Study Guide

Matched Society and Class

By Ally Condie

Society and Class

Aberrations live among us; they're not dangerous like Anomalies, who have to be separated from Society. Aberrations usually acquire their status due to an Infraction. (5.47)

We get our first hint of the class structure in Cassia's society and the ways in which people acquire their class status—through the crimes they commit. We don't know, however, how Anomalies come to be.

The Outer Provinces are on the geographic fringe of the Society, where life is harder and wilder. Sometimes people refer to them as the Lesser Provinces, or the Backward Provinces, because they have so little order and knowledge there. There's a higher concentration of Aberrations there than in the general populace. And even Anomalies, some say. (6.11)

If those aren't some classist thoughts, then we don't know what is—Aberrations live on the fringes of society and are referred to as "Lesser." Ugh. Are there any parallels in our own society?

[…] no one knows for certain where the Anomalies are. They used to be kept in safe houses, but many of those stand empty these days. (6.11)

Let's see if we have this right: Anomalies are separated from Society, but no one knows where they are? Is anyone else smelling something fishy?

We were all surprised when Ky received such a lowly assignment, since Patrick and Aida are so well respected. "He works at the nutrition disposal center." (6.57)

Without even seeing the horrors of the nutrition disposal center, we can tell it sounds like a less-than-glamorous place to work. Work assignments are influenced by—and are an indication of—social class, which in turn is influenced by the status of one's family.

"We are pleased to formally announce that your data indicates you have qualified for preservation. Not everyone qualifies, as you know, and it is another honor that you can add to your already long list of achievements." […]

I'm glad that Grandfather has qualified to have a tissue sample frozen. Now, for him, death may not necessarily be the end. (7.43-44)

Among the creepier ways that social class affects lives is the fact the upper class folks get to rest in peace knowing that they might get another chance at living someday. The Society values the lives of its upper class citizens more than those of lesser status.

"[…] he dared to think he could be as clever as one of them, when he wasn't an Official, or even a citizen. He was nothing. An Aberration from the Outer Provinces." (21.29)

Apparently, daring to think positive thoughts about yourself is less acceptable the lower in class you are. The Society wants everyone to know their status and know their place. Aberrations are equated with "nothing"—way harsh.

I'm not anyone. I'm just one of the people who happened to fall in the majority. All my life, the odds have been on my side. (21.62)

Cassia's humble enough to realize the privileged status she has in society, and that maybe it is luck, rather than anything she's earned. And in one fell swoop, she's undone the myth of meritocracy for herself.

"I can never be Matched," he says […] "I'm an Aberration." […] What would it be like to be alone? To know that you could never choose anything else? (21.72-75)

While citizens of high status are much more restricted in their choices than we are, choices are even more limited for those in the lower classes. It's profoundly sad that they can never have a partner and must always be alone.

"[…] the stakes are higher for you because of Ky's Aberration status. Having a fling with a member of Society in good standing is one thing. For the two of you, it's different. If things continue, you could be declared an Aberration yourself." (22.33)

Okay, we get it. Hooking up with an Aberration = bad. Do they think she'll get contaminated or something? It's interesting to compare this to other places in our own world and times in history when class or status has been a crucial determining factor in finding a partner.

[…] they have found another way to take care of things. The strong survive. Natural selection. With help from our Gods, of course—the Officials. (26.71)

As if things couldn't get any worse in the class game, it turns out the Society is offing its lower-class citizens by giving them awesome jobs handling poison. This creepy "natural selection" feels eerily similar to the ideals behind genocide.

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