Hi! The Wheel of Time Reread Redux is, once again, a-go-go! Whoo!
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!
All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 46: To Come Out of the Shadow
“Rand would kill someone who did a thing like that,” Elayne said. She seemed to be steeling herself. “I am sure he would.”
“Perhaps they do,” Nynaeve said, “and perhaps he would. But men often mistake revenge and killing for justice. They seldom have the stomach for justice.”
I am fully aware that the expectation of some folk would be that I would approve of this statement, given that it paints women in a more favorable light than men. That is because of the widely-held assumption that feminism automatically values women over men; that it has decided women are “better” than men and that they therefore deserve more consideration/reward/respect than men do.
The reason for this, of course, is because this is exactly what patriarchy believes, except in reverse. And since feminism is perceived to be patriarchy’s polar opposite, the assumption (or, in many cases, accusation) is that feminism’s aim is to flip the tables entirely, and make men the oppressed gender in return for the oppression they have visited on women. An eye for an eye, so to speak.
But all that means is that a lot of folk still do not understand what feminism is—or, at least, what I understand feminism to be.
I admit it is tempting to believe that Nynaeve’s statement is true, because one is always tempted to root for the home team, so to speak, but it is actually my belief in feminism which prompts me to reject it. Because feminism, as I understand it, is not the belief that women are better than men, but merely the rejection of the idea that men are better than women. Which is not the same thing, believe it or not. True feminism, in my book, seeks not for proof of superiority, but for proof of parity.
Many people believe very strongly that there are fundamental differences between men and women, aside from the obvious physical ones, and maybe there are, but the more I look at it, the more it seems to me that those differences are either unimportant, wholly culturally imposed, or both. In the deepest, most essential ways, I believe, we are all the same—or at least we have all the same potential to be one way or the other.
To me, people are people, in the end, for both good and ill. Desire for revenge is not a gendered trait, any more than the ability to mete out fair justice is the sole province of one sex or the other. I’ve known both women and men who are lousy at being fair, and women and men who are lousy at being unfair. I’ve known women who are willing to go to any lengths to avenge a slight, and men who cannot be roused to retaliation no matter what you do to them. And vice versa.
The capacity for mercy or for vengeance is not a function of what genitalia you have; it is a function of who you are as a person, what your life and experiences and culture and innate intelligence tell you is the right (or wrong) thing to do in a situation.
This is what I believe, anyway. I know there are a lot of people who will disagree, and that’s okay. There are a lot of theories out there, and mine is just one of them. But I do tend to resent it when people assume that because I am a feminist that I must think women should “win” over men. Because that assumption kind of completely misses the point.
I have also tended, perhaps erroneously, perhaps not, to attribute the same reasoning to the gender-based statements the characters of WOT make. Meaning, I tend to believe that when Jordan had Nynaeve say the above statement, for example, he did so to make a gender-flipped point—that in a patriarchal society, that is exactly the sort of seemingly-rational-but-ultimately-nonsensical blanket statement that a man in a position of authority would have said about a woman, and therefore must be viewed as borne more of unconscious prejudice than of any real wisdom. (Pun not intended.)
Which is really rather well demonstrated, I think, by the fact that Egwene (and Elayne) most definitely wanted vengeance over justice here. Whether they were right to want it is beside the point; the point is, Egwene’s actions in this chapter in themselves disprove Nynaeve’s assertion that women are always better suited to dispassionate dispensation of judgment. Because that’s just as much crap as saying that men are the ones better suited to it.
So, sorry, Nynaeve, I love you, but you are wrong on this count. Even if I actually entirely approve of the brand of justice you meted out, I believe it’s because you are awesome, not because women are.
And in just the same way, incidentally, is Egwene’s semi-disastrous decision to take on the Seanchan troops in the street completely a result of what she personally had gone through at their hands. And I still want to be mad at her about it, but really, on reflection it’s sort of difficult for me to be, because, well, I don’t know about anyone else, but in her shoes? I’m not sure I would have done any different. Nynaeve had the luxury of impartiality, in that she hadn’t been tortured and semi-brainwashed for days on end, but Egwene did not. Her actions were still unquestionably foolish, of course, but they’re also pretty understandable, if you ask me.
Ingtar: so it turns out that Ingtar is in pretty rarified company, because with the story finished, I can now state with mostly-confidence that other than Tomas, Verin’s Warder, no other Darkfriend we meet in the series ever truly repents his or her Darkfriendliness the way Ingtar does. And I mean truly repents, on a moral level, not just the “oh shit I’m about to be fed to a Trolloc I NOW SUDDENLY REGRET ALL MY LIFE CHOICES”, wholly selfish kind of repentance we see from random Darkfriends throughout. If I’m wrong about this I’m sure someone will let me know, but even if so it makes Ingtar something of a unicorn.
(Verin doesn’t count on this score, because she was a double agent from the start. Not to mention, from what she told Egwene in TGS, she never had a choice in the matter to begin with. Unless you count “or death” to be a “choice”, which, well, I guess it is one, but Verin’s way was so much awesomer, you guys.)
Anyway. Of course, one must consider the fact that he was right next to three of the strongest ta’veren in forever, but I prefer not to let that tarnish his redemption. I don’t remember if Rand’s benediction for Ingtar got me choked up the first time, or the first Reread time either, but it kind of did this time, a bit. It probably did the other times too, because I am a sucker for a good noble sacrifice.
Speaking of which…
Chapter 47: The Grave Is No Bar to My Call
As is right and proper for an epic fantasy series, the Wheel of Time has quite a few Crowning Moments of Awesome to choose from, and this chapter is most definitely one of them. TGH’s climax is not the best of them (not in my opinion, anyway), but it was definitely the most awesome so far. And this is blissfully true despite the fact that logistically the scene makes no sense at all.
I complained about it in the original commentary, but I really rather understated the case, because trying to summarize this chapter was ridiculous. Condensing action sequences down without making them incomprehensible is always difficult, but when all the participants in it are literally floating around in a both metaphorical and actual fog… well, I remember wanting to bang my head on my keyboard a couple of times during this one. Especially as at the time I was still laboring under the delusion that I should continue to keep the chapter summaries short and sweet. This chapter really should have been my clue that that was just not happening anymore.
You may also note that the original commentary post (and this one too) is headed by the ebook cover art for TGH, by Kekai Kotaki, rather than the dead tree Darrell K. Sweet version. It was not so originally, of course, but once all the ebook covers were released I made the rather whimsical decision to go back and replace the DKS covers with the ebook covers on the posts that covered whatever the ebook art depicted. I’m not sure it worked for all of the books, because I think some things got broken when Tor.com moved to its new infrastructure, but this one carried through just fine, apparently, so that’s nice.
Ironically, though I quite like the ebook cover art for TGH, it’s not actually much more accurate than the DKS version (which I’ll discuss in the next post), since unless I missed something, there were no Trollocs at the battle of Falme. But hey, it still looks pretty cool.
[ETA: As one of my intrepid commenters has pointed out below, the scene depicted in both the ebook cover and on the original DKS cover is not, in fact, the Battle of Falme at all, but the scene much earlier in TGH where Rand recovers the Horn from Fain. Who has, it has been further noted, Trollocs with him. Oops. I’ll leave this ebook cover here as a monument to my own doofiness, but I guess I’m gonna have to change its placement on the original Reread. My bad!]
Anyway, to get back to the chapter itself: it’s kind of difficult at this point to drum up the same sense of wow so cool at the revelations Artur Hawkwing et al dropped in their conversation with Rand, since I am rather more than familiar with them by now, but I still vaguely recall how enthralled I was the first time around and how much more awesome the chapter was back then too as a result.
Also, Hawkwing would totally be the captain of the rugby team, and Lews Therin probably wouldn’t even be all that upset about it.
Hurin: aw, Hurin. We do see you again after this book, it turns out. Sniffle. Though I guess he didn’t get to be a Hero of the Horn after all? Not that we saw, anyway. Oh, well. It was still nice of Hawkwing to say, anyway.
Lastly, I’ll note that my question in the original commentary, about whether Ripped-Out Birgitte would meet Original Recipe Birgitte if the Horn got blown again, was neatly sidestepped in AMOL by having the ripped-out version get killed literally moments before Olver blew the Horn and summoned her and the rest of the Heroes back. Convenient, no? Heh. Also, talk about your short turnover periods.
Although, the lack of a Gaidal Cain (at least as far as I recall) at the Last Battle indicates that even if Birgitte hadn’t died before the Horn was blown, she wouldn’t have met her doppelgänger. Which I suspected in any case, but it was still fun to think about.
But, all quibbles and asides aside, in conclusion: Aw yeah, sweet, sick, killer, dude, awesome, who’s your daddy, bitchin’, Yay.
And that’s our slang for the nonce! Y’all come on back next Tuesday for the conclusion to this particular puppy! Again! Whee!