Thursday, February 6, 2014
waiting for him
It is better if you don't fall in love inside a Mary Gaunt story at all, since the ones who experience love in person so often end up dying or in pain and the ones who have it in their imaginations are so often using it to cope with terrifying or miserable situations.
If you insist on falling in love in person then the author will anatomise your emotions and see that you are a network of selfishness or at least blindness until the reader suspects that Mary Gaunt, who keeps returning to the subject of romance as if she loves it and cannot keep away because she adores it so much, is secretly a pessimist who is warning you against real life romances because the imaginary ones are much more quick, complete, loving and satisfying. They don't take up a lot of time and you can get back to whatever it was that you were doing, eg, not getting burnt to death in one of her short stories, The Doctor's Drive.
In these cases (the imaginary romances) the author is sometimes only using your romance as a little nice touch of spice for the larger story, ie, won't it be sadder if this character gets burnt to death now that we know he has a fiancée "waiting for him so patiently"?
So that you might despise the fiancée, who is only a well-worn emotional tuggy-tactic being deployed in a nonreflective manner at a strategic moment, and you might wonder why you should care whether the protagonist will get back to marry her or not, if you even wonder about her at all, which you don't; you register the fact that the author is using a device that you've seen before, and you identify the response you are expected to have to it, and you understand that the stakes have been raised even if you don't believe a single word. The protagonist is no longer existing in the present moment only: he is being tied to a past and a possible future; the future might change, and so the meaning of this device is nothing more nor less than the entire universe with all the planets rolling around on strings of cosmic force forevermore until the Big Bang reverses itself, assuming that it ever existed, a huge area of subject matter all accessed through this word "fiancée."
Every corridor has been narrowed down to two in this story, life or death for the doctor, and to go one way will be a relief and the other way will be terrible. His death in this fire is not only a matter of flesh burning (a person being translated into the cooked state that has become the destiny of so much other meat, flesh of chickens for instance) and a life ending, it is also a matter of fairness and manners. If this person has been waiting for you "patiently" -- for a long time, in other words, or what seems to her like a long time, or at least a period of time when she could have been doing something interesting -- then your death is not only agonising to you, it is also rude to others, and you have penetrated all the elementary borderlands of courtesy until you are hurtling through the uncharted clouds like a free star or meteorite.
The fiancée is probably a coloured flag that has been stuck in the top of the idea so that you will notice it more clearly.