Excerpt: Legend — Author’s Craft Essay by Natasha Epstein

Crime and forbidden love. The perfect “chick flick” plot. The book Legend, however, is something more. Legend, by Marie Lu, tells the story of a renegade boy named Day, his young street-crime partner Tess, and a Republic (government) spy-in-training named June. When Day is framed in the murder of June’s brother Mathias, June attempts to find Day only to fall in love with him while capturing him. In Legend, Lu uses symbolism, revealing actions, and flashbacks to represent Day’s feelings.

A couple of examples of symbolism in Legend are the character Tess, and Day’s pendant. Tess is a symbol for Day’s want for his family (most of whom thinks he are dead), and his subconscious want for safety. Day treats Tess like a younger sibling, much like he would have treated his younger brother if he (Day) still lived with his family. Day’s pendant, an old quarter coin sealed in a metal casing, is a symbol for trust. It is a symbol for trust because Dad’s father, the person who gave Day his pendant, trusted Day enough to give him a valuable object that the government would probably confiscate if they got their hands on it.

Two examples of revealing actions are when Day is experimented on by the government, and when Day’s brother sacrifices himself for Day. Day is experimented on by the government because he got a perfect score on his Trial, a test of physical and mental well-being all ten-year-olds receive. The government does not tell Day he got a perfect score, and instead claims he completely failed, and they have to take him to a “labor camp”.Of course, the government’s assertion that they’re taking Day to a labor camp is a lie, as they simply experiment on him to try and see what makes him so physically and mentally well-off. Day escapes their experimenting, and takes to the streets. I believe this ordeal, from the experiments to the discovery that the government lies represent Day’s fear, as the experiences scarred him physically, as well as taking away his ten-year-old innocence and replacing it with the truth of a corrupt government. When Day’s brother, John, sacrifices himself for Day, the action represents love. The action occurred when Day, June, and John were trying to escape a government building before Day was supposed to be executed. John, seeing that they did not have enough time and needed a distraction to escape, dresses as Day and is executed in Day’s place. This action represents love because it shows John really is, or was, “willing to die” for Day.
Finally, some flashbacks Day experiences are one of a mean Republic officer and one of his first crime. In the first flashback, Day remembers accidentally hitting an officer with a small paper ball he was playing with, and talking back to the officer afterward. This results in the officer taking the family’s dinner – a whole chicken, a treat for their poor family. This flashback shows Day’s anger, as Day did next to nothing wrong and yet their hard-earned meal was taken. Later, a flashback of Day’s first crime, throwing an ice ball dipped in gasoline through a window shows Day’s pride, as criminal activity was a way for him to get back at the government without losing anything personally.

Lu’s novel Legend thus uses symbolism, revealing actions, and flashbacks to show Day’s emotions. Even though the most people would think a novel with a combination of love and crime melodramatic, Legend is not. Readers are drawn into the story from the beginning through the use of intricate character personalities and subtle foreshadowing. I believe the novel was enhanced by the use of these different techniques and that they also resulted in providing the reader a different, deeper story.

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