Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday with Words: The Thing Itself

I've long enjoyed Mary Stewart's gothic romances.  I purchased and read a lot of them around the time I was in high school, and have occasionally revisited them.  Several of the Hive's 52 Books in 52 Weeks group recently picked up The Ivy Tree and some struggled with it.  Because it is one of the ones I liked and own, I thought I'd refresh my memory and dug it out of the box in the basement.

Stewart's style is to lushly describe places and events.  In this book, one of murder and mistaken identity, I find that even though I remember the outcome of the book, she's able to mess with my mind and make me question whether I remember correctly or not.  There is a lot of grim animosity in this book.

When the principle protagonist and antagonist in the book meet, they have a fencing argument about identity and image:
"Yes. I believe you. But you mustn't blame me too much for being rude, and staring. It's a queer experience, running into the double of someone you know." [Con said]

"Believe me, it's even queerer learning that one has a double," I said. "Funny enough, it's a thing one's inclined to resent."

"Do you know, I hadn't thought of that, but I believe you're right? I should hate like hell to think there were two of me."

I thought: and I believe you; though I didn't say it aloud. I smiled. "It's a violation of one's individuality, I suppose. A survival of a primitive feeling of -- what can one call it -- identity? Self-hood? You want to be you, and nobody else. And it's uncomfortably like magic. You feel like a savage with a looking glass, or Shelley seeing his Doppelganger one morning before breakfast."

"Did he?"

"He said so. It was supposed to be a presage of evil, probably death."

He grinned. "I'll risk it."

"Oh lord, not our death. The one that meets the image is the one who dies."

"Well, that is me. You're the image, aren't you?"

"There you are," I said, "that's just the core of the matter. That's just what one resents. We none of us want to be 'the image.' We're the thing itself." (pg 13, italics hers, bolding mine)
Isn't that just like a person and sin.  We don't want to be the image, but the thing itself.  I don't know that that is what Lady Stewart was getting at, but it is the thought I was thinking about when I read it.

What are you reading this week and what has caught your mind?


  1. The Ivy Tree will probably be my next Mary Stewart read. Do you think it's darker than This Rough Magic?

    1. I think it is the darkest of the ones I've read and our protagonist definitely has a less than sterling character. That being said, it is so well crafted and written that after This Rough Magic it is one of my favorites. You're welcome to borrow any of my MS books, Anna.

  2. and we must die (and rise again) to become the image we ought to be.


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