Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #34: Chapter 27 - A Call To Stand



By Linda

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Darlin’s letter to Egwene makes good points. He reminds her that the Prophecies warned that Rand would be dark, dangerous and difficult, and then shows an understanding of what has caused Rand’s deterioration; something other characters would do well to think about.

His comments on the power of those in charge of nations are particularly relevant to the Dragon role:
Indeed, the more absolute a man's power becomes, the more necessary questioning becomes. Towers of Midnight, A Call To Stand
After all, in the Second Age, Lews Therin effectively had absolute Power, according to Jordan:
I have a question about the Nine Rods of Dominion. We have a couple of references to this, and Ishamael says that Lews Therin summoned the Nine Rods of Dominion. And theories have been floating around, are the Oath Rods not the Nine Rods of Dominion?
Robert Jordan They were not the Oath Rods.
Question Well are they positions of power, were they people, or were they actual rods?
Robert Jordan They were actual people, and they were, but you might call them regional governors of the earth, regional governors of the planet. So if I say, summon them, then we've got a guy who has been given in effect ultimate power.

Robert Jordan at DragonCon 2005
And did not handle that power well. Nor has Rand at times. Any questioning has to be handled considerately on both sides, otherwise it only causes alienation.

Darlin is grateful to Rand on Tear’s behalf, not just for keeping the self-serving High Lords from taking over, but maybe also for the new laws Rand introduced. These laws limited the absolute power of the Tairen nobility.

Egwene wants Darlin to bring all, or most, of his forces to the Field of Merrilor, and to rely on Illian to keep the Seanchan out of Tear, while encouraging Illian to also bring most of its forces to Merrilor. And this, even while remembering how the Seanchan struck at the Tower, at a time when they did not have Travelling. With both sides able to make gateways, they are not the advantage they once were. Not a good judgement, it is more about serving her purposes of intimidating Rand and showing their fighting strength, and less about considering Tear’s own security risk. Sure it’s the Last Battle but amassing quantities of forces to underline a protest is a crude strategy and only works up to a point. The rest of the forces are better off left to protect the nation coughBorderlanderscough.

It is not surprising that Egwene does not understand Rand’s trauma, since she has little insight into her own, lesser, trauma, at the hands of the Seanchan:
She loathed them with a hatred that sometimes worried her.

Towers of Midnight, A Call To Stand
Her untreated trauma prevents her reactions to them being reasonable or controlled. It is very likely that she is not going to get on with Tuon.

Egwene knows she is using Rand’s proclamation to garner support for her view that Rand should not break the Seals, but can’t see that he might expect, or even want, this. As I suggested in an earlier read-through post, I believe that Rand is relying on Egwene to unite opposition, so that he only has to deal with it once.

While Egwene works on opposing Rand, two thirds of her Hall is going for a power play against Egwene, even as the Borderlands are invaded by huge forces of Shadowspawn. Lelaine, at least, knows the Borderlands are being overrun, but it doesn’t stop her playing politics. Takima has the grace to be ashamed of herself.

Sitters have difficulty referring directly to the schism. They gloss over it, and use euphemisms. While they do that, they are not taking responsibility for their actions, or learning from mistakes.

The majority of the Sitters fear that the Amyrlin will declare martial law or trick the Hall into giving her absolute power, or at least more power, again. They have no evidence she is at work on this, just the belief that because she did this when opposing Elaida she will do so again because the opportunity is there. In fact she is far too busy with international politics and applying pressure to Rand.

The Hall’s plans to take over the prosecution of the war against the Shadow needs Egwene’s assent. They suggest she deal with the monarchs in exchange. The vote was taken precipitately before they realise Egwene did trick them – or let them trick themselves. The Aes Sedai are dumbed down in this scene. Amongst such experienced politicians (at least 3 have over 40 years’ experience in the Hall), Saerin was the only Sitter who saw the full implications of Egwene’s tactics immediately. It seems Egwene’s unexpected arrival put them off discussing the situation fully and instead they impulsively seized on a perceived weakness even while some of them had misgivings.

The vote Egwene really wanted, on no secret meetings of the Hall, and no meeting to be convened unless every Sitter or her proxy is present or has sent direct word that she cannot attend, and the Amyrlin too, is a very worthy one, and the greater consensus votes for it. Silviana admires Egwene’s political skill, but it’s not a very convincing victory when the Sitters are portrayed as foolish. I would prefer that the featured character, in this case Egwene, could look good without having to cheapen the secondary characters.

Directly after this, Egwene then puts Accepted at risk - partially trained women, and one of them even with known flaws – to try and lure the Black Ajah close in Tel’aran’rhiod so they can be caught. She sends Accepted to Elayne to get dream ter’angreal in such a way that they will gossip, in the hope the Shadow will hear of it and the Black Ajah sent to spy.

Egwene was forced in her development by the Seanchan, but also by Siuan, for which Siuan felt very guilty. And rightly so, because Egwene shows flaws in Towers of Midnight, easy victories notwithstanding, although these flaws would have been far worse had the Wise Ones not trained her. Unfortunately they had not finished before she was called elsewhere; their last efforts at discipline being to make her acknowledge she had broken her word (only to find it hid an even larger lie that she was not the rank she claimed to be). Siuan never felt guilty about Liandrin tricking the three girls, though; she thought they should have seen through that. Like Siuan, Egwene is conscious that she should not put trainees at risk in this way unless there is no other choice. But it’s the only strategy she can think of: making herself and the Aes Sedai look dumb so that the Black Ajah will be over-confident enough to take risks.

The chapter is a commentary on the exercise of power by leaders.

9 comments:

Manetheren said...

Interesting, I need to go back and read Darlin's letter again. I did catch that Darlin was concerned over Rand's intent, but I liked how he was pretty clear that he was behind Rand. He shows an understanding that while its easy for the others to sit on the outside and question his decisions, they are, ultimately, not Rand, not in his position and therefore can't truly appreciate or understand what he is trying to accomplish.

I also agree that Rand is letting Egwene do a lot of the leg work to bring all the opposition together. It's pretty clear by that in one of the later chapters during Rand's POV when he is thinking about the meeting. He knows Egwene thinks he will bring his demands seeking concessions to not break the seals, but in fact, his demands actually have no bearings on whether he breaks them are not, breaking the seals will happen regardless. All the armies will be together so they can be sent to the Blight as one, not piecemeal.

Thanks for the read :).

Anonymous said...

I think your review of the chapters fail when they don't take into account major inconsistencies in Brandon's characterization of Egwene. You say she hasn't yet fully learned the lessons from the Wise Ones, yet Brandon has independently said her character development is finished, and she's ready to be awesome for the Last Battle. And recent revelations from the first chapter of aMoL put a very different spin on her efforts, yet her characterization in ToM doesn't match that. A lot of Egwene's flaws in these scenes seems to be less about her character and more about bad writing.

Same for any number of other major characters in ToM.

fionwe1987

Linda said...

Manetheren: Yes, I agree with your points. Egwene seems to be holding on as long as possible before breaking the Seals. Is Rand being too precipitate for fear that they leave it too late? Usually the middle ground is the right one in Jordan's opinion. It will be interesting to see if that is the case here.

Fionwe: Well the author portrays the character, so the two go together. As I said I think that many inconsistencies of characterisation are due to Brandon's dumbing down "secondary" characters to give favourites the spotlight. In this case the Sitters look foolish so that Egwene can appear clever. When they are not there, she goes back to being wrong-headed about the Seanchan, the bloodknives, the Black Ajah, Rand and the Seals, etc. The characters' actions and sense vary a great deal according to who is also in the scene with them. When real people do that they can appear shallow. Do the characters? Certainly at times.

Yes, Egwene could have learned more from the Wise Ones. Delaying her return to the Aes Sedai would have made for a more boring series though.

Egwene's trauma from the Seanchan still remains untreated. Could the Wise Ones have helped her through it? Who knows?

herid said...

About Egwene's feelings about the Seanchan. Because of the way this is emphasized it's pretty clear that she will have to face (and overcome) this issue in aMoL. Some kind of confrontation with Tuon is pretty much a given but it might not be from a position of equal strength. Egwene could get captured and collared and might have to face the a'dam again in the real world as she had to do in TAR in TOM.

Anonymous said...

IF Rand is smart he will break the seals before the big pow-wow with all the leaders. That way there is no chance for any to back down or out. All or nothing. The way it should be when fighting the shadow.

Linda said...

Anonymous: if Rand did that, he would alienate everybody, and there would be no chance of any unification of forces to fight the Shadow and for world stability afterwards. Nothing indeed.

Eleanor Chandler-Temple said...

Anon: not to mention that there is still no way to deal with the aftermath. Avoiding spoilers but those who know them will know it is also Egwene more in the right about delay.

Russ said...

Linda, I think this chapter may tie directly to a prediction you have for AMOL and I agree to be likely, that the Tower will basically fall in line with Rand after the Fields of Merrilor meeting (and Moiraine's resurfacing) and Egwene will be left somewhat rudderless for a time. This vote right here makes that shift possible and your theory more likely in two ways, Egwene no longer controls the army and can't just "take her ball and go home", and her almost certain failure to deal with the monarchs i.e. Rand.

A particular passage in this chapter really struck a nerve with me. It was the passage where she reflects on her maneuvering against Rand, and she thinks that she is tying the world's monarchs (armies) to the White Tower and they would serve in the Last Battle. I know this is what Rand intends, but that is beside the point. Even after what Darlin writes in her letter, she has the arrogance to believe SHE is the one marshalling forces for the last battle and that they will follow the WT. Rand gathered these armies for Tarmon Gai'don with the help and under the leadership of people he had to win over with gestures of trust and good faith, not game politically. (It was political, but Rand specifically chose leaders who would not game or be gamed.) Its just astounding to me that she refuses to see this. I say "refuse" because the implication of this in the letter is so obvious.

Linda said...

Russ: it was the same when Rand dropped by for a visit to the Tower. so blind and so arrogant. She has absorbed the Aes Sedai way of thinking so well. Contrast with Elayne and Nynaeve, who both show her another point of view, which she believes is deluded because they have been with him too long. The same should be said of Egwene too, being with the Aes Sedai so long.