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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: (urth) Pullman and renunciation (SPOILER)
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 1956 20:42:08 +0000

on 5/25/01 2:22 PM, eli wrote:

> That didactic purpose I can appreciate, but he weakens it by forcing the
> story.  He tried to set up "Cold Equations"-style plot mechanism which
> threatens global disaster to _coerce_ Will and Lyra's decision -- rather
> than letting us see what their own wisdom leads them to decide.  That's
> a lesser story.

It's exactly like "The Cold Equations": the author stacks the deck to force
a "tragic" choice upon his characters, which when examined more closely is
not really forced at all.  There has to be a name for this type of scene,
where the characters frantically come up with ways to escape the choice the
author wants to force upon them, and an all-knowing authority figure comes
up with ad hoc reasons why they won't work.

> I remember that my reading experience when I hit this was not one bit
> high-mindedly didactified, but was on the same mechanical level as his
> setup: but but but the Dust ecology is not at risk, because brief
> openings don't leak on the scale of the natural influx we've seen

Right; it doesn't add up.  There are billions of people on Will's world
alone.  All these people won't produce enough Dust to keep one tiny window
open without Lyra and Will devoting their lives to uplifting people?  If the
creation-destruction ratio is that bad, all the Dust should have leaked away
in the three hundred years since the Subtle Knife was created.

> and
> creating Specters is no problem with a little help, since the angel has
> said she can deal with those.  If it had occurred to Will and Lyra that
> the obstacles were not absolute, they could have gone on to ask more
> interesting questions: what if everybody did it?  are we special, to
> justify it?

Yes, they are.  They saved the universe, for Pete's sake.  Doesn't that
entitle them to a break?  And in any case, "everybody" isn't in the same
position as Lyra and Will, since everybody hasn't already met their one true
love in another world.

> And the question Pullman didn't dare to ask them: even if
> we can, should we?

Pullman does discuss this a little, at the very end, where Lyra says that if
she and Will had "put themselves first," they wouldn't have been able to
build the Republic of Heaven.  But as Moloney pointed out in his review,
valorizing this sort of renunciation conflicts with Pullman's overall
anti-religious message.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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