Study Guide

The Future of Us Freedom and Confinement

By Asher, Jay and Mackler, Carolyn

Freedom and Confinement

I know it's stupid to worry about bumping into Graham. Wagner Park is huge. It stretches along the edge of downtown all the way to the newer subdivision of homes. Graham could be playing Frisbee anywhere. [At prom last weekend, he was all over me. I even missed doing the Macarena with Kellan and Ruby and my other friends]. (1.30)

Nothing says confinement quite like having a boyfriend that you don't want. On the other hand, nothing is more confining than being too afraid to change something. Sure, Emma doesn't like dating Graham, but she's so afraid of taking control and breaking up with him that really she's trapping herself.

"Can you work on it later?" her mom asks. "Marty has to call a client before dinner and he can't do it while you're on the Internet."

"But I'm not done," Emma says. "I don't know if I'll be able to get back to this website again." (2.61-62)

Emma and Josh aren't adults yet, which means they're confined by their parents rules and expectations. So even though they've just discovered Facebook (and their futures), Emma's mom is banging on the door asking them to get offline, and they're going to have to listen.

I, on the other hand, placed fourth in the sixteen hundred and was the second slowest leg of my relay. I'm usually a stronger link, but I'm going on practically no sleep, and my brain is scattered. Before last night I'd never heard of Jordan Jones Jr., and suddenly I'm in a bad marriage to him. (11.1)

Emma has just found out that she ends up with a miserable future. Talk about feeling like there's no way out, right? At this point, she doesn't even feel like there's anything she can do to keep it from happening: She hasn't even met Jordan Jones Jr., but someday she'll fall in love with him and then end up miserable because of it. Bummer.

"No, now you're wrong," she says. "If it was a prank, nothing would've changed between yesterday and today. But everything I did differently today sent little ripples of change into the future." (14.45)

Yay—freedom. Emma and Josh discover that they can still change what happens to them in the future; it's not a done deal. Each action that they take in the present, however small, changes what happens next. This Facebook thing might actually have a helpful side to it, after all…

Ms. Nesbit fidgets with one of her earrings. "Any state in particular?"

My pulse quickens. "California?"

"You should try the public library," Ms. Nesbit says. "They have phone books from all over the country. I'm sure they have some from California." (19.28-30)

Emma decides to change her future and make sure that she never meets Jordan Jones Jr. This is a huge because it shows that knowing the future doesn't have to mean confinement; instead, Emma can use her future as a warning sign and change things accordingly. Instead of being trapped, here we see Emma taking charge.

Emma sits behind me on the bed. She rubs her hands together to warm them up. My mind tells me to pull away, but I can't.

"I don't understand," I say.

She presses her fingers along the muscles at the back of my neck. "I think we need to realize there's no way to control these particular types of changes." (26.69-71)

There are a couple types of confinement here: Josh has just found out a small change in the present has changed his future children, and he's confused and kind of sad because those kids he saw in pictures will never exist—and he didn't try to change that. Also, as Emma is making a move on him, Josh finds himself wanting to pull away (since he knows it's dangerous territory) but he finds himself rooted to the spot. He's double trapped here, Shmoopers.

"My brother, my parents, none of them," I add. "Because what if something bad happens between now and the future? If we can't find out exactly what happens, it would drive us crazy trying to figure it out." (31.49)

Emma and Josh are toying with the idea of looking up other people on Facebook, but they realize that they might find out stuff that they don't really need, or want, to know. And this might take away their freedom to enjoy their lives right now.

One reason my parents feel overbearing is their need to discuss everything. That was probably why David moved across the country. He wasn't comfortable with them knowing every part of his life. (43.16)

Josh thinks about his brother's decision to move away from their overly involved parents—they aren't bad parents, they're just a little too hands-on with their kids' lives. And this makes Josh and his brother feel a little bit trapped. Especially since they're older, they need to be able to have parts of their lives that their parents don't know everything about.

After Ms. Nesbit returns to her books, I watch the freshmen laugh at something on the computer, and it occurs to me that I've been using Facebook the wrong way. It's not about automatically having control. It's about taking control with the resources you have. (46.9)

Emma has a breakthrough moment here as she realizes that she's been using her knowledge of the future to control her life in the wrong way. Now she sees that it can be used to orient her toward the right decisions.

For the past five days, I've been trying to understand why this happens to me and how I can tweak things so it won't happen again. But I'm starting to wonder if it actually has nothing to do with the future. Maybe it has everything to do with what happens now. (56.45)

Here, Emma realizes that she's been using the future to manipulate what she wants her future to be. She's been trapped in the future because of this, though, instead of living freely in the present. Oops.

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