I didn’t want to be royalty. And I didn’t want to be a One. I didn’t even want to try.
This quote demonstrates America’s initial reluctance to participate in the competition. In many ways, America’s outright rejection of one of the only processes that might elevate her caste status tells us about her world: it is taken for granted by the larger society and her mother that she will leave all she knows behind so that she could have a chance at winning the prince’s heart, but it also tells us that while living in the Five caste isn’t as desirable as life among the Ones, it does lend itself to enough happiness that America feels she will be leaving too much behind. While her financial situation is less than ideal, America is happy with the life she has. She is not seduced by promises of power or wealth. This stance immediately places America at odds with her society and the caste system at large.
“America, if you loved an Eight, I’d want you to marry him. But you should know that love can wear away under the stress of being married. Someone you think you love now, you might start to hate when he couldn’t provide for you. And if you couldn’t take care of your children, it’d be even worse. Love doesn’t always survive under those types of circumstances.”
This quote demonstrates how in a society that is as stratified as Illéa, even the most basic of human pleasures, like love and connection, become worn down under the pressures of poverty. America’s desire to marry for love is contrasted by the Selection process, which purports to be about finding love for the prince. Where love is seen as an experience that cannot always last in America’s world, in the world of the most elite it is turned into a game.
“You’ve got to stop thinking of me that way. When it’s just you and me, I’m not a Five and you’re not a Six. We’re just Aspen and America. And I don’t want anything in the world but you.”
America loves Aspen, despite all the complications that arise due to their different castes. She desperately wants this love to be enough of a reason for them to be together, despite her father’s warnings and Aspen’s pride. America struggles to conform to the demands of the caste system; she does not want to sacrifice more of herself to the grueling demands of her society.
“In my experience, true love is usually the most inconvenient kind.”
America says this to Maxon in order to comfort him when he admits to being worried about being able to find love in the competition. The struggle for love despite challenges is a central theme to the novel. America loves Aspen despite the distance, and despite the fact that he broke her heart. Maxon loves America despite her insistence that they must only be friends. The caste system infiltrates and inconveniences every aspect of the character’s lives, no matter where they rank within it.
“Maxon, I hope you find someone you can’t live without. I really do. And I hope you never have to know what it’s like to have to try and live without them.”
When America says this to Maxon, she does not realize that Maxon has already found that person in her and is facing the possibility that she might never grow to reciprocate his feelings. This offers a poignant moment where an Elite faces the possibility of not getting something they want. America makes it clear that her love will not be bought by status or power.
So much went through my head. How families are families, no matter their castes. How mothers all have their own worries to bear. How I really don’t hate any of the girls here, no matter how wrong they might be. How everyone out there must be putting on a brave face for some reason or another.
When America learns about the queen’s miscarriages and comes to appreciate her strength and poise, she realizes that she will have to embody some of this strength in order to continue participating in the Selection. She had been letting jealousy get in the way of her building a connection with Maxon, and she decides to stop punishing him for the impossible situation they found themselves in. This moment allows America to appreciate the fact that she is connected to the other women in the novel, like it or not, as they are all subject to the demands of the crown.
I knew we were close enough to the royals that they would have heard me. In my quest to have a level of authority, I’d spoken a little too loudly. But I didn’t care if they thought I was rude.
When America decides to bring her maids with her to safety, she calls upon her own authority in a way that she hadn’t before. In doing so, she threatens her own place within the competition. But this works in her favor as it proves to the royal family that she has the wherewithal to one day be queen. The fact that America uses her newfound authority in the palace to advocate for others who are continually overlooked speaks to her character.
This whole time, the power had been in my hands as to when I would leave. I was abruptly aware of how important it was to me to stay.
When Prince Maxon declares that he will be sending the majority of the Selected home after the raid by the Southerners, America realizes that although she had been hedging her bets with Maxon and resisting his love, she wants to stay in the palace. This realization is an important one, as it is part of what encourages her to end her affair with Aspen and to take the situation more seriously. It also shows a change of heart. America had previously acted as though the competition was a curse in her life, something that had to be endured.
“I’m getting more and more worried, America. North or South, they’re getting exceptionally determined. It seems they won’t stop until they get what they want, and we haven’t the faintest clue what it is. I feel like it’s only a matter of time until they destroy someone important to me.”
Maxon’s fear over the rebel attack demonstrates both how little the royal family knows about the operations and desires of the rebel groups and how his priorities have shifted now that he is in love with America. For the first time in Maxon’s life, he has something that he is afraid of losing. This is important for his character, as it offers him the incentive to change as well as to open his eyes to the means and desires of the rebel groups. Both have vast political implications for Illéa.
The Selection was no longer something that was simply happening to me, but something I was actively a part of. I was an Elite. I pulled back the covers and leaped into the morning.
The last line of the novel demonstrates how much character development America has gone through in the short months she has been in the palace. America is finally ready to participate in the competition like a proper competitor. She has decided to honor her own wants above those of both Maxon and Aspen. Throughout the novel, America has lived and operated at the behest of others in her life—her mother, Aspen, Silvia, and the state. Through advocating for her maids, for the end of the caste system, and ultimately for herself, America grows into herself in a wonderful way.