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Literature / The Pact

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A novel by Jodi Picoult. Chris Harte and Emily Gold are teenagers from two neighbored and very close families in a small New England town. As teenagers their relationship develops into a romance. When they are seniors in high school, however, both families are called to the hospital: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot to the head, and Chris says the two had intended to carry out a suicide pact. The police, however, believe that Chris is lying about the pact to cover up the fact that he murdered Emily.


Contains examples of:

  • Amoral Attorney: Barrie Delaney.
  • Auto Erotica: Chris and Emily.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Deconstructed. Chris and Emily have known each other so long that Emily can't help but feel like she's making out with her brother; she's really only dating him to fulfill everyone else's expectations, and is ultimately forced to admit that she simply doesn't see him in a romantic way, but she also loves him enough that she can't bring herself to break his heart by leaving him.
  • Coming and Going: Chris and Emily have sex one last time before Emily's death.
  • Downer Ending: Chris is ultimately acquitted, but he's developed what appears to be PTSD after his time in jail, he still has to live with losing the friend he grew up with, and the friendship between the Gold and Harte families is completely destroyed, with Melanie Gold in particular appearing to have lost a good deal of her sanity.
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  • Driven to Suicide: Emily. Subverted with Chris.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Sue Barrett "Barrie" Delaney, the prosecutor.
  • False Soulmate: Emily to Chris; no matter how much he loves her, she is never able to see him as anything but a brother.
  • Fish out of Water: Chris when he is in jail. Since he is 18, he goes to adult jail instead of juvenile hall. Also, to a lesser extent, Chris after leaving jail, since he was jailed for a year and doesn't have anyone in his life who understands what he's been through.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Emily. Because she was molested as a child, she doesn't want the doctor touching her. This would be a Justified Trope, but people avoiding or regretting abortion is a common theme in Jodi Picoult's stories.
  • Gossipy Hens: The women Gus (Chris' mother) sees in the grocery store.
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  • High-School Sweethearts: Emily and Chris, of course.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: On the night she dies, Emily is unable to go through with shooting herself and pressures Chris into doing it. She places both of their hands on the trigger and pulls it, which kills her.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Emily and Chris as children. As they got older, Chris's feelings toward Emily became more romantic, while Emily's remained the same, hence why she was uncomfortable being sexual with Chris.
  • The Lost Lenore: Emily.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Emily until her death.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Arguably the entire point of the book.
  • Parental Favoritism: As in almost all of Jodi Picoult's books. Gus forgets about her daughter Kate while Chris is on trial. Kate wakes her up on Christmas day with a Christmas tree and gifts she bought with her own money. Gus, having forgotten it was Christmas, is shocked. Kate realizes her mother has forgotten about her and says "What do I have to do to make you see me? Kill someone?" Gus, realizing the significance of this (Chris is on trial for the murder of Emily), slaps her.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Emily's.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Literally. Emily would have lived had Chris told anyone at all that she was suicidal.
  • Rape as Backstory: Emily.
  • Self-Harm: At one point, when Chris and Emily are broken up, a despaired Emily carves Chris's name into her skin.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Chris, though he loses his virginity to another girl, only ever loves Emily. While Emily's feelings for Chris aren't really romantic, she's also never shown showing the slightest interest in anyone else.
  • Suicide Pact: The plot of the book. Subverted when it turns out that Chris was never planning to kill himself; Emily, however, was, and Chris was playing along to try and stop her from doing it.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: James Harte, Chris' father, becomes more distant, and Melanie Gold, Emily's mother, goes into denial about Emily's death. So, their spouses, Augusta "Gus" Harte and Michael Gold respectively, start meeting each other secretly. At one point they share a kiss, though it doesn't lead to anything.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Emily; she was only a few weeks along when she killed herself.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Chris doesn't remember Emily killing herself.
  • The Un-Reveal: One of the flashback scenes has Emily sending a note to Chris when they're children, but it gets stuck in a tree and they aren't able to get it out. Chris does finally get it out at the end of the novel, but by that point it's aged so much that it's completely unreadable.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: See Parental Favoritism above.


Example of: