In the third chapter of In the Hand of the Goddess, Alanna struggles with crushes, jealousy, and her confusing gender issues while the threat of death looms around her. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read In the Hand of the Goddess.
Chapter 3: The Prince’s Squire
While I think the genderswap trope is fairly common in fiction, I think I’ve finally figured out why I am enjoying Tamora Pierce’s use of this plot device. Through Alanna’s hidden gender, we’re able to subtly examine gender roles and expectations from a bit of an outside perspective. Because there are many things here that Alanna can’t participate in or she’s forced to do, it creates this fascinating subtext for the reader.
The Mother’s warning in the opening chapter that Alanna would have to learn how to love becomes an issue through the first two-thirds of chapter three. But this is not simply about Alanna developing a crush. Because she’s presenting as a young man, her expected social roles are completely different for different character. George and Jonathan both know she’s a woman, but everyone else doesn’t. Both those men treat Alanna in such interesting ways. First of all, it seems pretty damn clear that George is developing romantic feelings for Alanna. Alanna believes that love is too feminine for her. Her desire to be a knight overrules the chance of love, not just because she’s too busy, but because it would betray her true gender.
Of course, Alanna is so committed to this idea that she doesn’t even notice that there are plenty of men around her who are falling in love, courting women, and it doesn’t invalidate who they are or what they do. I do recognize that she also thinks that giving any of her time to love would be distracting, and that’s a fair assessment for her. But I noticed how her instincts during her talk with George flared up as soon as he started acting “personal.” I think George overstepped a boundary when he kissed Alanna, not only confusing her but taking advantage of how vulnerable she was emotionally. She recognizes this on top of feeling overwhelmed by having to deal with this and her complicated gender situation.
This is only made worse by the introduction of Delia of Eldorne. I think Pierce uses Delia to examine how girls are socialized to treat one another and to bring about Alanna’s growing feelings towards the Prince. Personally, I have absolutely no reason to dislike Delia, especially since I don’t know anything about her. I feel like this is the point, as it draws my attention to the behavior of Alanna and Jonathan. There’s obviously a direct contrast between Alanna and Delia: Alanna despises the social atmosphere at parties, and Delia eats them up. It’s interesting, then, that Alanna is annoyed at how all the men act differently because Delia is around, and then Alanna proceeds to act differently because Delia is around. She’s not even aware she’s doing this. She’s not aware of her own growing jealousy, either. Subconsciously, I imagine she feels threatened by Delia’s presence, which is only amplified by the fact that Alanna cannot publicly pursue the Prince. She’s presenting as a boy! She can’t risk exposing her secret, so I can see how this would frustrate her more than usual. It really does explain why Alanna takes out her anger on Delia. She hates that Jon talks to her about Delia, and she hates that Delia later appears to be treating the Prince poorly, and then… wait, do they really sleep together? Like sexy times sleep together? Is that what Pierce means, or does she mean they literally sleep together?
Anyway, the last third of this chapter deals with two moments where Alanna must cope with the constant threats on her life. Duke Roger is obviously getting desperate to take out Alanna. He first tries to kill her during a solitary outing Alanna has to take into the Royal Forest. Like, okay, I have enough reasons to dislike Duke Roger, but his demonic boar thing interrupted a crucial slumber party between Alanna and her magical talking cat. That is super mean and rude. You just don’t do something like that! Unfortunately, Alanna can’t even tell anyone about the experience. Who would believe her? At this point, only Thom and George know the truth about Duke Roger’s weirdness.
Which leads me to wonder if Sir Myles is going to put two and two together. The final scene of chapter three is FUCKED UP. When Alanna and Alex train together to help Alanna pass the Ordeal, it’s clear to me that Duke Roger is using his previous squire to go after Alanna. Whether Alex truly wanted to train with Alanna is a mystery. At some point, though, Roger must control Alex to go after Alanna with a vicious brutality. It’s such a scary scene because you can feel Alanna panic as she realizes something is wrong.
I dunno, Sir Myles speaks very plainly and harshly to Alex, so I think he knows something is wrong. I mean, Faithful brought him there, so he can’t be that dense. Alanna might be keeping her suspicions to herself, but I don’t think it would be all that unreasonable if she told Sir Myles what had happened to her over the past year.
This also got me thinking: DUKE ROGER IS REALLY FUCKED UP. Like, seriously, did he hex Alex to possibly kill Alanna? That would ruin Alex’s life. He has no problem using his old squire to get what he wants regardless of how that affects Alex’s life.
Fucked up, y’all.
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