Memory and Cooper

Charles Butler hannibal at
Fri Oct 10 16:36:13 EDT 2003

> Except that in Rowling, there is a clear awareness that this is a
> You don't ever get that awareness from Cooper.

I too have problems with the memory-erasure at the end of Silver on the Tree
(which isn't unique in the series, btw - it happens on a smaller scale
earlier in the same book and also in *The Dark is Rising* and
*Greenwitch*) - but I think it's a bit unfair to say that Cooper is unaware
of the moral problems here. Minnow already mentioned that John Rowlands says
that to give up his memory would be 'living a lie'. And in the fourth book
Rowlands and Will have quite an extended conversation about the moral
dubiousness of some of the Light's actions, in which Rowlands compares them
to 'fanatics' for whom the ends justify the means (a charge Will does not

It seems to me that Cooper's very much concerned with how we can map moral
ideals onto human behaviour with all its mixed motivations, messy outcomes,
inevitable compromises, etc. I don't think this is cold-war thinking so much
as WWII thinking - something Cooper has often acknowledged as fundamental to
her imaginative outlook. WWII was a more morally-absolute war than any other
I can think of (at least in terms of the moral necessity of defeating
Hitler), but it had plenty of dirty episodes on both sides, and it
frequently raised questions of this type: 'Should I do this (in itself) bad
thing if I know that in the long run the greater good will be served? If I
do, will I be any better than the evil I'm supposed to be fighting? If I
don't, won't I be letting false sentimentality blind me to the even-worse
consequences?' And so on.  This comes up quite early, in *DIR* when Will has
to choose whether to sacrifice his sister rather than capitulate to the
Rider - and it's a recurring theme throughout.

I tend on the whole to think the memory-erasure was at least a questionable
choice (morally and articistically), but Cooper's attitude to the Light is
more ambivalent than some recent comments would suggest. (She's also a much
better stylist than Rowling, IMO!)

Incidentally, I'm sure I read somewhere that she too was disappointed as a
child by the 'it was all a dream' ending of *Box of Delights*, which is
where we came in. Which makes it all the odder that she did something
roughly analogous herself.


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