Thursday, 14 June 2012

A Crown of Swords - Chapters 29-32

In this section, followers become leaders, and the wishes of several characters come true
Elayne has finally had enough of being ignored by the other Aes Sedai. No one has truly accepted that she is Aes Sedai, and so she has not been taught what most women learn upon gaining the shawl, including the secret of the Kin’s existence. She challenges the Aes Sedai to either deny that she is Aes Sedai which would imply they deny Egwene and the rebels as well, or to accept her as Aes Sedai which means that her strength in the Power would place her at the top rank of the rebel Aes Sedai in the Palace, other than Nynaeve.
Alviarin brings news of Rand’s escape to Elaida. The revelation of this failure could be enough to topple Elaida, so she finds herself blackmailed to protect this secret a while longer. Further disasters loom ahead, yet she is more concerned with maintaining her position than in the fate of the Aes Sedai sent after Rand or to the Black Tower. Her Foretelling about the Royal Line of Andor has convinced her that only she can lead the Aes Sedai during this tumultuous time, and she lets that supersede other concerns. Alviarin is able to exploit this and put herself in a position of unquestioned authority over Elaida. Her first priority is undermining the Ajahs’ willingness to cooperate on any venture.
Elaida then seeks out an Aes Sedai she can trust. Her criteria to determine trustworthiness is whether that person supported her when they had incentive not to. Seaine is given the task of hunting out traitors, which she mistakenly interprets as seeking out the Black Ajah. She in turn seeks out a trustworthy helper. Her criteria to determine trustworthiness is to find the person with the most incentive to hunt down the Black Ajah. As with Siuan and Moiraine’s secret hunt, Seaine almost makes the mistake of bringing a friend into the hunt, not knowing that the friend has already joined the Black Ajah.
Moghedien proves the mindtrap’s effectiveness by recklessly following an impulse to kill Nynaeve in a narrow window of opportunity. The chance to act of her own free will is limited by the chance of discovery by Moridin. She acts in a way almost opposite of what she normally would have, lashing out with no thought of danger to herself, exposed to the world instead of her normally cautious method of slow and sure steps to success. She is in effect no longer herself, the mindtrap has fundamentally changed who she is and how she acts.
This scene provides even further explanation for the mechanics of balefire. The Fires of Heaven had the most detailed explanations to date, yet it is apparent that the author wants readers to think about it some more, implying that further balefire scenes are yet to come, and comprehension will improve understanding and acceptance of the strange outcomes of those scenes.
Mat is raped by Queen Tylin. Typical rape scenes in stories are representations of a loss of control and a violation of that person. Readers may feel sympathy for the victim, or pity. It has been argued that scenes in which a man is raped effectively neuter the character in the reader’s mind. He will be perceived as less powerful and worthy of scorn or pity. In this instance the author decided to play for a humourous angle to maintain the man’s stature. First, the rape is portrayed as a bit of role reversal; this is not a man being treated unfairly, it is portrayed as a man getting the treatment he dishes out to others. However, Mat never treats women the way he is treated, he abides by the multicultural rule in the series that the woman is always in charge of deciding whether sex takes place or not. We saw a similar situation with Lan in New Spring when he had no choice but to have sex since he would not let the woman appear to be a liar. In these cultures women have the only say, whether strongly in favour of or against having sex. Second, Mat is not entirely an unwilling victim. He doesn’t mind the sex, only the manner it which it is exacted from him. There is therefore no loss of stature and no sympathy is generated as result of the rape. Lastly, the humour comes from Mat’s own lack of comprehension as to how this could be happening to him. The situation in his obtuse view is plainly ridiculous, which carries some inference that it is therefore somewhat reasonable to the reader. Every added layer of ridiculousness, from a gaggle of serving women helping in the endeavour, to the Prince’s open encouragement, only serves to increase the humour of the situation. Switch the genders of the participants, and the scenes would be unpalatable to virtually any reader.
A similar sort of situation plays out when Lan marries Nynaeve against his wishes. She plows through any resistance he offers, but his Malkieri culture compels him to marry her. He almost got roped into a marriage in New Spring simply because Edeyn declared it should happen. Fortunately, he is not unwilling to wed this particular woman, and the reader is rooting for this wedding to take place.
The marriage to Lan is Nynaeve’s reward for finally overcoming her block. Nynaeve has been working towards surrendering to circumstance, having recently learned to apologize, for example. When she finally surrenders to saidar, it represents a change in her behaviour. As soon as she does learn to surrender, the thing she wants most lands in her lap; a physical representation of how to control saidar. Tying the resolution of this romance to one of the major personality-related obstacles makes the moment when she scores all these victories rewarding for the reader.
Writing Lessons:
Consider how the scenes you write will affect the reader’s perception of the character.  

1 comment:

  1. The scene where Nynaeve and Lan discuss the effects of future sex life on his Bond with Myrelle is one of my is her trying to get him to realize that her block has been broken. Man, I love those two!