|<< WoR Ch. 64: Treasures / WoR Ch. 66: Stormblessings >>|
Progression of the Chapter:
Shallan marvels at the concept of freely choosing one’s own role; encouraged by the thought, she begins to take action and develops her plan for Balat, Eylita and Malise to get away from the danger and gloom of the Davar estate; as she cares for Malise’s injuries, she reveals her plan for them to escape; Malise is doubtful and bitter.
Quote of the Chapter:
|“|| "If I go," Malise whispered, "and Balat with me, who will he hate? Who will he hit? Maybe you, finally? The one who actually deserves it?"
"Maybe," Shallan whispered, then left.
Malise doesn't know anything about the past. She doesn't know that Shallan, and not her father, killed the previous Brightness Davar. So, why does she think Shallan is the one who actually "deserves it?" Shallan’s infractions for the past 15 months or so have been minimal. Her efforts have been designed to ensure that anyone else isn't hurt in her name. Does Malise see indications that Lin turns any developing anger at Shallan toward herself and/or Balat? Or does she just think it’s unfair that Shallan apparently never gets in trouble?
The section from Jasnah's book and Shallan’s response to it is the most compelling aspect of this chapter.
I say that there is no role for women - there is, instead, a role for each woman, and she must make it for herself. For some, it will be the role of scholar; for others, it will be the role of wife. For others, it will be both. For yet others, it will be neither.
Shallan’s reaction strongly demonstrates the differences between their personalities and their backgrounds:
Highlady Kholin talked about the nobility of choice, as if every woman had such opportunity. The decision between being a mother or a scholar seemed a difficult decision in Jasnah’s estimation. That wasn’t a difficult choice at all! That seemed like a grand place to be! Either would be delightful when compared to a life of fear in a house seething with anger, depression, and hopelessness.
Not to diminish Jasnah’s work to free herself from the tyranny of expectations, but she’s had it pretty easy, all in all. And of course, the same question comes in other flavors: not merely whether a woman should have the freedom to choose her place, but a darkeyed farmboy, or a lighteyed artist, etc.. For that matter, a Highprince's sons are pretty restricted, too.
The thing is, as nice as Jasnah’s ideology sounds, there are things she doesn't understand ... or maybe doesn’t accept. People don’t function that way very well, and societies even less so. One reason is that people as a whole are too ready to believe that they have no power to choose. More importantly, though, many people actively and deliberately accept the responsibilities they were born into, and however unhappy they might be in their work, they stay because other people - family - depend on them. (Jasnah doesn’t actually have that kind of experience.) Still and all, people tend to like to know where they’re supposed to fit. Then if they’re unhappy, they can blame it on whatever superficial factors keep them there, without having to actually make the choice and the related sacrifices to do something they claim they would rather do.
People tend to choose what they most want. Unfortunately for Jasnah’s philosophy, what people mostly want is to be accepted and approved by society, or their chosen subgroup of society.
There are, however, things to be learned from her ideals:
Do not mistake me in assuming I value one woman’s role above another. My point is not to stratify our society - we have done that far too well already - my point is to diversify our discourse.
This is an area where today's modern society fails miserably. People today need to cease in thinking that someone is "wasting his/her life" by making a choice that doesn’t appeal to their priorities.
Shallan doesn’t realize what is behind her father's "self-control" toward her. She honestly thinks it’s because he loves her so much that he restrains himself for her sake. While that may have been his original position, it doesn’t appear to have ever crossed Shallan’s mind that her father is afraid of her. He knows, if she doesn’t, that if he threatens her to the point of injury or death, she could pull a Shardblade on him. Deep down, of course, she knows she could do that, but she hasn't made the connection from her Blade to her father’s fear-instilled self-restraint.
About her father ...
He looked up as she walked back into the feast hall. She set the cup before him, looking into his eyes. No darkness there today. Just him. That was very rare, these days.
Even with "no darkness, just him," he’s pretty scary by now. He’s been twisted and wrung out so hard, but he’s gotten bad. Right here, he’s trying hard to rationalize what he’s doing when the darkness is there, but the fact that he’s trying to justify his earlier actions is creepy. "No one will listen. The litter was all runts anyway." It’s all someone else’s fault. He knows it’s not, though, or he wouldn’t have to try so hard.
Poor Balat. This was just too much. While he's not quite back to where he was - reveling in the violence of the axehound fights - he's back to petty cruelties against small critters. He doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to his father, and he doesn’t have the skill to do it even if he did have the spine. All he can do is shiver, tear apart cremlings, and hope his little sister can figure it out for him.
Then there’s Malise. She’s been in this family for two-and-a-half years now, and she’s done her level best to make it work. She’s tried to be a decent mother and wife, in a very strange situation. Now she’s got a broken arm and assorted minor injuries, her husband apparently hates everyone but his young daughter, and her only hope is for that daughter to create a way for her to escape.
What a broken, irrational household.
This is the same day as the previous flashback in Chapter 61, and takes place just a few hours later. For the record, Shallan has recently turned sixteen.
While Pattern isn't actually seen in this chapter, Shallan "sees" his light blazing from behind the painting which covers her father's strongbox. It’s a potent visual: she finds it blindingly bright - and yet she still can’t get past "not since ... not since ... " when she thinks of how long it’s been since she entered this room.
Palah might well represent Jasnah’s scholarship as displayed at the beginning of the chapter. Quite possibly, also, she reflects the "learning" Shallan does in this chapter, as well as the "giving" aspect of Shallan’s planning for Balat and Malise to escape, knowing she will remain in this "house seething with anger, depression, and hopelessness" when they leave. Vedel usually represents healing, which is appropriate to Shallan’s ministrations to Malise; she also denotes loving - which, again, fits the planning for everyone else to escape even though she can’t. Or won’t.
- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson