Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Gathering Storm - Chapters 28-30

In this section, the Heroes get a taste of the wrong choice.
Mat is in Hinderstap when the sun goes down, and the villagers turn insane as soon as the last of the light slips behind the mountains. This is yet another of the series’ metaphors that cut across the various storylines, as Mat experiences a village outside the Light, representative of Rand’s moral trajectory. With no guiding set of morals, the inhabitants turn on one another quickly and savagely. There are a few subtle, and a few direct hints of this in the text: The village was dark. Not a light burned, or there didn’t seem to be an ounce of humanity left in them, or Thom’s analysis:  It’s as if the darkness itself intoxicates them, as if the Light itself has forsaken them, leaving then only to the Shadow. Even Mat and his followers are dragged down to that level because the danger and the darkness limit their ability to act as morally as they should with unarmed villagers.
This bubble of evil, like several others before, not only do nasty impossible things but also symbolize current events on the book, particularly with respect to Rand’s character. Were all the bubbles of evil veiled symbols of Rand’s mood? If so, the author managed to hide the fact well with subtlety. Recent bubbles of evil are easier to match to Rand’s mood. The bubbles of evil also began only after Rand took Callandor. Is holding Callandor what makes the Dragon one with the land? Did the bubbles of evil start off somewhat gentle and get nastier as Rand’s mood got darker and darker?  If these are attuned to Rand, and not the Dark One, what does that mean? I’m leaning towards an eventual revelation that the Dark One can’t simply be killed or sealed away, he is now part of Rand, or always was metaphorically.
Continuing the metaphor of the Light-forsaken, Arad Doman‘s capital city is as hopeless a place as has been shown. No food, no medicine, no order, no hope. It is a second, larger example of a city outside the Light, once again representing Rand’s mental state. Rand sees no one who stands out amongst a people noted for standing out. No one is special. Two balconies collapse at the same time, a ta’veren twist or a bubble of evil, or a result of using the Dark One’s own power? Rand ponders this without offering succour to the wounded. Every person near Rand is suspicious. Merise must be plotting with Cadsuane, Dobraine is Cairhienin, Min must be remembering what he did to her. No one is special enough to elicit emotion from the Dragon Reborn.
Rand recognizes Lanfear may yet live. He resolves to use balefire on her, Graendal, or any Forsaken, still unknowing that the Dark One benefits each time he uses it.
Gawyn can’t get help from the Aes Sedai to rescue Egwene, but is still desperate to do so. Gareth Bryne questions him closely, and the questions are the same ones Rand should be asking himself. The author often shows older mentor characters as already having all the right answers and trying to guide the younger heroes along the right path. What if Egwene doesn’t want help? Will he force her to go? Will he become a bully and a footpad, remarkable only because of his ability to kill or punish those who disagree with him? Gawyn’s journey lags Rand’s, for Gawyn has yet to commit to a path while Rand strides headstrong down the path he has chosen, the path everyone tells him is the wrong one.
Let’s see how a description of Mat’s battle differs from Gawyn’s in the last section:
Chapter 28, Night in Hinderstap begins with the battle already underway, even though the previous chapter was from Mat’s perspective as well. This helps sell the idea that everything changed as though with the flip of a switch. Three attackers are quickly dispatched, then the mood is set with several paragraphs describing screams and yells, primal tactics, and manic violence. Wounded men in the street are finished off by more roving maniacal villagers. The reader now understands the context, and had to do so in the same way Mat did, hurriedly and only after dealing with the immediate problem.  
They see Mat. Mat curses and orders them to mount. There is a loss of control as Mat cannot keep from killing despite his best efforts. The danger and the darkness make it inevitable.
A brief respite as the remaining groups turn on each other. The mayor sees Mat but attacks two other men from behind instead. Mat orders a retreat. The villagers pursue on all fours, like animals.
The difficult battle conditions are described yet again, but no strategy is announced. The effect is one of concern. Mat hasn’t the abilities, the men, the power or the strategy to get out of this situation. Even his eventual decision is instinctive: find Thom and the women, protect them.
On the main street, conditions are worse. Mat charges in headlong. One of his men falls, and Mat goes back for him despite Talmanes’ protests. The strategy is one of necessity, other strategies he could have used such as trampling the attackers are unusable in the darkness. This once more adds to the feeling of loss of control. Traditional tactics are useless since he cannot anticipate the blind stupidity of his attackers. There are no sword-forms, no depictions of graceful mastery, it is all simple, instinctual, desperate moves.
Delarn acts as a man should, distinguishing himself from the mass of shadows, allowing Mat to fight to reach his side. Mat gets Delarn onto his horse, but remains under continual attack. Highlighting the desperation, the sentences become quick and clipped: They just kept coming! Surrounding him! Coming at him from every side. Bloody Ashes!
Thom rides in to save Mat, and Talmanes comes as well, and they all ride towards the Aes Sedai.
The language throughout the battle is heavy on audible sounds instead of sights, treats the foes as indistinguishable and interchangeable creatures, and never gives Mat a chance to think or plan. As a result, it is quite different from any other battle in the series.
 Writing Lessons:
Make scenes original instead of generic by highlighting a few aspects of them differently than expected.

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