A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 157: Mad Ship, Chapter 19

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


A chapter titled “Aftermath” follows, opening with Althea delivering Restart back to his home. It is a pleasant experience for neither of them, with Althea having to take charge of the situation while Restart fumbles about ineptly. He makes some noises of gratitude, provoking sharp rebuke from Althea for his trafficking in slaves; Restart begrudgingly releases one from his service.

Frans Hals 092 WGA version.jpg
Not unlike this, perhaps?
Frans Hals’s The Fisher Boy, which I am told is public domain

Meanwhile, Keffria considers a portrait she had had made of her husband, as well as the relationship she had had with him. She realizes she does not love the man, if she ever had, and muses on the parallels between him and Althea before making to join Ronica in what had been her father’s study. They are interrupted by Brashen calling on the house, accompanied by Amber; they purpose to speak about reclaiming the Vivacia. Keffria is uncomfortable at their arrival, but Ronica sees them in just as Althea arrives back at the Vestrit house.

Althea is accompanied by Restart’s former slave, a stable boy, as she mulls over her situation and her failures. Her physical condition is remarked upon, and she upbraids Brashen before moving off to bathe. Ronica overrules her dismissal of Trell, however, and discussion ensues after Althea washes and re-dresses in haste. Brashen and Amber voice a plan to purchase the Paragon, crew the ship, and sail off to reclaim the Vivacia. Althea opposes the plan, but the newly-arrived Malta asks about it. Objections to and concerns about the plan are voiced and addressed. Many center on expenses, with Malta pleasantly surprising Ronica by asking about them–and surprising the lot of them similarly by affirming her willingness to wed Reyn in the interest of staving off the debts owed to the Khuprus family.

Amid the planning, Brashen also notes the unrest at the Bingtown waterfront that the Vestrits had missed. Grag Tenira had been involved and has vanished, though not unhappily. And planning to retrieve the Vivacia continues, with the former slave volunteering to sail on the mission. Others begin to accept roles in the plan, and people begin to retire for the evening.

Althea delivering Restart home and taking command of his household when she arrives rings of a misogynistic trope that has received no small amount of attention: masculine domestic ineptitude. Also called creative incompetence or strategic incompetence, and related to learned helplessness, the pattern speaks to the perceived infantilization of men when it comes to doing domestic tasks such as are involved in maintaining a household. (Notably, Althea “suddenly felt [Restart] needed to be treated like a child” as she sees about directing his household.) That is, men are depicted–and, per no few comments, enact the depiction–as having no ability to manage household chores (unless, of course, there is some overt gain in it). The pattern obliges others to “take care” of them, in effect subordinating them–and while it is certainly the case that some people are truly unable to care for themselves, and others may negotiate divisions of labor within committed reciprocal relationships, the pattern often extends outside such sensible bounds–as is the case with Restart.

Help me move more confidently into the new year?

2 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 157: Mad Ship, Chapter 19

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