Monday, 3 September 2012

Crossroads of Twilight - Chapters 10-12

In this section, Elayne does all the things the readers don’t like.
There’s a reason you rarely see characters doing menial tasks. It takes time away from them doing the things readers enjoy, such as battling, or romancing, or striving, or accomplishing. Menial tasks make the characters that much more ordinary. But it also makes them relatable. If you never see a character eat or sleep, you might wonder where they get their energy. In Elayne’s case, readers feel they are all too often treated to hair brushing, choosing clothes, and bathing.
Elayne is unique amongst the main characters, in that she grew up and still resides in a world of politics. She will be judged for improper attire, unkempt hair, or smelling bad from a day in the saddle. Some of the others might get away with those things, but they are as much a part of Elayne’s routine as practicing sword-forms is to Rand or Lan.  A princess who doesn’t spend time doing these things is not a believable princess. Nonetheless, readers yearn for less of these trivial things.
The way Elayne is judged is important to her success in gaining the throne of Andor. She is trying to present herself as the impeccable choice to be Queen, and is courting the nobility of Andor. She is successful in portraying the desired image, but the Houses have little left to give, certainly not enough to make a difference in the defense of Caemlyn. But their presence is worthwhile for the symbolism.
Elayne reflects on the power of rumour and hearsay to create an identity for her. The image she portrays must be completely infallible. This is similar to how Rand tried to manage his own image, except that he took a very firm hand in direct dealings with the people he encountered. Elayne’s own dealings are subtle, never veering in a direction that can be misconstrued. The amount of time she spends dwelling on it reflects the intense non-stop effort it requires.
Everyone still insists on mothering Elayne, treating her as a fragile specimen whose only purpose is to bear a child.
When a character makes an analogy, the author is able to write one that conveys not only Elayne’s privileged lifestyle, but relates back to the topic being considered. Thinking of Rand always makes Elayne think of the babe, so the analogy that follows is: One followed the other as surely as cream rose in the milkpan.
Elayne’s romantic relationship with Rand puts a different spin on the importance of the cleansing. She reminds herself that it is the taint on saidin that will kill him. With the cleansing, that is no longer true, for him as well as for all the Asha’man. The blazing beacon she senses to the west is a source of concern for her, which it wasn’t in the last few perspectives considering its meaning. Aviendha sets her straight: they need to have faith that Rand can deal with this on his own, rather than rushing to his side and introducing an unknown factor he isn’t expecting.
Of the five Elayne chapters in a row, three of them end with her relating how Andor is what matters most, more than any other thing could matter. This feels repetitious in the same way Perrin’s continual quest for Faile was, but without the same dire outcome waiting. If Elayne doesn’t gain the throne, and Arymilla runs the queendom into the ground, Elayne would still be free to partake in the rest of the story. Her identity is wrapped up in becoming queen though; it is all she has been told from birth. Failing to become Queen changes her identity, which is the main threat she faces. The obstacles she faces are mostly circumstantial, and are not the result of any of her character traits. If anything, her character in this regard is flawless, and it is the shadow of her mother’s character she is trying to escape from under.
The Black Ajah in the palace is brought up again, but there are no good clues pointing to her. If anything, Sareitha’s praise of Mellar causes readers to view her as sympathetic to him, a known Darkfriend. That vague and tenuous connection from a single conversation creates a strong connection because of the pre-existing link between Mellar and the Shadow.
The Sea Folk make a new bargain with Elayne. They are in a rush to leave because Zaida wants her chance to become Mistress of the Ships. This gives Elayne a chance to be rid of some of the inconveniences thrust on her by the agreement to provide teachers. She gives up some future concessions that will cost her more than she can foresee, in order to keep what help she can for now.
A theme running through this entire section is that good help is hard to find. Maids gossip, Lords provide feeble old men or boys for Elayne’s armies, Mellar is a dolt, the Sea Folk are running off, the Black Ajah in the Palace still hasn’t been found, and her own closest friends and advisors don’t trust her to care for herself or the baby. Amidst all these unreliable people, only Elayne is strong and true, never erring, always seeing to the heart of the matter. Readers tend to interpret this as Elayne being overbearing instead of the commentary on the followers failure to live up to expectations which it must be, or the same message wouldn’t keep coming back. Based on how Jordan has used this repetition technique in the past, he is trying to expose Elayne’s worst fear that she won’t live up to expectations. Unfortunately, by the end of all this, a significant portion of readers won’t care whether she does or not.
Writing Lessons:
The events a character spends time on should be consistent with their background and goals.  

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