Back to DWJ (was: Re: Elitism was Tam Lin)

Kyra Jucovy klj at
Thu Sep 14 22:51:09 EDT 2000

On Thu, 14 Sep 2000, McMullin, Elise wrote:

> Gasp! Unh! Kyra!  Oh well.  But it would be interesting to hear more
> particularly about those things which annoy you.  Though it's only fair to
> admit ahead of time, I might try to change your mind ;)

Alright, I took some time to think about this.  My first, unreflective
thought was, "Well, I've never liked Moril or Mitt because they're both so
arrogant."  But obviously that was not sufficient; Moril and Mitt are
clearly both very different people.  So I tried thinking about it a lot,
and looking at the book.  I'm still not sure I've quite got it, but at
least I've tried, huh?  Well, part of it is Mitt's attitude towards people
throughout the entire beginning of the book.  Basically, he seems to be
completely... alone.  Most people he seems to hate or just be using; he
hates the kids around him, he gets the idea "that all women were born
stupid and grew worse," and he, at least, thinks that he is still
remaining friendly to the Free Holanders because he wants to get revenge
on them and use them to hurt the Earl.  He obviously likes and feels
affectionate towards his mother, but this is tempered by his disdain and
condescension towards her ("Honest, you need more looking after than a
kid!").  He admits to liking Hobin but, again, pays no attention to him as
a person and basically just uses him.
	Now, I should make it very clear that Mitt himself, and certainly
DWJ, realizes these problems throughout the book.  This is hardly a case
where the author _intends_ the readers to accept these points of
view.  No, again and again, Mitt realizes that he actually quite liked the
Free Holanders, that he has been looking at Hobin the wrong way all this
time, etc., etc., etc.  However, the fact that the impression we get of
Mitt is more of the bitter, self-seperating, arrogant part of him than the
more compassionate part we know is there plays on my own feelings towards
him - I think of him as more the person who has no emotional relationships
with people and doesn't particularly want to than the better person there.
	And all of these things are tied up with his completely obsessive
nature.  He pins his whole life from childhood on getting revenge; this is
his entire goal.  And yet, he doesn't even think it out well enough to
realize what the consequences will be.  He looks on it as a game, but it
still becomes his entire life, to the extent that he hardly pays attention
to anything else.  To me, this reduces one of the qualities that I love
the most in other DWJ characters, which is a sense of whimsy.  I mean, one
of my favorite scenes is the one in _Charmed Life_ wherein, although Cat
and Janet are afraid and worried and panicked in at least five different
ways, they discover a fun magical spell to make the mirror travel around
and just play with it.  That seems very realistic and likable to me -
that's the kind of person I feel affection for.  So many characters in DWJ
books display this kind of sense of fun and willingness to be somewhat
childish even in a crisis.  Mitt seems to have experienced a lot of things
that have made him very bitter, and that comes through in his attitude
towards life.  He certainly is not humorless, but a lot of his jokes are
made for the sake of making other people happy rather than out of any
enjoyment himself.  And the ones that he does enjoy, eg "Hadd, hadd,
haddock" seem to be expressions of his bitterness more than joie de
vivre.  Now, it's easy to see _why_ Mitt is the way he is, and it's
probably unfair of me to criticize him for his own hard life.  However,
it is these things which are the source of my problems with him.
	I feel a lot of sympathy for characters who resemble Mitt in many
ways but are serious about what they're doing, by the way.  Mitt's lack of
seriousness, in the end, or forethought, is explicable too - he's just a
kid - but it's sort of the last straw, for me.  It makes me feel like he's
just completely bitter without having any real human feeling behind it,
although I'm not quite sure why this makes me feel that way.  But I think
that DWJ really meant to give us the feeling that he could grow up to be
his father - completely cynical but not really taking any joy even in his
cynicism, doing things without having any kind of emotional center.  Yes,
Mitt realizes he is going along this route and decides to change.  That's
admirable and good.  But his change is just too gradual for me to get to
like him by this point.
	The Mitt in _Crown of Dalemark_, whether or not he is a reasonable
extrapolation of the Mitt in _Drowned Ammet_, is a lot more appealing as a
character to me.  He cares about people sufficiently to actually really
want to try to save Ynen, and, although I know people have complained that
Maewen is not the right girl for him, I feel a lot more sympathy for a
character who, in the midst of a deep crisis, is able to fall in
love ;-).


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