Questions of Power (was Re: Context and timing, was something else)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon Jun 9 07:25:27 EDT 2003


JOdel wrote:

>It abruptly occurs to me that this particular issue is one that DWJ was very
>actively exploring at this point in her career. And we DO get a rather at some
>remove up front and personal look at what one suspects may be a very close
>approximation of life in Laurel's court when we take a second look at the book
>that jones wrote immediately before this F & H (although it was published
>later), which is to say, Aunt Maria.

Does anyone else wonder whether Aunt Maria is in some way related to the TG
entry on Dark Lady?  "This is purely because the Management was born too
late to meet my Great Aunt Clara"?  Maybe DWJ had to wait for Aunt Clara to
die before Aunt Maria could be unleashed on the world.  :-)  (Two of them
would be critical mass -- very critical.)

>Aunt Maria was not universally beloved by her Court, either.

*That* is a *litotes*!  :-)

>And her rule was not exactly benevolent, nor was it designed to
>promote the greatest good for the greatest number.

Her situation is that she made a power-grab, and broke the rules that had
been working, more-or-less, for five or so centuries.  She is not the
properly-ordained Ruler, she is a usurper, I feel.

>In fact Maria and Laurel
>are very nearly the same person for all that they use different tools.

Well, apart from one of them being the undying Queen of Air and Darkness
and the other a human woman with a definitely finite lifespan.  (I think
that is a fairly important difference, though I phrased it frivolously...)
Laurel is more in the way of being a Power, or a Force of Nature, or
something: what she does, she does because that is What She Does, and
always has been.  Like the Hunt in *Dogsbody*, or come to that in Merlin:
she has certain things that are in the rules and she does them.  Every
seven years she pays a tithe to Hell -- not because she wants to but
because That Is How It Is.  She's probably nasty because she is bored to
death with the whole business after all this time, and death isn't an
option, at least as much as for any other reason.

>And the behaviour of the male characters in both books seem to be along very
>much the same sort of continum when you take a closer look at them. In fact
>both these books might well repay a close comparison if one chose to do one.

I think the male characters, and the female ones too, in each book, are in
a sort of feudal position: they get their power from the ruler, and so have
a vested interest in supporting that ruler even if they don't much like
her.  If the ruler is toppled, they too will fall.  They'd rather have a
status quo that is not ideal but at least has them near the top of the
heap; and the ones who wouldn't rather have that status quo lack the power
to do anything about it.

I would look at Hepzibah Dimber and the Regalia as a parallel-ish to Aunt
Maria, rather than at Laurel, in some respects at least.  Hepzibah is
behaving abominably, in using slaves, and when it's shown to her she
refuses to accept it, and is utterly convinced that she is in the right and
has the right to behave that way.  It's clear from the context that she is
really being a tyrant, and also that she is unable to see that she is being
one.  At the end of *Black Maria*, Aunt M also simply will not see that she
might have been in the wrong in her enslavements.

Both these human women are working in a long-standing tradition, and using
stuff set up by human beings, and in each case the feeling I have is that
they have somewhat missed the point of the power they have inherited, and
are misusing it as a result.  Aunt M is much worse, because she is doing it
on purpose, but...

Isn't the point DWJ is making, at least in part, that merely carrying on
with stuff because you can (rather than because it is needed or really the
right thing to do) is a bad idea, and that one ought to ask questions
rather than just doing things by rote or the book or whatever it may be?
Laurel has no option, but the human people in lesser but similar positions
of power *do* have options, and therefore have an obligation to *look* at
the options and not just go blindly on?

Something to do with free will.  I don't think Laurel has free will, for
all her power.

Minnow


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