A thought-provoking tale of a future gone mad...
Matched has a distinctive Orwellian feel to it. Cassia has turned fifteen; the age at which the Society deems her mature enough to be “Matched” with her future significant other. It’s a time of great celebration, involving the loan of a gown from a pre-set range and a sit down meal of the kind not normally enjoyed. Cassia is not alone; the Matching ceremony administers the allocation of a girl’s statistically suited male counterpart for females reaching this age milestone. Within days, another ceremony is to be held; this of an entirely different sort. Cassia’s Grandfather turns Eighty; and in so doing, incurs another of the Society’s rules: he is to die.
Just how far in our future Condie sets Matched is not entirely clear, nor is the precise manner of the materialisation of the Society. Cassia’s life has a curious blend of technological advances (“air trains” replace public and private transportation) and cultural deficiencies. Handwriting has ceased to exist, the skill lost, abandoned or prohibited. Books are systematically destroyed as extraneous information; only a selection of “Hundreds” is retained: the One Hundred Books, One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Paintings... Imagination and creativity is deliberately shunned; rules are absolute and are maintained by “Officials”. The Society’s edicts are accepted resolutely for fear of citation or infraction, which could have devastating repercussions on your quality of life. Practising apartheid is permissible. “Aberrations” are tolerated but are prohibited from procreation, whilst “Anomalies” are actively removed from the cities.
Matched is a complex derivative of the popular “Big Brother” conspiracy theory and Orwell’s infamous foretelling of a Government gone mad. Everything is monitored: your interactions with others, what you read, conversations, electronic messages you receive, even your dreams. Everything is controlled: what and when you eat, where you can go, what you can do in your free time, what occupation you’ll have, where you live, who you marry, when you die. Yes, the Society’s power is terrifying, but not nearly as frightening as the apparent total submission to its authority by citizens.
Condie delivers her narrative with simple, static thoughts layered over an economical relation of action. This evolves throughout the novel as Cassia herself evolves; learning how to think for herself, learning to wonder, to question, to fight... to not go gently. Matched is a ferociously emotional story about how far we may go in giving up our personal freedoms in order to survive as a species; and how much farther we may have to fight to win them back.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012