Welcome to Day One of the Delirium Series Read-a-long. Co-hosted by myself, Brenna (Esther’s Ever After) and Angel (Mermaid Visions). Starting today I will be hosting a read-a-long of Delirium, that will go until February 23 (schedule here). On the 25th the read-a-long will head over to Esther’s Ever After for Pandemonium and finally Mermaid Visions will be starting on Requiem March 11!
Today we’ll be discussing Chapters 1-4 of Delirium by Lauren Oliver.
These four chapters set the tone for the entire novel and they do an excellent job of it. Right away we learn a lot about the version of America that Lena is growing up in. Love has been declared a disease, a cure has been found. A strict government is now in place and every decision seems to be guided by the words in The Safety, Health and Happiness Handbook (or the Book of Shhh). We also learn that citizens can’t receive the cure until the age of sixteen because complications have been known to arise – suggesting of course that they have tried multiple times to give the cure to children. That right there, probably more than anything, gives me a slimy all over, disgusted feeling in the pit of my stomach. This horrible feeling pops up again when we learn about the broadcast image of the girl who committed suicide. What kind of government broadcasts the broken body of a child to it’s population?!
Lauren Oliver also sets up some very interesting points to think about. In particular the effects of a loveless society on the parent-child relationship. Lena tells us “that’s one of the downsides of the procedure; in the absence of deliria nervosa, some people find parenting distasteful” (p. 7) and even mentions terrifying scenarios of parents drowning, beating or suffocating their child to death. We need children because they are the future of the human race but what kind of future will it be if this is the environment they are raised in?
In a related vein, Oliver also raises some interesting ideas about the institution of marriage. As the definition of marriage is constantly changing over time, as well as the dynamics, it should be no surprise that this dystopian’s society doesn’t match what we currently expect marriage to be. But regardless, Delirium makes you wonder what the benefits of letting people chose who they marry are, and what role marriage plays in society. The Book of Shhh says it’s to provide Order and Stability but in what way is it enhancing/supporting these virtues?
Side bar – on page 15 Lena mentions that she has to wear make up to her evaluation. Why do females still need to wear make up in marriage, employment and position in society decided for them?
Speaking of Lena, the first four chapters give us a brief but telling insight into what we can expect from her character. In a short time we learn that she generally supports the ideas her government puts forward, that’s she’s a little timid and that as much as possible she follows the rules and guidelines expected of her. But then during her evaluation she breaks from society’s conventions by telling the evaluators that she found Romeo and Juliet beautiful (instead of the expected “frightening”) and that her favourite colour is grey – a radical choice even in our current society. There’s definitely more to Lena than meets the eye and that kind of layering is what makes an excellent, complex character. One you can truly get invested in.
Finally, I want to end this first section (which ended up being much longer than I thought) with a quote from Lena’s best friend Hana. She tells Lena before the evaluations “You know you can’t be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes” (p. 23). A radical sentiment and one that Lena is completely appalled by at this point in the novel. I think this idea is important to keep in mind through out the reading of Delirium.
What did you think of the first four chapters? Do you agree with Hana’s statement?