Study Guide

The Lightning Thief Family

By Rick Riordan

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Chapter 1

I hadn't seen her since Christmas. I wanted so bad to jump in a taxi and head home. She'd hug me and be glad to see me, but she'd be disappointed too. She'd send me right back to Yancy, remind me that I had to try harder, even if this was my sixth school in six years and I was probably going to be kicked out again. I wouldn't be able to stand that sad look she'd give me. (1.79)

Percy's family (his mom) is what keeps him strong and what gives him a reason for trying. Sally Jackson loves him unconditionally, but she also makes sure that his life has structure and discipline and that he learns. In retrospect (having finished reading The Lightning Thief), what is Sally really trying to do in sending Percy away to school?

If you're reading this because you think you might be [a half-blood], my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. (1.2)

From page one of The Lightning Thief, Percy introduces the idea that our parents might be lying to us. He makes it sound so obvious and so natural that our parents would be lying to us. His parents have been lying to him for twelve years of his life. Family throughout this story is closely associated with lying.

Chapter 3

I felt angry at my father. Maybe it was stupid, but I resented him for going on that ocean voyage, for not having the guts to marry my mom. He'd left us, and now we were stuck with Smelly Gabe. (3.101)

Percy blames his entire life and all of the bad luck in it on his dad. How does his understanding of his dad change over the course of the story?

Her own parents died in a plane crash when she was five, and she was raised by an uncle who didn't care much about her. She wanted to be a novelist, so she spent high school working to save enough money for a college with a good creative-writing program. Then, her uncle got cancer, and she had to quite school her senior year to take care of him. After he died, she was left with no money, no family, and no diploma. (3.6)

Family seems to have caused more obstacles for Sally Jackson than opportunity. Family has prevented her dreams from happening. It is almost a destructive force in her life.

Sally Jackson

"I wish he could see you, Percy. He would be so proud." (3.93)

Sally suggests that Percy's dad would love him too. What does Percy do with the fact that his dad is not around and has never been around, but that his mother still thinks so highly of his dad? What does he think about his dad? How does Sally talk about him?

Chapter 5

"You don't just choose a cabin, Percy. It depends on who your parents are. Or…your parent." (5.130)

The term "parent" brings up images of someone who is active and visible in a person's life. But Percy's dad definitely isn't active or visible in his life. Is it hard for Percy to start thinking about his dad after years of believing him to be gone for good? How does he handle this change?

Chapter 7

"The gods are busy. They have a lot of kids and they don't always…Well, sometimes they don't care about us, Percy. They ignore us."

I thought about some of the kids I'd seen in the Hermes cabin, teenagers who looked sullen and depressed, as if they were waiting for a call that would never come. I'd known kids like that at Yancy Academy, shuffled off to boarding school by rich parents who didn't have the time to deal with them. But the gods should behave better. (7.46-47)

Why might the gods ignore their demi-god children, and what does Percy mean when he says, "the gods should behave better"? Do the gods behave better than humans in this story? Do the humans behave better than the gods? What does it mean to behave well in this story? Does Athena love Annabeth, do you think?

Percy Jackson

"Don't worry about it, Percy. The campers here, they're mostly good people. After all, we're extended family, right? We take care of each other." (7.97)

Percy not only finds a camp full of kids just like him, but he also finds a family – literally. How are the Olympians related to one another? Do we see instances of campers taking care of each other?

Chapter 8

"When Hades found out about the girl, he wasn't too happy about Zeus breaking his oath. Hades let the worst monsters out of Tartarus to torment Thalia. A satyr was assigned to be her keeper when she was twelve, but there was nothing he could do. He tried to escort her with a couple of other half-bloods she'd befriended. They almost made it. […] All three Kindly Ones were after them, along with a hoard of hellhounds. They were about to be overrun when Thalia told her satyr to take the other two half-bloods to safety while she held off the monsters. She was wounded and tired, and she didn't want to live like a hunted animal. The satyr didn't want to leave her, but he couldn't change her mind, and he had to protect the others. So Thalia made her final stand alone at the top of that hill. As she died, Zeus took pity on her. He turned her into that pine tree." (8.71-72)

Family is what causes much of the conflict in this story. Percy's very existence is offensive to Zeus and Hades. And Percy doesn't even know his dad very well at all! When Poseidon tells Percy he doesn't wish a demi-god's life on him (when they chat on Mount Olympus), we only have to look to Thalia's story to know what he means. The life of a demi-god is tough. You straddle two worlds, and you are forever hunted by monsters. How do Percy and Annabeth's mortal families compare with the immortal family we learn about?

"About sixty years ago, after World War II, the Big Three agreed they wouldn't sire any more heroes. Their children were just too powerful. They were affecting the course of human events too much, causing too much carnage. World War II, you know, that was basically a fight between the sons of Zeus and Poseidon on one side, and the sons of Hades on the other. The winning side, Zeus and Poseidon, made Hades swear an oath with them: no more affairs with mortal women. They all swore on the River Styx." (8.64)

Maybe the gods don't typically like their demi-god children because their demi-god children cause too much damage on earth. It's interesting here to see that Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades care about humans to a degree; that they don't want too much destruction to go down in the mortal world. Why do you think they would want this?

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