[DWJ] Re: (now with minor^Wmajor spoilers for Dark Lord of Derkhol m)

jstallcup at juno.com jstallcup at juno.com
Mon May 8 01:02:58 EDT 2006

How about 4) It was rape, and DWJ deliberately didn't give it prominence because this is a children's book, and fundamentally a humorous, or perhaps black humorous or satirical one. Those readers who are ready and able to process the concept can do so, those who are not will just pass it right over (as so many readers have).
There's a comparable moment in Letters From Rifka by Karen Hesse. All we see from Rifka's point of view is that "The doctor spent a long time with Mother" and "Mother was trying to shield me." Those readers who are aware of what happens in wartime when refugee women are particularly vulnerable understand what probably happened to mother, and those who are not (often, those who are younger), can read the book without being horrified. Again, similar moment in The Year of Impossible Good-byes when Japanese soldiers take Korean girls away to the front lines of World War Two. They are destined to be comfort girls, and while we learn that some girls commit suicide by throwing themselves from the truck, the text does not deal directly with what happens to them. The reader who is ready and wants to know more can go look up the information, but the reader who is not can just read right over the moment that the girls are put into the jeep and leave the story.
Those of you who have been here a while may remember my awful experience teaching this book (my own fault for not properly preparing the class for it). There are a lot of ways in which this book subverts conventions of fantasy, and I think this rape scene is one of those ways. And that, I think, may account for the dissonance in the reading experience that I'm hearing in some of your emails. (It also explains my class' reaction to the book, I think).
On Sat, 6 May 2006 19:58:28 -0400 (EDT) deborah.dwj at suberic.net writes:
> On Sun, 7 May 2006, minnow at belfry.org.uk wrote:
> |[1] It wasn't in fact rape, which would explain the rape being 
> missable.
> |[2] It was rape, and DWJ was uncharacteristically clumsy, crass and 
> stupid
> |in her treatment of it, trivialising it almost to the point of
> |invisibility.
> |[3] It was rape, and DWJ deliberately didn't give it prominence, 
> possibly
> |in order to suggest that rape is nasty but not in the same league 
> as being
> |burned very nearly to death, or forced to kill innocent victims, or
> |destroying an entire world for monetary gain.
> |
> |Your view is that [2] is the correct interpretation; I'd be 
> inclined to
> |think it is [1] or [3]. myself.
> My view is actually that it's possibly [4]: that author's intent
> may not have been to write a gang rape scene, but given that a
> quick google tells me I'm far from the only person who sees it
> that way, it is certainly readable as one in the text, and so any
> interpretations that rely on it as a problematic rape are valid
> concerns.
> If it was [3] ... well, that might have worked for me if it
> weren't a book from the perspective of several male characters
> (yes, men get raped, but this was a female character getting
> raped by men in a heteronormative and patriarchal stock fantasy
> setting) in which the rape was made not prominent. In that
> perspective, it's more to me that the rape is not important to
> the worldview of Derkholm, not that it's not important to Shona.
> I agree that maybe if the fetishization of sexualization in our
> society weren't so ludicrous than rape per se might be no more
> heinous than any other crime with an equivalent level of damage
> and pain, but I hardly think Dark Lord, as framed, is the book
> best suited to counter the cross-cultural treatment of rape as an
> extra-violent type of assault.
> I see our difference, here. You see my problems with the
> treatment of the attack on Shona as evidence that no sexual
> assault occured, since if it had occured, Blade and Shona would
> have reacted more strongly. I see the sexual assault as clearly
> indicated by the text, so I find Blade's and Shona's reactions
> find disconcerting, since I see the rape itself as having clearly
> happened. 
> -deborah
> --
> I would rather go honestly to Hell, admitting that I leaped
> knowingly into error and folly, than enter into the sweetest
> Heaven men can dream of by whining that I had been pushed.
> -- Freedom & Necesssity
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