Merlin spoilers (was Re: Ready for Merlin?)

minnow at minnow at
Fri May 23 14:55:50 EDT 2003

Deborah got the ball rolling:

>Do people think this Nick is the same Nick from DS?  I'm not sure he's
>as selfish as he and Maree tell us he is.  Even pretending to be...

Well, he's living in the same place, with the same parent, and with
memories of the events in previous book, so it seems possible to me that he
is the same person, just the same person having made a great effort to try
to be a bit less of a horrid brat than he feels he was before.  He says
that a couple of times, doesn't he, that he's been making an effort?

I think Nick would like people to notice him as a slightly better person
than he became aware, during DS, they generally had done.  Don't forget
that he had to sit through the account given by Rupert of the entire
affair, and Rupert's opinion of him was not high, for most of the time.  It
was impossible not to be honest when making that report to the Upper Room,
and Rupert was.

Wanting to be seen as a nicer person could still be seen as selfish, of
course, in a slightly different way.  (It could be argued that almost
anything any person does is selfish -- if altruism only exists because it
makes the person being altruistic feel good, thereby completely negating
the very notion of genuine altruism and defining *everything* as selfish in
the final analysis, such an argument makes sense, though I am never sure
whether I go along with that view...  not to mention that I start to feel
the way I did when I read *The Screwtape Letters*, sort of 'can't win
whatever you do' ish.)

The thing about Nick is that he does seem to care about what other people
think of him, and want their approval, particularly older males (role
models?  I dunno).  Hearing Rupert's honest opinion of him *hurt*; and it's
the being despised by Romanov that upsets him more than anything.  Surely
someone who is truly selfish wouldn't care what they thought?  Given half a
chance Nick would rather be liked than be disliked, admired than despised,
and he is quite bright enough to know that being selfish makes people
dislike one, and isn't regarded as admirable.

I reckon myself that DWJ has made a very fine job of portraying somebody
who is not actually selfish, but has been forced by the circumstances of
his life into being utterly *self-centred* in order to survive.  His mother
would have dominated him completely (see Charlie's question about
'mind-control', I think!) if he had not developed a core of absolute ego
into which he could retreat and remain himself in spite of all her efforts.
Thinking of himself and his own interests as his priority has been a
matter of survival for most of his formative years; it's fairly remarkable
that he chose to ask for Maree back instead of asking for what he wanted
for himself, and that he doesn't simply slide away from the whole Babylon
business when he has the opportunity.  He perceives himself as selfish
because every time he didn't do what somebody else wanted him to (mostly
his mother) he was told that he was being selfish.  ("How selfish of you to
refuse to jump into this pool to save my pet piranhas from starving!")  I
think he's trying to learn how not to be selfish, when selfish has been
defined for him in a rather skewed way to begin with.

Question: Is Grundo another Nick, in many respects?  Frightful and very
powerful mother who is trying to take over the entire shebang, reliance on
another, younger female as a sort of mother-substitute...  and in
self-defence, behaving in a very self-centred way?  There seem to be rather
a lot of parallels.


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