In the seventh chapter of The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, WELL, I DID NOT EXPECT THAT AT ALL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Woman Who Rides Like a Man.
Chapter Seven: The Voice of the Tribes
Oh, shit. Well, this is going to be interesting. I mean, I’m still in shock from that ending, especially since this chapter made me like Jonathan a lot at point. I always enjoy when an author gives development to their secondary characters, and this chapter in particular focuses on Jonathan’s growth as a person. With Ali Mukhtab in his final days, it becomes even more imperative that Jonathan finish his training. But does that mean he’s meant to become the Voice? Will that also mean he’ll force Alanna to make a decision about his marriage proposal to her?
Alanna still clashes with Jonathan more than she ever has before, which is shown to be frustrating not only because he’s so arrogant around her. We get a brief glimpse of how well-suited he is to the practice of diplomacy. We’ve seen that into him before, obviously, and his combat with Amman was evidence that even under stress, he can be remarkably reasonable and fair to other people. So why is it that Alanna can’t seem to shake the sense that in private, Jonathan acts like such a brat? Why does he appear to have to different sides to himself?
It’s nice, then, that Alanna now has Myles around so that she can ask him for advice. And despite that Myles has always supported her, I started to worry that on the issue of Jonathan, he’d urge her to accept the proposal for some pragmatic reason. His line about how “many young women” would kill to to be asked to marry Jonathan bothered me. Okay, that’s nice, but Alanna is unsure about making such a commitment. Who cares what other people might think? She’s trying to be thoughtful about a very big decision she has to make.
She was astounded to realize the look in her foster-father’s eyes was of pride. “Few people are wise enough to know they might not be ready for such a venture. Too many rush to wed, only to discover they know little about what they’re getting into.”
EVERYONE, I LOVE SIR MYLES SO MUCH. And you know, making him her foster-father gives this so much meaning, too, since he was always fatherly to Alanna. And now he’s basically giving her his blessing to make whatever choice she thinks is best. He doesn’t ask her for anything else. Oh god, he is so wonderful!
Prediction: Despite saying that she doubts she can visit him, Alanna will totally find a way to see George. IT’S SO OBVIOUS SHE WILL.
Anyway, this part of the book takes an important issue – that of personal freedom – and contrasts what that means for both Alanna and Jonathan. After speaking with Myles, Alanna spends some time riding around the desert, thinking about what she’s going to do with the Prince. Her thoughts wander to a life of freedom, one without her ties to Corus, to the men she’s unfortunately had to kill, and to everyone she’s had to carry. For Alanna, freedom is very literal. She wants the chance to only worry about herself. And it’s interesting that Pierce does not say that this means she doesn’t want to love someone. But Alanna prefers a life by herself. Even though she has fallen for Jonathan, I don’t know that she needs that companionship.
After this, Jonathan goes through the frightening ceremony to become the Voice, and we learn what freedom he has been seeking. Prior to the ceremony, he tells Alanna that he needs to become the Voice. We know Jonathan is a natural leader in many ways, but he speaks of his desire to learn the “few secrets of the human soul” that have been kept from him. It was a strange thing for him to say, at least initially, and it wasn’t until he spoke to Ali Mukhtab during the ceremony that I began to understand him. Jonathan’s freedom came from knowledge. He wants to become the Voice as a way to understand the human experience better than ever and to use that knowledge to better the world around him.
The ceremony itself is an eerie, tense affair. While I didn’t doubt that Jonathan would become the voice, I was saddened that this moment was the last of Ali Mukhtab’s life. But his time had come and gone, and he passed along his wisdom and power to Jonathan. That power is frightening, sure, and Jonathan knows that what he’s been given is horrifying. He describes it as hearing every voice in the tribe calling about to him in desperation all at once. That’s something I love about the Bazhir; they put so much faith and importance in the thoughts of the people who make up their tribe, so it’s significant that Jonathan recognizes this, too. The knowledge he gains is awe-inspiring, sure. But this part was the most crucial bit of his whole experience:
“When my life becomes too confining, and when I feel I have no freedom, I can look into myself, and be someone else. I can go somewhere else.” He turned and kissed her deeply, then added, “Alanna, for the first time since I was named, I am free.”
Wow. And this was hinted at before when Jonathan said that he wanted to escape the confines of the life he’d been forced into. It’s a huge moment of character development for Jonathan, and I admit I was happy for him! How could you not be? He found freedom!
And I should have known that once I felt happiness, it would be stolen from me! Okay, so I’m not unhappy, but I was completely bewildered by the absolute trainwreck of a disaster that goes down in the final pages of chapter seven. Turns out that Jonathan is readying Moonlight for Alanna. He’s operating under the assumption that she’s definitely going to return to him and marry him.
What ends up happening is a frustrating (but surprisingly satisfying!) argument between Alanna and Jonathan. In this, it’s revealed that Jonathan’s playful tone whenever Alanna said she wasn’t sure at marriage WAS REAL. HE TRULY BELIEVED THAT SHE WAS JUST BEING COY FOR THE SAKE OF IT. Oh my god, is he for real? And over the course of a couple of minutes, all of his sexist baggage comes pouring out. He thinks Alanna was merely exaggerating her maidenly shyness. WHICH, DUDE, WHEN HAS SHE EVER EXHIBITED THAT EVER? Then he repeats the same thing Myles said earlier: plenty of women would marry him. Okay, again, HOW IS THAT A DECENT REASON TO DO ANYTHING? It’s not, it’s awful. Of course, he saved the worst for last:
“And I know you’ve had affairs with some of them! They’ve made you into a conceited–”
“At least they’re women, Lady Alanna!” he said. “And they know how to act like women!”
And there it is. Jonathan was so used to women fulfilling their traditional roles for his benefit that he just assumed Alanna would roll over and do the same for him. Nevermind that Alanna’s uniqueness is one of the things he was attracted to in the first place! No, Alanna isn’t womanly enough for him. Like, holy shit, Jonathan. What are you doing? What makes you think this is an acceptable thing to tell ALANNA, OF ALL PEOPLE? It really speaks to the sense of entitlement he operates under, and as sad as it is, I’m glad Alanna refuses to marry him. She deserves someone better than that!
For real, his POV segment at the end of chapter seven is just awful. Wow, he’s going to marry Princess Josiane just to spite Alanna for rejecting him. 100% done with you, Jonathan. BRING ON GEORGE COOPER. Right? Oh god, wait, please don’t let him fuck up, too. I SHOULD STOP TALKING.
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