Before I Fall | Study Guide

Lauren Oliver

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Course Hero. "Before I Fall Study Guide." Course Hero. 23 Aug. 2019. Web. 25 Oct. 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Before-I-Fall/>.

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Course Hero. (2019, August 23). Before I Fall Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Before-I-Fall/

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Course Hero. "Before I Fall Study Guide." August 23, 2019. Accessed October 25, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Before-I-Fall/.

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Course Hero, "Before I Fall Study Guide," August 23, 2019, accessed October 25, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Before-I-Fall/.

Before I Fall | Symbols

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Roses

The Valogram roses are the central symbol of the novel. As the name suggests, they convey a degree of social validation, quantifying the amount of social capital of each student at Thomas Jefferson High School. Sam reveals "it's a big deal ... it's bad if you get under 10 and humiliating" to get less than 5. Lindsay received 22 as a junior, and states she's "going for 25 this year." Because she is not as popular as Lindsay, Sam would "be happy with 15."

Although she is obsessed with her status and the number of roses she gets on Day 1, Sam becomes less enamored with them as she gradually realizes how meaningless popularity is compared to being one's authentic self. On Day 4 she declares she is "kinda over it" and dumps her roses in the trash in front of everyone. On Day 5 Sam claims Cupid Day is "kind of sleazy" and "kind of stupid."

But even as Sam rejects the roses for herself, she still believes in their power. On Day 6, when Sam replaces Juliet Sykes's prank rose with a whole bouquet, she does so because she wants to confer status on Juliet and show she is important. She wrongly assumes the roses convey the same value to Juliet as they do to her. In fact, as Juliet reveals later, even though she smiles when she receives them, she views the roses suspiciously, as just another setup for humiliation at the hands of her bullies. However, Sam's spontaneous gifting of her flowers to Marian Sykes is a moment of genuine kindness that makes Marian happy in a way that her former gifting of flowers to Juliet could not.

Masks

While inside Juliet Sykes's house on Day 5, Sam views a "screaming face" mask Juliet made, which may be an allusion to Greek tragedy masks. The mask is of a woman, "crafted from newspaper and red stitching." It has no mouth or eyes, and when Sam lifts it to her face, "it fits well." She is horrified to see herself looking "like something diseased, or a monster from a horror film." The mask represents the ugliness inside both Sam and Lindsay that motivates them to seek status and bully others. This ugliness has affected Juliet in such a way that she has "terrible scars" that make her feel broken.

On Day 7 Sam muses that maybe everyone is wearing masks, and "maybe we all feel patched and stitched together and not quite right." Sam notices, too, how her friends and boyfriend wear metaphorical masks. When Lindsay talks about people she dislikes, her calm face disappears, and she turns "almost ugly." And when Sam breaks up with Rob Cokran on Day 7, he looks at her with such "anger and disgust" that "it's like his face has dropped away and there's a totally different face underneath." The internal ugliness or pain can't stay hidden, manifesting itself when the characters are confronted with unpleasantness or threats to their false images of themselves.

Ultimately, Sam is able to drop her mask, or shadow self, to reveal her true good nature in the end. The novel implies that this goodness is possible for all characters if they have the correct values and treat others with kindness rather than seek the shallow reward of popularity.

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