Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Finding hidden messages that the author has inserted in their text is a really tricky thing and usually a flash point for arguments, especially if the message doesn't sit well with people who really admire said author. An example of this is when I pointed out to several people that I thought Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game was nothing but a well-hidden diatribe against gay people (and therefore unworthy of the awards it has received--yup I said it). As I read it, I kept shaking my head at the homophobic references which pepper the text. Then one day I looked up the word "bugger" and discovered it was British slang for "sodomite", a.k.a. "homosexual" and suddenly everything clicked. Taken aback by my findings, I thought to absolve Mr. Card of said bigotry by using Google but nope... he's a confirmed bigot. So yeah, I was right (and got blasted on forums for voicing my opinion).

I'm a critical reader and I look for hidden messages. I can't turn it off...I'm sorry...it's just who I am. If my friend Roguemutt wrote three novels and all of them featured 12-year-old girls getting married to 40-year-old men and these men were very excited to take these girls to bed with them over and over across thousands of pages...I would call mutt a pedophile. This is an extreme example but it shows you how I read books as I look for author intent.

The definition of allegory is a form of extended metaphor, in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative, are equated with the meanings that lie outside the narrative itself. The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas as charity, greed, or envy.

Thus an allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning.

Everyone who has been reading my blog knows I've been working my way through Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Right now, I'm on the third book, a 2000-page work on my iPad (I increased the font size to make it easier to read) called A Storm of Swords. I'm not going to cover how I think it's a soap opera seeing as I did that in an earlier post. No...what I'm going to cover here is the underlying message that Mr. Martin has been pounding into my head and suddenly "I got it" in a chapter where Daenerys gathered an army of "unsullied" by purchasing them as slaves and then commanded them to destroy an entire city.

The message is simple: WOMEN ARE THE DEATH OF MEN.

It's pounded over and over in these books. Mr. Martin, I believe, is a modern day misogynist.

As you may already know, medieval misogyny gave rise to chivalry. The belief that Eve was responsible for consorting with snakes and thereby God threw all of humanity out of the Garden of Eden. Chivalry arose from misogyny as men sought a means to disarm women of their sorceries, witchcrafts, and curses that they were prone to cast over men to do them ill.

In Martin's books, every single horrible thing that has befallen a man has come from consorting with a woman. Khal Drogo died because a witch that said she could cure him of a minor wound poisoned him. Ser Jorah Mormont lost all his land for love of a woman. Cersei killed the king and tried to have Tirrion killed. The men of Astapor underestimated a woman and paid for it with their lives! In other words, all the men who exist in their version of an "Eden" are undone by women and a terrible fate befalls them.

I'm almost a third of the way through with A Storm of Swords but I will make a predictions on the novels based off of this theme.

Every man in these books that dies that is considered a prominent character will have a death directly related back to a woman (this includes as yet unreleased material).

What do you guys think? You fans of the books that are out there...can you furnish an example of a prominent male character that dies that was not offed as a direct correlation to a woman?


  1. I thought it was about nipples.

    What you have to be careful of is that sometimes the message you perceive from a book is not consciously intended by the author. Maybe Card intended to be anti-gay with his books or maybe it was just subconscious.

    I wrote a whole post on that a while back that was inspired by a "South Park" episode.

  2. Yeah, I have to agree with Rogue. Messages in books are not always intended by the author. Which is not to say that they're not there, but...
    Let's look at Tolkien and Lewis, because, well, who else is there better to look at? The allegory in the Narnia books was intentional by Lewis. He set out to write allegory. Tolkien, on the other hand, hated allegory and continually objected to there being allegorical messages in his books. The messages were still there (technology is bad, war is bad, all of that), but he didn't put them there with forethought.

    I would imagine that Mr. Martin would disagree with your assessment of his message. Of course, I don't know him, so maybe not. Of course, people often have beliefs about things that they're not even aware of.

    Still not reading those books. Just saying.

  3. Andrew: It is ridiculous to assume that any author would ever "own" up to an idea that could be construed "unpopular" because money is on the line. As long as sales could be impacted, any author will hide from admitting that there is intent behind the words that are put to a manuscript...period.

  4. Well, yeah, that's true. Sort of. I mean, Tolkien would have agreed with the messages in his book; he just disagreed that he put them there. So it would really depend on the message as to whether the author would own up to it. That is to say, Tolkien's messages were unpopular in his day. Technology, all technology, and industrial progress, was seen as a good thing. But he didn't like it and said so frequently. Then he wrote a big series of books that, basically, said humans are orcs (or hobbits). I don't think Tolkien was overly concerned with sales, though.
    I'm gonna stop, now. I feel like I do when I'm arguing with my wife over something we're in agreement on.

  5. Also, the world has changed a lot since Tolkien's day (not to mention that he's dead so has no stake at all in sales because he's dead).

    Now...everything is instant. Sales can be impacted instantly. If a writer were to truly speak his mind and say what he really feels...and it's unpopular...bam twitter...bam facebook...bam career. **KAPOW** unemployment line.

    I think we live in a time when more than ever, we cannot say what we truly want to say because if we do...it costs us money. That's capitalism.

  6. Interesting.

    I think every author has a point of view that comes through in his/her work whether put there consciously or not. It sounds like you consciously look out for that viewpoint. I bet it gives the stuff you read a little more depth than it might have otherwise.

  7. My question is if you believe Martin is a misogynist, is that going to keep you from reading the books? Did you stop reading Ender because you thought Card was a bigot? (Because I have to add, and I know that this isn't what this post is about, that the end of Ender's Game and the subsequent series shows that they--Ender--made a mistake with the xenocide of an entire race. The story becomes one about understanding the Other.) (Sorry, I'll bet you already had this discussion when you posted your feelings on Card before. Feel free to delete this.)

  8. Brent: I finished "Ender's Game". I will never buy another book by Card.

    As for George...misogyny doesn't bother me as much as the stuff that Card is guilty of with regard to his stance on gay marriage and gay rights. It simply is interesting...and hell no...it doesn't keep me from plowing through his books, recommending them, and pre-ordering "Dance of Dragons".

    However, a frank discussion on misogyny might be in order in my recommendation to the books to someone. For example, I might say..."Hey...I've been reading these books and they are frickin' awesome. However, I'm pretty sure the guy that writes them is a misogynist. All the males in the books die because of their interactions with females, the writer is extremely frank about sex including a full description of Daenerys masturbating, and it is very soap-operish...if this appeals to you...it's worth the money." I would end with a smile :)

  9. People can be misogynist without even realizing it. Then there are people who are racist, sexist, anti- semitic, homophobic and if there were words to describe people who are against little people, people with emotional probelms - - - the list can go on and on. Good thing that you are able to grasp the content of the book ie if it is reflecting that charecter of the author.
    My biggest desire is to save the generation of today's kindergarteners from people like that. My biggest fear - - - there will always be some one to pass the messages of fear and hatered to the innocent.

  10. I'm not sure I buy it. You could just as easily say that every woman in the book has her troubles because of a man or men. Martin's world is hell for just about everyone.

    I still love Ender's Game, even after I found out what a creep the author is. It made so much sense that all the heroes in his books have to be so perfectly brilliant, since he has such a narrow, right-wing view of how things should be.