In the thirty-fourth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Mary has a revelation about why Dust seems to be flowing so rapidly out of the mulefa universe. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR: THERE IS NOW
This is a very brief chapter, but it’s not short on a huge reveal and some fascinating introspection on the part of Dr. Mary Malone. At heart, this chapter provides one of my favorite messages from Philip Pullman, that life without God not only has meaning, but urgency. It’s something that took me a long time to figure out myself. (Seriously, I really could have used this trilogy when I was a confused Christian teenager.)
Unable to sleep, Mary decides to head back to her tree to observe Dust through the amber spyglass to see if she can figure out why it seems to be pouring so quickly out of this world. It’s during this that she takes some time to reflect more on what she shared with Will and Lyra, and I remember going through the same thing myself. She observes the steady moving clouds and she feels that they have a purpose. And it’s a purpose she doesn’t fit in with herself:
This was the very thing she’d told Will about when he asked if she missed God: it was the sense that the whole universe was alive, and that everything was connected to everything else by threads of meaning. When she’d been a Christian, she had felt connected, too; but when she left the Church, she felt loose and free and light, in a universe without purpose.
In my case, as I explained yesterday, I never felt anything but that, so when I saw other people or creatures in this world with a sense of purpose, it was almost jealousy on my part. I wanted that sensation. (I’m going to recommend y’all listen to The Weakerthans’ “Utilities” for a song that touches deeply on this very idea. Fair warning: it is both an amazing song and depressing as hell.)
I’m not sure I understand if there’s a deeper meaning to it, but before Mary can make it to her tree, it breaks and topples to the ground. Are the trees dying now that Dust is leaking from the world? Heartbroken and in despair, it’s when she pulls out the amber spyglass that suddenly everything comes together for her. Dust is indeed leaking from this world, but she realizes it’s probably leaking from all worlds. Will had told her that the subtle knife could cut holes in worlds, and they all knew that some windows had been left open. If the subtle knife had been around for three hundred years, wouldn’t it stand to reason that over the last three centuries, more and more windows were left open?
She doesn’t know it, but there’s also that giant abyss that was opened by the bomb sent to kill Lyra. Could that also be contributing to the recent rush of Dust? What I can’t seem to figure out is the fact that some power is drawing the Dust away, threatening to end all conscious life. Hell, so much so that THE CLOUDS ARE LITERALLY TRYING TO STOP THE DUST FROM LEAVING. Apparently matter has a consciousness? I mean, that’s pretty damn cool, if you ask me. For Mary, it’s a moment of joyous epiphany:
Matter loved Dust. It didn’t want to see it go. That was the meaning of this night, and it was Mary’s meaning, too.
Had she thought there was no meaning in life, no purpose, when God had gone? Yes, she had thought that.
“Well, there is now,” she said aloud, and again, louder: “There is now!”
Maybe this was written in anticipation of the very idea that there is no purpose in life without God, but it fits because the epiphany belongs to mary. She is the one is the one who comes discover what her life means, and it’s one of many reasons why she’s one of the best literary women I’ve ever come across.
Yet, can Pullman allow us joy in this moment? SURELY HE HAS TO RUIN IT, RIGHT? I jest, but the ending to chapter thirty-four is GODDAMN CREEPY. On her way back to share her realization with Will and Lyra, she spots a lone tualapi coming out of the tide, which is strange due to the fact that these creatures always travel in a flock.
And it was coming apart…No, something was getting off its back.
The something was a man.
FFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUU FATHER GOMEZ FOUND THEM. GODDAMN IT. This is awful. I was worried that this would be the confrontation hinted at many chapters ago. He’s carrying a rifle and Mary is left watching from a distance, using the amber spyglass to see where he is, and feeling utterly helpless. He has a gun. She has nothing. But she avoids calling out or notifying the man that she exists in fear of revealing where Will or Lyra are.
Strangely, he enters her mulefa house and leaves just a minute or so later, seemingly confused by something. He sits upon the tualapi and disappears from sight.
So what the hell is he doing? Did he plant something? Was he going to kill Mary? I AM CONFUSED.
There’s a spiffy new banner this week (HOW COLORFUL), and here’s the link to the full image it is cropped from. Additionally, this week’s spoiler thread on BridgeToTheStars is up!