I covered three chapters tonight to make up for a few missed days. I have a feeling I’ll have to do that a few more times at least. October is coming to an end and I would like to finish my analysis of The Scar within the month. Why? I don’t know, I guess I’m just a little OCD in that I need to finish books in the same month that I start them. These three chapters fulfil Armada’s purpose for going to the island in the first place, however Bellis’s secret mission is left unfinished for the moment. Let’s begin! BEWARE OF SPOILERS FOR THE WHOLE BOOK. [Intro and index]
(Art on left by Dominik Petr)
This short chapter introduces the male anophelii. Their sphincter mouths are a repellant image, but it’s interesting that the stark differences between the two sexes of the species are emphasised by the mouth-parts — and there’s kind of a sexual reversal, with the phallic/violent anatomy possessed by the females, and the passive anatomy possessed by the males (although this is probably more in line with mosquito biology than having any figurative significance). The complete separation between written language and spoken language for the anophelii is also pretty fascinating.
The he-anophelii reaction to the Armadans is described as “phlegmatic”, “almost abstract”. Very similar to the Ariekei’s response to humans in Embassytown, although with fewer communication problems involved. There’s also something a little Hannibal-Lecter about the situation, what with the friendliness and eagerness to help with some outside problem. The anophelii island is all that remains of a once-mighty, literally bloodthirsty empire, made impotent and isolated and imprisoned, reduced to some abstract capacity of assisting other civilizations, but still retaining its chilling menace. It just brings to mind Anthony Hopkins in a perspex prison cell for some reason. Am I making sense there, or just rambling?
Tanner and Hedrigall are bonding well, which makes me wonder if Hedrigall is working on him in the same way Doul is beginning to on Bellis. Tanner does play a part in Doul/Hedrigall’s plan at the end (NB: I’m operating on the assumption that Hedrigall’s tale at the end of the book is a lie; but I’d equally like to believe it’s the truth, and that there was no plan), and I’m not sure if he’s being manipulated at this point into playing that part. Or, their friendship could simply be genuine on both their accounts.
The anophelii are a pretty tragic species. I still can’t help but ponder over their evolution (I know, it goes quite against the point of reading a fantasy novel): how they became what they are, and the evolutionary reason behind their insane hunger. We get a passing mention of the anophelii breeding season, which brings all sorts of vile images to mind. I don’t think I’ll dwell on that.
Doul’s sword pops up again but it’ll be a while before we learn much more about it. He and his powers are one of the best mysteries about this book, in my opinion. I always look forward to reading about his history, and about the Ghosthead.
“To refuse a word of thanks would have been a quite unnecessary violence.” — I just love this phrasing. Bellis is making efforts not to be the cold, stuck-up ice-queen everyone sees her as.
Doul and Hedrigall are seen muttering together at the side of rooms. It’s a pretty big clue that they’re planning something, if you ask me. The beauty of it is, it could just be a red herring. No matter how much you think about it, and look for answers in the text, it’s practically impossible to resolve the book’s final question. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t want to know either way. Bellis’s own opinion of her relationship with Doul is, now, that she’s being manipulated, and so we’re encouraged to think along the same lines. But we’re never totally sure. In my mind, this puzzle is similar to the one posed at the end of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi: if the end result is the same, then all that matters is which story do you like better?
As the work on the island comes to an end, and the Lover announces they will be leaving soon, Bellis is weighed down by the guilt that she hasn’t yet delivered the message she carries to the Dreer Samher ships. Being that I’m knee-deep in my honours thesis at the moment, I know what that deadline anxiety feels like.
The last few lines of this chapter compare Bellis to the other prominent female character of the book, highlighting the differences between them. Bellis is passive, cold, analytical, and demoralized with almost every aspect of her situation; the Lover is passionate to the point of madness, forceful, immoveable. We know all this from their portrayals throughout the book so far, but Miéville underlines their opposite personalities perfectly with two sentences:
Bellis felt as if they shared no language. The gulf between them giddied her.
Languages are an important theme of the book, so the first simile is great. As for the gulf imagery? Well, there’s a vastly important one of those coming up later…
Tetneghi Dustheart – A Dreer Samher pirate vessel.