Hexwood again

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Wed Feb 6 12:34:21 EST 2002

What an interesting topic, Ros!

I'm kind of coming at this after others have responded to it, and I 
sort of agree with what you've said and what everyone has replied so 
far.  You wanted to hear what other people saw about this subject, so 
here's my take to add to the others.

I agree that Mordion and Polly come through appalling 
childhoods/experiences *relatively* unscathed, and certainly as 
decent human beings.  But in all the examples in DWJ that come to 
mind, their survival seems to depend on there being something or 
someone to help.  Mordion has the four voices (Vierann's especially), 
and also has the need and ability to help the other trainees.  I 
think both were pretty crucial.  Polly has Granny, who's not perfect, 
but certainly provides stable adult support and affection, and Tom. 
I might be stretching this way too far here, but I think it's also 
important that Granny is able to get support from Social Services so 
that she can give Polly a home.

Conversely, we see nothing about what makes Laurel such a stinker, 
but we do have Seth, whose situation is really unbearable.  He also 
has NO ONE to offer him affection or any idea that there might be an 
alternative to being a taker. Even Orm - it's only a tiny glimpse, as 
we're rarely in his head, but there is the little bit about his 
hating Martellian most of all for not rejecting him for being ugly, 
and a half-breed, or whatever he says.

I guess if I had to sum up the general position I see in DWJ, it 
would be something which generally says that you can't sit back and 
opt to be "bad" (shorthand for a lot of things) just because you had 
a tough childhood, BUT, which also has understanding that people need 
help, support, someone to show them at least the possibility of 
choosing the tough path to being a hero.  So it's not a total 
"nature" theory, while being a bit farther from the "nurture" than 
many might be.

All 100% my personal opinion, of course.


>I want to bring something else up about _Hexwood_ that I've wondered about.
>find it interesting that Mordion, despite having being terrorized and
>brainwashed in the most dreadful way, has not been brutalized by the
>experience--that he was able to protect a part of himself during the
>process. Not only that, but it's clear that he hasn't really internalized
>the brutalization at all, not really--he has managed to remain a profoundly
>decent juman
>Thinking about this led me to realise that this pattern appears quite often
>in DWJ. Although she does recognise that upbringing has effects on people,
>overall she seems to take the view that people are the way they are because
>of some inner temperament or perhaps some inherent moral sense. I'm
>thinking, for instance, of the way Gwendolen is simply a spoiled,
>narcissistic brat from the beginning, and Cat is humble, diffident and
>decent--not because of their parents or circumstances, but just because
>they are the way they are. I can think of lots of other examples--despite
>her selfish mother and weak father, Polly in _Fire and Hemlock_ is very much
>what she is, with all the qualities she has; unlike Seth and Leroy, Tom is
>simply unwilling to do *anything* to save himself (yes, I know he uses
>Polly, but not in the blind, uncaring way that the other two men do). We
>don't know why Tom is decent--he just is. Then there's the boy who takes the
>necklace in the very beginning of _The Power of Three_ (for the life of me,
>I can't remember his name, and I don't have the book with me), who is just
>cruel and arrogant because that's the way he is.
>But maybe this is all just too obvious to point out?  It it did suddenly
>strike me that DWJ appears to have an approach on this matter of good and
>evil that is different from a lot of other modern writers. It flies in the
>face of other views of personality that would explain cruelty in terms of
>childhood deprivation. She seems to be portraying
>good and evil in people as somehow inherent, not all that influenced by
>parental ubringing or environment. Of course, she doesn't see good and evil
>in black and white terms--that's one of the things I love about her
>writing--and her characters often come to realise how inadequate they've
>been. But she does seem to think that characters/people will either learn
>and grow for their mistakes, attain insights and act decently and so on--or
>they won't. Whether or not they do seems to have little connection with what
>their parents are like or whether they were treated kindly by others in
>their babyhood. I'm not trying to draw any conclusions about this at
>all--I'm curious about whether others see this in DWJ or if others see
>something totally different.
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