Thursday, January 03, 2008

Preached At

Anyone reading this is probably tired of hearing about Till We Have Faces, but I like it and am annoyed by it and am thinking about it, so that's what I'm writing about.

The ending of this book is really irritating to me, in the same way that a lot of proselytizing is irritating to people who aren't already sold. He sets up this great story of a woman who is angry at the gods, and telling her life story as an indictment of them. The big issue it comes down to is that, as she (Oruel) puts it, she was faced with a riddle and made the best answer she could with the information she had, and, when she was proven wrong, she and her sister Psyche were punished for it. What happens, in essence, is that she is told that something exists that she cannot see or perceive in any way. She believes that her sister is wrong--mad or deceived--and acts on this, attempting to bring her sister home and save her.

Based on this, her claim seems like a pretty fair indictment to me. The book supports it all the way through, until the last part. At the end, it is revealed to Oruel and to us, that her real motivation was not compassion for her sister but jealousy of her sister's love. And that all her urge to save her sister before, all her standing by the evidence of her senses, was just stubborn denial of what she must have known in her heart to be true.

I hate this. It's like that old, irritating psychoanalytical issue, where if you deny that you have had a trauma, you're repressing it, or resisting the therapeutic process or something. No, honey, sometimes not being traumatized is just based on bad things not having happened to you.

So the whole book just dismisses the fact that, given the information she had, Orual was right to try to save her sister--that she had no earthly reason to believe that Psyche wasn't living on an exposed mountainside in the winter--in favor of the idea that if you don't grasp what the gods want, then it's because YOU are wrong and stubborn and have not yet overcome what is bad in your heart. Good people believe, it's as simple as that, I guess.

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