“But the aircraft a year ago had been different. It was not a squat, fat-bellied cargo plane but a needle-nosed single-pilot jet. Jonas, looking around anxiously, had seen others–adults as well as children–stop what they were doing and wait, confused, for an explaination of the frightening event.
“Then all of the citizens had been ordered to go into the nearest building and stay there. IMMIDIATELY, the rasping voice through the speakers had said. LEAVE YOUR BICYCLES WHERE THEY ARE.
“Instantly, obediently, Jonas has dropped his bike on its side on the path behind his family’s dwelling. He had run indoors and stayed there, alone. Hi parents were both at work, and his little sister, Lily, was at the Childcare Center where she spent her after-school hours.
“Looking through the front window, he had seen no people: none of the busy afternoon crew of Street-Cleaners, Landscape Workers, and Food Delivery people who usually populated the community at that time of day. He saw only the abandoned bikes here and there on their sides; an upturned wheel on one was still revolving slowly.”
This is a scene from one of the first pages of the book, when Jonas is recalling an incident when a jet flew over “The Community,” and the frightened people were directed indoors to wait it out. I love this moment, because it perfectly presents the precarious nature of the community’s utopian structure. One plane sends the entire society into hiding! Later, the loudspeakers announce that a pilot-in-training had simply become lost, but due to his error he would be “released,” (a mysterious banishment used to punish those who break the community’s rules). It’s an eerie moment that sets up the reader to understand that there is something strange going on in this community.
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