Monday, July 14, 2014

Midnight chapter 5, Elsie chapter four part 2

CALLED MAJOR WALTERS OF THE ST. LOUIS POLICE DEPARTMENT, who had been in charge of our security at the airport the day before. I called from the only land line phone in the Unseelie sithen. The phone was in the queen’s office.
Good, good, we're advancing the plot and bringing in previously mentioned characters. I'd like to know how a land-line phone can, you know, work in an ever-shifting magic place but--

Which always looked to me like a black and silver version of Louis the Fourteenth’s office if he had liked going to Goth dance clubs for the dissipated rich. It was elegant, dark, expensive, and exciting in that chill-up-your-spine way; modern, but with a feel of the antique; nouveau riche done right. It was also a little claustrophobic to me. Too many shades of black and grey in too small a space, as if a Goth curtain salesman had persuaded them to cover every inch of the room with his wares.
Plot? No. Let's firmly establish that THIS IS GOTH. IT'S GOTH. GET IT? IT'S GOTH.

And the sad thing is it's so fucking limited to movie, vampire goth. It made sense with Jean Claude et all because movie vampires, but here? When there are so many other options? And for that matter, why is the immortal old-as-rocks fairy queen fixated on a 90s subculture version of a 1000's era asthetic? Why doesn't the immortal fairy queen get to have her own stuff?

Long-ass infodump about how the cops relate to the fairy, which would be so much more interesting than Vanilla Sex Scene Number 2358.

And then we decide to shoot everything about humans-in-the-fairy-mounds in the foot.

See, a big point of the guards protecting Tyler, Andais's new whipping boy, was that humans in the sithen had to be protected. They were valuable, cherished by all, and well guarded from harm because, you know, kidnapping victims.

One of our noblemen had lured her away centuries ago, but he’d grown tired of her. To stay in faerie she needed to be useful, so she learned shorthand and computer skills. She was probably one of the most technologically savvy people in either court.
Yeah, we forgot all of that.

Also: If she leaves the fairy mounds she ages and dies instantly. So in short, she can't leave the mounds. So somebody--probably the Queen--told her that if she doesn't want to die instantly and horribly she needs to learn how to use technology so far removed from her era that its nearest relation is a weaving loom. The fact that she did it speaks for a pretty incredible mind, but that is probably one of the most terrible situations mentioned in this book so far.

So Merry calls the cops and the very first thing their assigned officer does is chew Merry out for not letting his cops into the fairy mounds for the second press conference.

I like him already. I mean, he's being a bit of a piss-ant right now, but he's the very first character to actively call Merry out on her shit.

And Merry proceeds to manipulate the shit out of him. See, he's got a cushy job once he retires from this one and it's looking bad that he let the princess get shot, so her inviting the cops down into the mounds to investigate a murder will make him look good.

...nevermind that anybody with two brain cells will point out that not having the cops down there in the first place is what got the reporter killed.

Then the cop brings up Merry's dad's murder, and it's a pretty good conversation...that is promptly ruined by Merry being more insiteful about the cop. Because topping all the other characters is more important than, you know, actual human interaction. The chapter ends with Merry thinking about how being nice first is better than being mean because you can always be mean later.

Thirty six people highlighted it. I don't get you people.

Meanwhile, back in Elsie:

I went looking at the amazon reviews for the "Life of Faith" updates by Mission City Press, and I found this...thing. 

It's a bible study based on Elsie Dinsmore. For young girls.

Because this is absolutely what we want little girls to be studying.

So Elsie and Dad are going to Ion, to visit the Travillas. And it's relatively boring, noted only by how absolutely fucking creepy the positive interactions with Elsie and Horace are:

"Dear papa," she murmured, laying her little cheek against his hand, "how good God was to spare your life! If you had been killed I could never have had you for my papa."
 "Perhaps you might have had a much better one, Elsie," he said gravely.
 "Oh! no, papa, I wouldn't want any other," she replied earnestly, pressing his hand to her lips.
Emotional incest is a thing, y'all. And that's what the thing looks like.

One thing that is very, very clear, however, is that Martha Finley does not like the positive interactions. The negative treatment of Elsie is far more interesting than her positive moments. When a writer does not like a scene, they don't put a lot of effort into it. This scene? It's the literary version of mayo.

The gentlemen soon went out together, and Elsie spent the morning in Mrs. Travilla's room, chatting with her and assisting her with some coarse garments she was making for her servants.
Slaves. The word is slaves. These books were written contemporaneously to the civil war. Either during or immediately after. So all these glowing descriptions of happy slaves on beautiful plantations under the merciful hands of their masters? Were written so close to the end of slavery that newly freed slaves themselves could buy a copy and go "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU".

Also: Who reads a book this tone-deaf and goes "YES THIS IS ABSOLUTELY WHAT I WANT MY CHILDREN TO BE READING."

Oh right. This guy. 

So she gets lots of sympathy from Mrs. Travilla, and then Edward Travilla decides to take Elsie off to the gardens.


While her dad is upstairs in the library.

Nothing happens, but it's creepy too. And again: We're giving young girls these books to study as "life lessons". So if Decon B. decides to take Annie off into the corner alone, he can say "Why, look at Edward Travilla!" and the little girl will just go along with it.

They go through dinner and Elsie goes off by herself to read. Because she's eight and she's bored. Travilla finds her and they have a perfectly lovely exchange. And by lovely I mean WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT

"Oh! please let me have it," she pleaded. "I shall not have much time, for papa will soon be calling me to go home." 
"No, no, he is not to take you away; I have made a bargain with him to let me keep you," said Mr. Travilla, very gravely. "We both think that there are children enough at Roselands without you; and so your papa has given you to me; and you are to be my little girl, and call me papa in future."
Because I don't think we're going to get that far, let me remind you that in a later book, Edward marries Elsie. So the man saying this to a child is her future husband. Who marries her with her father's permission and encouragement. If this is not the picture of grooming I do not know what is.

Elsie, being a neglected eight year old struggling to bond with her only living parent, panics and runs to her dad, and of course the entire exchange is dismissed as a friendly, happy joke and not, you know, completely fucking inapproprete behavior between a child and an adult. 

 And Horace's reaction is...yeah.

"Pooh! nonsense, Elsie! I am ashamed of you! how can you be so very silly as to believe for one moment anything so perfectly absurd as that I should think of giving you away? Why, I would as soon think of parting with my eyes."

Oh Elsie, you abused child who is currently being emotionally abused by fucking everyone, how could you dare be so silly as to believe that the parent who has been cold, emotionally distant and deliberately cruel at the drop of a hat would give you to the best friend he has known longer than you? How silly.


The result of isolating children from others is that it gives them a highly distorted view of reality. They do not get the chance to compare the adults they know to the adults around other children. They don't get to compare their own behavior and treatment to that of their peer group. Normal, to them, is whatever lies at home. If home is safe, well adjusted, and not rife with toxic ideas (racism, homophobia, unhealthy religious mania) then this can work. But if ANYTHING about the home is toxic, the child comes to believe at best that toxic is normal. At worse they come to believe that healthy behaviors--ie dating, dancing, not being beaten--are actually unhealthy and that the only "good" way to live is in the toxic miasma of their family's thought systems and beliefs. The culture shock when they are finally allowed to interact with society only results in a confirmation that outside=bad.

A child secure in her relationship with her parents would understand that her father would never do this. A child secure in her relationship with her father might even play along--rejecting daddy is a safe behavior for young girls, because they know there will be no consequences and that daddy will continue to love them, and it gives them practice for telling romantic partners "no" in the future. Elsie is not a safe, happy little girl. Her relationship with her dad is very insecure, aided by Horace's outright sabotage of their bonds every chance he gets. OF COURSE she's going to assume that dad is rejecting her for real. He rejects her for real every damn day.

So they go home, Elsie gets put to bed by Chloe, and the next morning everything's back to normal.

And the next sequence is just....GOD.

Elsie and two of her aunts go for a walk. The aunts decide they don't want the little kid hanging around them, so they send her home alone, something her dad forbade her. To his credit, once she explains this Horace forgives her--because, you know, inadvertant disobediance needs to be punished the same as everything else, even if it's just a threat of withheld violence--and then Elsie mentions that she cut through a meadow on her way home. Horace reacts...well, pretty much the way he reacts to everything:

"Through the meadow?" said Mr. Dinsmore; "don't you go there again, Elsie, unless I give you express permission."
 "Why, papa?" she asked, looking up at him in some surprise.
 "Because I forbid it," he replied sternly; "that is quite enough for you to know; all you have to do is to obey, and you need never ask me why, when I give you an order."

NO. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Horace has a damn good reason for keeping Elsie out of that meadow, and if he told her that reason she'd never go. A child asking why when told no isn't usually being defiant. They're trying to understand how the world works. Being suddenly forbidden to go to a place when you've been there a thousand times before is certainly courious. But instead of explaining why, Horace makes it a thing about obediance and loving him, and not what it really is, which is a matter of Elsie's safety.

So a few days later Elsie and her friends are out playing and one of them shoots an arrow into the meadow. Elsie has forgotten all about Daddy's new rule, mostly because he didn't attach it to anything important, it was a one time exchange, and Elsie is out having fun with her friends. So she runs into the meadow to get the arrow, and only remembers that she's not supposed to be there when she gives the arrow over.

So she runs to tell Horace how she disobeyed him.

"That is no excuse, no excuse at all," said he severely; "You must remember my commands; and if your memory is so poor I shall find means to strengthen it."

Again: No connection to any real-world thing. Elsie is just told "Do it or else". It's a matter of Horace's control over Elsie, and nothing else. Elsie is to obey because she loves her father and she's a good girl. Not because there's anything real behind it.

So she gets sent to bed without supper.

And then this happens the next morning:

And leading her forward a few paces, he pointed to a large rattlesnake lying there. "O papa!" she cried, starting back and clinging to him. "It will not hurt you now" he said; "it is dead; the men killed it this morning in the meadow. Do you see now why I forbade you to go there?" 
"O papa!" she murmured, in a low tone of deep feeling, laying her cheek affectionately against his hand, "I might have lost my life by my disobedience. How good God was to take care of me! Oh! I hope I shall never be so naughty again."
This story, or a version of it, appears ALL THE TIME in Christian circles. It was tired and trite when this book was written. The value of ignorant obedience is repeated over and over and over again, and it's something that can get young girls KILLED. Instant, ignorant obediance is utterly worthless. It does not protect the child, it does not develop the child's reasoning skills, and it leaves the child incredibly vulnurable when they are adults, because they will never have learned the thinking skills they need to function. Obeying parents does have value because parents do know more than children.

Needless to say, this is considered one of the positive exchanges between Horace and Elsie.

And while we are still not done with this chapter, we're going to stop there.

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