Vengefulness (?) (was:Re: Mitt (A bit muddled))

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Mon Sep 18 16:44:04 EDT 2000

On Mon, 18 Sep 2000 12:05:34 -0400, McMullin, Elise wrote:

>Melissa wrote:
>"Reminds me of a line from the movie "The Philadelphia
>Story" where Jimmy Stewart says that he's learned that even though someone
>comes up from the bottom he really can be kind of a heel, and that even
>though someone is wealthy he can be a pretty nice guy."
>Not to mention, tertiary though this seems, the love of sailboats which
>brings people together in both tales, "My! She was yar."  I never would have
>thought to juxtapose those two stories - brilliant Melissa!"

More like brilliant Elise for picking up on the sailboat thing.  :)

>Sally wrote how she perceived a vengefulness in dwj's writing which was
>uncomfortable to her, last week.  This kepting rolling about my head this
>weekend, because I agree - I see it too.  So I was asking myself what it was
>all about.  The first thing I thought, and I know I've read interviews and
>articles where she says this straight out, is that she is a champion of
>children.  Her stories are battles fought on behalf of people vulnerable
>because of their ages, especially the earlier ones I think.  She identifies
>with them because she was one of them.

I keep seeing the same thing running throughout her books.  In essence, she
says, "Kids, don't think adults are going to be reliable just because
they're adults.  They're just as capable of focusing only on themselves, and
being selfish and cruel, as you are.  It's absolutely wrong that some of
them behave this way, and you do deserve better.  But sometimes the most you
can hope for is to survive on your own and become something better."

>Coming back around to lack of compassion and forgiveness - hmm tricky.  If
>someone is a controller and a narcissist, to reveal compassion will not
>necessarily bring rapprochement.  The other person may see just another
>opportunity to exploit.  So I imagine also a combination of strength, firm
>grasp of the realities of the situation, clear intention, and an
>understanding that the other person *has* to agree or else what can be done?
>You can only lead a horse to water.

In _Fire and Hemlock_ Polly is one of the lucky ones.  Her mother and father
between them would have torn her apart if she hadn't been rescued by her
grandmother.  Before this, though, Polly's put in the position of being her
mother's peer and confidant, despite being far too young for such a role.
She (like Mitt) has to be the adult for both of them sometimes--there's that
scene where she's tiptoeing quietly around her mother asking what she should
get for dinner, and that just makes me so sad.

At any rate, I see the final scene Polly has with her mother as one of Polly
offering forgiveness, or a final chance, or *something* that will turn their
relationship around.  As usual, Ivy is going on about wanting a little
happiness, and for the first time Polly realizes it's nonsense, that it's
always been nonsense: "'Oh, honestly, Mum!  You and your search for
happiness!' she said....'Happiness isn't a *thing*.  You can't go out and
get it like a cup of tea.  It's the way you feel about things.'"  And the
whole way through this conversation, Polly is trying so hard to be kind and
loving and not hurtful, but Ivy is just the same as she's always
been--snappish and insulting and condescending of Polly's assertions.  She's
a complete narcissist, to the point of not being able to recognize any
reality beyond her own head.

So what is forgiveness in this situation?  Is it Polly giving Ivy the chance
to suck her in again?  Or Polly's continuing kindness, even as the words she
speaks are bluntly true?  Letting Ivy get to her would be fatal.  Another
universal truth in DWJ is what Elise said above: some people are the way
they are, and are not to be changed by compassion.  Ivy.  Mr. Chesney.  Aunt
Maria.  I think here she does speak from experience.  It's an unrelenting
theme in her books because this--like the message about the unreliability of
adults--is part of the armor she's providing children, some of whom may
desperately need it.

And now I've reached the end of my ability to procrastinate, and must mop
the kitchen floor.  And vacuum under the table, since some moron thought
carpeting under a table where toddlers eat was a Darn Good Idea.

Melissa Proffitt
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