Challenge one: Stories come from character's choices. Blog about one such choice. Was it right? Wrong? OR Blog about what COULD have happened if one character chose differently.
The oddest choice I find myself supporting is the one Louisa made. By every moral principle I've ever followed or supported, that choice was completely wrong. If she were a real person, I'd be appalled.
Actually, no, let me rephrase: If her victim had been a real person, I'd be appalled. If her victim had been as real to me as most of the other characters in Tremontaine, I might have been appalled, and would, at the very least, have felt uncomfortable with any sympathy I had for her.
But, the victim was something of a caricature. We see only one side of this person, ever, regardless of whose eyes we're seeing through. We know that Louisa is almost certainly right about what would have happened if she had not made the decision she did, and we don't really want that fate for her.
The City would be a very different place if she had not made that choice, of course. I think it would have been a worse place. Certainly, a number of people would have wound up in a worse situation, and sooner, rather than later.
That said, it doesn't mean that this decision resulted in a better life for every individual. It most certainly did not! Perhaps it is just that I cannot think of the City without the result of that choice.
Kaab's and Diane's decisions regarding William are a different matter. William, as I've said before, is more real to me than Louisa's victim. But, at the same time, I understand the decisions.
In Kaab's case, while Over the Effing Rainbow makes an excellent point that, at bottom, she's acting less out of duty and more out of a desperate need for her family's affection and approval, this doesn't change the fact that her entire world is at stake. Her family could all die if William used what he learned from Rafe to enable his country's ships to reach her country. It is a terrible thing Kaab did, but she was in a terrible position, and I'd likely have done the same.
For Diane, it's more tangled. And part of that has to do with choices she's made over the course of seventeen years -- and with choices William made.
On the one hand, one cannot blame William for not realizing how much Diane has done for Tremontaine -- how much she has done to keep his father's excesses from causing him to suffer -- when she has spent years creating a mask to keep him from realizing this.
On the other, he seems to understand some of this. She's the one who tells him what to do in council meetings. And his attitude towards her is contradictory -- not unrealistically so, but it complicates things. He's convinced she cannot possibly know of his affair because she is an absolute innocent utterly devoted to him. Yet, it takes so very little before he shouts at her about her acid-lubricated clockwork heart.
The most fateful choice William makes is to conceal his affair from Diane. This infuriates Diane, because it insults her intelligence, and I think it hurts her as well. Indeed, the entire affair hurts her, something she will not allow herself to realize. The affair, too, is William's choice, a choice he seems to have made from nearly the moment he meets Rafe. (Yes, Rafe chooses as well, but this isn't about him right now.)
I think the reason William conceals his affair is guilt not simply because he is having an affair, but because of why he is having one. He is dissatisfied with his marriage, which brings him everything except passion. It may not always have been that way, but this is how it seems to him now.
And yet, he must ask himself, how can he possibly be dissatisfied? He has a wonderful wife, one he knows is devoted to him. She has never strayed. She has worked tirelessly for the good of Tremontaine, doing much of the work he does not want to have to learn. And the part of the burden she cannot lift from him? She shows him what he must do to carry it. How can he be anything but grateful?
How can he not resent this?
How can he admit even to himself that he resents it?
And how can he resist someone like Rafe, who is, in many ways, the exact opposite of Diane? He is passionate before anything else, even before calculating the advantage his position as William's lover could give him. Diane never stops calculating.
William could not function as Duke Tremontaine without Diane. Theirs is not a partnership of equals, and he knows this. It could have been -- his power for Diane's tutulage. Why not? Well, partly because Diane is not at the stage where she wants to give up a single ounce of what power she can hold. But partly, also, because, yes, with great power come great responsiblity, and William doesn't necessarily want the responsibility.
Rafe doesn't address William as a duke -- but he also doesn't address William as a child or a dutiful pawn to be taught his part.
So, there's all of this boiling inside of William, and this makes him feel guilty. How can he think such hateful things of his own wife? How dare he?
And the one choice William makes that seals his fate is that he will not sit down and talk with his wife about what has happened.
Would this have made a difference? I honestly don't know. Diane believes that she doesn't care that William's having an affair, but this is undercut several times. And, even if he told her everything he knew and felt, expecting reciprocity and rapprochement, we know that wouldn't happen. Or, as Diane will someday say, she already knows what she knows. She has no intention of sharing that information.
While Diane's choice changes everything, it's coming from a position where she knows how much is at stake. It's not as much as is at stake for Kaab, but I understand why Diane is looking out for herself first -- and equating Tremontaine with herself. Given who she is and where she's been, she knows that if she doesn't look after herself, no one will. And Kaab knows that she is part of a greater whole and responsible for doing her part to protect it -- especially after being the one who endangered it in the first place.
I feel sympathy for both of them, in different ways. But, Diane did something terrible, and Kaab allowed her to do so. It's easier for me to forgive Kaab. Say what you like about enabling evil; Kaab did not try to destroy a man, and this matters. Diane is trying to keep herself from ruin. Kaab is trying to prevent the death of her family and the destruction of her country. This also matters.
And, Diane's position is what it is because of some of the horrible ways her own country works. This also matters.
William, I could say, is acting more despicably. He's lying to his wife and ruining carefully laid plans and refusing to try to see the bigger picture from his wife's point of view because to do otherwise would be uncomfortable. It's a very selfish position.
But, William is not a purely selfish man. He's a man who stood by his wife for seventeen years, often in the face of family disapproval, who cares about his City and her University, and who loves deeply when he loves. And this matters -- but it does not change the fact that he, too, made choices, and not all of them were made in utter innocence.
And Rafe? Sadly, his part in the immediate crisis was to make the right choice for the right reason, to tell William to go back to Diane and make up with her.
Challenge two: What book or movie would a TREMONTAINE character enjoy? Feel free to use pictures or words for this challenge.
Vincent might or might not enjoy various swashbuckling films, but I'd be happy to watch them with him and listen to his critique.
Diane would probably enjoy Dorothy Dunnett's books, but I doubt that surprises anyone. Recommending Machiavelli's The Prince seems like an exercise in redundancy, but she might welcome a work from a kindred spirit.
Micah would probably like Raymond Smullyan's books.