[DWJ] Fire and Hemlock: so many questions
er.evans at auckland.ac.nz
Tue Nov 26 18:04:42 EST 2013
It's ages since I last read Fire and Hemlock, but these thought-provoking questions are making me think it's time for a re-read.
Thanks very much, Roberta and Dorian.
From: dwj-bounces at suberic.net [mailto:dwj-bounces at suberic.net] On Behalf Of Dorian E. Gray
Sent: Wednesday, 27 November 2013 9:57 a.m.
To: Diana Wynne Jones discussion
Subject: Re: [DWJ] Fire and Hemlock: so many questions
- Is Seb actually attracted to Polly, or is this all part of his and his
> father's plan?
I always had the impression that Seb really does fancy Polly himself, but
doesn't really know how to express/deal with that, because of everything
else that's going on there.
- When Polly tries to read the fairy stories Tom gave her, she is disgusted
> by the heroine of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," and fails to find
> the one true fact Tom assured her would be there. On reading the little
> summary of the story and Polly's reaction to it, I was struck by how close
> it is to Polly's eventual transgression that leads to her losing her
> memories: "The girl had only herself to blame for her troubles. She was
> told not to do a thing and she did." It feels to me that Tom is trying to
> indirectly give her the tools she needs to protect herself and him, but she
> fails to notice this one--because she's too young? too arrogant?
Absolutely, that's what Tom's trying to do. And it does work; the stories
he sends her, that she reads at an impressionable age, remind her that
magic - "Nowhere" - is real, and I think she remembers that subconsciously
even when Laurel gets her to forget. And she keeps all the books and is
able to find the information she needs when it comes down to brass tacks.
In the case of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", I think she
dismisses it out of, as you say, arrogance - she's at the stage where she
thinks she's too old for fairy-tales, so she reads it with prejudice to
begin with, and then seizes the first excuse to dismiss the heroine and the
- Is there any significance to the fact that Polly initially mistakes
> Laurel for Nina?
A veiled reference to fairy glamour, maybe? I hadn't thought of that
> - What draws Tom to Polly to begin with? Why does he take an interest in
> her at the Will reading? Is he already hoping that she will become his
> savior, or does he really just want to save her from boredom and give
> himself an excuse to stay outside? Just how much does he plan out her
> eventual rescue of him? Is he really making a concerted plan?
Hard to say. He obviously wants an excuse to get out of the will-reading,
and a bored child will do well enough. I suspect he probably likes and
gets on with children in general anyway. Then Polly, a normal child with a
normal imaginative life, probably seems a wonderful antidote to Laurel and
all her works - don't forget that at this stage he has only just won
(mundanely) free of her. I'd think he'd be a bit premature to think of her
as possibly his non-mundane saviour at this early stage...I'm not sure how
much he even knows at this stage about what he'll need or that he'll need
- In the big denouement, Polly ultimately does the opposite of Janet in the
> poem--she pushes Tom away instead of clinging to him. But in reading the
> chapter epigraphs I realized that all the intervening years she was holding
> onto him, rather than in just a moment at the end. Instead of Tom changing
> into a serpent or a snake in her arms, she has to deal with Leroy's malice.
And by holding on to him all those years, she enables him to become himself
- she's the one who encourages him to form the quartet, and finds the right
people in the picture, don't forget. So maybe by holding on to him in that
way, she gives him what he needs to save himself without her help, at the
end. Morton has no self, really, and that could be what dooms him.
- In the scene at the fair, why does Seb try to lure Polly into the Tunnel
> of Love? Does he think he can kill her more tidily there, or is he trying
> to protect her from his father's plan? Why is he arguing with his father
I think he's trying to get her away from Tom and what's about to happen to
him, because, as I said above, I think Seb really does, in his stunted and
disastrous way, care about Polly, and he doesn't want her to get hurt too.
He probably also has hopes that if Tom is injured or killed, maybe he can
get Polly to forget about him.
- Is Seb an ordinary person who is actually four years older than Polly? If
> Leroy Sr. hadn't gone tumbling into the abyss, would Seb have lived out his
> life and died in the usual way?
I think so. Unless, of course, Laurel found some other use for him.
Hm, I think it's time I reread F&H - it's been nearly a year!
Until the sky falls on our heads...
dorianegray at gmail.com
"The Imperial Service could win a war without coffee, but would prefer not
to have to."
-- Lois McMaster
* Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
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