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2013 Reads > AO: How did you view Mori as a character? (Expect spoilers)

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message 1: by Nathan (last edited Jun 06, 2013 05:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Fairly recently there has been a dustup about likable characters. While the objection to likable characters is for the most part based on the same kind of snootiness that literacy types use to look down on genre writing, I agree that a character does not need to be likable to be good.

For me, Mori was not likable for most of the book, but I liked reading about her. Most importantly, I can relate to her.

I relate to her as a nerd that went through my teenage years before the internet. I relate to the passion she feels about the books she reads. I relate to the emotional aftereffects of abuse, not because I went through it, but because people I care for have. I relate to the unease with one’s self, and I relate to her struggle.

But honestly I tend to have a problem with teenaged protagonists, like Mori or Kvothe in Patrick Rothfuss's work. They are often unfailingly foolish and arrogant while having an unhealthy amount of self-pity.

It seemed like almost everyone was a moron of some sort to her, though moron was a way for her to label an "other" in her life, when a bit of understanding would be better.

Her freak out with her Aunts on Christmas was a huge tantrum more appropriate to a 4 year old than a 14 year old. Yes, they should not have tried to force it on her, but there is a way to reject things like this and remain firm while still acknowledging the good intent of the giver. This might have been too ask given Mori’s fragile emotional state though.

But she was going to be cursed and loose her magic, etc.!

You don't find it strange that Mori keeps saying she knows nothing of Magic other than what the Faries tell her to do, yet she suddenly is 100% clear on the what pearcing her ears will do? I do believe that there is Magic in the story but what she says about her own knowledge of it makes me doubt her the reliability of what she says.

He endless agonizing over the Karass spell after it was cast was foolish. The time for worrying about the consequences of your actions is before you do them. If it is what she says it is Unleasing it or thinking you are unleasing it before you think about it is irresponsible and immature. Personally I am not even sure that it worked. If it is easy to deny magic because it works subtiliy, it would be easy to see it everywhere if you look also.

Agaonizing about it afterward, whe you would never really know how it worked was foolish too. If you cannot know in any satisfactory way the truth of the matter, the endless questioning was pointless self-flagellation, especially after she vowed not to do it again.

I could go on, but for all her faults, Mori is endearing because she walked an outside path with all the bumps and bruises that go along with it. I am glad the author gave us a character that was human in every detail, including her flaws.

As I have stated in another thread, I view this book as Mori's journey to fit and create a place for herself in life.

She literally starts the book among others ("These are not my people") while possessing an otherness that she herself cultivated both externally (make them fear me) and internally (her common terming of people as morons, her refusal to relate to other people or even really try to understand them most of the time).

As the book progresses and she finds a place she seems to step back from being an "other" to a more self-assured and hopefully self-accepting place.

It is this journey that I love about the character and the book. Far from often talked about Hero's Journey, it is a journey a Nerd's journey, the journey of self-acceptance and perhaps love.


message 2: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 818 comments I once asked a co-worker/former English professor for a reading recommendation, specifically saying I didn't want to read messed up characters. She recommended Winesburg, Ohio; I didn't make it past the first story. It's like, it may be an amazing book, but it's NOT WHAT I WANT TO READ RIGHT NOW! [ahem]

Among Others is seriously next.

Anyway, on the subject of genre vs literature, I once read an article online by a guy who was with a bunch of literary people who were sniffing at the genre book he was reading. He thought about what they were saying and realized that there's a different base assumption; literary novels are often about taking a person who's broken and fixing them. Genre novels are often about taking a situation that's broken and fixing it; to a literary reader, where's the story? No one's broken! I'm not sure how far you can take the analogy, but I think it's interesting.


P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments Just to extract a small morsel from an interesting OP, I found Morwenna's agonizing over the karass spell to me a substantial sign of her emerging maturity. Whereas young Mor and her sister did the fairies' bidding without really considering the consequences, Morwenna is adult enough to know that messing about with the universe in unpredictable ways is a task to be approached with serious caution, if at all, and that goes double if you're potential mucking about with the free will of other human beings. It's the type of caution her aunts, for example, don't even consider when they're trying to remove Morwenna's free will by getting her ears pierced. You seem troubled by her "freak out." They were planning on ripping away her abilities, her freedom, without asking, including her final remaining connection to her sister. As a relatively powerless teen, what options did she have other than the quite firm "no, not under any circumstances" she gave them?

I found her likeable, particularly her tallying of various sticky buns. She is honest, empathetic, and loyal. Nothing wrong with that. Margaret Atwood should be ashamed.


message 4: by Nathan (last edited Jun 05, 2013 02:21PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments @ P. Aron, Personally, I think the time for agonizing over the consequences of your actions would be before you take the action. Once it is done it is done and you live with the consequences and take necessary precautions not to do it again.

We don't even know if the kurass magic worked. The flip side of being easy to deny magic is that it is easy to see it everywhere, even if something is coincidence.

Mori experienced multiple, deep psychological traumas in short succession, substantial abuse, losing a loved one, potentially witnessing murder (I believe she mentioned she saw her mother pull the plug on her sister), being taken from her home and what loving family she had, moving, Meeting family she never met, almost being raped by her drunken father (which she seems almost numb to, probably a reaction to the successive traumas), and starting a new school.

Anyone experiencing one or two of these circa 2013 would probably be sent to counseling and recieve medication. She has none of these. Having some limited experience with people that have gone through stuff like this (though not so many things at once), they occasionally can have extreme reactions to seemingly small things. Sometimes they do not know why the act as they do. Think of news reports of people with PTSD and you might get an idea. If there is someone who is a real professional who wants to correct me on this, go ahead.

Which takes us to the aunts. We have no idea what their true intentions are. The facts are: they gave Mori a generous gift, a family heirloom, and offered to get her ears pierced.

Mori's reaction: A screaming tantrum (at least that is how I read it).

Given her psychological state and her continued protestations of not knowing how magic works, I found her explanation that it would take away her magic etc. (a revelation out of the blue with no explanation), doubtful.

Having spent most of the book up to this point pushing people away her reaction seemed to be a great shove, saying "No, I do not want to be part of this family."

I guess you can say this: Like you, I found her to be honest with everyone but herself. And that is what makes her a particularly tricky unreliable narrator and a great character.

Again, this is from my reading of the book. Yours may differ.

BTW An adult way to deal with the situation would be to say something like, "Thank you for the gift. I know it is very precious, but I will not get my ears pierced. You can take back the gift if you want to."

@ Serendi It seems this book combines both the literary and genre attributes you talked about.


Michele | 1154 comments Hmm, I remember the scene as her saying no in a panic, then trying to be polite and offering the earrings back, and then the aunts keep insisting and try to get her father to force her and finally she runs out in a temper. One even takes her the next day to the jewler and tries to force her again to have them pierced. It comes across kind of sinister for Mori's pov. It seemed a very acceptable response for a 15 yr old to me.

We aren't sure if she's over-reacting about how wicked her mother is when she does the magic for a karass, but her agonizing about it until she finds the book club just seems to be a way of fighting off disappointment if it doesn't happen. Then once she does find it, and is accepted by the members, well, a person with low self esteem would suspect herself to be unworthy of belonging to any such group. At least she wants them to accept her for real instead of because she spelled them into it. And when she finally confesses to Wim, it seems like a big step in the right direction, jeopardizing their new relationship for truth, accepting the consequences of her actions.

A 15 yr old girl is a tornado of emotional messiness, even one who hasn't suffered any of Mori's traumas. Walton got her thoughts very believable without being over-the-top whiny, at least to me. Bella in the Twilight books being a prime example of the wrong way to do it.


Leesa (leesalogic) | 625 comments I felt her alarm over the ear piercing was justified. She felt magic on them, she trusted her gut, which in her world is where a lot of magic brews. This is a girl who understands magic, and the connection of things, and the connection of things and magic.

The farther along I read in this story, the more I feel I have in common with Mori. From relating the things she reads in her SF to the realities she encounters, her indignant opinions about who can be compared to, say, Tolkien and who shouldn't dare, to musings about sex (while trying to be logical/matter-of-fact), not wanting to deal with her growing breasts, just... trying to understand her world, feeling like an outcast, and a whole lot awkward.


Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments As the mother of one teenager, one former teenagers and as a former teenager myself, I can unequivocally say that all the things that Nathan dislikes about Mori are all typical of teenagers.

"They are often unfailingly foolish and arrogant while having an unhealthy amount of self-pity." is a great description of a normal teen. I remember being that way myself, even if I didn't think so at the time.

Her freak out with her Aunts on Christmas was a huge tantrum more appropriate to a 4 year old than a 14 year old.

Teenagers, especially young teens like Mori, are going through a huge number of changes. The often throw tantrums equal to the tantrums they threw as toddlers. Throw unaccustomed hormones into the mix, and the smallest things can set them off. Once again, normal teen behavior.

Considering everything that Mori has gone through, I think she's remarkably resilient and well-adjusted. To dislike her because of normal teenage behavior is to have forgotten what it is like to be a teen. I, for one, love Mori because she is so normal.


Katina French (thatdarnkat) | 48 comments Sandi - I'm with you, as the mom of a teen myself. There's a lot of seesawing between adult and childish behavior. Especially that heightening of the emotional content of what would seem to adults to be a relatively unimportant thing.

Believe me, right now I really wish that wasn't typical teenager behavior.

And I kind of like that you don't know for certain whether the Aunts were exactly what she feared, or just kind of overbearing fuddy-duddies used to emotionally manipulating people. In a way, that uncertainty puts you on the same shaky ground as Mori.


message 9: by Nathan (last edited Jun 05, 2013 07:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments @Sandi I never said otherwise. I just generally do not like surly childish, people that let their negative emotions run wild like bad BO without regard to others. I find it interesting people are focusing on that part of the post.

It is her flaws that makes her an intresting character though. An upstanding model of perfect behaviour just would have made a bad story, and as you say, an unrealistic one.


Julia (dazerla) | 216 comments P. Aaron wrote: "Just to extract a small morsel from an interesting OP, I found Morwenna's agonizing over the karass spell to me a substantial sign of her emerging maturity. Whereas young Mor and her sister did th..."

That's how I read it as well. I wasn't sure if my own situation around this age with a couple of relatives and my 'unpopular' cloths was coloring my view of the scene or not. Glad to see that someone else viewed her response as justified.

Also, aren't the Aunts taking away her body autonomy? Having ones ears pierced is awhole lot more permanent than wearing cloths that make you uncomfortable to,please relatives. And under those circumstances she has every right to say no, and when her Aunts refuse to listen to throw a tantrum. Really, in that situation what other choice did she have, they weren't taking no for answer.


D. H. | 100 comments Thanks for this post. I like what you wrote about Mori's journey.

I agree the character doesn't have to be likable for the story to be good, and while I could really relate to her, I didn't find her unlikable. But then again I'm probably relating to her being foolish and arrogant with an unhealthy dose of self-pity.

I felt her Christmas freakout was realistic for a teenager, but also that she had to go extreme make Daniel act against his sisters.

By reducing her freak out to this: "they gave Mori a generous gift, a family heirloom, and offered to get her ears pierced." It makes me think that you didn't believe in the magic that was in the story.

You might also summarize it this way: "they gave her powerfully cursed earrings and tried to take away her ability to use magic."

The freak out was all she had at her disposal.

I thought the agonizing over the Karass spell was important because it showed how she was different than her mother. Of course, we didn't really know how her mother was, but it showed that she wasn't evil because she didn't want to infringe on the free will of others.

I also liked what Aaron said, "I found Morwenna's agonizing over the karass spell to me a substantial sign of her emerging maturity."


message 12: by Nathan (last edited Jun 06, 2013 05:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments I will add my responses to the OP since it is easy to overlook what I am writing.

Julia wrote: Also, aren't the Aunts taking away her body autonomy?"

Sure, but no but if she did not want the Aunts insensitive and clumbsy persusasion then she should have left the room in control of herself.

By reducing her freak out to this: "they gave Mori a generous gift, a family heirloom, and offered to get her ears pierced." It makes me think that you didn't believe in the magic that was in the story.

You might also summarize it this way: "they gave her powerfully cursed earrings and tried to take away her ability to use magic."


1. You don't find it strange that Mori keeps saying she knows nothing of Magic other than what the Faries tell her to do, yet she suddenly is 100% clear on the what pearcing her ears will do? I do believe that there is Magic in the story but what she says about her own knowledge of it makes me doubt her the reliability of what she says.

The earrings themselves are magic, but so what? She states pealers have their own magic if used for a long time by the same person. It just shows her Grandmother wore these earrings allot.

I thought the agonizing over the Karass spell was important because it showed how she was different than her mother. Of course, we didn't really know how her mother was, but it showed that she wasn't evil because she didn't want to infringe on the free will of others.

I also liked what Aaron said, "I found Morwenna's agonizing over the karass spell to me a substantial sign of her emerging maturity."


Again, the time for deep consideration of one's action is before one takes it. That she did not do this was a sign of immaturity would you not agree?

I have to bring it up again. How do we even know the kurass magic worked? Again: She keeps saying she knows nothing of magic except of what the faries tell her to do. If it is easy to deny magic because its effects are subtitle (except for the last scene apparently) would it also be easy to see magic where it is not?


message 13: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Nathan wrote: Sure, but no but if she did not want the Aunts insensitive and clumbsy persusasion then she should have left the room in control of herself."

She's a teenager. I remember being a teenager, and full of rage at the slightest thing, like I was about to explode. The only way you can think of to make someone listen to you is to scream and make a scene. The calmness of grown-ups comes across like they're not listening and don't care, so the idea of leaving the room in a controlled manner just isn't possible. They are, in her mind, ganging up on her, trying to control her and how she chooses to live her life.

It also doesn't have to make sense. Being a teenager is extremely confusing as it is. Add magic to that and not knowing whether or not it will effect her probably made her panic.

And I completely felt for her in this section - the idea of having my ears pierced repulses me.


Steve (plinth) | 177 comments
But honestly I tend to have a problem with teenaged protagonists, like Mori or Kvothe in Patrick Rothfuss's work. They are often unfailingly foolish and arrogant while having an unhealthy amount of self-pity.


Is it that you don't like teenaged protagonists or teenaged protagonists that act like this?

If it is the former - that's fair, it's a matter of taste. If it is the latter, I can understand that, but this is pretty much every teenager. Have I ever told you about the time that my peers and I decided to organize and run a road rally? At least three of the organizers were straight-A students. We spent a fair amount of time coming up with ways to ensure that participants would not cheat (as opposed to the whole being just a bad idea). The only reason I didn't participate was that the car I had available to me was a 1970 VW bug which had 0 pickup and I figured I already lost.


message 15: by Nathan (last edited Jun 06, 2013 06:33AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Louise wrote: "Nathan wrote: Sure, but no but if she did not want the Aunts insensitive and clumbsy persusasion then she should have left the room in control of herself."

She's a teenager. I remember being a tee..."


I never said it was not realistic or it should not be there. I just did not like the action. Let me quote myself:

It is her flaws that makes her an intresting character though. An upstanding model of perfect behaviour just would have made a bad story, and as you say, an unrealistic one.

________________

Is it that you don't like teenaged protagonists or teenaged protagonists that act like this?

If it is the former - that's fair, it's a matter of taste.


It is the former, as I have been trying to say. I really do not see what is conterversal about not liking bad behaviour. One can understand it, but is still bad.


message 16: by Louise (last edited Jun 06, 2013 06:48AM) (new) - added it

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments I suppose its because it isn't really "bad" behaviour. Yes, by modern adult standards it isn't considered appropriate, but Mor isn't being deliberately "bad". She is, from her perspective, being perfectly rational and by calling it "bad" you are assigning adult values to a character who isn't yet an adult.

However, I can totally understand why you don't like reading characters like that. I personally don't much like modern teenagers either - disliked them when I was one, don't like them now. But I liked Mor, because she behaved differently to the teenagers I knew when I was younger. Possibly just because I can see her thought processes :)


Michele | 1154 comments I think Nathan that you seem to be saying she behaved badly and some of us are saying no she didn't, she behaved like a normal teenager. We seem to think her behavior, while dramatic, was not at all bad or unjustified.
And so it comes across, to me anyway, as though you basically don't approve of people who aren't rational and calm and in control of their emotions and actions at all times. Which seems to imply a bit of grumpy old fart-ism.

Since you say that you understand she's being a typical teenager, and that you just don't approve of her actions, perhaps you mean that you can't relate to her or sympathize with such a character, which is completely understandable. I'm trying to clarifiy our responses because I don't think you mean that all characters should be robotic or inhumanly rational before you can like them.

And of course you don't have to like a character to enjoy a story, but I'm guessing that many of us do like Mori, identify with her, sympathize with her and so we are defending her.

This discussion seemed to getting circular or not really going anywhere productive, so maybe we can get this cleared up.


message 18: by Nathan (last edited Jun 06, 2013 07:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments And so it comes across, to me anyway, as though you basically don't approve of people who aren't rational and calm and in control of their emotions and actions at all times. Which seems to imply a bit of grumpy old fart-ism.

I think people need to think of others as well as themselves. Explosive negitive emotions where you lash out at others hurt people, would you not agree? If thinking people need to be responsible for their own emotions and not hurt others makes me an old fart, so be it.

I relate to her actions, I just do not think they were right. Relating to a character is not the same as approving of their actions.

I do not understand the tendency to think Mori was allways right though, that everything she did was perfect, and every observation she made was spot on. If you think that is just not how people (or characters) work, and it is plain unrealistic.

I think we're just trying to walk around in her shoes instead of judging her.

I think understanding a character from their own perspective is critical. As I state in the OP, I can relate to her in multiple ways.

This being said, you yourself said these are not good things that she did. You yourself have judged her. I just do not feel I have to be on the main character’s side or feel she is 100% likeable to enjoy the book or character.

For me, I get a richer reading experience when I read critically and ask questions of the text and characters. Often, I do not accept what characters say at face value (who is 100% right? Everyone almost always thinks what they are doing is right and justified regardless of anything else). I think about a character's actions outside that character, from the perspective of others in the book.


This reading style was drilled into me in Grad School and I could not turn it off even if I wanted to.


message 19: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Nathan wrote: "This being said, you yourself said these are not good things that she did. You yourself have judged her."

Did I? I thought I'd said they were only not good if interpreted as the actions of an adult instead of a teenager. She is still going through adolescence and, just as children often can't see beyond themselves, probably incapable of seeing her actions from another perspective than her own. I'm not sure that, until our mid to late teens, we are capable of seeing others as people in the same way we see ourselves. I, as an adult, know that explosive negative reactions hurt other people. She, as a teenager, can only see herself trying to make her opinion clear and assert herself as an independent person.


message 20: by Nathan (last edited Jun 06, 2013 08:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments @Louise I just wrote a long response, but it really just repeated what I said before. So lets say this:

Agreed:

1. The behaviour makes sense for the character.

2. It is typical for a person her age. It is understandable for the Mori to react this way.

3.We can relate to this.

Disagreed:

1. Behaviour should have standards that apply to people without mental disability or defect in most situations, e.g. blowing up at people is wrong, treating people with some modicum of respect for their personhood is good. (I think this is so, both Mori and the Aunts violated this)

2. Violation of these standards, given curcumstances, makes a charcter harder to like. (I agree for both sides of the story)

3. Understanding is acceptance. (I do not think so)

4. I am condeming Mori somehow. (I am not, acting in a wrong way is part of human experence.)

Would this be fair?


Michele | 1154 comments I'm just going to point out here that I don't disapprove of her tantrum with the aunts. In any way. I believe that if a tantrum/yelling is the only way to get an actual response from someone who is clearly not listening to what you are saying, doesn't care about your opinion, has no consideration for your feelings, then go ahead and rant, scream, throw things. I have known several people who got so focused on their own agenda that they couldn't/wouldn't even hear what I was trying to say - people in hard sales seem to have this problem outside of the workplace sometimes. And the aunts had no intention of letting her have an opinion about the piercing. No one's feelings were hurt, and the aunts were maybe shocked out of their little dictatorship for a moment.

Rational discussion only works when both sides are actually talking and listening.

Mori sensed a threat, responded in a way that resulted in neutralizing the threat, no one was hurt really, unless you believe the aunts really cared about her, which wasn't ever shown to be the case -they just didnt want her to upset their little kingdom of control.


message 22: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Same here. If talking rationally doesn't work (and it doesn't always), by all means make a scene. Don't always of course, because it can lose its impact, but in this case it wasn't like she was losing it all the time.


message 23: by Leesa (last edited Jun 06, 2013 09:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leesa (leesalogic) | 625 comments I don't think she's ever been allowed to act like a true teenager, who at their core, are simply testing their boundaries. Sometimes it's herself that holds her back, but often, it's others, and she chafes at not being able to assert her independence. She can't even wear regular clothes when she's away from school.

Adults don't really take kids or teens seriously. We expect drama, attitude, deception, boundary pushing at every stage. Sometimes it's warranted, most of the time, it isn't.

And of course she's opinionated (calling people morons) and maybe we like our characters sanitized or something and find it distasteful when someone admits to having unpopular/unkind opinions, but this is her diary, her experience, and she has to figure out for herself if her snap judgment is right or if she should think more about it. She's a deeply, deeply, contemplative girl.

Perhaps because the audiobook put a different sort of urgency in Mori's voice in the ear piercing scene, I didn't think she behaved badly at all. She was frightened, and because of that she started examining more closely how her aunties behaved contrasted with how other people behaved: their control over Daniel, their isolation from society, not letting Mori in the kitchen, three situations off the top of my head.

She very firmly said she would not get her ears pierced (asserting control over her own body) and removed herself from the conversation.

I thought that if the aunties truly had Mori's best interest in mind and the piercing wouldn't be a binding of her magical abilities, then why not put it all in the open and share with Mori what they know? But no, she suspected from the beginning that the aunties put her at that specific school precisely because there was little to no magic there. I think we should give more credence to her ability to make reasonable intuitive leaps based on the lack of information she has.

She herself doesn't give herself enough credit with regard to her abilities, but she's already understanding the connection between things, magic, and how magic works better on things that want to do those things naturally, as explained by her thinking about Daniel's whiskey, glass and chair, and realizing that magic/manipulation of things depend not just on sheer force of will, but also on how susceptible the other is in accepting the magic. But she also knows that magic can eventually work even on the unwilling, and her suspicion that the piercing is a binding can't be handwaved away as her simply acting like a petulant, misbehaving teen. I mean, this is a girl who is keenly aware about fairness and protocol. She counts honeybuns!

Just think if she had guidance. She could understand that it's her choice to use magic, she doesn't *have* to use her magic for ill like her mother did. This is what she's grappling with: is she destined to be evil because her mother is, or does she have the choice? Where's the line in using magic for personal gain (leading to evil) or to protect oneself or another?

It's at this point where I see magic as a cypher for abuse. Is the abused destined to become an abuser as that's all they know? Or does the abused know that there's always a choice? Would it help the abused to have others around who know what the abused has been through to help guide them toward healthier outcomes?

How do I see Mori as a character? A young woman trying desperately to figure out her place a very confusing world that is hostile (trauma caused by her mother), secretive (no one talks about magic), and judgmental (schoolmates, lady who said she didn't need a cane).


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments @Michelle, To me, she just hates her Aunts. Nothing they do would be right. She thinks she knows their motives, but in truth both parties know very little of each other.

@Louise I posted a whole raft of questions but no response? I really want to know if those are points of agreement and disagreement. Really.

Ok, Leesa:

And of course she's opinionated (calling people morons) and maybe we like our characters sanitized or something ... she has to figure out for herself if her snap judgment is right or if she should think more about it.

And yet she doesn’t. She agonizes over how others treat her but does not spare much thought at all about how she treats others.

Personally I think it is indicative of the psychological shell she put up between her and others. It seems to derive from the same "Make them fear me" attitude.

It's realistic for her age but not incredibly endearing. As to sanitized, please read my comments about her flaws making her a better character.

On the other hand one could take this as her being self-absorbed, but given what she went through she probably needed to take care of herself mentally for a while.

Just a question: What do you want me to say about this? That calling most people morons is a great character trait? If you read someone’s diary and she called so many people morons, would you think this was a wonderful person?

her suspicion that the piercing is a binding can't be handwaved away as her simply acting like a petulant, misbehaving teen

But it cannot be taken at face value either! She goes from not knowing about much about magic to absolute certainty on this one point in one moment? Really? Please, for all the criticism I am getting no one has commented on this.

I thought that if the aunties truly had Mori's best interest in mind and the piercing wouldn't be a binding of her magical abilities, then why not put it all in the open and share with Mori what they know?

Perhaps because they are not witches, and they don't know magic, and perhaps the thing is not a binding?

But no, she suspected from the beginning that the aunties put her at that specific school precisely because there was little to no magic there.

It is often easy to misunderstand others' motives, would you not agree?

I think we should give more credence to her ability to make reasonable intuitive leaps based on the lack of information she has.

If that is how to read the book, great! I like to subject the narrative to more questioning though. I found her intuition, in this case at least, confirmed what seemed to be her presuppositions.


message 25: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Oh, sorry. I thought you were just summarising the debate :)

Agreed:

1. The behaviour makes sense for the character.
Yes

2. It is typical for a person her age. It is understandable for the Mori to react this way.
Yes. It's typical, but her situation is also extraordinary. Most teenage reactions are to minor things and I don't think this is minor. She's dealing with things beyond what the usual teenager deals with, on top of the usual teenage issues.

3.We can relate to this.
Yes

Disagreed:

1. Behaviour should have standards that apply to people without mental disability or defect in most situations, e.g. blowing up at people is wrong, treating people with some modicum of respect for their personhood is good. (I think this is so, both Mori and the Aunts violated this)
Behaviour has standards as long as you are capable of understanding those standards. Those standards in part develop from the reactions we get to our behaviour as we grow up. Mori is still assessing those reactions and establishing the boundaries in her own head. Respect should be earned and goes both ways. Yes, it is in part due to your elders, but sometimes, your elders are wrong. Sometimes your elders also have to respect you.

2. Violation of these standards, given curcumstances, makes a charcter harder to like. (I agree for both sides of the story)
Not necessarily. I think we just differ on the circumstances.

3. Understanding is acceptance. (I do not think so)
In this case yes. I accept her behaviour because I understand it.

4. I am condeming Mori somehow. (I am not, acting in a wrong way is part of human experence.)
You do seem to be condemning her actions, which I think are rational actions given the situation she is in.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments I think the last two points are the nub. I understand, I think, why she does what she does. I just don't like it.

I really don't think Mori is a bad person. Good people do not have to like one another I think, and the character does not seem to be that likable to me as a person. In some sense that is keeping with her own attitude about herself she does not want to be liked, except when she does, which is perfectly fine.


Malaraa | 89 comments Regarding pierced ears: it is easy to forget these days, when 8 to 10 year olds often have pierced ears, and teens and adults often have many other piercings, but being old enough to be allowed to get your ears pierced used to be a very significant rite of passage for young girls. At Mori's age, she wouldn't have been able to get it done without adult permission. And while she had no interest in it, many of her age group would have been placing a great deal of status on this marker of reaching "old enough". Sneaking off with a steady-handed friend and a sharp pointy object was not an uncommon rebellion in those days.

Keeping that in mind helps explain why the aunts thought they were being so very generous, and couldn't understand why on earth she wouldn't be delighted. However, in keeping with her sense of being separate and different from the rest of the girls, this is one marker of growing up she is refusing, perhaps because it wasn't her idea, or maybe because it would be another physical difference changing her in a way her twin sister would never be able to have.

At one point she references Narnia, and the way the children lose the magic of it as they grow up, and is determined that she won't lose her own magic like that (if I'm recalling rightly). Her explorations with boys are also a big measure of growing up, but they are experiences she feels she is making her own choices in, rather than a suggestion coming from people she does not trust. If her sister had been alive and they were still happily growing up in their former set of friends they might have both happily snuck off for a home piercing by this time, with few to no concerns about the magic, but any suggestion coming from the Aunts would have seemed suspicious and potentially dangerous to her because she wasn't ready to accept them yet. And so, while control + growing up (with boys) feels safe and she doesn't see it threatening her magic, the lack of control and perceived threat + an act of growing up becomes equal (at least in her head) to a loss of magic, which she already suspects the aunts of trying to cause.

I guess in short form, what I mean is that she very very strongly Believes that the ear piercing will take away her magic, but it's like believing very strongly that there is a monster under the bed, or that you're in danger while standing on something high because you're afraid of heights. It feels like a fact to her, but it is actually a strong deep fear that she isn't yet able to logic away.


Leesa (leesalogic) | 625 comments TL/DR: I do think you are condemning her/expecting more from her in large part due to this incident, and I don't think that's fair.



Leesa said: And of course she's opinionated (calling people morons) and maybe we like our characters sanitized or something ... she has to figure out for herself if her snap judgment is right or if she should think more about it.

Nathan responds: And yet she doesn’t. She agonizes over how others treat her but does not spare much thought at all about how she treats others.

I don't think that's true at all. She is very aware of the politics of honeybuns; she's curious about what the Jewish girl eats and takes the time to find out instead of just guessing (though she does have self interest her); she doesn't call Dierdre the hated nickname the others do; she's accepted Jill's lesbianism; she doesn't judge Daniel trying to crawl into bed with her, and does her best to remain logical about it (this made me a little sad); and when Owen gets handsy, she's curious, doesn't want to be nonparticipating so she returns the favor thinking that's what you do (this backfires on her)... She's painfully aware of others, but also, yeah, she's opinionated about things. She's not any different from most people, I think.

Nathan also said: Personally I think it is indicative of the psychological shell she put up between her and others. It seems to derive from the same "Make them fear me" attitude.

I don't think it goes so far as her wanting them to fear her, but I agree she has a shell up, and I think I mentioned if not here, then elsewhere, that she is responsible for some of her "otherness" with her attitude. I think a lot of (damaged) people do this.

Nathan: It's realistic for her age but not incredibly endearing. As to sanitized, please read my comments about her flaws making her a better character.

On the other hand one could take this as her being self-absorbed, but given what she went through she probably needed to take care of herself mentally for a while.


I find her very endearing, perhaps because of her awkward attitudes. But otherwise, granted on your other commentary :)

Nathan said: Just a question: What do you want me to say about this? That calling most people morons is a great character trait? If you read someone’s diary and she called so many people morons, would you think this was a wonderful person?

I'd say she was just someone working through her day, her opinions, her self-discovery, attempt to understand others. Maybe it's because I loved Harriet the Spy and totally understood why Harriet did what she did in what she considered a safe space (but also that she had to own up to what she did and why it hurt her friends). Maybe it's that in my own teenage journal I've angsted and "hated" and called people/adversaries/objects of envy stupid and ugly, but then eventually got a reality check. Even today in the darkest of my heart sometimes I'm petty, but I do my best to work through it.
I just can't hold this against her and blow her off as an annoying teenager or consider this a damning/major flaw against her character.

I said: her suspicion that the piercing is a binding can't be handwaved away as her simply acting like a petulant, misbehaving teen

Nathan replied: But it cannot be taken at face value either! She goes from not knowing about much about magic to absolute certainty on this one point in one moment? Really? Please, for all the criticism I am getting no one has commented on this.

I don't agree that she really doesn't know much about magic up to this point. She very much does. She talks about magic in just about every entry. She's afraid of it, or doesn't understand it, so she's trying to be humble.

Even if magic isn't an issue here, undeniably, she didn't want her ears pierced. The aunties persisted beyond reason, even through to the next day on the ride to the train station, even after Mori said to not even think about it. I admire Mori for being 15 and resolute on this: my body, my rules, you back off.

I said: I thought that if the aunties truly had Mori's best interest in mind and the piercing wouldn't be a binding of her magical abilities, then why not put it all in the open and share with Mori what they know?

Nathan replied: Perhaps because they are not witches, and they don't know magic, and perhaps the thing is not a binding?

The author straight out said that magic is real in this world. Even if you didn't know that, the book is written by an author who writes sci-fi/fantasy/alternate reality, the blurb outright says there's magic. It's the sword pick of a science fiction and fantasy book club. I just don't understand making this a sticking point with you-- that maybe magic isn't involved at all with the earring issue.

After all the things Mori has already mused about in her journal about her encounters, her thoughts, the things she's suffered because of magic, you want her to be unreliable on this. Why?

But, OK, let's indulge the idea that the aunties have no idea about magic. Stripped to the bare bones: Mori didn't want her ears pierced. No matter the how reliable/unreliable, reasonable/unreasonable, she didn't want it.

She said no, the aunties persisted, she blew up, removed herself for the night, and the next morning said quite calmly, still not doing it, don't try, and the auntie tried *again*.

This was an issue of control. The aunties wanted it, Mori said not gonna happen.

Too many times women are conditioned to "not rock the boat" and we are incapable of asserting ourselves because we "don't want to cause a scene" or we're expected to "maintain our quiet dignity" like Barbie (reference recent SFWA Bulletin uproar), that we ignore the very real alarm bells going off in our heads. We tell ourselves surely that person doesn't want to hurt me, I'm just being silly.

Mori's alarm bells went off. She listened to them. And your main response to all of this is that Mori handled this poorly by throwing a tantrum instead of perhaps with quiet dignity and proper rationality--afterall, we're not even sure magic is involved. That's a lot to put on a damaged, sheltered, young girl.

My response is: GOOD FOR HER!

I said: But no, she suspected from the beginning that the aunties put her at that specific school precisely because there was little to no magic there.

Nathan replied: It is often easy to misunderstand others' motives, would you not agree?

I do agree. If this is an either/or situation, I say motives be damned, magic/no magic, Mori took ownership of her body. I don't care what method she used or what the aunties' motivations were in wanting to pierce her ears. GO MORI!

I said: I think we should give more credence to her ability to make reasonable intuitive leaps based on the lack of information she has.

Nathan replied: If that is how to read the book, great! I like to subject the narrative to more questioning though. I found her intuition, in this case at least, confirmed what seemed to be her presuppositions.

Other than this ear piercing scene, which I think is about much more than ear piercing and magic/not magic, I think you and I jibe on most other aspects of her character and why she's the way she is. I don't understand your point on "if that is how to read a book, great." In most cases, I trust the genre and the author to give me a clue as to what is possible.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments @Leesa thanks for the response. The multiple meanings/interpretation of texts is a cornerstone of post-modernist literary theory, which is a fancy way of saying I have had too much schooling. The idea, more or less, is both the writer and the reader share in the how the text is interpreted, so authorial intent is interesting but not authoritative, as it were. It seems simple but can be quite mind bending when first encountered at full force.

Anyhow, I find the Christmas scene with the Aunts interesting because there are so many assumptions Mori packs into that scene, and when you challenge any one of them it shifts the meaning of the scene quite a bit.

Note that throughout the book Mori does not really think of the Aunts as human beings, really. She conceptualizes them as malevolent, and it becomes a kind of self fulfilling prophecy here.

She hates them for sending her to school, but does not want to stay with them either, both before and after Christmas. The poor girls, as insensitive as they are, can't win with her.


P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments Nathan, you've touched on an important point, and it explains a lot of your perspective on the character, I think. You mention that Morwenna doesn't really know her Aunts, and therefore may simply be guessing at their motives. I think you're accurate in suggesting Mor thinks quite a lot about how people think of her, without really thinking too much about the feelings of other people.

Perhaps I empathize more with such a character because I'm often careless of others' myself. One factor common to the archetypal 'geek' social awkwardness is based on a real difficulty in understanding, or even imagining the feelings, of other people, along the lines of Asperger syndrome (though not, perhaps, fully that far out on the spectrum). I see her occasional bluntness and clumsiness not so much as a choice, but simply a conditional expression of her youth, her introversion, and the extreme trauma she's been through. I think the author acknowledges the distance that creates for Mor in her difficulty making friends...but it doesn't reduce our empathy for her.

TLDR: You're right that she might not be much fun at parties unless you happen to share her special interest in speculative fiction, at which point she'd glom on like a lamprey and talk your ears off. But then again, since that describes me too...


Katie (calenmir) | 211 comments Leesa wrote: "Too many times women are conditioned to "not rock the boat" and we are incapable of asserting ourselves because we "don't want to cause a scene" or we're expected to "maintain our quiet dignity" like Barbie (reference recent SFWA Bulletin uproar), that we ignore the very real alarm bells going off in our heads. We tell ourselves surely that person doesn't want to hurt me, I'm just being silly. "

I think you articulated this point very well and allowed me to recognize an aspect of why I felt so strongly in my gut that I backed Mori's action in this scene, whether the Aunts meant to take her magic or not (which I was back and forth on).


message 32: by Robert of Dale (last edited Jun 24, 2013 09:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robert of Dale (r_dale) | 185 comments Aaron: Exactly! Well put.

Nathan: I've read through the thread, and have seen your back-and-forth with people's reactions to your post, and I'm still no clear why you said some of the things you have. I can see that you're not saying certain things, but it's still unclear.

Let's take one of your points: "[T]he endless agonizing over the Karass spell after it was cast was foolish."
Agreed. Typical teen behavior.

"The time for worrying about the consequences of your actions is before you do them."

Again, agreed... but who are you addressing this statement to? I don't think anyone disagrees that it's better to do this, but I _do_ strongly disagree with the implied idea that Mori should be acting this way as a believable teen character. "Should" in this instance, does not mean it's the wiser course, but that it's true to her as a character and as a teen.

"If it is what she says it is Unleasing it or thinking you are unleasing it before you think about it is irresponsible and immature."
Again, agreed. And realistic teen behavior.

"Personally I am not even sure that it worked. If it is easy to deny magic because it works subtiliy, it would be easy to see it everywhere if you look also."
And that ambiguity is where BILLIONS of people live. Every belief system in the world is predicated on seeing a connection to events, people, and objects in this world to one's own god(s) or spiritual journey. Some people see angels, others sense chakras or see auras, many others believe that karma accumulates with every action, others feel the power of the star's influence upon their everyday actions. If they don't sense the unseen forces around them, then they have faith that others (holy people mostly) do.

It's easy for me to deny all of those things, but not so for many other people.

Again, my commentary is mostly to point out that much of the argument seems, to me at least, to stem from others viewing your critique as a criticism of the writing, which I think is spot on in it's portrayal of the character.


message 33: by Nathan (last edited Jun 24, 2013 11:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments As I pointed out, here I think, I am not being prescriptive, rather, I am just saying I do not like the character, which is completely different from saying I do not like the book.

I just find her annoying, immature, exceedingly self centered, often lacking in empathy and self assessment (Gah! If you are so lonely, stop treating people like they are the slime on your shoe and be nice for once. Instead of saying you do not understand why people like sport, or x or y and calling them morons, why don't you try to understand them as you wish people would understand you. You can empathize with sci fi characters but not real people at your own school?).

This being said, a perfect character would not have made this story good. That is why I prefaced my comments with an introduction saying that, more or less. I generally found her to be relatable but not amiable.

The comment on magic was specific to her thoughts on the issue. She is so dang certain on so many things that deserve no certainty at all, even by her own admission. The thing was she was certain it worked but uncertain in its scope. At minimum she seemed sure she had created the book club (more or less), but the spell, if it worked at all, could have just as easily prompted the librarian to invite her.

In the end, I saw her agonizing as a kind of rejection of the idea that people could like her and be interested in the things she likes.


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