Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stroke of Midnight chapter 6, Elsie chapter four and five

Next up, Merry calls the fed who investigated her father's murder. And now it's obvious LKH is avoiding plot like it's got plague. Again.

Gillett is the guy's name. Obviously, somebody in the Hamilton house bought a new set of razor blades when she was casting around for monickers.

Everybody's like "OH NO DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA" so that means we're going to have another goddamn pissing contest. One that is even MORE valid than Anita's because Anita is at least some kind of official cop in her universe, whereas Merry is a PI, and more attuned to divorces than actual court cases.

However, I seem to be wrong; it turns into a pissing match between Doyle and Galen because Doyle didn't know Merry had a fed's private number and Galen did. Look, is there a REASON why no one in this series can have a decent peer to peer relationship?

I looked into Doyle’s face as I held Galen to me. Did Doyle not know that my heart’s list had grown larger, and that his name was on that list? The way he was acting, he seemed jealous, or envious, or angry.
And this is how we know that this is not polyamory, but something like the polygamous relationships in the FLDS. None of these men like being in a relationship with anyone other than Merry. None of them do much more than tolerate each other. Merry is the only one happy because she doesn't have to commit to any of these guys. It's not good and it's not healthy. The guys should not be at each other's throats ALL THE FUCKING TIME if this relationship was actually working.

So she calls her pet fed, talks for about three minutes, realizes that he REALLY wants to investigate and that he won't be controllable, regrets it and tries to hang up. So we go through the positive relationship in about three pages and move on to who has the bigger whatever.

And then Merry has a cathartic moment. Which would be significant if it weren't treated like her very last catharsis before getting over a deep wound.

Guys, sometimes you never get over things. Recovery and healing both indicate a process, and it's one most people, including myself, never stop working on. The attitude that you can be healed--that there comes a point where you don't have this whatever-it-is hanging over your head--and that, by extension, if you haven't fully healed you're being clingy and wrong-headed--is stupid and sick. It's a process, not a race. You're better today than you were yesterday, even if it doesn't feel like it, and you'll be better tomorrow than you are today, even if you don't believe it. Merry is "shoulding" all over herself...and by extension, shitting on other survivors by somehow implying that a single episode of crying and greif can heal a wound.

It's also kind of irritating that the ONLY form of character development LKH can muster up is "getting over old wounds". Not, you know, making new friends and bonds and new careers, and having more experiance to deal with situation X, or making choices that bring a new and bigger perspective into the character's life. Nope, it's only by dwelling on what we've already done that these characters can advance.

This utterly pointless chapter ends with Merry getting a group hug and a very big cry.

On to Elsie.

So last time Elsie got sent to bed without supper because she disobeyed a poorly explained instruction. Today, we get a really interesting exchange. See, Elsie has friends from outside the household over. Lucy and Hubert, specifically. And Lucy asks Elsie what happened last night. Elsie explains about her punishment. It's Lucy's reaction that is interesting:

"Was that all? why my papa wouldn't have punished me for that," said Lucy. "He might have scolded me a little if I had done it on purpose, but if I had told him I had forgotten, he would only have said, 'You must remember better next time.'" ..."He must be very strict indeed; I'm glad he is not my papa," replied Lucy, in a tone of great satisfaction.

You know what? It sounds like Lucy has a very healthy set of parents, AND as if she's doing exactly what children need to do: comparing the behavior of strange adults to safe ones. She's analyzed Elsie's situation, decided that it's not normal, and has decided that this "not normal" is something she NEVER wants to deal with.

Elsie, however, does not have the same healthy frame of reference. Because both the elder Dinsmores and her father have strongly limited her contact with outsiders, she doesn't know how other children behave. She's desperate to retain her father's love, and one of the elements of retaining that love is gratitude. Over and over in the book so far Horace has overheard his daughter defending his bad behavior towards her. This is what motivates most of his warm responses. Isolated people, especially children, are very dependant on the people doing the isolation--be it an abusive spouse, a cult leader, or a bad parent. When a fact comes to light that threatens their isolater/abuser, it threatens the foundations of their security. They have to defend the abuser to maintain what they believe to be their own safety and security. This is one of the primary motives behind isolating a victim (the other being that the victim has no resources to leave on). They'll have someone with the tenacity of a rabid dog as a defender. An abuse victim who has not woken up yet will fight for their abuser to the hilt, not because they care, but because they believe their own well-being is threatened if anything happens to this person. The illusion of security and safety is that valuable to them. In the primary audience for this book--ten to sixteen year old homeschooled girls--this scene re-enforces that outside criticism of the adult figures in the child's life is dangerous and should be regarded as an attack--and that the child is their primary line of defense. Many homeschool children are taught how to lie to CPS--are actually drilled so that they all have the same story no matter what--to protect their parents from repercussions. I remember being deathly afraid to go outside before 2PM because someone might come and take me away from my parents, and my parents didn't do the whole "CPS is evil" thing.

Another example of Horace isolating Elsie is his refusal to let her go on a pleasure trip the Dinsmores had planned. His excuse is that he had planned to go too, but since he couldn't, his daughter won't be going either. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, as the kid's lived eight years without him. It's not about her safety--it's about him maintaining control over the girl in every possible aspect. When she sends a servant to town to pick up some candy for herself, Horace intercepts and burns it.

And again: Both Elsie's defense of her father and her father's treatment of her are currently treated as good things.

Elsie sends Lucy to ask Horace for her candy. He sends Lucy back and demands Elsie come herself. He asks her why she sent her friend and she says that she was afraid of him.

Horace then drags out "Abuser tactic number 99995"

 "If I were a drunken brute, in the habit of knocking you about, beating and abusing you, there might be some reason for your fear, Elsie," he said, coloring with anger; "but, as it is, I see no excuse for it at all and I am both hurt and displeased by it."

 Why NO Horace ,you don't beat your kid. You only threaten to do it, as you did over the episode with the snake. You also limit her food and contact with friends, seemingly arbitrarily, criticize everything she does (including crying when your behavior hurts her) demand perfection when an ADULT wouldn't be capable of it, and threaten frequently to take EVERYTHING she values away from her. Now you are holding the first personal pleasure this kid has asked for in several pages. WHY THE FUCK WOULD SHE NOT BE AFRAID OF YOU.

One way an abuser will defuse an accusation of abuse is to say that there are so many worse things they could be doing, how could this thing ever be considered abusive? Beating is bad, but not beating a child, or a lover, does not excuse things like limiting outside contact, food choices and emotional behavior. ABUSE IS WRONG, and even if there are bigger abuses out there, that does not make the abuses any individual experiance smaller. The oppression olympics do not exist, nobody gives out gold medals to the truely suffering and tell the merely miserable that they need to try better next time. Everyone's pain is valid, and being damaged by a parent who limits themselves to emotional abuse is damage, just as if you were physically beaten.

Elsie's response is, as usual, pretty heartbreaking:

"I'm afraid he doesn't love me much," sighed Elsie in low, tearful tones, "for he hardly ever lets me have anything, or go anywhere that I want to."

I said it yesterday, I'll say it again: Children with confidence in their parents' love will practice rejection and defiance with their parents because they feel absolutely safe in doing so. They know that even if they get negative consequences, they will remain loved and safe. This practice, especially in the first ten years of life, enables the adult to reject unwanted lovers, or pressure to go along with an activity they do not want to participate in. They are secure in their self worth. A child so perfectly obedient they won't even cry in public is a possible indicator that the parent/child relationship has been sabotaged, and that the child believes their behavior and compliance dictates their self worth. When a parent teaches their child that behavior=value, they create an easily manipulated adult who believes the only way they have value is to do as they are told--wheither or not the order is healthy, wheither or not they want to.

Which brings me to the next disgusting point in this awful, awful book

But Elsie shook her head sadly, saying with a little sigh, "No, Lucy, you are very kind, but I cannot disobey papa, even if he should never know it, because that would be disobeying God, and He would know it."..."Oh!" she murmured half aloud as she covered her face with her hands, and the tears trickled through her fingers, "how soon I have forgotten the lesson papa taught me this morning, and my promise to trust him without knowing his reasons. I don't deserve that he should love me or be kind and indulgent, when I am so rebellious."

The sabotage of the parent/child relationship also sabotages the child's spirituality. To quote Fight Club:

Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?
I really cannot express how rivited I was by that scene. It was one of the most shattering moments I think I've ever had, like I was hearing my own brain scream at me. But I probably didn't interpret it the way the author and moviemakers intended. When a child's relationship with their parents is sabotaged, they view every authority figure with the same expectations--that their value is completely determined by their compliance, by what they can do. This is dangerous enough when one is dealing with spouses, lovers and bosses--it becomes lethal when applied to the concept of divinity. First, it means whatever relationship you enter into with your god is already sabotaged. You already have a performance-based relationship and will not seek help and guidance from your form of divinity, rather turning to them only when you feel you have something worth bringing to them. Second, and far more importantly, it leaves you wide open to manipulation via a mediator. Your pastor, leader, priestess, whatever, can very, very easily make obedience to them the same as obedience to God. Having any kind of mediator between yourself and the divine is INCREDIBLY dangerous, but it is increasingly more so for people who had strong performance-based expectations on themselves as a child. (Note: There are good mediators out there, but they are the ones who usually understand how dangerous their role is for their following, and take steps to educate their followers and limit their role in their respective body.)

Things have gotten to the point where Elsie's former tormentors are starting to come to her defense, asking if maybe Horace is going too far. This is presented in the book as an outside attack on Horace.

And so in the middle of all of this, here comes Chloe with bible verses ready to comfort Elsie.

"Darlin'," said Chloe, earnestly, "didn't you read to your ole mammy dis very morning dese bressed words: 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,' an' de other: 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.' Go to de dear, bressed Lord Jesus, darlin', an' ax Him to forgive you, an' I knows He will."

One: I like how Chloe's accent disappears when she's reciting bible verses. Kind of weird how a woman who can't say "blessed" can say "advocate".


The story drew me right into the life of the main character and I found myself wanting to be just like Elsie - with such a pure heart and such strong faith! I didn't want to stop reading, and when I finished the book, I wanted the next one in the series right away. I even loved the Foreword to the book which is full of fascinating information about the history and the social customs of the 19th century. This modern version is very well-written and much easier to read than the original 1868 text. The characters really come to life! The book inspired me to want a much closer walk with the Lord!--Amazon Review
 This is a wonderful story of a little girl who put God first no matter what the cost. It is a must read!

My 9 year old daughter and I have been reading this series together at bedtime. She loves it and I'm happy to read it to her as it gives the example of a a girl, woman, wife and mother with a Godly Character. I'm hoping my daughter is influenced for the better with this story. I wish more books were written like this in today's world where evil and witchcraft seem to be approved reading & viewing material for our children. My daughter's only wish was this could be created into a movie, but if it was I would want them to stick to the book and not dramatize the story with falsehoods like they do so many others.--another Amazon Review

But goddamn it I'm making it through the rest of this chapter TONIGHT.

 So the next morning she goes downstairs and Horace is treating her with coldness as usual.  Elsie takes Lucy to her father's drawing room to look at something. Arthur follows her, they have an arguement, and he pushes her over. On her way down, she knocks over one of Horace's vases. It breaks. Horace comes in and Arthur tells him Elsie broke it on purpose. He shouts at her, sends her upstairs, and locks the door on the other children. Lucy defends her after a few minutes, and Horace sends her back downstairs.

Explosive anger is very damaging for a child. Children do not understand how upset adults get when something bad happens. They cannot cope. It is up to adults to control themselves around children.
 She was thinking, "Papa says I am naughty sometimes, but oh! how very naughty he would think me if he knew all the wicked feelings I had yesterday."

I hate this book. I hate this book. OH GOOD FUCKING GOD how much I hate this book.

 The next thing that happens is Horace restricts her allowance. He gives her the full amount, but he requires her to account for every cent she spends. So now she'll have to ask herself if her father will approve of any item she buys, thus further restricting what she can and cannot do. And while he phrases it as a responsability, we're not that far off from the Candy incident.

Which Horace brings up almost immediately.

"Candy, half a dollar; remember, Elsie, there is to be no more money disposed of in that way; not as a matter of economy, by any means, but because I consider is very injurious. I am very anxious that you should grow up strong and healthy. I would not for anything have you a miserable dyspeptic."

Horace then explains that he wants to limit the amount of contact Elsie has with Lucy because he overheard some of the things Lucy said about him.

Horace then analyzes what Elsie bought the previous month and then this happens:

"She is a dear, unselfish, generous little thing," he said to himself. "However, I may be mistaken; I must not allow myself to judge from only one month. She seems submissive, too,"—he had overheard what passed between her and Lucy at parting—"but perhaps that was for effect; she probably suspected I could hear her—and she thinks me a tyrant, and obeys from fear, not love." This thought drove away all the tender feeling that had been creeping into his heart; and when he next met his little daughter, his manner was as cold and distant as ever, and Elsie found it impossible to approach him with sufficient freedom to tell him what was in her heart.


End of chapter.


  1. It's official - I hate the Elsie book more than I have ever hated the Anita books. At least in those all the terrible terrible things being done are to and between adults who hopefully have the resources and wherewithal to seek help and counseling when they come to their senses. The Elsie book is the glorification of systematic child abuse and it leaves me sick with disgust and anger. I applaud your informative commentary and suggest that you perhaps make these reviews into a post of series of posts on tumblr so people are aware that they are still in use today as "training aids."

  2. I read those Amazon.com reviews before. I couldn't understand how the book was getting all these starts & great reviews. What kind of parent would use this as a study book for their kid! This girl is treated horribly & is supposed to be happy & "not sin" Wtf wtf wtf. She blames herself for the abuse & it isn't even written that way -as abuse.

    On the home school bit I don't agree that's a broad generalization. An abuser could use home schooling to isolate & control a child like an abusive spouse won't let their wife work , have friends or contact with family. In such case they could prep the child for CPS.
    In general I think not. I never had this experience and there was nothing to lie about. I didn't even know what CPS was to my recollection until maybe early teen. That's because a mom in town had her little kids removed from the home got leaving them home alone.
    Being home schooled there was limited peer interactions because you are not in that school setting daily. Home school cook outs, field trips, slumber parties, camp, recreational sports, ect you are able to see how other parents act & the relationship between child/parent.

  3. I do believe that kids think their home life is the norm no matter what. It's also possible with an abusive parent who is in public school they can teach the children to lie to teachers, CPS anyone outside. Even make them distrust those people are have them believe they are bad and the parent is all knowing & right no matter what.

  4. The rest of my reply didn't go through?

    I was saying that any abusive parent might teach kids to lie even if they are in school. To lie to teachers, cps, other adults. They can also make them fear those people or believe they are the bad ones. While the parent is all knowing & always right.

    1. Speaking as a homeschooled student myself...I think my experience was positive. My parents did not go out of their way to limit my contact with the outside world, and because they were foster parents and took parenting classes, they understood and avoided a lot of the pitfalls that modern homeschooling has to offer.

      Where we ran into issues was first and foremost with my dad, who had a lot of controlling tendencies and who was more than a little radical in his approach to religion. He liked limiting my and my sibling's contact with other people--it made us his ready-made audience. When I did attend a "normal" school, he would frequently pull me out of classes, or just plain decide I wasn't going to school today. But the bigger area of issue is that most of the well-known resources are controlled by people with the same ideology. Vision Forum, Mission City Press, ABecka, ACE curriculum, Doug Phillips, the guy behind the Homeschool Legal Defence Fund--all these people know each other, they're best friends, they share identical ideologies and most importantly, they control the resources that pop up first on google searches...or back when I was being homeschooled, they had all the magazines and how-to books safely corralled. So some of this nonsense DID make it into my education.

      Homeschooling can be a good experience with parents who understand what they're doing, and why, and what to look out for. But the resources you'd, say, find first in a google search? They're the people who push books like Elsie, who encourage parents to develop an insular mindset, and who encourage mistrust between homeschooling families and the outside world. When the only information you can get is tainted, it's very difficult to shape a healthy system.

      There's a lot of nonsense leftover from my childhood that I'm still working through. I'm greatful to my parents for all the good that they did, but I'm not sacrificing my well being to defend the errors they made.

      At any rate, This Be The Verse is as true now as it was ten years ago.