The Gathering Conflict Analysis

*I’m just posting this here because I needed to use it as an example in my learning reflection.

In Kelley Armstrong’s The Gathering, one day, in late summer, a young girl from Salmon Creek, British Columbia, allegedly drowned. Maya and her friend Serena were spending time together by a lake not too far from Maya’s house. Serena, a champion swimmer, was casually diving and swimming in the lake while Maya sat and watched her. As the two were conversing and waiting for Serena’s boyfriend, Daniel, to arrive, Serena started flailing her limbs and then promptly disappeared into the water. Maya frantically searched for Serena, but to no avail. Daniel, too, sought out to find her, when he arrived, but she was gone. Since that time, a year has passed, and Maya’s conscience, psychological well-being, and interpersonal relationships remain affected by Serena’s death.

The more time that passes from Serena’s death, the more Maya feels guilty about not saving her. “Six months of therapy had not convinced me I am wrong when I say I could have saved Serena.” (Kelley Armstrong, 9) Maya attended counselling for six months to try and deal with the post-traumatic stress of the event. Even afterwards, she still holds herself accountable for not rescuing Serena, and nothing anyone can tell her will change the responsibility she feels for her friend’s death. Maya’s guilt is also provoked by the fact that she has not solved the mystery of how Serena drowned. “When she died, I told myself I would find out what happened. In the year since, what had I done? Sat around and grieved and waited for the answer to fall from the skies.” (147) It is over a year since the event occurred, and there is still no clear answer about what killed her friend. Maya also believes that she has been hiding from what happened. However, ignoring Serena’s passing is not bringing her any closer an explanation,

Her death was ruled an accident. No one was looking for another explanation. No one wanted to look. Did that include me? [referring to a nightmare she had] Was that what the dream really meant—my conscience telling me to stop hiding from her death and do something about it? (147)

Maya considers the fact that she may be too scared to try and find out what happened to her friend. She realises that  her conscience will not experience closure until she discovers how Serena really died. These constant feelings of responsibility and guilt, as well as being dreadful enough on their own, have a negative effect on Maya’s overall psychological health as well.

Although about fourteen months has passed since the day of Serena’s death, Maya is still not ready to let go of her best friend. Maya’s mum suggests that she and Maya should go to Vancouver at some point so Maya can get her first tattoo. However, Maya resents this idea slightly because, originally, she had planned to do that with Serena, “Exactly what Serena had suggested just before she died. Her last words.” (44-45) Maya still remembers and dwells on her final conversation with her late friend—not wanting to let go. She is left with a void in her life where Serena used to be, but she does not want to fill it, so the void remains. Maya also resorts to trying to speak to Serena, pretending she’s still around to listen,

“So no tattoo yet,” I said as I sat on the rock, legs dangling over the edge. “Mom wants to take me to Vancouver for the weekend but…” That was our plan. I don’t want to do it without you. I couldn’t say that, not even sitting here alone, talking to the lake, pretending Serena was still here, still swimming, still singing, forever swimming and singing. (92)

Maya feels incomplete without her friend. She is stuck in a place where she cannot let go, but she cannot move on either; that solemn feeling persists. Maya tries to convince herself that she is ready to move on, but her heart has not mended as much in the past year as she would like to believe. “She died at the end of August and even by October, I hadn’t been ready for a party without her. Now I realised I still wasn’t.” (98) Maya did not have a party last year for her fifteenth birthday because it had only been two months since Serena’s death; she was not ready to celebrate something like that without her best friend. The following year, Maya assumed that she was ready, and that she was strong enough. Now, Maya quickly realises this is not the case. Not only does the loss of her friend have a strong negative impact on Maya and her mind, but it affects the people around her as well.
Maya wants Daniel to start dating again, since he has not expressed any interest in it since Serena died. This is somewhat hypocritical because Maya, herself, has not yet found the strength to move on from Serena, “How could I push Daniel to replace Serena in his life when I wasn’t ready to? When would I be ready to? I didn’t know. Just not yet.” (97) If Maya is not ready to accept what happened and branch out to new people, she cannot expect this from Daniel. The two were equally close to Serena, but Maya does not want Daniel to be lonely, and she is more concerned about him than she is about herself. Later in Maya’s life, she meets a new kid in their town named Rafe. Although Rafe never met Serena, and Maya only met him after Serena had died, Serena’s death still affects Maya and Rafe’s relationship. “[referring to another nightmare that she had] A dream. Just a crazy dream, merging the experiences of the night—the cougar and Rafe—with the issue that I’d been trying to avoid all day. Serena’s death.” Serena’s death is having effects on people she had never met; Maya associates Serena with everything and everyone in her life, since she has not been able to let her go. Subsequently, Maya gets in an argument with Daniel about his feelings considering Serena’s death. Daniel insists that he has moved away from the experience enough to the point where he can talk about it again, and that she doesn’t have to be careful with him about it, “Stop pussyfooting around the subject of Serena. Stop treating me like I’m dying of a broken heart. Stop making me feel like I should be.” (181) Daniel doesn’t want to be treated like he is broken from the experience. He misses Serena dearly, but is able to move on, unlike Maya.

Maya never completely distances herself from her friend’s death. Although that shows how much she loved Serena, she is unable to move forward in her life if she cannot let her go. In fact, all of these impacts that Serena’s death has had on Maya are starting to cause a ripple effect in her life. It starts with Maya’s internalized guilt about the topic. This guilt translates into feelings of grief and strain in Maya’s mind that she is not able to shake off so she can progress forward in her life. Her inability to find a way to heal and recover from her friend’s death influences Maya’s relationships with other people, who even, in some cases, had only entered her life after Serena had left it. Instead of getting over Serena’s death, the incident is spreading through different facets of Maya’s life like a stone creates ripples in the water.

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