Lenina

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Thu Jul 29 07:26:36 EDT 2004


Bettina wrote:

>I find your thoughts on her situation interesting, and certainly you are
>right with what you say about Clennen's gloating. I'd also think that the
>cwidder only "forced" her for a short time, and then it was her sense of
>duty that made her stay.

It forced her into what would be an irrevocable step: I don't know what
possibilities there were for divorce, but if she'd walked out on her family
comprehensively at her betrothal feast it would be difficult to go back,
especially if she were pregnant or had a baby.  Also, if she had taken an
oath, she herself couldn't then back out, and there are vows in a marriage
ceremony as a rule.  (She was a proud and an honourable person, that's
clear.)

>But, and that is a real question, how do you think the cwidder worked in
>Lenina's case? If it and the one who plays it can only speak the truth or
>make truth happen, some of the emotions Clennen conveyed must have been
>true. (Remember how it reacts when Moril's dreams of the North are "wrong"
>because he imagines no rain.) Of course, Moril also "lies" in the end, but
>his emotions are true.

One can be very true in one's emotions and still not be Truthful, I
suspect.  (No, I know.  Sincere belief and truth are not the same thing.)
If the cwidder knows truth when it sees it, it might know that Clennen
really wanted Lenina, and that it would be possible for her to be with him,
and not take into account the alternative, for her, that she could equally
easily *not* be with him.

There's a bit near the end that covers this, I think.  It's when Moril is
thinking about why he did what he did, and knows that it was for Olob
really and not any of the noble things one could pretend it was.  "He was
ashamed.  What he had done was to cheat the cwidder.  That was the worst
thing.  If you stood up and told the truth in the wrong way, it was not
true any longer, though it might be as powerful as ever."  So the cwidder
is not, and is not meant to be seen as, omniscient: it is a tool, not a
god.

>Do you think all that Clennen said was "I want to possess you, you will have
>no choice"? I do not think he is that bad a person. Probably he didn't say
>"I love you and you love me, come with me and be free of this life you don't
>like anyway". But maybe he said "You want adventure, you want to be free, my
>life is much better, free and exciting" and it appealed to a "romantic" side
>in sober Lenina. And maybe a small part of her wanted to do something crazy
>(she was young, after all), but not for live, and not living on the road.

I think he said "I want you more than anything, and more than anyone else
possibly could" and that when he said it that was the truth, for him.  I
don't think he had the faintest idea what she was like, or anything about
her: how could he?  He'd never met her!  He'd never even spoken to her, nor
she to him.  *At that moment* she was the one thing he wanted, just like a
kid lusting after a film-star.  A lot of adolescent males simply get caught
up in their hormones, and don't actually think a great deal about whether
they would really get on particularly well with the pin-up they lust after
(luckily for their pin-ups, most of them can't *do* anything about that
lust).  That doesn't making the rutting male *bad*, but it does make him
very self-centred for the time being.  I think Clennen was pretty
self-centred anyway at all times, given that he is prepared to use his
children as "cover" in a lethal game of spying.

"This life you don't like anyway" would have been wrong, because it's quite
clear that she *did* like it, and didn't want to leave it, and went back to
it the very first instant she possibly could.  And there's no evidence at
all that she wanted adventure or wanted to be free: she doesn't seem to
have enjoyed even the idea, and she didn't want the road, that's sure.
It's in the text.
   "Why did she go straight off to Ganner like that?"
   "Because she's always wanted to, of course!" said Dagner.  "Only she
couldn't, because she thought it wasn't honourable. .... Mother hated
living in a cart.  She wasn't brought up to it like we are.  It was all
right when we were in the Earl of Hannart's household -- we had a roof over
our heads and that wasn't too bad for her .... And Father /would/ leave,
though he knew Mother didn't want to go."

The "life on the road" wasn't part of the original deal.

As for "sober Lenina", well, no, I don't think she was sober when she was
going to marry Ganner to begin with, I think the sobriety was forced on her
because *somebody* had to be the responsible adult in that family, and
Clennen wasn't it.  I think she was sober when she was travelling in the
cart: she played the organ because it was needed, but "always rather
mechanically, as if her mind were elsewhere", and she did all the work, and
she knew that in the end Clennen would get himself killed (so she must have
worried about whether he would get them all killed too, or if he didn't
what on earth she could do to feed and clothe them when she had no income
after his death).  But as soon as she went home to Markind, which she did
the moment she was freed,

   "Her cheeks were pinker than usual, and she laughed and chattered and
hurried about with Ganner on a hundred errands.  Moril had not often seen
her laugh, and he had certainly never seen her so talkative.  She was like
a different person."

She reverted to her previous, happy, cheerful self, the one her children
didn't know because it had never appeared while she was with Clennen.

That feels to me like an escape from slavery, to be honest.  It may be that
after the initial mistake, it wasn't the cwidder itself that compelled her;
but to be kept in servitude by one's own honour is worse, in a way, because
whilst one can at least try to escape from something imposed from outside,
one cannot run away from one's own honour and so the situation into which
it forces one is inescapable.

I hope she lived happily with Ganner for the rest of her life.  She had
jolly well earned any happiness she got, and I think Ganner had too: he had
waited seventeen years for his bride, and he behaved pretty decently on the
whole.

The "using truth wrong" business seems to me to be at least part of what
the book is about.  DWJ doesn't spoonfeed "author's message" to the reader,
but isn't Moril's realisation (that he has moved mountains for what is
really the Wrong Reason even though the result is Right) what we're left
with in our minds after we close the book?  Do the ends justify the means?
DWJ doesn't shy away from offering her readers big questions to chew over,
that I have ever noticed, and I think that's the one here.  Lenina's having
been forced into having the child without whom the mountains couldn't be
moved is just another instance of things going right for the wrong reasons,
on that basis.  Maybe there's a little side order of "All power corrupts"
in there too, and Moril notices, as Clennen didn't, that using power
wrongly is corrupt, and he shouldn't do it.

That's a bit more than two cents' worth, sorry.  I bin thinkin' about this
overnight, see.  :-)

Minnow


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