Asni: Multimedia Art & Design
The Good, the Ugly, and the Beautiful
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- In this newsletter:
- *** Living on the Internet: The Good, the Ugly, the Beautiful, and the Plain Weird
- *** News and Current Projects
- *** Cool Things Friends Do: Wai Art
- *** Pirates, Vampires, and Tall Dark Strangers, pt 5
Living on the Internet: The Good, the Ugly, the Beautiful and the Plain Weird
A little while ago, I received a rather unexpected email: Erica Challis, better known as Tehanu, one of the founders of TheOneRing.net, and fellow ex musician, asked me if I was interested in providing musical entertainment for the official fan party in conjunction with the upcoming premiere of The Hobbit ... I had to think really long and hard about that!
As you will know if you have known me for a while, I used to be quite involved in a couple of the fan communities that sprang up on the internet in the wake of the Lord of the Rings movies – we were socialnetworking years before there even was Facebook – and it was a contact established through one of those fan communities, which enabled me to come to New Zealand. So I suppose it would qualify as a "life changing experience". I never was a proper member of TORN, for some reason, but I remember I commented on one of Erica's brightly intelligent and insightful articles once, back in the day, and a correspondence evolved. When she found out that I was also a musician, she invited me to play at the fan party for the Return of the King premiere back in 2003.
As you will also know, if you have been following this website and newsletter, I've been quietly withdrawing my support, in terms of evangelizing and free publicity, from The Hobbit – mainly because I've been disappointed by the aggressively commercial direction this venture has been taking, and by the shenanigans around the changes to New Zealand's labour law, a little while ago.
It will never be another Lord of the Rings. That wasn't just a movie, that was a mass phenomenon – and one that has been, literally, "life changing", for a number of us. Lord of the Rings to The Hobbit, is like Woodstock to Live Aid minus the charity. But it may yet turn out to be a decent movie. I have a few friends who are working on it, you know. :) And I will most certainly be happy to be at the party. For old time's sake.
I don't know about you, but I've become strangely fond of those stray emails claiming to be from some long lost relative in Nigeria, and promising me the inheritance of a fortune. I doubt if anyone on the internet does not know by now that "fortune from Nigeria" is practically a dictionary synonym for "scam" (if they ever believed otherwise, or indeed had a relative in Nigeria), but I admit that being addressed as "my best beloved", or some such endearing term, brings a smile to my face, and I admire the wild creativity that goes into some of them. It's like free penny fiction in your inbox.
Some weeks ago, I came across a less endearing scam, and one which is targeted specifically at musicians: I got an email from a "music promotion" company called TURIA MEDIA, offering a "free and obligation free trial" of their services. They "promote your music to exactly the right people". The email was carefully personal and claimed to be from someone who is also in a band, and sounded like it might be genuine, so I googled their website (NEVER click a link in any remotely suspicious email) – to check it out. I failed to find proper information on what their "free trial" was supposed to include – other than the requirement to send them an Mp3 track and some hi-res photos – but eventually figured out that they sell Facebook "likes" for musician pages. Doh. Why they would want the track and the photos, was not explained.
I then googled for "Turia Media scam" (a word to the wise: if ever you get an email you are in the least doubtful about, this is an excellent and very useful combination of search terms, and it only takes a couple of minutes to see if there are results or not -- and guess what, I bet the next person who does it for "Turia Media" will find this newsletter!): turns out that what they do is, they set up computer generated fake Facebook accounts which then boost the likes to your page. Completely artificial, and utterly useless, since these are obviously not real people who can actually buy or recommend your music.
I've posted this on my Facebook page, and some fellow by the name of Gideon Lamprecht, who claimed to be the person who had contacted me, jumped in to say that "there are two sides to the story", and then continuing to promote his scam on my page, without bothering to respond in any way to the concerns I had raised. I had to ban the fellow. Some people have a nerve.
However, Facebook works in weird and mysterious ways, and it seems the post got around to a fair few people, and also found its way to a scam report site -- but if you know other musos, especially those with profiles on Reverbnation or band pages on Facebook, it can't hurt to pass the information on! If they found me, they will probably find them. Cheers.
It is not often that I find things which inspire me with genuine awe. This video of a speech of Australia's prime minister Julia Gillard had me sit captivated and open mouthed for a full 15 minutes of parliamentary speaker time (not a second more, not a second less), and brought tears to my eyes for the sheer shining beauty of it. How she does it, without being carried away by her anger, or losing track from the interruptions, and manages to finish her speech to the second, on a high note, like she does, well, that's an art which is beyond me. But am I ever glad to have witnessed that.
I'm not conversant with Australian national politics and am a bit fuzzy about the context – something about text messages containing derogatory remarks about women – but it isn't really important. What's important is that this amazing lady took the opportunity to stand up and say out loud, in front of her parliament and the Australian media, a number of things which badly needed to be said on the topic of misogyny – and how utterly for granted it is taken in societies which pride themselves on being "egalitarian" when it comes to giving women equal access to leadership and power, or simply the opportunity to live their lives according to their own ideas and choices. My ass.
I am not surprised the video went viral among the female population of the internet. Julia Gillard doesn't speak just for "the Australian women". She speaks for every f*cking woman on the planet. On last count, there were approximately three and a half billion of us. That's quite the constituency. And you know what the great thing is? She isn't some "raving lesbian feminist man hater" posting on some obscure blog. She is the elected prime minister of a substantial nation, speaking in front of her parliament and the media. That might just make her that little more difficult to ridicule and shut up.
It also makes her extremely well qualified to speak about these things. Who would know better than a woman who has had the psychological stamina to withstand the perpetual attacks on her person, of the kind she describes: the ridiculing and the shutting up – and which every woman who has ever aspired to being assertive and self-determined, or even just to have an opinion, will be all too familiar with – all the way to becoming prime minister?
I don't think I need to explain what this is about, to any woman who reads this newsletter. But it seems to me that some men – even perfectly well meaning men, who consider themselves supportive of women and their right to be self determined – really don't get it. Well, it is hard to understand the effects of prejudice, if you have never been exposed to it. So I'll try to put it in my own words:
A while ago, for my final assignment at Natcoll, I made a documentary video which consisted of interviews of several women who were working, or aspiring to work, in film or television. The single most significant thing which was said in those interviews, was a remark by my friend and fellow student, Shobita Jones:
"People don't *like* me when I direct."
That, to me, succinctly sums up what the problem is, these days when there are no real legal barriers to women following whichever professional path they choose. We are allowed to do it. But there will be plenty of people – not just men, no, other women. Not just opponents and detractors, no, friends, family, our nearest and dearest – who will perpetually be telling us that because of this choice we have made to be assertive rather than submissive, to follow our own interests rather than exclusively further those of some other person – we are unlikeable, unloveable, abnormal. Bitches and witches. Monsters. Bossy. Butches. Raving lesbian feminist man haters. We need to see a shrink. We'll never find a man. – And we have to observe that men who make the same choices, who have no more talent or capability or work ethics – and quite often, less – and who act in precisely the same ways which earn us this kind of criticism, and often with far less tact – will attract a crowd of followers and admirers, where we attract a crowd of mud slingers.
Not every woman wishes to make that choice. No woman should have to. And our society will be egalitarian and offering women the same opportunities, when we are admired and loved for what we do, and not ridiculed and shut up.
I love you, Julia Gillard, for standing up and saying that. And I admire you very much.
And the Plain Weird? I didn't know that writing customer reviews on Amazon is the new artform until Jackie Morris pointed it out to me on Facebook. I would, however, have been inclined to think that this product is a spoof – it tastes of The Onion – but no, apparently it's serious. It's got customer reviews. Heaps of them. And if I've been wondering, this past decade, where all that feminism went, and why there seemed to be a recession, namely to Victorian times, then I guess the seed has just lain dormant, and I begin to feel that I will like the '10s very much. This gives me hope. Just be careful with that coffee – it might damage your computer when you splurt it all over your screen.
Wai Art Calendar Exhibition: Waiting for Spring
News & Current Projects
It has been a little while since I've had time and opportunity to put brush to canvas: but this month, it has been on my official To Do list. Wai Art, of which I am a member (more of that below), has been organizing a calendar competition, cum exhibition at the Carterton Events Centre. Members of the group were invited to submit a painting, on a specified canvas of specified size so they would be easier to compare and judge – with the aim of selecting the twelve most popular images (popular by popular vote), to go into a calendar for next year. That, I think, is a really lovely idea, and a great way to do some promoting of local artists.
I admit that for the longest time, I was at a bit at a loss what to paint – should it be fantasy? Season themed? Realistic still life or something out of my brain? In the end, I dug out a sketch I'd done a while ago and which I quite liked, and decided to do a paint version of it. I also admit that I left it to the almost last minute and, personally, felt that the painting might have benefited from an extra day or two of work (trouble with those oil colours is, you have to let them dry inbetween, so the usual last resort – an all-nighter – doesn't really work!) – but the painting has been doing really well when I uploaded it to DeviantArt, so you know, maybe some people will like it.
Another thing I have been wanting to do for a really long time, is to sit under my apple tree when it is in blossom, and paint it. Obviously, there is a limited timeframe within which this can be done, so I am extremely pleased that this year, I managed! Just a humble, quick-ish Photoshop sketch while the light was fading, but I really ought to do this kind of thing more often. It doesn't take a lot of time, is very relaxing, and I've now gotten to the point where I am usually really pleased with the result! :)
My shiny new London Art College certificate has arrived in the mail. So now I am a formally qualified artist! And with Distinction, no less. I've only gained a Distinction once before – for my M.A., in musicology. Which is not what I am most famous for. I never got any particularly ravishing grades for my music performance degrees, unless the distinction of almost failing the final exam is indicative of something (the only person at my school who ever managed to *really* fail, is now really famous, and, I believe, teaching there. :P) I try not to think too hard about these things. Let's hope they got it right this time! :)
Some weeks ago, I got my last bit of feedback from my tutor John "The Other" Byrne – who emphasizes that he is not John "The Real Famous" Byrne – but hey, it still sounds good on his student's cvs, doesn't it? :P He seems – as far as one can tell from communicating via college feedback terminal, and the occasional forum post – an awfully nice guy, and doesn't seem to suffer from the widespread artist syndrome known as "overblown ego" (otherwise he would certainly insist that he is, in fact, John "The Only Real" Byrne.) I was a bit suspicious of the fact that most of his feedback has been extremely flattering – I have been a teacher myself, and I know that the students I flatter and encourage are either the ones who are only making the first steps and need a lot of encouragement – or the ones who really are so good that there is little to say! I wasn't quite sure which one I was...
I'm glad I did it though I have been questioning, now and then, the wisdom of investing as much time as I have done in something that is not directly contributing to my currently most urgent problem, i.e. find a way to ensure that I'll be able to pay the bills once my stack of pirate treasure runs out! But when I look at the pile of assignments I have created for this course, there now really is no excuse left to not get going and send my portfolio out to some publishers and agents. Wish me luck! — And here is me on the London Art College student honours list.
I have already announced my upcoming involvement in the upcoming TheOneRing.net fan party for the upcoming premiere of The Hobbit: The party takes place on 26 November at the Amora Hotel in Wellington. I am scheduled to play from about 7 pm to 8 pm, for the "queue party" where people buy or pick up their tickets – we figured it would be too noisy for a harp inside the party proper. There will be CDs and calendars for sale, and Erica has also suggested that I should show off some of my artwork, which was really very kind of her. I'll be attending the party afterwards – so if any of you dear cherished readers happen to be there, come say hello!
I also continue to update my photo galleries and write my photography blog: this month, I added some images from a trip to Paradise (Glenorchy), aka Lorien. I'm starting to get enquiries for previous year's editions of my Middle Earth New Zealand calendar, so make sure you get a copy of the 2013 calendar before it sells out!
The other day when browsing for my name on the net – no, not because I am a narcissist, or not much, but I find it is good practise to do this once in a while, for I now generally come across stuff I might need to knock someone over the fingers about asking permissions, and attributing copyright – ok, where was that sentence going? Ah yes. I found this blog which prominently features some of my Earthsea images. Which is in and of itself, really cool and very pleasing and exactly what we hope to happen – except that permission hadn't been asked, so I had to do a bit of knuckling over fingers. The blogger was really nice about it and he now *has* my permission. I'm glad he didn't pout and take the pictures down. There is that risk, with trying to be a good internet citizen and standing up for one's rights. Copy and otherwise. And anyway, let it be said – I usually have no problem at all with that kind of thing, and it will just cost you asking, but I'd LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT IT! So I can, for instance, boast about it in my newsletter. Please.
The indefatigable Jackie Morris – who has already inspired one of my rants about Writing Strong Women a while ago – recently posted a thread on Facebook asking about the first books people could remember reading. She got so many replies, and found so much passion, that she turned it into a blog post – and I chipped in with a bit of a plug for M. M. Kaye where people might see it, because that author deserves to be much more famous – and seeing that the novel which has been the subject of my musings for the last several months, was indeed the first proper adult romance novel I ever read. It's an interesting blog post, and interesting comments, you can find it here.
I've now got most of the vegetables and things I wanted to plant into the garden, and am waiting for the end of the winds and the nice nurturing spring rain. There isn't much to report, but it looks very pretty – in pink, magenta, 50 shades of purple, and bright red. And my mother's rose has now started to blossom! Pity I can't post a picture of the smell.
Wai Art calendar exhibition. Images are © the individual artists – please refer to the Wai Art website
Cool Things Friends Do: Wai Art
When I first shifted to the Wairarapa – now almost three years ago! – I attended a weekend class about writing and illustrating children's books, with Viv Walker and her writing partner Ali Foster (I've featured their latest collaboration in a previous newsletter). Viv told me about the Wai Art Group, and suggested that I might want to join – so I went along to one of their monthly meetings, a year or two ago, and instantly decided to sign myself up as a member.
The Wairarapa is one of those places where artists live – it's cheap, it's beautiful, it's rural but not too remote, offering easy access to Wellington. Precisely all the reasons why I 've moved here, and never looked back. So Wai Art is a reasonably large group of people, ranging from professional and established artists, to those who do it for serious fun. The group organizes quite a number of events and opportunities, throughout the year, for the local artists to get their works seen, and hopefully, bought.
The newest initiative is the Calendar Exhibition: members were invited to contribute a painting, on a canvas of specified size, for a calendar to be made and sold next year. The paintings are currently on exhibition at the Carterton Events Centre, where people can vote for their twelve favourites, which will make the cut. There are 31 paintings in total – so wish me luck, or even better, go vote for me! :) – And did I mention? The paintings are also for sale. Yes, mine too. At a *very reasonable* price. If you don't live in or near Carterton, you are welcome to email me. It's not too large for shipping. :)
Wai Art calendar exhibition. Images are © the individual artists – please refer to the Wai Art website
Pirates, Vampires, and Tall Dark Strangers – Part 5
*** spoiler warning: plot details of M. M. Kaye: Trade Wind will be discussed in the following article ***
If I thought I would be able to wrap up this article, which has turned into a much longer rant than I originally intended, in this newsletter, then I am afraid I was mistaken! I am not sure why the fictional love lives of a couple of fictional 19th century people would seem so important to me, but who knows – it might be therapeutic. And the more time I spend thinking about this novel, the more angles I find from which to look at it. Well – I promise to be done by Christmas! But what a fascinating trip down memory lane it has been, to rediscover a favourite romance novel from my teens, and find that on closer inspection, it reveals a depth and complexity of meaning which I have never fully understood before: M. M. Kaye's historical romance Trade Wind is set in mid-19th century Zanzibar, which was at the time one of the last bastions of the African slave trade. It is the story of Hero Hollis, a rich Boston heiress who travels out to fight slavery, and maybe marry her cousin Clayton Mayo – and Rory Frost, a ship's captain of questionable repute who is known as a slave trader, and who fishes her out of the water when she goes overboard in a storm.
"I like to write books that are like beautiful cakes with files inside – the get-out-of-jail kind of file" – that's a quote from Rebecca Wells, the author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. But it could equally well apply to M. M. Kaye. The lurid cover illustrations, the synopses which make it out to be a tale of exotic adventure involving dashing pirates, palace intrigues, Arab princesses, ripped petticoats, stacks of cursed gold, ships sailing off into glorious sunsets, and a feisty damsel who sets out to fight slavery but winds up having to "choose her love and unravel her destiny", try to sell us her book as "just another bodice ripper". But it touches on themes as wide ranging and deep as anything we have been taught to regard as "serious literature". And the fact that it comes along not as a respectable literary work of weighty meaning, but a lighthearted, even "trashy" romance novel, would begin to seem like deliberate camouflage – much like certain types of fantasy and science fiction are deliberate camouflage, to express ideas which are often far more radical than anything one finds in more "respectable" genres of literature – for those who know how to read between the lines.
For while the author expertly juggles the character and plot elements she has inherited from a couple of centuries of romance novel writing, she also questions them at every turn. She twists them around and then laughs at us, defying expectations we didn't even realize we had, daring us to look behind the conventional phrasing and the surface glitter, to take another look at the all too familiar scenes and situations, and telling a story that is so radically different from the usual plot that it took me, who considers herself an experienced reader with a fairly solid level of reading-between-the-lines skills, a couple of months of chewing it over, to even begin to figure out what story it is that this book *really* tells.
The story it tells is one about prejudice and double standards, cultural blindfolds, guilt and what we construe as guilt, forgiveness and what we can or cannot forgive. About freedom, and the price we have to pay for freedom. About getting out of jail – all the jails we make for ourselves, and the doors we could walk out of, if we only realized they were open. It's about the baffling complexity of the relationships between East and West, owners and owned, men and women. It does not come along preaching and pointing. It does not hand opinions or solutions to the reader on a silver plate. It challenges us to come face to face with our own preconceptions, prejudices and cultural blindfolds, in the very way it is written.
And yes, it is also about love – the whole messy, bungling, hurtful, fearful process of two people working out their feelings about and for each other, and what it is they can give each other, that comes with no guarantee of ultimate success. It is the story of a young woman who loses her innocence – in every sense of the word – and who is not punished for it. That makes it a story which hasn't been told (much) since Adam and Eve.
Hero systematically survives everything women are taught to be afraid of – rape, unwanted pregnancy, miscarriage, walking the streets of Zanzibar town on her own, hanging out with social outcasts and dark skinned people, and loving the "wrong man" – as well as a few things which most women never put themselves in the way of: such as going overboard in a storm, or being beaten up by a hostile mob. She is a Fallen Woman who finds that her Fall – the loss of innocence, the gaining of experience and self-knowledge, the discovery that she has a body as well as a mind – not only makes her a fuller, more likeable, and ultimately happier person, it also enables her to act more efficiently in the world. It gains her the profound respect of those people in her social circle who do not barricade themselves behind conventional morality. And rather than being driven out of the Garden, with Rory she quite literally finds it.
Both Hero and Rory are people who refuse to play the part society expects of them – and neither of them cares to, or indeed knows how to play by the accepted rules of courtship.
Hero insists on getting involved in reform projects and active benevolence, rather than enjoying the privileges of her station, and rather than "observing propriety", and playing the part of future wife and mother her relatives expect of her. Her doting, widowed father treated her more as a son than a daughter: she knows how to shoot and ride, likes to be physically active, prides herself on her unemotional rationality and direct outspokenness, and finds flirting vulgar. Other characters variously describe her as "the tall woman who walks like a man", or "looking like a cabin boy in skirts" – although there is nothing unfeminine about her looks and figure, which are generally acknowledged as being of a classical, if somewhat cool, beauty.
As a young child, an old gypsy lady told her her fortune, and ever since she has been convinced that one day, she would travel to Zanzibar – her uncle's appointment as consul there is indirectly caused by herself! Her mother, who died at Hero's birth, had been a passionate abolitionist, and Hero has inherited her mother's idealism and passionate support of "causes" – in her case, the suppression of the slave trade, as well as the improvement of living conditions in "uncivilized" spots such as Zanzibar. She is spoilt and naive, but she is also strong-minded, and serious enough about her purpose to volunteer at a charity hospital (much to the dismay of her relatives), in order to get some hands-on training in nursing.
Rory initially puts her down as another self-righteous, stuck-up Western moralizer, but he soon finds that Hero has a great deal of genuine human warmth and compassion, which tend to override her acquired social prejudices: she shows this in the instant liking and continued concern she has for his little daughter Amrah, a child who, being a "bastard" and mixed race, is considered socially unacceptable by the rest of the Western community – and in the friendship she strikes up with Batty Potter, who is most definitely not "educated", and a self-confessed former thief and bigamist besides.
Even before she arrives on Zanzibar, Hero has heard about Rory Frost: though he is introduced to her as despicable riffraff, he immediately tickles her interest, and in her mind she casts him as a "pirate". The first time we (and Hero) actually meet him, he is kneeling over Hero in what would under other circumstances be a very compromising position indeed: but he is just trying to revive her after her near-drowning, by applying some crude form of artificial respiration. We learn that Rory has a smattering of medical knowledge and does all the doctoring on his ship: among all the other romance novel clichés which the author deftly weaves into her story, Hero and Rory can thus play Doctor and Nurse. It also establishes Rory as someone who cares for other's wellbeing, even if (like in the case of his efforts to revive Hero) he does it none too gently.
We then watch Rory hold a cup of brandy to Hero's lips, doctor her black eye and the cuts and bruises on her hands, trim her hair into shape after Uncle Batty has made a botched job of cutting off her salt-tangled tresses, and dry her tears, in a rather motherly manner, when she has a fit of the nerves about how Clayton will react to her appearance, on the day of her arrival in Zanzibar. Batty, for his part, brings Hero food and looks after her while she recovers, and does a good job of mending her hopelessly torn dress. All very dastardly pirately activities, to be sure! Hero also has time to notice that Rory keeps a clean and tidy ship – good housewife that he is.
Rory treats Hero with a casual, mocking friendliness which must have been a stark contrast to the deferential gallantries she is used to hearing from men of her own social circle. They "talk together" quite at length, and on topics of considerable variety and depth, but while Rory seems to rather enjoy pulling her leg, and challenging her view of the world and pre-conceived morals, she finds him infuriating: they certainly don't "find themselves in agreement" on practically any subject at all!
Some of the things they say to each other are genuinely hurtful: having realized his identity, Hero lectures Rory on the iniquities of the slave trade and gives him to understand how utterly she despises anyone who takes part in it. He lashes back, in the old time honoured manner (see my rant about Julia Gillard's misogyny speech above), by calling her attractiveness as a woman into question. Even so, an intellectually curious woman like Hero is bound to find Rory's conversation more intriguing than the sweet, patronizing nothings her male fellow travelers used to feed her, when she tried to quiz them about life on Zanzibar.
That he – or anyone – might want to "attack her virtue", does not even enter Hero's mind. She actually feels rather hurt by Rory's assurance that "for anything in the nature of my personal pleasures I only kidnap pretty women"! She hasn't yet realized what it is to be physically attracted to a man – or that men might be attracted to her. She is used to being called a beauty, but she is also used to men making a hasty retreat when they discover that the beauty has a mind which she does not hesitate to speak. She is a 22 year old rich and very handsome woman who has never yet been kissed, and Clayton Mayo is the only man who has ever shown a serious interest (Hero tries to ignore suggestions that his interest is mainly in her fortune). She probably lies awake at night sometimes and wonders what the heck is wrong with her!
Hero also isn't used to being, simply, liked: when Batty Potter develops a predilection to spend his time chatting with her, she puts it down to an order to keep her under surveillance. Little Amrah will later gain her lasting affection by pointing a finger at her and saying "I like you". And the reader knows, even if Hero doesn't, that Rory's perpetual teasing and laughter only mean that he might well have done the same.
Where in other romance novels much would have been made of their surreptitiously noticing the other's physical attractions, or displaying symptoms such as increased heartbeat, shallow respiration, and mental confusion in the presence of each other, Hero's and Rory's interactions at this stage feature a conspicuous lack of erotic tension. Out of necessity, there is quite a degree of physical familiarity: for someone who, as we are explicitly and repeatedly told, dislikes being touched, Hero has surprisingly little objection to Rory's efforts at reviving, doctoring, and hairstyling her – but they don't think of each other as attractive. Hero is disfigured by her bruises, and Rory takes her for much younger than she is. She finds his pale eyes unsettling, for she has read in some women's magazine that they are the sign of a deceitful nature. Besides, he is a slave trader, eewwww. Which doesn't mean that she isn't somehow disappointed that he treats her "like a cabbage" – especially when, on arrival, her relatives insist that he must have been making advances to her, and need some convincing that she hasn't "lost her virtue".
Their curiosity about each other has to do with figuring out what kind of person the other might be: Rory finds Hero's moralizing tiresome, but he admires her courage and spunk. He is clearly intrigued by this mermaid which has swum to him, and he doesn't quite know what to make of her: nearly every time we see them together, there is a point at which Rory studies her for a moment in silence. She takes him by surprise more than once, and she is capable of crossing Rory's best laid plans: something which, I am sure, not many people before her have achieved.
Hero, for her part, has no hesitation to browse through his books, or borrow his cambric shirt. And she does draw him out: he finds himself telling her quite a few pieces of his personal philosophy and view of the world. At one point Hero, having lectured Rory about the evils of the slave trade, asks him if he has no compassion? Has no one ever been kind to him? Forgiven him things? His mother? And he blurts out: "She ran away with a dancing master when I was six." Coming from a character as emotionally chilled and perpetually sarcastic as Rory Frost, that statement glares off the page. He probably hasn't spoken about it to anyone for the last thirty years!
Rory has what is referred to in manager speak as "leadership qualities". He is both charismatic and highly intelligent, and he has been forced to fend for himself and survive on his own wits since an early age. He is very well read, cites Persian poetry as well as Latin aphorisms, speaks and writes Arabic and is fluent in the local culture to a level that allows him to move among the local ruling class, and be respected and befriended by two sultans of Zanzibar, and the leaders of the Gulf pirates. He is able to make decisions, and to act in the way he considers most appropriate to the situation, even when it means breaking a law, shouldering moral guilt, or facing averse consequences to himself. Though he generally makes the greatest effort to avoid the latter, he knows full well what the consequences to himself of Hero's abduction will be, and eventually he is prepared to sacrifice himself for his crew and household, when they are threatened by the cholera epidemic and there is no other way out.
At one point, Sultan Majid points out to him that "had you been born an Arab you would surely have risen to be a great King or Commander of Armies", and asks him why he is content with so little: but Rory is not an ambitious man – he does not hunger for power or recognition. Even his material greed has a well defined goal: a sum he has set himself, so he can pay the lawyers to reclaim his family estate. But when the moment comes that he reaches that sum, he finds that he has no real inclination to follow through: retribution in the name of justice suddenly does not seem like a good enough motivation. What he wants is his freedom: to live his life on his own terms. This, in turn, is what he gives up when he asks Hero to marry him. Not only will he have to negotiate sharing his life with someone who has very different, and very passionate ideas about duty and morality and sticking to the law – she is also someone whom he cares about very deeply, and who therefore has the ability to hurt him very deeply. And that Hero and Rory are fully capable of wounding each other, they have already demonstrated throughout the first half of the book.
Emotional involvement is the one thing Rory Frost has run away from all his life. He has been suffering through abandonment, emotional and physical abuse as a child, and consequently, his views on family and close human relationships are none too favourable. He deliberately keeps his life free of emotional ties, and hides his kinder impulses behind a wall of sarcasm and mockery. Amrah, his daughter, to him is "a mistake – and a bad one", because try as he might, he can't completely shut her out. He bought her mother, Zorah, off a slave trader when she was still a child, out of a sudden compassionate impulse – and not with a view to making her his sex slave! – but when she grew up he took her into his bed out of a passing fancy, and since she happens to live in his house, the arrangement became official: though apparently, since Rory does not wish to repeat the mistake of fathering a child, she has for a while been his mistress in title, rather than in actual fact.
When Hero meets Zorah and Amrah, and learns of the arrangement, she is outraged. "You bought her?", she asks, and Rory feels the rebuke to be justified: he may have given Zorah her freedom, but to her it was meaningless, because she had nowhere else to go, and no other way but to adore him as her personal hero. No emotional risk whatsoever involved to himself. It was easy, and convenient, and her unconditional devotion cost him a few coins and a bolt of cheap cloth.
Still, he cares about her enough to think of bringing her a small piece of jewelry from Sultan Said's fabled gold treasure as a present (with fateful consequences), and he feels very protective of her: but he relates to her much as if she still were a child in his care, not an adult woman. I wonder if he ever asks her "what are you thinking of", as he does Hero! Rory's grief and fury at Zorah's death seem to stem, not so much from any particularly deep love he had for her, but from the fact that she, along with Batty and Amrah and Ralub, was one of the few people whom he has allowed to become part of the surrogate family he has found himself, to make up for the family affection he has never known – and from the guilty awareness of how little he has given her in return. Besides, if he hadn't chosen to make her his mistress, it is unlikely that Clayton would have targeted her. Her death hits him hard, because it is not something he can just laugh off.
Hero's views on men and marriage are largely formed by her rather priggish former governess: Although Hero is never quite sure about her feelings for Clayton Mayo, resents his demonstrative possessiveness, and dislikes being touched by him, she deems him suitable as a husband because she "feels very strongly that marriage is not an estate to be entered into on the basis of mere pleasure in another's company, and that one should look for more than that." More than that is: "She already knew Mr. Mayo to be serious-minded and eager to do good, because they had enjoyed many talks together and found themselves to be in complete agreement on a wide variety of subjects." Besides, he is very handsome, in a fashionable, "Byronic" sort of way – though I suspect Hero would never admit that this might influence her!
The feelings Rory Frost evokes in her, are not in Hero's book. There is, in turn, gratitude, curiosity, wounded vanity, scorn, hurt, agitation, protectiveness, fear, anger, contempt, outrage, a resolve to get him driven off the island which is her main motivation for supporting the palace revolt, a tendency to think a lot of angry thoughts about him a lot of the time, to always know if his ship is in harbour or not, to worry about his little daughter and be mentally absent while her friends are discussing her wedding dress, or to be abruptly woken from a reverie when his name is mentioned in conversation – and ironically, the morning she wakes up after her rape, there is pity. "He must, she thought, have loved that girl Zorah very deeply to have done such a thing. It would be terrible to love someone so much and lose them so tragically." – a remarkably charitable thought for a woman to have about the man who just raped her! Perhaps it is because for the first time, she has caught a glimpse past that wall of laughter, mockery and sarcasm behind which Rory usually hides his really rather emotional self. It also tells us that she does not really think as badly of him as she wishes to make herself believe: for all that she thinks him "capable of anything", she does not think he is a man who would normally do such a thing.
I bet Hero's governess didn't teach her about "she could not hear his voice without remembering it murmuring endearments, or look at his hands or his mouth without recalling the caressing touch of them: the slow delight of his kisses." Or about how one can at the same time hate someone bitterly, and be unable to bear the thought of them dying slowly in a locked cell – or dangling from a hangman's rope. Underlying it all is, from the very beginning, and despite everything she thinks or says or knows about him and his questionable activities, a great deal of intuitive trust. It never occurs to Hero that Rory would really harm her – even while he is in the process of abducting her! – and it is to him that she turns instinctively in a moment of crisis.
Still, for Hero, none of this sums up to the concept of "being in love". Because what "being in love" is supposed to mean, in Hero's day and age and for someone of her social class, is illustrated by Hero's cousin Cressida and her suitor, the navy officer Dan Larrimore. Cressida *knows* that she is in love with Dan – because she is supposed to be. He is socially compatible, and he observes the usual rituals: visits to her house, compliments and conversations, taking her out for rides, the occasional social occasion. They have a quarrel, but when Dan believes Cressida in danger, he comes to her house, pulls her into his arms and kisses her passionately in front of the assembled group of people, just like the Happy End in any Women's Lending Library novel – and thereby dissolves any doubts his flame might have had.
Cressida, who is a mere seventeen, is then quite explicitly handed from her father to her future husband, who will "love and protect her always." The only independent action Cressida undertakes in the entire novel consists of an attempt to emotionally blackmail Dan Larrimore into abandoning his duty, as her way to lend her support to the palace revolt which she, along with Hero, has been manipulated into supporting by people who have a well defined political agenda – though not the one they profess. The critical observer might well wonder what kind of a marriage Dan and Cressida will have: will poor Cressy ever get a chance to grow up? Will she continue to try to control her husband through emotional manipulation? And in which way is their relationship different to the one between Rory and Zorah – apart from the fact that Zorah is a lot less demanding, or manipulative?
Hero, on the other hand, has not a clue she is experiencing symptoms of "being in love" with Rory. Their acquaintance has been all topsy-turvy, and the wrong way round: She starts out by sailing on his ship and occupying his cabin – and his bed, minus him in it – which in the normal course of things, she would have done only as his wife. Hero will have been accepted as a member of Rory's household, taken a mother's place with his daughter, and been pregnant with his child, before either of them conceives the idea that this might be love, let alone think that they should marry. It is not so much that Hero is unaware of her feelings: it's that the varied, confusing, and ambivalent things she feels about Rory are so unlike anything she has been taught to expect from that mysterious state of "being in love" – and Rory Frost so unlike the kind of man whom she might have been expected to fall in love with.
When I first read the book at age 14, my impression of Rory Frost was much the same as Hero initially has: that he is a man who is used to being always in charge of the situation, someone who is in control both of himself and of others – someone whom it would be better not to cross. Not a person in whose company one would feel too comfortable or relaxed! It wasn't until I re-read the book recently, after a few additional decades spent meeting people and observing the human condition, that I noticed how much of a Little Boy Lost he also is.
Much of Rory's swagger and bravado is just a way to conceal insecurity and diffidence, especially when it comes to matters emotional – and some profound sense that he is not worthy. When they first arrive on Zanzibar, Rory suggests that in order to protect Hero's reputation, they pretend that she has been picked up by Dan Larrimore and his crew, who have stopped his ship to inspect his cargo. He points out that "one cannot touch pitch without being defiled", and that in the opinion of the European community on Zanzibar, he is "pitch personified".
Hero and Dan both suspect that he is more concerned about protecting himself than her – and throughout the book, whenever Rory acts or proposes to act in a way that is helpful to a member of the Western community, they instantly suspect him of having selfish and possibly criminal motives. Rory generally reacts to this with a "what do I care" attitude, but as the story progresses, one becomes aware that it must frustrate him enormously. And it has consequences: Zorah pays the price for the disdain the other Europeans have for him, for part of Clayton's motivation for abducting her was that he "thought it would rile Frost."
It is perhaps for this reason that Rory seems genuinely delighted when Hero sneaks out of the consulate behind her relative's back in order to pay Rory the official thank-you visit she promised him as his due, and which they have refused to even consider. She clearly goes up a notch or two in his esteem precisely because he is aware of her subterfuge: Rory always seems to be comprehensibly up to date with the island gossip, and to know what anyone does on Zanzibar at any given time (amusingly, he takes quite a keen voyeurist interest in the progress of Dan Larrimore's pursuit of the fair Cressida), and so he knows that the rest of the Hollises have gone for a boat trip when Hero pays her call. He is amused, but he appreciates that she went to so much trouble to fulfil her promise – though he warns her again that she should be careful not to have her name associated with his.
Next time they meet, however, she snubs him horribly: He discovers on this occasion that she is not the bedraggled street urchin she had seemed to him, but a very beautiful woman indeed, and he tells her so quite bluntly. Hero reacts with an equally blunt refusal to ride with him and hear what he wants to tell her, and Rory, who has so far been laughing and teasing in his usual manner, is suddenly "deeply and coldly angry". I used to take it that he is angry because she has got in the way of his plans regarding the smuggled rifles, but now I think he is simply hurt by her snub, and by finding that she now treats him with the same contempt as the rest of the White community does. Again, he reacts by hurting her in turn: and again, it is along the lines of calling into question that anyone – even Mr. Mayo – would find her attractive, despite her good looks, and that she had better "strive to conquer those defects before it is too late". With the predictable result that she hisses and spits at him, then leaves him standing! Hero is not a girl who reacts positively to him – or any other man – "asserting their dominance" . At no point in the book.
If Rory cooks up the whole oldfashioned melodrama of abducting and raping Hero in retribution for what her fiancé has done to Zorah, it is probably because he genuinely does not know what else to do in order to get through to her. He hides the real reason – that he is, quite simply, very attracted to her, and does not seem to know how to express this to her except by body language – behind a whole construct of pretexts and excuses: It is a retribution for what Clayton has done to Zorah. He must warn Hero about Clayton. He is jealous of Clayton and must prevent him from getting his hands on her. He wants to see if he can turn an admirable piece of statuary into a woman of flesh and blood.
All of which he does, but none of it justifies the action, and he finds that it ends up creating the single biggest obstacle that stands between them: his guilt is mainly what keeps him from thinking he has any right to ask Hero to come with him and marry him, or indeed think that she could possibly return his feelings. At one point, he looks at her and sees what "the mob and the past weeks and he himself had done to her": she has developed a fine case of anorexia after her rape, and is thin to the point of emaciation, and it hurts Rory to see the evidence of the emotional pain he has given her. However – unlike Clayton, who tries to blame everything he has done on others, and even has the nerve to tell Hero that her coldness toward him has "driven him" to abduct Zorah – Rory looks steadily at the results of his actions, and does not flinch away.
When he offers Hero and the orphan children asylum at his house, Rory does so without any expectation of getting anything in return, beyond the satisfaction of being able to help her do something which he also feels is the right thing to do, and to pay some of his debt. His support of her efforts is as unconditional as Zorah's adoration for him once was, and he does not so much as try to lay a finger on her, or insist on getting her attention and making her aware of how he feels about her.
Even after they have spent weeks or months living in the same house and running an orphanage together, he barely gets up the gumption to ask her to come with him, and that only after being prompted by a mutual friend. But what we see him do is "he came into the room and held out a hand to help her to her feet as though he were confident that she would not refuse", and his actual proposal comes out as "You didn't think I'd leave you behind, did you?" – which is clearly preposterous, given that a couple of pages earlier he "fought a battle with himself, and lost it", because he knew that he "shouldn't. That I ought to do the right thing – well the sensible thing anyway! – and get out and stay out." Perhaps the moment he says it, it suddenly seems absurd to him that he should ever have thought anything else. But Hero is indeed reluctant: Rory tries to convince her that if she wants to do good works, she could make a "useful and law-abiding citizen out of a no-account slave trader", but that isn't good enough for her. He has to address his abduction, her pregnancy and the loss of their child, and he has to tell her that he wouldn't have asked for himself, but is now asking for her sake, before she finally gives in.
Duplicity, deceit, double standards, and things not being what they seem, is another set of themes that weaves itself through the narrative: the double standard by which Hero's and Zorah's rape, and Clayton's and Rory's identical actions are judged. The way the Western community presumes that their way of doing things is intrinsically superior to that of the people on Zanzibar: That their women are freer, and better educated. That an American citizen could demand the abolition of slavery in the Sultan's territories, while it still hadn't been made illegal in their own country. That life in the West is intrinsically preferable to that in the East. There is Clayton's double life and clandestine trading activities, Thérèse Tissot's deceit about the real reasons why she supports the palace revolt, and Princess Cholé's deceit about why she wishes to involve the Western women in her plans to overthrow Majid – and to what length she is willing to go. There are Hero's secret forays into the city, and Rory's attempt to undermine the rebels by selling them, through a "misunderstanding", the wrong kind of firearms – his secret mission with the Gulf pirates, the double game he turns out to play with regard to his slave trading activities.
And there is the way in which both Hero and Rory hide their own motivations, and the true nature of their feelings, from themselves. The story is largely told from Hero's point of view, and so we are privy to her inner monologue, which is frequently at variance with what her actions and reactions tell us about her. There is often both a conscious and a subconscious level to what we see her do: does she burst into tears, the last day on the Virago, because she is nervous about how Clayton will react to her ravaged face – or because it is goodbye to the Virago and its crew? When she meets Zorah, and realizes her relationship to Rory, is she morally outraged – or disappointed to find that there is a woman in his life? When she visits Amrah, and later decides to move in at the Dolphin's house to nurse her, is she just worried about the child, or is it also a way to maintain a connection with Rory? Does she get drunk, that night at Kivulimi, because she *wants* Rory to take advantage of the fact?
That last question, which the author leaves to provocatively open, does, I think, get answered in the end. When Rory asks her to marry him, he tells Hero that their mutual friend Thérèse told him that she'd wanted the child she'd conceived on the occasion, and that she couldn't have done so unless she loved him. He then asks, not "Do you love me?", but "Did you want it?" – I used to take it that even at that point, he can't quite muster the courage to put the question directly – which may well have been what was intended. But it occurs to me that perhaps he doesn't ask, "Did you want the child?", but "Did you want the act that led to the conception of the child." Can I absolve myself from raping you that second night, at least. And she says "Yes".
Hero – like most young women who don't want to be 'sluts' – is perpetually torn between the things her upbringing, and other people, tell her she ought to feel about Rory Frost and the way he treats her ("impertinent blackguard slave trader"), and how she actually feels about him ("he has been very kind to me". "I want him to find me attractive". "I wouldn't be alive without him". And presumably, later on: "he knows a lot, and he takes me seriously enough to discuss the slave trade and Zanzibar's politics with me, which none of the other men I know has done". "his household and crew all hold him in great esteem, and I like the people he surrounds himself with". "my own family are being very rude to him". "he looks hot in those Arab clothes". "I cannot imagine that anyone would ever be bored in his company". And even later on: "he has raped me and I have to hate him, otherwise I will be a whore", versus "I don't want them to hang him, certainly not on my account". "what he told me about my fiancé is true, and what Clayton did is horrible, so how can I judge him". "why has no one called the doctor for his daughter, when they know he is in prison and can't do it himself". "I feel responsible for his, and Zorah's child". "I can't keep myself from thinking about him". "I can't bear the thought of him dying". "he has helped me save all those children, when my own family told me to put them back in the street and let them starve". "I don't want to lose his child").
He disturbs her. He doesn't fit in with the well-laid plans she has for a comfortable life well within the boundaries of "propriety". She wants him to "go away", and she wants him to get driven off the island. The conflict is very similar to that in Ursula Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan: Hero acts much like Arha/Tenar, who has been taught that it is her sacred duty to kill the male intruder who desecrates the underground labyrinth she is given charge of – a metaphorical, rather than an actual rape. Tenar keeps telling herself that she will kill Ged, even while she instead brings him water and food, hides him so the other priestesses can't find him, and begins to talk to him. Just like Ged, Rory represents the possibility for Hero to view the world a different way, and to break free from the stifling protocol which imprisons her. The Tombs of Atuan appeared in 1971, eight years later than Trade Wind, and is widely regarded as a milestone in addressing "feminist" topics in popular fiction.
But where in The Tombs of Atuan, the male wizard eventually liberates the female priestess, who runs away with him while her own world crumbles to pieces behind her – the implication being that, despite being physically trapped, spiritually the wizard was already free – in Trade Wind, the process of liberation is completely mutual. If Hero is entrapped by the expectations of 'propriety', of her family and her society, then Rory is sitting in a prison of his own making. And he needs Hero more than she needs him: by the end of the book, he has already set her free. We could imagine Hero returning to Boston and devoting herself to 'good works'. She might even have had Rory's child: her family would cast her off, but no doubt she would eventually assemble her own surrogate family, just like Rory did. She doesn't need her family's approval: she has an independent fortune – a detail no female author ever forgets, from Pippi Longstocking's suitcase full of gold coins, and Virginia Woolf's five hundred a year, all the way back to Clarissa and her inherited estate, which she has foolishly given over to be managed by her father – the same father who tries to brutally coerce her to marry the detestable but rich Mr. Solmes, because of the material advantages of such a marriage to himself.
Rory's original social background is not so different from Hero's: they share an upbringing, a type of education, and a set of cultural values, despite all their differences of experience and opinion. But he turned his back on it when he was fifteen, and he can't have had much occasion to meet women who are "well brought up". When he first meets Hero, he knows instinctively that she is no "Billingsgate doxy", despite her vandalized looks, by the way she acts and carries herself – and he responds to it by dusting off the remnants of his English Gentleman. But he would probably be far more comfortable around a Billingsgate doxy.
As long as he can treat her as a child, he does ok, but once he knows she is a grown – and beautiful – woman, he is completely out of his depth. He has no concept of being "polite" to a woman like her – which on the one hand, intrigues her, but on the other hand, is why Hero fails to understand that his behaviour towards her is perfectly friendly, verging on fond, and his blunt, forthright compliments perfectly genuine. She takes them as disrespect and impertinence. Rory, for his part, is frustrated by her aggravated reaction to just about anything he says to her: be it statement of fact, advice, criticism – or an outright compliment. And on the few occasions, after her arrival on Zanzibar, when he has the opportunity to talk to her, he always ends it by abruptly pushing her away.
He does not at all think that he is good enough for Hero: He thinks that her marrying Clayton would be "like throwing pearls before swine", but he does not consider himself as a possible alternative. And if Hero is emotionally illiterate and fails to interpret her feelings towards Rory correctly, then Rory is emotionally crippled: he has never had a child's normal opportunity to learn about loving and being loved, and he has spent years, if not decades, deliberately starving his need for affection. For the longest time, he is not even aware that he has any feelings towards Hero. He has convinced himself that she is not the kind of woman he could find at all attractive, and that he does not want to fall in love anyway, and he is taken completely by surprise by his own "passion and ecstasy", those nights they spend together at Kivulimi.
From that point onward, he is lost at sea. But he doesn't run away from it, or think it's not important: he sets himself doggedly to figuring out what he feels and why he feels it. It takes him a long time to puzzle out what exactly drove him to do what he did, and why, despite the disastrous consequences, he can't bring himself to truly regret it. He does not expect to ever see Hero again: indeed, his offer to send the Hollis ladies out of Zanzibar on the Virago, to keep Hero safe from the cholera, is on another level also an attempt to send her away, so he won't have to deal with whatever might happen if he did meet her again. When he learns that she has repaid his rape by looking after his sick child, and that she is still in Zanzibar, he has a violent emotional reaction which he reads as "a fury of anger" – because anger seems to be the emotion which is most readily accessible to Rory Frost, and which he finds it easiest to admit to. Barely out of his prison cell, he then runs to her house "with no very clear idea in view beyond telling them all exactly what he thought of them", and only when he sees her standing there, does he understand what the matter with him is.
Rory has to learn about facing up not only to his feelings, but to the consequences of his actions – and that his selfishness and thoughtlessness, his temper, and his confrontational attitude hurt not only himself, but those he most cares about. He has to stop running away. When Hero chooses to go with him to his house, because that way she can save the orphan children, her uncle casts her off – but the rest of the European society on Zanzibar doesn't. In giving Rory the opportunity to support her in this task, she offers him a way back into the fold of the society he himself also originally came from. It is surely largely for Hero's sake, that the British Consul eventually lets him go – and at the end of the book, they are heading not for China or Sumatra or some other exotic location Rory has been toying with in his thoughts, but for England, where he will reclaim his family estate: with a better reason than mere vengeance, for now he needs a home for his family.
At various points in the book, Rory is described, by himself and others, as selfish. No doubt some of his actions are – as would be true for most humans. But then some of his actions strike me as remarkably selfless. His giving up his cabin for Hero's use, when she finds herself on board his ship, may be a small thing, and only what is expected of a gentleman when he meets a lady – but Rory does not have to choose to act like a gentleman, and he did not have to treat Hero as a lady: as he himself points out, at that point there is no observable difference between her and a Billingsgate doxy. (Not that he, presumably, would have treated the Billingsgate doxy with less kindness – but other people certainly would!)
But Rory chooses to act the gentleman, and treats it as a matter of course. He gives up some of his personal comfort for the sake of someone who needs it more, and finds himself another place to sleep. It is exactly what Consul Hollis and Clayton Mayo will later refuse to do, when Hero brings the starved orphan children to the consulate and expects that they will be looked after there. Hero has, up to that point, been so sheltered and spoilt that she does not even realize it is *not* a matter of course: on the contrary, she expects Rory to drop everything and sail her to Zanzibar immediately, and takes it as selfish rudeness, not to mention an attempt to hold her for ransom, when he points out that he needs to attend to his business first!
Rory's most conspicuous act of selflessness is when he gives himself up to imprisonment and a death sentence, in order to keep his crew and household safe from the cholera. It might appear to have been a futile gesture: he is too late, Amrah has fallen ill and cannot be moved, and the Virago never sails. But it gains him some grudging respect from the British consul – who has already on a previous occasion, rather unexpectedly, discovered a measure of empathy with Rory over the matter of Zorah's death, and who will come to acknowledge that "the fellow can't be as black as he is painted". And it sets in motion the series of events which will lead to the establishment of the orphanage, and Rory's eventual rehabilitation – and his marriage to Hero.
Even his abduction and rape of Hero is, in a sense, a sacrifice. It is born out of a reason-blinding rage, and Rory's justifications – both acknowledged and unacknowledged – are, at best, questionable: but the fact remains that he has prevented Hero from walking into the trap of a marriage to Clayton, and that he knew full well that it would cost him his liberty – and that she was unlikely to return him any thanks!
By the end of the book Rory has been run through the grinder quite thoroughly – he has a good old midlife crisis, and I picture him starting to grow his first grey hairs. He loses so much, and is so genuinely and deeply contrite, that it must be a hard-hearted reader indeed who would not want Hero to forgive him in the end. His unconditional support of her efforts, and the way he puts his own feelings aside, are a long way removed from the cocksure soldier of fortune, prone to thoughtless rudeness and impatient bursts of temper, whom Hero initially meets.
When he promises Hero, in the end, that "in future I shall try to keep on the right side of the law", we know that the author intends him to keep his promise: in the revised edition of "Death in Zanzibar" which was published after the success of "The Far Pavilions", she added the information that the "hell raising" ancestor of Kivulimi's current owner was a "reformed man" after he ran off with the niece of the American consul! But there is no illusion that their marriage will be a "happy ever after". Both enter into it reluctantly, and with a lot of doubts as to the wisdom of it. But I reckon the very fact that they never have those illusions, or will ever be able to take each other for granted, gives then better odds for a marriage that "works" in the long term, than say, Dan and Cressida. And underlying their obvious differences, they do have a lot in common: they are both headstrong and impulsive, curious and compassionate. Hero obviously sees herself in Rory's little daughter, and if his circumstances had been different, Rory might well have turned into a gentleman scholar with a passion for horse races, like Hero's father.
The measure of selfishness, in this novel, is Clayton Mayo, Hero's fiancé: he gradually outs himself as a thoroughly self-centered, spineless and dishonest slime bag, incapable of taking responsibility for his actions, or even seeing the wrong in them – or of ever putting himself into another person's shoes. Where Rory hurts when he witnesses the pain he has caused, Clayton judges everything that occurs only with regard to how it affects himself. He is the person who is ultimately responsible both for Zorah's death, and for Hero's rape, yet he finds excuses for the former – even tries to blame his action on Hero's "coldness" which has "driven him to it"! – and his thoughts about the latter are that "even that shocking abduction would prove in the end to have its uses, in that it would not only give him a hold over her, but provide him with an effective answer to any future criticism of his own behaviour." That Hero could not fail to be grateful for his magnanimity in still marrying her, and that she ought to repay him by "studying to become an uncritical and accommodating wife."
Can you blame her that she rather marries the man who raped her? Not me.
*** To be continued ***
Arohanui, from Asni