The Obelisk Gate, Ch 3, 4, Interlude

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Chapter 3

Schaffa is almost killed when Syenite destroys the Clalsu. He survives by partially succumbing to a psychic force that takes him over. He loses much of his humanity in exchange for even-more superhuman powers. He is taken in by a family of fishermen. Etiz, one of the children, is an orogene and asks to be taken by Schaffa. Schaffa kills most of the rest of the village then leaves with Etiz.

Chapter 4

An injured Hunter is brought back to Castrima, covered in scalding insects. Alabaster destroys one, but the orogeny seems to turn his forearm to stone. Essun kills the rest. But the hunter's injuries are too great; Ykka orders his euthanisation and Lerna carries it out. There's an ongoing turf war between the stone eaters (Hoa and Ruby Hair), seemingly over Essun.

  • The endnotes of these two chapters give more hints at a hidden history: the Guardians predating the Sanze empire, and variations of stonelore discovered and passed to the Fourth university (destroyed while experimenting on obelisks)

Interlude

This talks about a war, or perhaps an eradication of vermin. It seems to be written by someone who considers themselves above humanity, or perhaps in the service of somehing beyond humanity.

Questions

  • Schaffa already knows about stone eaters, obelisks, and orogeny. Do you think the Guardians knew about the obelisk at Allia before Syenite discovered it?
  • The force that rescues Schaffa seems similar to what overtook the Guardian just after Damaya found the Socket in the Fulcrum. What is it? How else may it have been manifesting? How does the surgical damage to Guardians' sessapinae come into it? Do you think we'll get coherent answers to these worldbuilding questions?
  • Essun seems to have very easily given up on the search for her daughter, Nassun. Is this a character-driven decision or a plot-driven one?
  • What does the treatment of the injured hunter tell us about the personalities of Lerna, Ykka, and Alabaster?
  • Who is the narrator of this interlude? Is it still Hoa?
  • Jemisin's trying to say something about who has the right to rule. The Sanzed way is that orogenes are too dangerous to rule and must be controlled, enslaved. Meov and Castrima had orogenes in charge, but solely because of their power, not their wisdom. Both models are "might makes right" imposition of control. Is such a power structure essential in times of crisis?

Comments

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    I guess Schaffa was bound to come back... an antagonist who is indestructible...

    I wonder what he's been up to all these years, and my guess is that he has founded a School for the Eradication of Orogeny from Young Children. which coincidentally we will find that Nassun is being taken to.

    It doesn't make sense to me that Essun would just have dropped the search for Nassun. Except that as we have been saying in another thread, she has almost no self-determination and so arguably has just found another little slot that she can fit into without any real effort. I'm sure that as and when she picks up that quest (most likely after getting disenchanted with Castrima, and probably trashing the place - a future that several of the characters around her foresee) we wil find that Nassun is only just down the road and is easily found.

    The narrator? I am thinking still Hoa (and likewise for the Second Interlude). There was an interesting disjuncture early in ch3, in which Hoa (I assume) says
    "[Schaffa] does genuinely care about [Syenite], you realize (she does not realize)"
    The point here is the juxtaposition of she and you - we have talked a bit about who you is when Hoa is narrating, and the consensus was that you meant Essun. But this has always bothered me a bit - why would Hoa keep on saying things like "you went along the road" when Essun is doing it right then and (presumably) is totally aware of doing it.

    So... my current theory (which I am convinced will need scrapping when the demands of the plot force a change of strategy) is that Hoa's you is a future Essun, not the Essun of the journey from Tirimo to Castrima. This would pick up another theme which is big in the novels so far, that "the same person" can become quite different people as things happen to them. We saw this with Damaya -> Syenite -> Essun. We have now seen it with Schaffa -> ??? and I'm sure there are other examples (Tonkee, from whatever her Leadership child name was, comes to mind).

    You could see this, without too much forcing, as trauma causing dissociation in an individual - different sub-personalities emerge which, if not somehow reconciled, form contradictory aspects to the person. So there might be a case for saying that the whole book is about trauma, internalised in the changes of personality for characters, and externalised in the seasons, particularly the irregularly spaced Fifth Seasons.

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    The thing about this novel that is NOT like a comic book is that there are no super heroes, just various super villains, who go around hurting and dominating each other, and making each other miserable.

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    @NeilNjae said:

    Questions

    • Schaffa already knows about stone eaters, obelisks, and orogeny. Do you think the Guardians knew about the obelisk at Allia before Syenite discovered it?

    I feel that the Guardians are basically the police arm of The Fulcrum, and in this capacity an extension of the Fulcrum leadership structure. So it certainly fits that some or all Guardians would know things that other Orogenes do not.

    • The force that rescues Schaffa seems similar to what overtook the Guardian just after Damaya found the Socket in the Fulcrum. What is it? How else may it have been manifesting? How does the surgical damage to Guardians' sessapinae come into it? Do you think we'll get coherent answers to these worldbuilding questions?

    I do think we'll get answers, but whether they are coherent or not will be a matter of opinion. Perhaps by working together we can come to a consensus.

    • Essun seems to have very easily given up on the search for her daughter, Nassun. Is this a character-driven decision or a plot-driven one?

    I'm not so sure she's 'given up'. Am I mistaken in remembering she was relying on Hoa guiding her to Castrima, thinking she was heading to Nassun? Also, there have been several hints about people hidden in Castrima - so perhaps Nassun is already here and in hiding, in which case she will be revealed at the dramatically appropriate moment.

    • What does the treatment of the injured hunter tell us about the personalities of Lerna, Ykka, and Alabaster?

    That Alabaster is damaged, Lerna pragmatic, and Ykka decisive?

    • Who is the narrator of this interlude? Is it still Hoa?

    Yes, I think so. It fits with your observation that "It seems to be written by someone who considers themselves above humanity, or perhaps in the service of something beyond humanity."

    To respond to @RichardAbbott s thought that the narrator is speaking to a future Essun, I definitely agree. I've been picturing Hoa telling the story to future Essun on her death bed, or filling her in after a catastrophic memory loss, or something like that.

    • Jemisin's trying to say something about who has the right to rule. The Sanzed way is that orogenes are too dangerous to rule and must be controlled, enslaved. Meov and Castrima had orogenes in charge, but solely because of their power, not their wisdom. Both models are "might makes right" imposition of control. Is such a power structure essential in times of crisis?

    This is a really interesting question. I think the public perception is that, yes, strong leadership is required in times of crisis because decisions need to be made quickly. And there's also a public perception (at least in the West) that leadership by committee is weak and indecisive. So I think if you were to ask Jock-on-the-block his opinion, it would be that it is essential in times of crisis. I'm not sure I agree.

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    @Apocryphal said:

    To respond to @RichardAbbott s thought that the narrator is speaking to a future Essun, I definitely agree. I've been picturing Hoa telling the story to future Essun on her death bed, or filling her in after a catastrophic memory loss, or something like that.

    My feeling is that the narrator is Hoa speaking to Essun while eating her mineralized limbs. Stone eaters apparently claim their future meals early on.

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    @NeilNjae said:

    Questions

    • Schaffa already knows about stone eaters, obelisks, and orogeny. Do you think the Guardians knew about the obelisk at Allia before Syenite discovered it?

    Why? Does it matter? They knew about it when the author decided they knew about it.

    • The force that rescues Schaffa seems similar to what overtook the Guardian just after Damaya found the Socket in the Fulcrum. What is it? How else may it have been manifesting? How does the surgical damage to Guardians' sessapinae come into it? Do you think we'll get coherent answers to these worldbuilding questions?

    Answers? Maybe... when she gets around to it. The author is perfectly competent in explaining what she wants to explain, so it will be coherent. I doubt it will connect causally with anything else, though!

    • Essun seems to have very easily given up on the search for her daughter, Nassun. Is this a character-driven decision or a plot-driven one?

    Pfft! Really? :D

    • Jemisin's trying to say something about who has the right to rule. The Sanzed way is that orogenes are too dangerous to rule and must be controlled, enslaved. Meov and Castrima had orogenes in charge, but solely because of their power, not their wisdom. Both models are "might makes right" imposition of control. Is such a power structure essential in times of crisis?

    No. Firm and decisive does not equal might makes right.

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    edited April 16

    @clash_bowley said:

    @NeilNjae said:

    • Jemisin's trying to say something about who has the right to rule. The Sanzed way is that orogenes are too dangerous to rule and must be controlled, enslaved. Meov and Castrima had orogenes in charge, but solely because of their power, not their wisdom. Both models are "might makes right" imposition of control. Is such a power structure essential in times of crisis?

    No. Firm and decisive does not equal might makes right.

    I agree with that. There can be firm and decisive leadership that's still subject to oversight and being held to account.

    In the book, how are leaders chosen? Sanzed uses hereditary Leadership castes. In Castrima, Ykka is in charge because she can destroy the geode and/or shut down the machines that make it inhabitable. In Meov, Innon was in charge for similar reasons of the force of his orogeny.

    Nowhere is there anything that looks like democracy.

    We're back to Tony Benn's five questions to ask of people in power: "What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?"

    Does any polity in these books do well regarding these questions? And that's a problem for the "orogenes are in charge and that makes everything better" subtext.

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > (Quote)
    > No. Firm and decisive does not equal might makes right.

    It all depends on the nature of the crisis. If I was on a ship trying to avoid torpedoes coming at me, I'd want just one person making snap decisions (and there's a separate question as to how said person gets appointed... but the time to do that is before torpedo time).

    If I was in a country facing, say, a global pandemic, I'd definitely want a committee with diverse skills reaching a consensus :)
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    @RichardAbbott said:

    @clash_bowley said:
    (Quote)
    No. Firm and decisive does not equal might makes right.

    It all depends on the nature of the crisis. If I was on a ship trying to avoid torpedoes coming at me, I'd want just one person making snap decisions (and there's a separate question as to how said person gets appointed... but the time to do that is before torpedo time).

    If I was in a country facing, say, a global pandemic, I'd definitely want a committee with diverse skills reaching a consensus :)

    Might makes right is a description of how that person came to power - they were the strongest at the time. It says nothing about their decision-making qualities at all. The snap decision vs consultation question is at its most basic level why governments have different executive and legislative bodies. A dictator may consult with their Junta, just as a naval captain might consult with their officers, when there is time. When there is no time, a snap decision can be made by one person.

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    I was confusing this as a question of 'single authority' vs 'group authority' if that makes more sense of my answer.

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    @clash_bowley said:
    My feeling is that the narrator is Hoa speaking to Essun while eating her mineralized limbs. Stone eaters apparently claim their future meals early on.

    My hesitation with this is that the narrator tells the listener, “Yes.. You are him, too...” (beginning of Ch. 3). And then tells about Schaffa’s near-death. Is the listener an entity that encompasses these identities, even Schaffa’s? Or is the listener Schaffa merely in the way that all our identities encompass those who made us, shaped us?

    Is this what the beginning of the interlude means: “You are made of so many people you do not wish to be. Including me”?

    Schaffa remained Schaffa but became a different Schaffa and also “someone else.” All this brings me back to my thoughts on multiplicities. The one is many and the many one.

    Could it be that the Stone Eaters ingest the memories of the orogenes they eat and thus become them in a way? And we are getting a narrativized version of that process? Hoa-becoming-Essun speaks to himself as he becomes her? But that doesn’t work, because the narrator knows things the listener doesn’t.

    Anyway, I’m caught up on the reading finally.

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    Or the narrator is talking to an obelisk that has assimilated Essun. Or the narrator is talking to Essun whose identity has become fragmented due to exposure to an obelisk.

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    @WildCard said:
    Or the narrator is talking to an obelisk that has assimilated Essun. Or the narrator is talking to Essun whose identity has become fragmented due to exposure to an obelisk.

    Step right up! Pays yer money and takes yer pick! Step right up, folks!

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    @WildCard said:

    @clash_bowley said:
    My feeling is that the narrator is Hoa speaking to Essun while eating her mineralized limbs. Stone eaters apparently claim their future meals early on.

    My hesitation with this is that the narrator tells the listener, “Yes.. You are him, too...” (beginning of Ch. 3). And then tells about Schaffa’s near-death. Is the listener an entity that encompasses these identities, even Schaffa’s? Or is the listener Schaffa merely in the way that all our identities encompass those who made us, shaped us?

    She is (I think) at very least saying that identity consists at least in part of a socially-constructed element, as well as an individual one. With which I have no quarrels :)

    But I am not (yet) sure exactly what she is meaning or trying to convey by this. I don't think she means the same as Jung's collective unconscious. And she apparently wants to tell us that the individual part of identity can change and (in some cases) be fissured completely by life events. As mentioned before, I am tentatively understanding this as a way of describing a person dissociating as a result of trauma, to the point where the prior identity gets submerged and replaced by the new one.

    In this sense, Is Essun the same as Syenite? Perhaps not. There seems more continuity between Damaya and Syenite, and less between S and E.

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