Writer of words. Builder of worlds.

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Down Among the Sticks and Bones Analysis, Chapter 5: The Roles We Choose Ourselves

In Chapter 5, we are given a proper introduction to the Moors, and dine with the people in power.

Despite the chapter title, neither Jack nor Jill are given a real choice in this chapter, not yet. Their new nicknames were given to them. They get to choose their food, but don’t get to see what it is until after the choice is made. Instead, it is the Master and Dr. Bleak who talk about choosing.

What they can choose is what they pay attention to, and how they interpret what they see. Over and over again, we are given the differences in the way Jack and Jill process the situation and react to it. Jack watches the windows; Jill watches the Master. Jack pulls away; Jill follows close. Jack trusts Mary; Jill does not.

So what we have here is Jack and Jill in the in-between. They don’t get to choose through actions, but they do get to choose what they think and how they see things. There is choice in perception. What we choose to see shows who we are, and what Jack and Jill choose to see shows how different they are from each other.

With these differences we get more hints that we should sympathise with Jack over Jill. Jack is the one who takes in more, and who has opinions the reader is more likely to agree with. She’s the one who picks up on things like the three day limit the Master puts on their safety. Jill, on the other hand, trusts the obvious vampire and is more interested in the food than what’s going on around her.

Now let’s look at the adults in the situation. Both the Master and Dr. Bleak seem to have chosen the roles they are in, or at the very least, they don’t chafe at them the way Jack and Jill have been chafing at theirs. They are set up in opposition to one another, the same way Jack and Jill have been set up in opposition with one another. They are also set up to be foils for the twins, or who the twins could be. The Master is first described to us as handsome as a movie star, someone who could be sculpted—someone designed for beauty, as Serena wants Jack to be. Dr. Bleak, however, is described as being practically dressed, as well as ‘sturdy and strong and aching to burn’—strong and ready to act, something Chester desires for Jill. In their own way, they represent the paths their parents wanted, but because of that, they also represent what the other twin desires. Jill yearns to be the beautiful one, the one loved (or looked up to, at least) by others; that’s why she trusts the Master. Jack gravitates towards Dr. Bleak because he represents the freedom she does not have. The dichotomy of the men represents the dichotomy of the twins.

Of course, in this dichotomy Dr Bleak is presented as the better choice, the more trustworthy one. However, they do not leave out the key detail that his head had been cut off at one point. Even Dr Bleak is not free from scars. The narrative and description will not let us forget that this world is a literal horror film. This is not a place for sisterly togetherness. This is not a place to heal the wounds already inflicted on the children. This may be a place where they can be themselves, but it is not a place where they can be safe.

Choice Comfort Reads

Look, sometimes life gets to be too much, to the point where you don’t just want any book. You want a book with no unpleasant surprises, a book you know and love. A comfort read.

Abyss of the Birds

The abyss is Time with its sadness, its weariness. The birds are the opposite to Time; they are our desire for light, for stars, for rainbows, and for jubilant songs.

Olivier Messiaen

Time passes. Each moment is stitched to the next, the seams so small you’ll never see them. You thought the water was cool at first, but now it freezes your skin. You thought the wind was a whisper, but now it screeches and scratches in your ears. Yet nothing has changed. Only the moments that have been passing, one by one by one. Time passes and everything in its path is ground down to dust.

Angelica and Eliza in Hamilton: Political Ambition vs. Personal Stability

Hamilton is a musical about legacy. It examines the concept from several different angles – what is a legacy worth, what control do you have over your own legacy, how far would you go to protect it? This is very evident in the political parts of the plot, but it also comes through in the personal aspects, namely, his relationship with Eliza and Angelica, and how those relationships develop over the course of the story. In many ways, these personal relationships, as presented in the musical, leave more of a legacy than the fighting and writing. Let’s dig into that, shall we?

Who Tells Your Story: Point of View in Hamilton

I’m very obsessed with Hamilton. Like, there was a point where I listened to the soundtrack once a day. As in, I bought the sheet music to learn on the piano. I mean, I signed up for Disney+ just so I could watch the filmed performance. I haven’t written about it before because there’s not much for me to say that isn’t just gushing. The music’s great. The story’s impressive. The lyrics are soooo good. There’s not much I can add to that.

How not to write your story out of existence

Endings are very important. You can enjoy a story all the way up to the end, but sometimes the actual ending will be so bad it retroactively makes you hate the rest of the story.
Many say that the worst ending is “And then I woke up and it was all a dream.”

My Favourite Mulan

Mulan is the first Disney live-action remake I’ve actually been tempted to see. I haven’t gone near any of the others, partly because they feel more like a money-grab rather than a genuine desire to bring something new to these stories, and partly because I don’t actually have a lot of nostalgia for Disney animations. I’m sure I watched them at some point (but not all of them) but they weren’t important to my childhood.

Arrival vs Story of Your Life: New Ways of Thinking

Arrival is a 2016 sci-fi film written by Eric Heisserer and directed by Dennis Villeneuve, and tells the story of Louise Banks, a linguist who helps to communicate with aliens visiting Earth. It is based on Story of Your Life, a short story by Ted Chiang. If you have neither seen this film nor read this story, I very strongly encourage you to do one or the other before reading this blog post. I’m going to spoil both of them, and they are both excellent pieces of craft that do not deserve spoiling. Go now; the blog will still be here when you get back.

Why I dislike Prisoner of Azkaban (the movie)

I stopped watching the Harry Potter movies after the third one. Weirdly, this is the movie that others find most enjoyable, the most creative. I suppose that is kind of why I hate it.

Tribute to La Monte Young

La Monte Young was a 20th century composer who is most well known for his very experimental set of works named Compositions 1960. The most famous, #7, is credited with being the first minimalist piece, being only two notes, a B and and F#, meant to be held for a long period of time. Other pieces instruct players to light a fire, push a piano through a wall, feed a piano a bale of hay, set some butterflies loose in a room (the piece ends when they leave), or just contain cryptic messages, like “This piece is like whirlpools in the middle of the ocean.” There’s also one about grasshoppers. Basically, these pieces challenge the very definition of music and have always been fascinating to me. I recommend you at least check out the Wikipedia page for Compositions 1960, if only to have a laugh. I’m not entirely sure what I was trying to do when I wrote the story, or passage, or whatever, below. Maybe it was a bit of a writing exercise, to see how many references I could fit in. Maybe it was a reflection on these strange pieces, or a tribute. Maybe it doesn’t really matter.

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