Study Guide

Cassia Maria Reyes in Matched

By Ally Condie

Cassia Maria Reyes

What's in a Name?

Sometimes a character's name doesn't tell us a whole heckofa lot, but this is definitely not the case when it comes to our main character in Matched. Cassia Maria Reyes's name packs a stealth punch, just like our main girl. But let's unpack her beginning, middle, and last names to really dig deep into the symbolic power of our leading lady's moniker.

Cassia has Hebrew and Greek origins and can mean cinnamon or hollow. Fiery yet naïve—yup, we'd say that describes our main girl pretty well. There's also a bush called Winter Cassia that's not too showy until it blooms, just like our girl blends in with the rest of the Society pretty well… until Grandfather and Ky give her the knowledge and passion to blossom.

Maria has Hebrew and Latin origins and means bitter. And though everything starts out pretty sweetly for Cassia, she's definitely got a bad taste in her mouth when it comes to the Society by the time this book ends. Maria is also a reference to Mary from the Bible, and while we don't see Cassia become a mother in this book, she begins to conceive of a different way of life—and in this way, we are clued into the idea that going forward (in the trilogy), she may play a key part in birthing a new society.

Reyes is a common Hispanic surname meaning kings. While the author may have given Cassia's family this name to indicate their high status in Society—and all the privilege that comes with it—we think it may have a double meaning and also be an indication of the great things Cassia's yet to do in this series.

Cassia the Family Girl

When we meet Cassia, the most important thing in the world to her is her family. She'll do anything to make her younger brother happy—"I still invented levels and record of achievement and spent almost all my free time during those months coming up with games I thought he would like" (24.46)—and to protect him—"what I risk has a limit. I won't risk Bram" (18.53). She lives to live up to her family's expectations and make them proud, especially Grandfather.

We see so much of Cassia in her father, who, like Cassia, has broken the rules to protect those he loves, and in her grandfather, who like Cassia has rebelled against Society in small ways in order to maintain a semblance of his own identity and passions. But Cassia also shares her mother's struggle between doing what feels right and keeping her family safe. She says, "I may be a sorter like my father and my grandfather before me, but I am also my mother's daughter" (21.18), indicating her regard for the well being of her family.

Cassia is coming of age in Matched, though, and just like it does for the rest of us, this inevitably means deciding between family and forging her own path at a point. Of course, Cassia's decision is a little trickier since she's risking the lives of those around her. Ultimately though, Cassia has to follow her own heart—and her heart leads her toward Ky and away from her family.

Cassia the Rebel

Cassia's foray into rebellion starts off rather tentatively, which isn't surprising since before the little snafu with her microcard, it never even occurred to her to step out of line. She truly thought Society's rules were best for everyone, and that they would direct her life in its proper course. She tells us, "It was as though for the first time I saw that life could branch into different paths, take different directions" (16.96)—quite an enlightening moment for a girl who's never considered doing anything other than exactly as she's told.

Once she begins to want something more than the Society can give her, she still struggles to completely abandon what she's spent sixteen years believing. She says:

The two desires struggle within me: the desire to be safe, and the desire to know. I cannot tell which one will win. (23.34)

The stakes are about as high as they come for Cassia, and she's forced to choose between knowledge and safety. Eventually, however, she begins to recognize and cultivate her own inner strength. She tells us, "Then, the question I asked myself was: Do I look pretty? Now, the question I ask is: Do I look strong?"(18.54-55)—and when she does, we can see just how much she's changing. Prettiness is about fitting in and being accepted by society (or, in her case, Society), whereas strength is all about being able to make it both on your own and as your own.

Still though, Cassia hasn't lost the connection to her family. She wonders what they would think of her going down this path, especially Grandfather:

What would Grandfather think of the jump I'm taking? Would this be the one time he would tell me to hang on to the edge with all my might? Would he say to cling to the side of the board until my fingers became bloody and scraped? Or would he say that it was all right to let go? (27.124)

Grandfather's dead by this point, so she'll never know, but based on his own rebellious streak (be sure to read his analysis elsewhere in this section for more on that), we think he'd be behind her all the way.

After all is said and done, Cassia finds herself comforted by the ways in which she is able to rebel. She says, "There are things she doesn't know. With this realization, it is as though something has been given back to me" (30.115). The simple awareness that Society hasn't been able to know and control and manipulate everything Cassia's done gives her hope—which is just the thing to nurture her rebellious instincts.

Cassia in Love

Like many a teenager in love, Cassia can wax poetic about Ky. She notes:

I've been wrong about his eyes. I thought they were brown but I see they are dark blue, brought out by the color of his plainclothes. Blue is the most common eye color in Oria Province, but there is something different about his eyes and I'm not sure what it is. More depth? (8.17)

Fascinating, Cassia, truly fascinating. Looks like someone could talk about Ky's baby blues all day long, doesn't it? But what's most interesting to us about Cassia's love for Ky is how it transforms her. She's stronger, smarter, and more willing to take chances. Once sparks are flying between them she says:

I know. I cannot go gently now. Not even for the sake of my parents, my family. (21.79)

Ky's love shows Cassia that there's a world beyond the confines of Society, that music and poetry can make you feel something other than mildly pleasant, and that there are things worth fighting for. As Cassia puts it:

Without knowing the pieces of Ky's story and the words of my poems I might give up. But I think of my words and of the cache of tablets and compass hidden away and my family and Xander […]. (32.16)

Her feelings for Ky may be the thing that convinces Cassia to follow her heart—she just can't seem to quit him—but ultimately it's Cassia's love for everyone in her life, coupled with the knowledge that they all love her and are rooting for her, that gives her the courage to go on. This girl may be marching to the beat of her own drum, but she's got a steadfast group of people keeping the beat.

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