Aww, it's the final week of the Something Strange and Deadly Book Club! I wish it could just go on forever hehe. Almost makes me want to organise something myself. Maybe in the holidays... Anyway, this week's question:
“‘Eleanor, you have a choice,’ [Jie] said softly. ‘You always have a choice’” (p. 166, Something Strange & Deadly)
How do you think this quote relates to the overall theme of Something Strange and Deadly? Do you think Eleanor behaves as if she has a choice at the start of the book? What about at the end of the book? And do other characters behave as if they have a choice or do some see themselves as victims of circumstance?
**Warning: SPOILERS for Something Strange and Deadly**
It’s funny how this one line can sum up an entire book so nicely. I think that one of the main underlying themes in the novel (particularly taking into account that it’s set in the past), is really whether or not the characters truly have power over their futures- whether they must conform to society’s expectations of them or whether they’re able to truly be free.
If we consider Eleanor, at the start of the novel, it is clear that she feels that she doesn't have much control over her life. She particularly feels the burden of her mother’s expectations of her to save the family fortunes by marrying someone rich, or by fitting in with the rich (e.g. Allison)- partly because her mother’s expectations are in line with society’s expectations of her, and partly because, in a way, she doesn't want to disappoint her mother. So she goes along with it all- the corsets, being courted by Clarence etc etc, although of course with her trademark snark:
"Yes, I imagine I'm the only person she'll listen to."After meeting the Spirit Hunters, though, she sort of gets a taste of freedom, and seeing the control they have over their own lives, she realises that she herself does in fact “have a choice” and will “always have a choice”. (And a damn fine choice she has in Daniel Sheridan :P)
"Well, I'm impressed." A warmth eased through my body. Despite his perfect features, he was not so difficult to talk to.
"No doubt you'd do the same with your brother."
"Not precisely." I smiled ruefully. "To be honest, I don't take orders well."
How could I dream when I knew I could act instead?
There was still time to do what needed doing. Pinkertons, Clarence, Patience—none of them mattered. I still had a chance. A choice.
For example, consider her choice to remain with her mother rather than go with the Spirit Hunters: another person in the same situation may think they don’t have the choice- as they may feel as though they can’t abandon their only living relative- Eleanor actually realises that everything that has happened up until now has been, or has resulted from her own choices.
“The fault is not in our stars," I whispered to the ceiling. "But in ourselves. This was my choice.”
(Random, but that ending: *shakes fist at Daniel and Eleanor* CAN’T YOU SEE THAT YOU’RE THE PERFECT COUPLE! ARGH SO FRUSTRATING)
Also rather interestingly, while initially she didn't like being told what to do and feeling like she doesn't have a choice, after that taste of freedom, she absolutely hates it. Consider her mother preparing her for what appears to be her inevitable marriage with Clarence:
And I hated all of it. The serpent of guilt that lived in my chest now wound into my stomach. It writhed with something else too, something much darker. Powerlessness. Dread. My whole life rested within Clarence's hands, and with it laid Elijah's.
In terms of the other characters- the Spirit Hunters might just possibly consider themselves as victims of circumstance. Because they’re the only ones who can fend off The Dead, they feel almost obligated to save the residents of Philadelphia. So in a sense, they don’t “have a choice” (although of course, they do have a choice- they could just abandon the city if they really wanted).
And what about Clarence? He also feels the expectations of society- the legacy his father left for him. However, unlike Eleanor, it doesn't seem as if he’s particularly burdened by it. While he does say that “it is the duty- and the burden- of sons”, conversely to what he actually says, it almost seems at times as if he doesn't mind the burden- that what his father wanted is actually what he himself wants. I mean, look how desperately he “[refuses] to be killed”. How desperate he is to carry out his father’s wishes. I feel that if he truly thought he didn't have a choice, he wouldn't be so passionate in carrying out the legacy.
He [Clarence] spread his hands. "What choice do I have?" "You always have a choice," I growled. "No. That's not true. This was the life given to me, and I honor my father's memory by faithfully living it. I run for city council because he wanted me to."
Hmm…Elijah…I really don’t know. In a way, he might actually be the person who has the most control over his own life. He wants to invade Philadelphia with an army of The Dead? Yep, done. He wants to resurrect his father? Yep, he goes for it. Although I suppose the choices did come at the cost of becoming slightly evil haha.
Aaaaand because I'm an overachiever, and it’s the last week, I was also going to do the question for ADSAL- but my answer for SSAD was a bit too long. So I'll stop here hehe.
Thank you so much to Sooz for organising the whole thing, and
Don't Forget to Aim For the Knees!