Mark Reads ‘The Princess Bride’: Six (Part II)

In the second half of the sixth chapter of The Princess Bride, yeah. Yeah okay, so I should have never said I was prepared for this book. I wasn’t. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Princess Bride.


Now I feel like the chapter title is teasing me. I can’t. I can’t.

I think that if the Machine was in the movie, I don’t know that it would have seemed as entertaining as the Pit of Despair. Like, the whole Zoo of Death is already fucked up (we will see more of it in the next chapter???), but this is like another level of fucked up.

It was at the moment that the wild dog’s death yell filled Florin that I got the sense that S. Morgenstern was taking this story in a direction that was much more disturbing than what ended up in the film. I feel like I should add a qualifier to my point about the Pit of Despair: it didn’t fill me with joy. But it’s not the Zoo of Death, and it’s not the Machine, and it doesn’t feel as real and as terrible as what happens here. This is one of those things I read and just ask myself HOW COULD ANY HUMAN BEING EVEN THINK OF SOMETHING THIS BRUTAL?

Even Count Rugen’s obsession with intellectualizing pain is so much more clinical and unsettling to me than it ever was in the film. It’s not a joke at all. He really can (and does) detach from the concept of human suffering in order to learn more about it. It fascinates him on such an innate level that it holds no personal meaning for him. (Well, until he faces it himself, but that doesn’t happen here.) He sets up the machine for Westley to stare at for twenty-four hours. That is torture in and of itself! Like Westley, I could not figure out what this machine was going to do. Pull his skin? Electrocute him all over? What were those cups for? But I think the fact that the Count recognized that Westley had been faking his suffering the whole time was the worst part. If he knew that and still expected the Machine to destroy Westley, then how bad was the Machine? Would the anticipation increase the pain?

Oh my god, I was so unprepared.

“As you no doubt know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old – well, basically, that’s all this is, except instead of water, I’m sucking life; I’ve just sucked away one year of your life. Later I’ll et the dial higher, certainly to two of three, perhaps even to five. Theoretically, five should be five times more severe than what you’ve just endured, so please be specific in your answers. Tell me now, honestly: how do you feel?”

In humiliation, and suffering, and frustration, and anger, and anguish so great it was dizzying, Westley cried like a baby.

“Interesting,” said the Count, and carefully noted it down.

Just… my god. I put my copy of the book down at this point, and all I wanted was a hug. It’s the humiliation and the genuine expression of pain that got to me. There was something brave and courageous to me about Westley being able to recede into thoughts of Buttercup to get him through the torture. But the Machine has just taken that from him, and Count Rugen just looks on as if he is conducting a harmless science experiment.

There’s a break before the next torture scene (THANKFULL), and it’s here that Fezzik and Inigo are reunited. It happens during Yellin’s conquest of Thieves Quarter. What was so striking about this story is how both Fezzik and Inigo, who seemed only marginally close before, greet each other wish so much hope and excitement. I actually found Fezzik’s behavior after saving Inigo to be incredibly touching and loving. The importance of Fezzik’s character here is that its the impetus for the two of them eventually banding together to join Westley and get revenge. But in terms of pure characterization, we see just how good of a friend Fezzik is. He does his best to feed Inigo, despite that Fezzik is an awful cook; he stays with his friend while he keeps passing out; he helps him get the brandy out of Inigo’s system using hot and cold water in a bathtub. I just love this, okay?

The two then work out their plan for getting to both Count Rugen and forming an alliance with the Man in Black. I didn’t learn anything new from this since I’m familiar with the plot from the movie, but one part at the end of this scene was particularly memorable:

“I understand everything,” he said.

“You understand nothing, but it really doesn’t matter, since what you mean is, you’re glad to see me, just as I’m glad to see you because no more loneliness.”

“That’s what I mean,” said Fezzik.

Is Inigo/Fezzik now my OTP? It might be. You can’t do anything about it. 

I don’t think people give Buttercup enough credit. I don’t find anything wrong with being hopeful, and I admire her dedication. Plus, what else is she supposed to do? Just because the Prince has been scheming behind her back doesn’t mean she should have figured it out THE VERY FIRST MINUTE OR ELSE. Even then, I still like the moment when she does realize Humperdinck has been lying to her. It’s a subtle gesture that exposes the truth, and she leaps on the chance to call him out on it. That, my friends, is courage. So many things could have gone wrong in that moment, and she does it anyway. She tells the Prince that she loves Westley more than she will ever love him, and that’s because he is a coward. It’s an electrifying and frightening moment of honesty.

And then we get what is my favorite aside from Goldman. I think it’s easy for anyone who has been following my writing to see why I enjoy this so much. I’ve been thinking a lot about character deaths as a plot device lately, and I think this entire aside explains quite well why they are so upsetting. It’s a betrayal of the fictional attachment you have to a character. We expect them to make it to the end. We desire an escape from our world and the harsh reality of mortality. Fiction is an immortal world because we can always revisit it. It’s always there for us. We may change how we look at it, but it never goes away. But when a character dies, we only have a limited record of their existence. There’s suddenly nothing more from them, and there never will be anymore of them.

Obviously, there have been a lot of upsetting deaths I’ve written about on both of my sites. I’m not going to say what they are, especially since I don’t want to spoil them for other folks, but I think a lot of us are familiar with how gutting and horrifying a surprising death is. Some of them have made me stop reading or watching. But guess what happens every time? I do the same thing Goldman did when his father finally told him what happened to Westley: I get over it, and I continue on. Because I need to know what happens.

This book clearly understands me.

Westley’s death scream is too upsetting. I KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO HIM. WHY IS THIS AFFECTING ME AT ALL. I know Miracle Max will show up and save the day, but holy shit. This is something that would be extremely hard to pull off in any film, and it’s one of the benefits of reading the book versus watching the movie. It actually makes me feel Humperdinck’s rage at Buttercup’s words more than I would have. It’s that man’s anger that causes him to have Westley tortured to death, you know?

Oh god, Miracle Max is next and so are MANY WONDERFUL SCENES. Well, assuming they’re the same as the movie? Oh shit, what if they are not???

Mark Links Stuff

– My eBook adaptations of reviews I’ve posted are on sale at Harry Potter, Twilight, and Firefly books are priced from $2.99 to $3.99 a piece, and are available in ePub (iBook, iPod, iPad, Nook), Kindle, and PDF files.
– I now have a Lulu storefront, where you can purchase physical copies of all of my previously released books, including a full Mark Reads Twilight book that includes all four sets of Twilight reviews.
– I am going on tour in the following cities this month (click the name for the Facebook RSVP page): San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Albuquerque, Denver, Salt Lake City, Boise, Spokane, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver B.C. I still need venues/spaces in San Diego, Salt Lake City, Spokane, and Portland. Even if it’s your house, I don’t care. I’ll show up! Please let me know if you have any ideas. I can also be reached at markreadsandwatches [at] gmail [dot] com.
– I am presenting for three days at Ascendio 2012! Come hang out and have the best weekend ever in July!
– Mark Watches The Two Towers will happen most likely on Sunday at 1pm PDT, which is the same as this past weekend. Y’all better break the comment record again.
– I finish Mark Reads The Princess Bride on April 13th, and then Mark Reads Sandman begins on Monday, April 16th. I will split up reviews by issue, and I will be reading the extra books/volumes. IT SHALL BE GRAND.
– I’m on Twitter (@MarkDoesStuff) and I have a Facebook page y’all can Like and flail about on. Join me!
- This is my fifth consecutive year riding in the AIDS/LifeCycle! I’m aiming to raise $10,000 this year. For every $1,000 I raise, I will make a video live reading of a community-chosen fanfic. I am not bluffing. I will read as much of it as possible, and it will be beautiful. Help me out if you can!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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1 Response to Mark Reads ‘The Princess Bride’: Six (Part II)

  1. alisabet says:

    But the Machine is in the movie. It is a bit less horrifying, with fewer suction cups, but it is there. Even the scene with the Count telling Westley about increasing the levels.

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