A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 146: Mad Ship, Chapter 8

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Immersions,” starts with the Vivacia and Wintrow realizing Kennit has died. The pirate’s own self-awareness begins to fade and fray out, but the ship somehow reaches out to him and holds him together, bringing Wintrow to him in a psychic space and guiding the boy to put the pirate’s consciousness back into his body. They share much of their experiences with one another in the efforts, and Kennit returns to his body to find Wintrow slumped over it and Etta weeping in joy at his return. Kennit directs her to be kind to Wintrow, who has passed out on the floor of the cabin.

Shining light on 'near-death' experiences - Chicago Tribune
This is something Wintrow’d like to stop.
Image from the Chicago Tribune, used for commentary

Wintrow returns to consciousness with some difficulty, finding Kennit asleep and Etta at work on sewing. He is taken somewhat aback by her changed attitude toward him, and he asks her after her past. Her frank answer forces him to reconsider his notions, and her subsequent questions to him silence him for a time. Wintrow attempts to make amends, and their conversation turns strangely philosophical.

Etta rehearses to an increasingly uncomfortable Wintrow the beginnings of her liaison with Kennit. Wintrow’s regard for both Kennit and Etta changes as a result, and he excuses himself to attend to himself and the tasks that face him. One of them is conferring with the ship; there is some bitterness in the discussion, and some communion.

Later, the Marietta makes rendezvous with the Vivacia. Wintrow marks the state of the ship and her crew until he is summoned to tend to an angrily convalescing Kennit. Tensions grow between the two until Etta proposes a solution that pleases Kennit, and matters proceed thence.

It is perhaps a small thing in the chapter, although it seems to be important in the broader discussion of the Liveship novels, that Etta appears to have taken ownership of herself as a prostitute. Wintrow, a child who had spent most of the past few years in a monastery, might well be expected to have an uninformed view of sex and sexuality such as he displays in his thoughts during his conversation with Etta and later. That he is struck by Etta’s reappropriation or reclamation of her sexuality seems in line with that, while the reclamation itself speaks, if quietly and briefly, to the feminist critique that pervades the Liveship Traders works. It is a sometimes fraught discussion, but sex work is work, as others discuss in far greater detail and far more eloquently than is given to me to do; Kate Lister is one such person. Etta’s assertion of power through that avenue would seem to bear more investigation.

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