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The next chapter, “Loyalties,” opens with Kennit reviewing a letter from Sincure Faldin and musing on its contents–among others a description of the investigation by the Paragon‘s crew. The news of the Paragon rocks him, and he contemplates killing and replacing his entire crew, as well as fleeing the Pirate Isles entirely. But his attention returns to those gathered around him: Sorcor, Etta, Wintrow, and Jola, the last of whom is currently the first mate on the Vivacia. Kennit muses on his successful piracy, aided by the serpents that come at his ship’s call, per agreement. As the news received from Faldin is discussed, Wintrow makes note of one of the names mentioned in it: Brashen Trell. Kennit marks the shift in attitude from Wintrow and from the ship as Wintrow discusses his aunt, whose presence on the Paragon and in Divvytown is also marked. Ominous words are exchanged afterward.
Aboard the Chalcedean ship, Malta continues to suffer the Satrap and the crew. She muses on her situation–it is not a good one–and upon the status of her family. She also absently picks at a scar on her forehead, finding its texture rough and its extent greater than she had anticipated. As she considers matters further, Malta begins to more coldly assess her circumstances and the ways in which she can achieve and retain agency, and she begins to proceed along those lines, making for the ship’s captain. When she finally confronts him, she seems to make some progress at improving her situation and the Satrap’s, though the latter is hardly conscious of it until water for bathing and clean clothes are brought to their cabin.
In the evening, Wintrow and Kennit confer with Bolt. The ship is acerbic at the prompt to consider Althea, but agrees, along with Kennit, not to harm Althea. Wintrow pleads for more but is rebuffed and sent off to Etta. After, Kennit’s wizardwood charm speaks up openly, and it and the ship press the pirate savagely about the Paragon and his experiences with that ship.
A couple of things come to mind as I reread the chapter. One is that the focus on Kennit’s internal state seems set to breed sympathy for the man in the reader, even as it presents thoughts of wholesale slaughter. Perhaps “understanding” would be a better term, though; I do not think that such attitudes are regarded as favorable, but I do think that Kennit expands upon some ideas that are present in Regal Farseer. I acknowledge the difficulty and presumption in conducting psychoanalytical readings of characters in works of (fantasy) fiction, but I do think there’s a useful reading in there–and one that explains but does not excuse the character’s behaviors and attitudes.
Another is that Malta’s shift in attitude and behavior aboard the Chalcedean ship seems ripe for reading as a reflection of various reclamation ideas, a deployment of repressive patriarchal gender roles in an attempt to secure her own advancement. A comparison to Serilla’s machinations, both during her travel from Jamaillia with the Satrap and in Bingtown afterwards, seems ripe for making, as well, although I note again that I do not have the theoretical or critical background to do a good job of analyzing and interpreting it to any substantial degree. Still, I cannot help but see the parallels in play, and I find myself wondering how often I am confronted in such ways, with people adopting what they believe are my expectations in an attempt to get from me what they want. I know there are ways in which I serve to deny or restrict the agency of others in unacceptable ways (there are limits to be enforced in some situations, though, and not always those voluntarily accepted; I would be a poor father not to work to keep my seven-year-old daughter safe, after all, and doing so does sometimes mean I have to disallow her from things), and I am sure that those over whom I have power do things to get around those denials and restrictions, even if I am not always aware that I am imposing them. But that is a facet of privilege, and there is much comment to be made about how relative privilege is addressed in the Elderlings corpus as a whole…
3 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 197: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 18”
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