The Dream Archipelago Week 7: The Miraculous Cairn conclusion

1

SUMMARY

  • Lenden and Bella meet Father Confessor Henner in the Seminary, and he shows them to her dead uncle's house. Lenden finds the place uncomfortable and wishes not to stay, but seems duty bound to see this through.
  • The Seminary seems to care little for them. They deny them special accommodation which was supposedly arranged in advance, and force Lenden to sleep either on the floor or in her sickly, long-dead aunt's bed with unwashed sheets.
  • Lenden is also forced to deal with her uncle's affairs quickly. The best stuff has seemingly already been taken by the Seminary itself. Those things that can't be carried away or incinerated are to be shipped away at Lenden's expense.
  • In the evening, Bella once again tries to draw close to Lenden, but Lenden remains emotionally aloof, and cannot explain why.

  • The action shifts again to the past. Lenden is in the tower, while Seri has gone outside to be with the priest.

  • Lenden feels a presence in the tower, something bestial. She is drawn to a hole in the wall, and it seems maybe the beast is within. She put her arm in and the beast grabs it and starts eating it.
  • Lenden undergoes an episode of panic and tries to withdraw her arm. The creature gnaws on it and wont let go.
  • Then suddenly, the beast opens its mouth and she withdraws her arm. She finds it whole and unharmed, though her clothing is shredded.
  • She leaves the tower in a hurry. Outside, Seri is nowhere to be seen. But she does see the priest suddenly stand up, then flee.
  • Lenden runs to the spot the priest was and finds Seri on the ground, naked with clothes scattered about. Seri laughts hysterically and asks "Do you still want to touch me?"
  • Lended runs from her, back to the house where Aunt Alvie is being held by her parents over a chamber pot. The scene devolves into shouting, screaming, and a quick exit by Lenden and her parents. Lenden never sees Seri again.

  • Back in the present, Lenden tries to find this tower again, if only to satisfy her that it still existed. She cannot.

  • Bella continues to try to break Lenden's shell. Lenden mistrusts her. They express, on the surface, an interest in one another and promise to visit each other, but after this trip ends. neither ever follows through on this.

DISCUSSION/QUESTIONS

  • There's a lot of symbology here, and Neil pointed out last time. It seems obvious that what happens to Lenden inside the tower is mirroring what happens to Seri outside the tower. What's the significance of the tower, the beast, or the hole, if any?
  • Of what significance, if any, is Father Confessor Henner's behaviour?
  • What of Bella's? Why try so hard to break in, but then never follow through?
  • Lastly, please share any thoughts on the story as a whole.

Comments

  • 0

    First, what an excellent story (I thought) - for me, this was far and away the best so far at showing CP's writing skills. Poignant, certainly, but appropriately and effectively so. Like so many other of his stories that we have read together, without real resolution, but in this case it worked, and fitted the content perfectly.

    I continued to like the near parallels between Seri and Bella, and the very different responses to them that Lenden had as teenager and adult. I ended up deciding that they were not the same person, but represented two varying facets of experience and opportunity. As Lenden said, Seri awakened something, but the whole context of that early encounter also quenched something.

    The arm being eaten - this certainly evoked in a kind of inverted way what happened in Whores. There, an apparently benign and pleasurable encounter left terrible wounds later on (though whether these were real or just in the protagonist's war-befuddled mind we still don't know). Here, an apparently desperately painful encounter seems to leave no trace. I totally accept @NeilNjae 's suggestion last week that the whole scenario conveys abuse, and that damage need not be visible to be real. But it's interesting that CP has these inverse routes into pain comparatively close to each other in the book.

    It also reminded me of Dune's gom jabar - obviously that was by way of an imposed test and had a clearly explained purpose within the narrative, whereas we are left to make of this what we will. But it left me wondering what the Bene Gesserit might have meant by a person who failed the gom jabar dying. Dune, and the Bene Gesserit, are amply subtle enough to not necessarily mean physical death, and perhaps the ongoing failure to relate to other people that Lenden is powerless to escape, is its own kind of death.

    I'm also swinging towards @clash_bowley 's suggestion that the stories we are meeting are not really intended to all be set in the same world. They describe, perhaps, an archipelago of closely clustered worlds as much as islands. This one, in which the Seignority and presumably the Catholic Church kind of run the show, to the extent of directing how the police gather information and act on it, is rather different to any of the worlds we met in Islanders, or thus far in The Dream Archipelago. There have previously been no suggestion that the church, insofar as it has been mentioned at all, has any such power or even interest in power. We are here in an almost parallel world, I think.

    Bella's actions. Curious, I agree. Why so interested to take the initiative in the first place ("it was she who pursued me, she who took the initiative, she who made the love") and never follow through, unless in fact the reality of experiencing Lenden was just disappointing - "I was to Bella the older woman, more mature and presumably more experienced" but in fact neither more mature nor more experienced. I suppose if I was Bella (always a dangerous line to pursue with a fictional character) I would wait for Lenden to take some active role.

    And of course in this week we get the dramatic reveal that Lenden is a she not a he, but we covered that last week.

  • 0

    (And I still have not found the cairn...)

  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:

    • There's a lot of symbology here, and Neil pointed out last time. It seems obvious that what happens to Lenden inside the tower is mirroring what happens to Seri outside the tower. What's the significance of the tower, the beast, or the hole, if any?
    • Of what significance, if any, is Father Confessor Henner's behaviour?
    • What of Bella's? Why try so hard to break in, but then never follow through?
    • Lastly, please share any thoughts on the story as a whole.

    My guess is that Lenden puts her hand into a vagina dentata - in other words she associates sex with pain, probably because of some terrible traumatic episode with Seri and/or a priest, which she has papered over in her mind and replaced with this elaborate fantasy. As a result of this, though she wants and yearns for other women, the closer they get, the more she withdraws because of this deeply buried fear.

    I have no idea what is up with Henner. it's like he wants Seri's family expunged, as if they had never been,

    The closer Bella approaches Lenden, the more Lenden freezes up in fear. She realizes she will never fix what is wrong with Lenden and gives it up as a bad job. Smart woman!

    I have noticed sex in CPs work is always tortured and nasty. I have no idea nor do I care what his private life is like, but it can't be happy...

  • 1
    edited June 2021

    @RichardAbbott said:
    First, what an excellent story (I thought) - for me, this was far and away the best so far at showing CP's writing skills. Poignant, certainly, but appropriately and effectively so. Like so many other of his stories that we have read together, without real resolution, but in this case it worked, and fitted the content perfectly.

    I agree with that. It was a very good story. I'll blame the quality for me not stopping when I should have!

    I continued to like the near parallels between Seri and Bella, and the very different responses to them that Lenden had as teenager and adult. I ended up deciding that they were not the same person, but represented two varying facets of experience and opportunity. As Lenden said, Seri awakened something, but the whole context of that early encounter also quenched something.

    I was curious about that too, but in the end the difference in ages indicated they were different people. Seri was about the same age as Lenden, but Bella was much younger.

    The arm being eaten - this certainly evoked in a kind of inverted way what happened in Whores. ... But it's interesting that CP has these inverse routes into pain comparatively close to each other in the book.

    Good point. Is it that Cairn is about the victim of abuse, and asking us to undersand that, while Whores is about the perpetrators of abuse? In Cairn, we get an insight into Lenden's pain; in Whores, the officer gets to understand the pain inflicted on others.

    I'm also swinging towards @clash_bowley 's suggestion that the stories we are meeting are not really intended to all be set in the same world. They describe, perhaps, an archipelago of closely clustered worlds as much as islands.

    I could well believe that.

    Another observation, which I can't remember if I've shared before. All these stories revolve around visitors. None have the viewpoint character being a native. The archipelago is somewhere you go to have an unusual experience, then return changed by it.

  • 2
    Much like a dream…
  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:
    Much like a dream…

    Exactly. And rather different from the impression gained from The Islanders, of being a definite place. The two books make a nice contrast.

  • 1
    edited September 2021

    @clash_bowley said:
    My guess is that Lenden puts her hand into a vagina dentata - in other words she associates sex with pain, probably because of some terrible traumatic episode with Seri and/or a priest, which she has papered over in her mind and replaced with this elaborate fantasy. As a result of this, though she wants and yearns for other women, the closer they get, the more she withdraws because of this deeply buried fear.

    I wonder whether Seraphina exists only in Lenden’s imagination and that it was Lenden who was raped by the priest, with Seraphina, the den, and the tower (with its attack by the animal) all invented to cover the trauma.

    Sorry for the months-late comment. My personal life has slowed down a bit for the time being, and I’m catching up on the reading.

  • 1
    Yes, that seems like a plausible interpretation.
  • 1

    I was going to say the same: it could well be that Lenden was imagining more that just the encounter in the tower.

    And I'm glad you're back, @WildCard !

Sign In or Register to comment.