Susan Cooper

Charles Butler hannibal at
Tue Oct 28 10:39:51 EST 2003


I think there is an elitist element - I
> was going to say racist, but I suspect it is actually more an intellectual
> superiority thing - in the books. Cooper is clearly oblivious to this,
> because there she is preaching about racism in Silver on the Tree, when
> Will's family are all morally superior to the father of the bad boy who
> been bullying. I say she's oblivious because there's this message about
> Old Ones preventing evil, but never any sense that they should reflect on
> their methods.

I am doubtful about the last part of this - as I've said in other posts -
but I do agree that the Old Ones form an elite - just as wizards to in
Potterworld, and the Fantastic Four do in Marvel Comics World and in general
anyone with special gifts (whether magical or not) does in our own world -
at least within a given context (Domingo may be in an elite qua musician,
but a sorry pleb qua plumber, for instance). Whether that makes them elitist
is another matter, and more a question of the attitude they take to other
people and their own abilities, I'd have thought.

Seems to me that elitism could come in several forms, the most blatant being
a 'Yah boo, I can travel through time and you can't and that makes me better
than you' kind of attitude. I just don't see that in Will or Merriman, to be
honest. But there is a slightly subtler form of elitism which you might be
able to accuse them of, in their sense of noblesse oblige - the Light Man's
Burden perhaps. Without straying into postcolonial studies too far, I'd have
thought it was worth comparing the Old Ones' withdrawal from the human world
to the withdrawal of a self-consciously benevolent colonial power (e.g.
Britain) from some 'backward' nation after it had set up a rudimentary
democracy, civil service, etc. You can just about manage on your own now,

Hmm. How far that comparison (which I only just thought of, I admit) can be
pushed probably depends on the Light's motives for taking on the protection
of humanity. I think we will view them differently depending on whether they
did it a) because the universe is just set up that way; b) as benevolent
outsiders, from pure pity and a wish to be of help to humanity in its hour
of need, or c) from some self-serving motive we never get told about. If
it's a) - and I suspect a) is the answer we're meant to come up with - then
we might not be able to call them elitist in even the Light Man's Burden
sense, because in protecting humanity they'd just be 'doing what they do'.

Not quite satisfied with that, but it'll have to suffice. My thoughts are in
flux today - like Montaigne I offer not being but transit!


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