Study Guide

Matched Power

By Ally Condie


[…] our information intake is much more specific. Nutrition specialists don't need to know how to program air trains, for example, and programmers, in turn, don't need to know how to prepare food. Such specialization helps keep people from being overwhelmed. (3.55)

Let's be real, Cassia—it's not about being overwhelmed; it's about power. The Society retains its power by ensuring that no citizen has sufficient skills to survive on their own without Society's help.

I peel back the foilware and look at my portion. Next to Xander's, it seems miniscule. Maybe I'm making this up, but my portions seem to be smaller lately. […]

It must be my imagination. (17.53-54)

It's not your imagination, Cassia—food portioning is yet another way the Society wields power by controlling and restricting access to food for all citizens. They can also increase stress strategically in citizens by lessening their portions.

"The Society decided that they needed to give Sisyphus a punishment, a special one, because he dared to think he could be as clever as one of them." (21.29)

The story of Sisyphus is an example of Society shutting down and punishing anyone who dares defy them. Sisyphus tries to outwit Society and ends up with a horrific life sentence, so the lesson here is don't try to outsmart the Society. If you do, you will be punished.

When I finally meet her gaze, her expression is satisfied. She knows she's won. She sees in my eyes that I won't risk making things worse for Ky. (22.49)

Clever Society… The best way to keep someone in line is to threaten their loved ones, and Society's all over that one. While someone like Cassia isn't easily quieted when her own well being is threatened, she feels differently when it comes to protecting those she loves.

They control the food, they control us. Some people know how to grow food, some know how to process it, others know how to cook it. But none of us know how to do it all. We could never survive on our own. (27.56)

Remember earlier when Cassia thought the Society was just being kind and helping them from becoming overwhelmed? Now she begins to realize it's all for power and control. No person—or even group of people—actually knows how to survive on their own, and everyone is dependent upon Society for their very existence.

Of course. I know now why we're going to take them. So we forget what happened to Ky. So we forget that the Enemy is winning the war in the Outer Provinces, that the villagers are already dead. (29.70)

What's the best way of retaining power when your citizens learn about your shady dealings and may feel tempted to revolt? Easy—just erase their memories with these handy red tablets, of course. This is a turning point for Cassia in her understanding of Society's cruelty, and she refuses to forget what she's discovered.

And I realize why they didn't have us take the tablets when something happened to the first Markham boy: because we needed to remember how dangerous Anomalies can be. How vulnerable we would be without the Society to keep them all away. (29.70)

Mind you, red tablets are only used selectively. The Society allows its citizens just enough knowledge to be utterly terrified of life without its safety net. Makes you wonder whether Society purposely allowed the Anomaly to kill the Markham boy, doesn't it? Hmmm…

"I suppose they don't want those of us who saw the rogue crops to continue working in positions of authority," my mother says. "We know too much. We might be tempted to do the same." (30.24)

What to do with anyone who catches hint of a rebellion? Take away any remaining control they have over their own lives and remind them who's boss. Once Cassia's mom learns too much about rebellion in other provinces, she's stripped of her job title and sent away to the farmlands.

"We decided to put Ky into the Matching pool," she says. […] "What's important for you to know is that we were in control of the experiment all along." (30.100)

Even the one thing Cassia thought she did despite the Society's power over her turns out to have been controlled by them—and they're thrilled to let her know about it. Imagine how awesome that must feel.

They do not know that Xander hid the artifact, that Ky can write, that Grandfather gave me poetry. (30.131)

We've been all about how all-powerful the Society is in this section, so we'll leave you with this little morsel: Cassia finally manages to hold on to a little bit of her own power by keeping them in the dark about these important little facts. Looks like somebody's not as totalitarian as they might believe…

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