Monday, April 20, 2009

The Eye of the World Read-Through #2 - What Themes Are There?

What Themes Are There?

by Linda

Quite a few, and they are present from the beginning of the series:

  • Good versus evil - there definitely is evil and it must be fought against. However, there are limits as to what one should be prepared to do in order to eradicate evil eg not become like Shadar Logoth.

  • The necessity of balance - including between the sexes.

  • History changing over time into legend and then into myth, and that "our" history forms "their myth" and "their" history "ours" - that's what all those allusions to history and myth are about.

  • Mis-communication between people – people not telling other people important info, whether for sinister reasons, trivial reasons or so they don’t lose face, or just due to stupidity or missed opportunity.

  • Fate and destiny versus free will. We see a lot of prophecies – do they mean that people don’t have a choice? Or that their choice is preordained?

  • The quest for knowledge - and corruption of knowledge by evil.

  • Decline and fall of empires into dark ages - and the risk of destroying civilisation altogether.

  • Realising that adulthood is not about demanding privileges, or even rights, but about taking responsibility for your actions and doing the best you are capable of.

  • Commentary on leadership: cooperation achieves more than autocracy. Absolute monarchy leads to tyranny.

  • Suggested by BobH: the importance of friendship.


- You're welcome to leave comments about this post below, or to use The Eye of the World Round-Table open thread to leave a commentary of your own about any aspect of the book.

- Got any nagging question about a topic from The Eye of the World? Send them to 'Ask Zemaille' and the librarians will do their best to answer it.


BobH said...

Nice summary, Linda!

I'd add one more theme to your list:

- Friendship, and in particular, friendship versus self-fulfillment.

This theme is particularly evident in the Emond's Fielders.

Nynaeve is at one extreme - she invariably sacrifices her personal needs and ambitions when she perceives an opportunity to help/aid the other EFers. That trait has remained consistent throughout the books. She is empathy and selflessness personified.

Mat is at the other extreme - in EotW & TGH, his personal motivations almost always outweigh his consideration for his friends, when the two come into conflict. This changes (thankfully!), as he matures through the later books; he still struggles with it, but now concern for his friends always wins out, in the end.

Egwene struggles with this issue the most, I think. She cares deeply about her friends, but she is also fervently committed to her own desires and ambitions, and as a result we see more conflict/variation in her decision-making process than with the others, when her friends are involved. This is as true now as it was in the early books - maybe even more so given her career development.

Rand and Perrin seem inherently more self-sacrificing than Egwene, I think, but this is at least partially (if not primarily) due to the fact that they are less ambitious, and therefore appear less conflicted/selfish than Egwene does. They'll do anything for their friends, except compromise their own principles. Their personal morality drives their decision-making process in almost every situation, but fortunately they are rarely put into positions where they have to compromise those principles for the sake of their friends. In the later books, their relationships with their friends becomes less focused as they take on more responsibility (as has Egwene’s), and in Rand’s case he feels compelled to forsake his friendships to some extent lest they be used by the Shadow against him. But, the underlying commitment they (and Egwene) have to their friends still exists, I think.

Linda said...

That's true Bob! I'll edit my post to include my take on friendship and it's place in the task.

I shouldn't write up these things late at night!

Dominic said...

Bah.... why don't the two of you make a friendship post instead ;)

The backgrounds of each characters are interesting to explore for this theme as well... Rand has lost his mother, and his father is 'taken from him'. Nynaeve too lost her mother, then her father. Perrin experiences the same in TSR, far more violently. Egwene, Mat and Perrin come from big families. Egwene is youngest child, Mat and Perrin eldest.

The three characters who experienced loss are the ones who are the most 'protective': Rand, Perrin and Nynaeve.

Mat represents irresponsability, but Perrin is the child who has been forced to grow up too fast, but who struggle as he is nowhere emotionally mature as he is responsible and serious.

Egwene is the one who had to submit the most to authority and the will of others: Dad the Mayor, Mom the Councillor and a whole string of elder sisters with opinions about what Egwene should do.

Nynaeve who tries through the book to be a better warder to the E.Fers than Lan is to Moiraine is also quite funny - and it ends with the realization that Lan, like her, has lost kin, and in a far more dramatic way than her own departure from EF, his land.

Linda said...

Yes, Bob, your comment is so good it should be written up as a post for the read-through. :)

Terez said...

I would add Rand's identity crisis to the list, because it's a theme that was begun in chapter 6, when Rand first learns that Tam might not be his father, and even begins chanting to himself, "He's my father. It was just a fever-dream...." over and over again. It's almost the first time Rand says to himself, "I am Rand al'Thor!", and how many times in the series does he say that?

This definitely goes along with your "Into the Woods" theme, of course (by chapter name and all), but I think it's interesting how Rand's particular identity crisis begins here with his doubts about Tam, extends further when Rand learns he can channel, and then further still when he learns he's the Dragon Reborn. Then it simply becomes extreme with Lews Therin's memories.

Mat and Perrin both undergo their own metamorphoses, and they both have their own denials (Mat's denial of being ta'veren at all, Perrin's denial of the wolves, etc.), but Rand's doubts and denials really touch the core of his identity in a unique way, even the early doubts about his paternity. That pattern of denial stays pretty consistent for Rand throughout the series, I think.

Dominic said...

I have a post coming re: the transformation of Perrin.

The Westwood/Out of the Woods are some of my favourite chapters in the book. Not only they are excellent storytelling, but they are also a wonderful allegory of the mission and the struggles of Rand/LTT : the cart broken and Bela escaped Rand must make a litter out of the remnants and carry it on his own shoulders (the State of the pattern, the mission of the Dragon), carrying the feverish/maddened older man, mortally wounded on his side, who rambles about battles and his beloved dead wife. Rand can't go on the main road for the 'Black Stranger' (imagery for Moridin, Shaidar Haran, Shai'tan) is stalking him on that road, the moon shadows and beams hide and betray him in turn, he must struggle through the brambles and bumps of the dark woods, and he only come out with the Dawn, a dawn of dark clouds and black smoke, the blacksmith coming with the news - his forge razed down, and Nynaeve's implacable verdict: Tam must die. RJ went back to borrow from these chapter over and over and over again. The blacksmith, this time burying his precious anvil to protect it but leaving behind what can't be protected and turning his tools into weapons to go to battle is AGAIN returning in TGS - the prologue scene from JordanCon gave me shivers (and notice the Blacksmith wife too is going north with him... we're back to Alsbeth Luhhan fighting at her husband's side - a stage Perrin himself has so far not yet reached with Faile).

Terez said...

"...maddened older man...who rambles about battles and his beloved dead wife." - Dom

Sounds familiar, eh? :D