in the Republic?
    4. Why does June choose to stick with Day in the end, even though the road to Las Vegas will be dangerous?

    Chew on This

    Though June doesn't know it at first, she comes from a line of Iparises who all make the same brave choice to say no to the terrible things that the government is doing. And when she finds out, she has no choice but to follow her family.

    The characters in Legend make many of their serious choices out of love for their family—from June's decision to hunt Day down to John's decision to die in the place of Day—and by doing so, they make good choices.

  • Mortality

    In the Republic of America of Legend, there is no shortage of suffering or death. That's because the government has a rather unsentimental view of its citizens; basically, if you aren't useful to the future of the Republic, you're better off dead. That's why children get killed after failing their Trials and slums are infected with new strains of the plague in order to test the virus's efficacy.

    Pretty bleak, huh? And we haven't even gotten to the part where the government publicly executes criminals by firing squad and kills its own military members for knowing too much. Because they're growing up in this environment, Day and June get familiar with death fast, for better or for worse.

    Questions About Mortality

    1. Why is the government using its own citizens to test the plague?
    2. Why does Day run away after his Trial?
    3. How did June's parents die and why?
    4. Do June and Day really fear death? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    June and Day are brought together by their shared experiences with death and grief; they understand the pain that the other person has gone through.

    In the Republic of America, human life is no longer valued. Instead it's all about power, and it doesn't matter who the government kills to achieve its goals.

  • Power

    In Legend the Republic of America has a great deal of power over its citizens, and boy does the Republic like to abuse that power. Throughout the novel we slowly learn that the Republic's citizens are pretty much vulnerable to whatever crazy idea the government comes up with next. Testing dangerous viruses on the population without their knowledge? Sure, why not. Killing off its employees for knowing too much? Par for the course. Shipping people off to labor camps? All in a day's work. In short, the people do not have the power in this government at all.

    Questions About Power

    1. Do elite families like June's have power in the government? Why or why not?
    2. How do Day and June take back the power of the people in the story?
    3. What are the Patriots working on and what is their goal?
    4. How does the government handle riots and rebellion?

    Chew on This

    In the Republic, obsession with power is encouraged, whereas family connections are discouraged. That is why people like Thomas advance, but people like Metias are killed.

    The Republic wields so much power over its citizens, but it can never control what they think. That becomes clear when they sentence Day to death and people come out in great numbers to riot.

  • Truth

    If June and Day have one thing in common in Legend, it's that they both totally value the truth. They're not into drinking the Kool-Aid and just swallowing whatever the government tells them; they want to know what's really going on so that they can fight the injustices. June in particular has to turn her back on everything she's grown up with in order to learn the truth. It's not an easy journey for her, but she never gives up or decides to just follow the Republic's orders blindly like Thomas does. She seeks the truth, even if she knows she's not going to like it very much.

    Questions About Truth

    1. What does June grow up believing about the Republic? How does this change over the course of the novel?
    2. What is the truth behind the plague that affects poorer slums in Los Angeles?
    3. Why do you think June's parents were killed? Why was Metias killed?
    4. How do you think the government will react when they realize that they've killed John and not Day?

    Chew on This

    Throughout the novel, Day and June are both searching for different truths—but they both end up with the same one: that the Republic has been lying to and killing its citizens.

    June is attracted to Day because he understands her and because he's the only person who tells her the whole truth and accepts what she says as the truth.