"Imagine -- Unsuitable for Children"

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Jul 7 10:46:54 EDT 2004

Gili wrote:

>Minnow wrote:
>>>After thinking it over for a couple of days I'm still dubious about this
>It was a weak analogy and flawed to boot, I was stretching to make a point I
>hadn't quite thought out. I suppose the comparison I was trying to draw was
>to a certain *aspect* of addiction, which is that people can become slaves
>to their addiction. But of course I accept your reservations, entering into
>an addiction is a completely different from being taken into slavery.

It did make me try to work out why I was reacting as I did, and have a look
at several things I might not otherwise have done as I tried to work out
how far it was allowable... :-)  The various discussions of a state of
servitude in DWJ are interesting in themselves, particularly the reaction
of Roddy (spoiler for *The Merlin Conspiracy*, this might be) when she is
coming to terms with the discovery that for most of her life she has been
acting under a compulsion: how much of what she feels once the compulsion
has been removed is real, how much is as it were a residual automatic
reaction, for instance, is very hard for her to fathom as she works it
through.  That turns up too in other places, though I think Roddy is the
clearest case because DWJ very plainly shows us her difficulty and her
resentment (almost revulsion) at having been used.  Cat too, in *Charmed
Life*, has to face the fact that much of what he had taken as being real
turns out to have been utterly false and imposed upon him by somebody whose
essential goodwill he mistakenly took for granted.  Maree in *Deep Secret*
has a less difficult time: she has been shielding and serving Nick, at
least to some extent, but it wasn't under compulsion and she was always
aware that he was a manipulative individual and the world's prime
slitherer-outer, so she doesn't have shattered illusions about him.  How
about the Izzys' mother and grandmother, though?  Glamoured by children:
how humiliating and frightful!  We get very little of their subsequent
feelings, but it has clearly been an appalling shock to find out it has
been going on, for their mother at least.  That relationship is likely to
be very difficult for some time to come, it seems to me.

Perhaps the "message" is that dependence of this sort is bad for both
parties. (That would be the difference between this and drug-abuse, I
suppose: the drug doesn't have a reaction of its own, only the user.)
Grundo and Nick have both ended up rather unappealing characters as a
result of relying on Roddy and Maree, and Gwendoline is frankly *ghastly*
-- though how much that was in her from the very beginning and how much has
developed because she was able to use someone else as a pawn I wouldn't
want to try to unravel.  In fact, it may be that DWJ is exploring something
more fundamental than drug-abuse, and is saying things about the effect of
power, both on the people it's used by and on those who are used.  Marceny
is *yick*, but Mark/Herrell isn't very admirable either until that
particular relationship is destroyed.  Neither Laurel nor Thomas Lynn has
benefited from their relationship, in the long term.  These are what one
might call extreme examples, but do they perhaps illustrate something I
think DWJ often seems to be saying, that one should learn to stand on one's
own two feet and not lean on other people?  Using and being used are both
frowned on in her work: manipulation and allowing oneself to be manipulated
both seem to be presented as flawed behaviour, at every turn.  (And
deliberate-cute gets its comeuppance: even when it's only the sort of cute
that Sam almost has in *A Tale of Time City* or Ceri has in *Power of
Three*, it's shown and dealt with as an attempt to take advantage.)

>>>I actually find it profoundly disturbing to correlate involuntary
>servitude with voluntary addiction,
>I didn't mean to suggest anything upsetting or offensive, and hope my
>half-baked thoughts were taken in the spirit intended; if not, I apologize.

I too apologise, because I evidently did over-react for all my attempt not
to.  Sorry about that!


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