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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. Chris says the two had intended to carry out a suicide pact together. The police, however, believe that Chris is lying about the pact in order to cover up the fact that he murdered Emily.

Contains examples of:

  • Amoral Attorney: Barrie Delaney.
  • Auto Erotica: Chris and Emily have sex in his car, and Chris loses his virginity to Donna in his car too.
  • 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 fulfil everyone else's expectations for them. At the same time, she feels like she can't even consider telling him the truth, because he's still her best friend and she doesn't want to break his heart. Emily's pregnancy finally makes it impossible for her to continue avoiding the issue, and things go horribly wrong from there.
  • Coming and Going: Chris and Emily have sex one last time before her death.
  • Downer Ending: Chris is ultimately acquitted. However, he's developed what appears to be PTSD after his time in jail, still has to live with losing the friend he grew up with and loved, and the friendship between the Gold and Harte families is completely destroyed. Melanie Gold, in particular, appears to have lost a good deal of her sanity by her daughter's death.
  • Driven to Suicide: Emily. The reason she came to this sad choice makes up the storyline. 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 unable 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. Continues even after his release, since he 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 male doctor touching her and is unable to have the procedure. 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.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Emily and Chris, of course. Technically, anyway.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: On the night she dies, Emily is unable to go through with shooting herself and pressures Chris into doing it for her. Chris, understandably, can't bring himself to actually shoot her. She places both their hands on the gun together and, after a moment of pleading, the trigger is pulled, killing her. When asked who actually pulled the trigger, though, Chris admits he has no idea whether he technically killed Emily or if she shot herself.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Emily and Chris as children. As they got older, Chris' feelings toward Emily became romantic, while Emily's remained the same, hence why she was uncomfortable being sexual with Chris. She only allowed him to have sex with her in order to make him happy.
  • The Lost Lenore: Emily for Chris.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Emily until her death. She had no intention of telling Chris whatsoever since she knew he would want to marry her and be a family together and her platonic feelings for him and her negative feelings about her pregnancy wouldn't allow for marriage and family to work.
  • 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 that she was suicidal and got her help.
    • As readers also point out, Emily's choice not to tell anyone about her sexual assault resulted in her feelings being bottled up, leading to her depression and suicide. Had she told someone what had happened to her, she could have gotten help to properly deal with her childhood trauma.
    • Had Emily also been more communicative about her hatred of being touched to the abortionist, they could have helped her to get the procedure she needed without triggering her.
  • Rape as Backstory: Emily. As a child, she was molested by a stranger while in the bathroom at a fast-food restaurant, traumatizing her. She kept the assault a secret from everyone, leaving her with severe PTSD and unresolved trauma she couldn't cope with. Having sex with Chris only amplified her negative feelings even more.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: Due to being molested by a fast-food worker as a child, Emily Hates Being Touched (only allowing Chris to have sex with her due to her attachment to him, which barely restrains her trauma) and lead to her depression and suicide due to her severe trauma.
  • Self-Harm: At one point, when Chris and Emily are broken up, a despaired Emily carves Chris' name into her skin.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Though he loses his virginity to another girl, Chris only ever loves Emily. While Emily's feelings for Chris aren't romantic, she's also never shown showing the slightest interest in anyone else and is still emotionally attached to him. Their close bond is why Emily thought it made sense for them to make a suicide pact and die together.
  • Suicide Pact: The plot of the book. Subverted when it turns out that Chris was never planning to kill himself. Emily, however, very much 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. She was anxious about what a teen pregnancy would do to her and her family reputation, but couldn't get an abortion due to her unresolved trauma of being sexually assaulted as a child and couldn't stand being touched.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Chris doesn't remember Emily killing herself even though he was right in front of Emily when it happened.
  • The Unreveal: 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.