Mark Reads ‘Mastiff’: Part 16

In the sixteenth part of Mastiff, NOPE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mastiff.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of murder/violence, slavery, and dehumanization. 

Well, I’m upset, and that’s an understatement. The murder of Linnet is designed to be deeply uncomfortable in every sense of the word. Pierce doesn’t shy away from the details because it’s those details that remind us that these people don’t see slaves as humans.

Just as an additional heads up, we’re going to have to discuss this at length, so this is probably not going to be a pleasant thing to read.

There are a number things here that demonstrate the concept of dehumanization in the murder of Linnet, some obvious, some not so much. The clearest one here is the location: Linnet, after she was murdered, was dumped in literal garbage. There’s a repetitive message being sent here, one that the slaves later confront Beka and Farmer about: they are disposable. And what’s important is that Pierce makes sure that this is not some metaphorical message, some subtle hint or casual reference. In Linnet’s case, that was absolute, literal truth. She was garbage to Master Elyot and whomever else confronted her about her conversation with Beka. And, of course, there’s a tragic irony in the way she was killed, since the one thing Beka gave to her to make her day better was used to murder her.

Basically, from the discovery of Linnet’s body onwards, this just gets worse and worse. After Farmer goes off to prepare for assisting Beka in discovering where Linnet was killed, Fay arrives, and GOOD LORD:

“You’ll not get permission for a funeral from my lord and my lady. She’s a slave. And the house ones won’t touch her, not when she’s been left this way, as a warning. The outsiders will bury her away from the castle.”

Even in death, Linnet can’t be respected. Now, I don’t blame the slaves for reacting as they do, and I don’t think the text does either. They are faced with their own survival, and clearly, they have every reason to worry about their own murders. This is how the slaveowners send a message: with a dead body. But the other folks? I think it’s perfectly fine to judge them for how they react to Linnet’s death. Fay wastes no time telling Beka how it is because Beka needs to understand that while this is brutally unfair, it’s just how life is for these people. Who else was going to explain to her about Linnet’s burial? Who else was going to warn her that the other slaves were furious with her for interfering in their lives? Fay serves a purpose here, and it’s not to make Beka more comfortable.

“I’ll send some cloth you can wrap her in, but they’ll have to wash it and give it back.”

Jesus fucking christ. Could not be clearer, could it? The cloth that Beka will use to cover Linnet’s nude body has to be given back.

Linnet’s own side of the story, told on the back of a wood pigeon, only drives the point home. It’s one of the more difficult things to get through in the Tortall books, and it took me awhile to figure out why. Death is a familiar thing in these books, and I’ve read so many scenes like this in the Provost’s Dog novels, you know? There’s heartbreak all over them! But it was only when she was unable to identify her murderer that a horrible thought hit me: the person responsible might get away with it. I think Beka is an incredible hunter, and I don’t doubt that she’ll refuse to forget about Linnet’s murder. She cares so much, and I have faith in her.

I do not have faith in this world. Beka is but one person, and she’s fighting against a system that devalues human life if that human is a slave. Will she truly have the support she needs? What if she never finds out who killed Linnet? And that lack of justice is what tears me apart. I suppose that’s why I’m more comfortable analyzing the murder than outright thinking about it. It’s so disturbing to me, viscerally so, because I’m worried that’s what is going to happen. I mean, even Master Farmer, who I adore a great deal, says a pretty disturbing thing here when Beka asks him if he would really would kill one of the slaves for information:

“If it would have advanced the Hunt, yes,” he told me. “But I’d have made it secret and painless. They couldn’t know that, of course. It’s not hard to do, but how many mages go to that trouble for a slave?”

“Trouble”? I mean, that’s so fucked up, because he’s talking about murder as if it would be a generous and thoughtful thing to make the murder of a slave “secret and painless.” That really isn’t better, dude, BECAUSE YOU’RE STILL KILLING A SLAVE FOR YOUR OWN END. What the hell, dude?

There is a scene here that’s not drenched in tragedy, and getting the chance to see Lady Sabine ham it up in front of the other ladies was a beautiful treat. It was also a cunning gamble, since it’s one way of winning these women over to their side. Perhaps they’ll be more willing to talk to the Dogs if they believe they’re on this noble quest to reunite a mother and a son! One can only hope.

Anyway, please be kind and respectful to one another in the comments today! This is REALLY UPSETTING, so let’s not make it worse.

Video 1

Video 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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