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“The Compound” by Bodeen: Close Reading

Choose a favorite chapter/section in your YA novel

In this section (the beginning of chapter seventeen), Eli and his mother are trying to figure out how to leave the compound. Since Eli’s father is unconscious, they have the chance to leave the compound, but only if they can understand what password Rex has chosen for the bunker.

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Eli’s mother asks him to wait before trying to figure anything out, and he decides to see what his siblings are doing.

Decide what you wish to study: text evidence, word choice, structure, point of view

As this section leads the reader to the end of the book, it is a good example of how the main character’s perception of his life in the compound and his personality changes. Therefore, I will study point of view in this assignment, in order to understand how Eli saw the situation he was trapped in.

Choose the lens or lenses through which you will explore your text more closely

The lenses I am using are the following: “What the character’s point of view here?” and “What makes the character’s point of view persuasive?” (Lehman & Roberts, 2013, p. 145). In this section, Eli fully understood that his father was not a person whom he could trust: “I wasn’t sure how much weight a promise from my father carried anymore” (Bodeen, 2008, p. 131). Eli’s conversation with his mother also provides evidence that Rex was not always willing to test his family as brutally as he did: “Still, he promised he would leave a way for us to get out” (Bodeen, 2008, p. 131). While Eli’s mother is hesitant to reveal the conversations with her husband about the password, Eli is anxious to understand what clues his father could leave. However, he is not entirely optimistic about it: “But he went crazy since then. He didn’t want us to leave” (Bodeen, 2008, p. 131). However, Eli’s faith in his father is not completely destroyed, although shaken. He assumes that his father is “sorry for it. For everything. And he wants us to get out.” (Bodeen, 2008, p. 131). Nevertheless, he adds that his father probably wanted to save himself first.

Eli’s point of view is persuasive because of the evidence that the text gives us: his mother supports his statement that Rex has gone crazy since then. Therefore, it is difficult to understand whether he actually wanted to save his family. Eli’s mother prefers vague words such as “he was nice”, “he started to get mean”, while Eli is blunt about it: his dad went crazy (Bodeen, 2008, p. 131). Eventually, his mother states that Eli’s father was not sure if anyone would be able to figure out the clue. Thus, Eli’s assumptions about his father becoming less and less trustworthy are supported not only by Rex’s actions but by his mother’s words as well.

What are the types of patterns you see? How do the pieces of your observation fit together?

The patterns that I see are Eli’s mistrust towards his father and his growing uncertainty about the world he lives (or lives) in. Eli keeps repeating such words as “I need to think. To figure this out.”, “our world was ripping apart”, “I’m not sure” (Bodeen, 2008, p. 131-132). His world is crashing into pieces, and he does not know what to do. Furthermore, he also feels responsible for other members of the family. Character’s actions and thoughts reveal it: “All they know is that life is simple and secure and every day will be like the one before it… That’s a gift. Do you want to be the one responsible for taking it away?” (Bodeen, 2008, p. 132). Here, not only the character’s thoughts reveal the patterns, but also the word choice of the author, who uses multiple synonyms for the word “uncertain”. These patterns represent Eli’s fear and anxiety about his past and his future because he is not sure whom he can trust and if he should trust anyone at all. For young adults, this could be a perfect representation of their own fears and anxieties linked to the real, “outside-of-the-compound” world.

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What types of understanding about your text do you develop from observing the patterns?

There are several types of understanding I developed after observing the patterns. The first concerned Eli’s responsibility towards his family. This topic can be relevant to some of the readers who experience difficulties or who are attached to their families. The second revealed the author’s purpose: Bodeen aims to show that even though Rex is a tyrant, Eli is not sure what to do next when his father is not guiding him. Therefore, Eli strives to get out of the compound, but, at the same time, fears it. This fear of becoming free is an old concept in philosophy that was often addressed in different novels.

At last, the impact on the reader is similar to that on Eli: the reader can clearly see how Eli’s world demolishes, but the responsibility he bears helps him avoid desperate thoughts and focus on family’s rescue.


Lehman and Roberts’ (2013) approach towards reading does help the reader understand what additional or hidden meanings the author might have put in their text. What at first might not seem clear appears after a careful analysis of structures and word choices. Character’s thoughts and actions can be confusing, but patterns that shape these actions are often quite demonstrative.


Bodeen, S.A. (2008). The compound. London, England: Feiwel and Friends.

Lehman, C., & Roberts, K. (2013). Falling in love with close reading: Lessons for analyzing texts and life. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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