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The Sword of Rhiannon
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2015 Reads > TSoR: Strawman misogynist? (full spoilers)

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message 1: by Joanna Chaplin (last edited May 04, 2015 06:48PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments I know the book was written in 1942, but I felt like Carse had a major attitude problem toward both Yvain and Emer, but mostly toward Yvain. Now, I know that there have been plenty of men who see a proud woman being a leader and want to put her in her place, but I got the strangest idea that maybe this is how Brackett thinks a he-man alpha-male type might think? Just how typical of the time the book was written is he? Am I crazy?


message 2: by Brendan (last edited May 04, 2015 06:50PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments Good question, I am curious about this as well. I don't recall the men acting like this in Dying Earth, for example, which is contemporary with this story and pretty much the same genre, so maybe it's just a preference of Brackett's.

I found Ywain pretty problematic too. "Proud warrior woman that falls in love with the man that masters her" seems to be a trope that comes from Robert Howard but it feels kind of... gross?


message 3: by Marin (last edited May 05, 2015 03:32AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Marin Wyden | 4 comments The main point of the 'domination' trope isn't so much the conquest of the proud woman. She's just the proof for the actual goal, which is to prove to all other men that male protagonist is Alpha. Keep in mind that in this setting, women aren't that important. Other men are.

Ywain is a prize to be taken, one that 'regular' men cannot have, and Carse's lines explicitly reflect that sentiment.

Brackett doesn't really appear to grasp that part though, as competition with other males is completely absent. There is nothing Carse does that couldn't have been done by any of the other men in the story, which makes the 'Ywain falls for him' part that more jarring. That she falls for him anyway, regardless of her actual character, is because her characteristics (pride, skill, status) only exists to make her a more desirable prize. Not to be an actual character.

And this is where Brackett fails. She wrote the book as if the taking of the woman was the real goal, rather than what it should have been; a contest over who's the Alpha male.

So no. You're not crazy. :)


message 4: by Robin (new)

Robin Hobb | 30 comments Brendan wrote: "Good question, I am curious about this as well. I don't recall the men acting like this in Dying Earth, for example, which is contemporary with this story and pretty much the same genre, so maybe i..."

I think Jack Vance was extraordinary for his time, and it shows in all his characters. The man had great insight into humanity and psychology. So in some ways, his work (I feel) transcends the time in which he wrote.


Mark (markmtz) | 2354 comments Marin wrote: "And this is where Brackett fails. She wrote the book as if the taking of the woman was the real goal, rather than what it should have been; a contest over who's the Alpha male."

Ywain and Carse winding up together, felt more like an afterthought than a goal, to me. And the contest of alpha male wills was internal, Carse and Rhiannon. So I don't see the failure Marin sees. I wonder if we're overthinking Brackett's storytelling. Reading her last interview. she doesn't strike me as someone determined to send a message, nor someone with an attitude problem towards women.

http://www.tangentonline.com/index.ph...


Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments Mark wrote: "...nor someone with an attitude problem towards women."

I didn't mean that Brackett had an attitude problem about women. I meant that Brackett thought that this is what a man with an attitude problem about women, or maybe just a very masculine man in general, would talk and think like. For me, it doesn't quite ring true, but I'm not sure how much of that was the culture at the time as opposed to the culture I live in.


Mark (markmtz) | 2354 comments In the interview, she mentions joining the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. The LASFS sounds like it was basically a boys club. I wonder what influence, if any, that might have had on her writing?


Lindsay | 593 comments Brendan wrote: "I found Ywain pretty problematic too. "Proud warrior woman that falls in love with the man that masters her" seems to be a trope that comes from Robert Howard but it feels kind of... gross? "

It might be something from Robert Howard in an SF&F context, but this trope is still alive and well in a disturbing number of romance books even now. Modern romance books are much less rapey than they were 20 years ago, but there's often an element of this particularly in romantic SF&F.


Daniel K | 164 comments The answer may be pretty banal. She wrote it in such way simply because of economical concerns. To get your story published you need to write it likable for audience of contemporary pulp-magazines. And it seems that most of the readers were males with strong sexist worldview. Hell, women weren't even allowed to vote in lot of countries in the first half of 20th century. Even now there are sexism concerns in pop-culture, science, etc.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments Marin wrote: "The main point of the 'domination' trope isn't so much the conquest of the proud woman. She's just the proof for the actual goal, which is to prove to all other men that male protagonist is Alpha. ..."

But remember, Carse also steals from the tomb thief and demands more than his fair share just because he's stronger. And instead of taking over the ship with subterfuge, he uses strength and has a lot of people killed. So I think it expands beyond the woman.

And it's a little more complex than that - because he defeats the evil people controlling her, her world changes enough where she no longer has a place in it. She wants to go with him. I suppose he can treat her like a trophy back in his time period but she seems to have more of a brain than some.


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments Didn't he free the slaves when it was convenient for him, then re-enslave them again (to their old master) when it worked better for him? It was kind of funny in its amoral dickishness.

Ywain's spectacular fall in station really stuck out to me after the book was over. Granted she may not have been the greatest person ever, being a warlord and slaver, but she lost everything by the end.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments Brendan wrote: "Didn't he free the slaves when it was convenient for him, then re-enslave them again (to their old master) when it worked better for him? It was kind of funny in its amoral dickishness.

Ywain's sp..."


Yeah he had the slaves kill the soldiers and then re-enslave them to Ywain. Bizarre.


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