Summer reading: Possession, chapters 16-20.

Were you surprised? Had you guessed? I can’t remember if I was surprised when I read it the first time, but I remember being like, “Ohhhh, so that’s what’s going on. A baby.”

I didn’t read these chapters twice, either, probably because the journal was quite long enough once, which is not to say I found it uninteresting, just long. But I think I will break this one down by chapter and then sum up my thoughts at the end. Ready?

Chapter 16: The Fairy Melusine. Of course, this isn’t all of the poem, but I think that this part is significant because of the way that Christabel acts. I said last week that I found her unsympathetic, and that is, of course, also how she is portrayed in these chapters as well. But look at this: “But let the Power take a female form / And ’tis the Power is punished. All men shrink / from dire Medusa and her writhing locks. / Who weeps for Scylla in her cave of bones, / Thrashing her tail and howling for her fate / With yelping hound-mouths, though she once was fair, / Love by the sea-god for her mystery, / Daughter of Hecate, beautiful as Night? / Who weeps the fall of Hydra’s many heads? / The siren sings and sings, and virtuous men / Bind ears and eyes and sail resolved away / From all her pain that what she loves must die, / That her desire, though lovely in her song / Is mortal in her kiss to mortal men. / The feline Sphinx roamed free as air and smiled / IN the dry desert at those foolish men / Who saw not that her crafted Riddle’s clue / Was merely Man, bare man, no Mystery. / But when they found it out they spilt her blood / For her presumption and her Monstrous shape. / Man named Himself and thus assumed the Power / Over his Questioner, til then his Fate– / After, his Slave and victim.” In some way, I feel that this is Christabel’s answer to the question of why she behaves as she does, both before, during, and after the trip with Ash. No matter how much she cares for him, she is deeply aware of how she has been treated because she is a woman, and, given the end of the chapter, she is deeply aware of her power as a woman, and feels the need to use it.

Chapter 17: Oh, Fergus. Stop sneaking around. No good can come of it. You fill me with a sense of dread.

Chapter 18: Oh, Blanche. I found the part about the “volcanic stones” especially heartbreaking. She used the stones from the trip to drown herself. I keep meaning to read “Merlin and Vivien,” but I haven’t done it yet, so I don’t know if the reference that keeps being made to that painting of Blanche’s is significant. I’ll try to get it read this week, finally. I like watching Maud with Leonora, because (I think I said this before) I am afraid of Leonora, too, but I also find her very likable. I think I would be the same as Maud – dreading her visits and then remembering how warm and friendly and alive she is. Oh, Cropper. Stop mucking with things. Look what you did. If Maud and Roland have to escape, it’s your own fault. (I don’t really believe it’s his fault, because I feel like something had to force them on their Quest. So, thanks, Cropper.)

Chapter 19: Again, the imagery in Christabel’s poem is significant, I think, as the lady of Is refuses to admit the danger until it’s too late and the city is drowned. We get yet another perspective here, Sabine’s journal. So, did you guess that she’d be pregnant? Were you surprised by what happened with the baby? One of the most interesting parts of the journal was, I think, Gode’s story. Do you think it affected Christabel because she’d made a decision about what to do with the baby? Or because she hadn’t? She is so, so unsympathetic here, in these journals. So unkind to people who only wanted to help her. And yet, I’m not unaware of what she has given up – her happy home with Blanche, destroyed. Her relationship with Ash, over and done with except for an unwanted pregnancy. I did notice that, like Maud, she cut her hair. Maud has grown hers back out . . . is there anyone who can give Christabel the strength to recover herself?

Chapter 20: So, what happened, exactly, that day at the seance? If you are anything like me, you spent a lot of the book before this wondering why the seance/medium discussions were there. How do you think Ash knew about the baby? And can I just say that I love that Leonora helps Blackadder buck up and handle the media storm. What an unlikely friendship.

This is the section in which everything seems to come together: the Breton legends, the discussions of mysticism, even the characters overlap. The whole book has been leading up to this section, the mystery of the result of Christabel and Ash’s relationship, even if we don’t have all the answers yet. It seems to speak for itself, and, knowing what is to come, I am a bit afraid of saying too much. So I will just say: I look forward to finding out how you enjoy the ending next week.

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