Day Five: Worthing Saga: Chapter 8

June 16, 2008 at 7:40 pm | Posted in The Worthing Saga | 1 Comment

The Worthing Saga
by Orson Scott Card
Day Five
Chapter Eight (154-205)

To me this is one of the most powerful chapters. I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, but Worthing Saga isn’t your traditional type of novel. You may love it, you may hate it. But I hope–I really hope–it’s giving you something to think about. I just find it very engaging.

The chapter begins with Lared and Jason participating in the community’s work. Lared and his father are leading the teams of men to haul the trees, haul the limber. This is Lared’s first real part in the community since his coming-of-age, his rite of passage ceremony. He’s deliriously happy and proud–at least at first. But then Justice and Jason start manipulating him, manipulating the situation. They’re trying to teach him something–though Lared isn’t quite sure what. “Was it the pain, then, that made the joy so strong?” (157)

We then transition rather quickly to the past–to Jason. What do you think? If you’d been Jason, would you have given Stipock his memory? Would you have been afraid of change, afraid of revolution, afraid of doubt? Or would you have embraced the changes come what may? Was this a situation that proved Jason’s integrity? Did Jason do this because it was the right thing to do? Or did he do this because he was curious? In his act at playing god, did Jason restore Stipock’s memory because he was following in Doon’s footsteps? Did he want to prevent his society from becoming safe and complacent and stagnant?

Stipock does seem to do a world of good. He’s smart. He’s creative. And he’s a good leader. Did this surprise you? Does the communities reactions surprise you? The way the parents, the elders, feared him, disliked him…would you welcome strange teachings into your home, your town, your community? And what about the mayor, Noyock, does he strike you as wise or foolish? weak or strong? I really see some admirable traits to admire.

Hoon. Poor Hoom. First he’s abused–verbally and physically–by his father. He takes it, accepts it. Then comes that horrible, dreadful night. A life-changing night. What did you think? Did this scene have you convinced that Hoom was a bad guy? Or did you see him as just someone who had reached their breaking point? It’s hard to “like” a man who would set his parents’ home on fire. Yet his remorse seems mostly genuine. I don’t doubt for a minute that he would have saved his father’s life at the cost of his own once the fire had started and the truth of his actions started to sink in. It must have been hard to live with…really hard…to live with the image of your father burning to death…and the realization in that final moment that you did in fact love him. It’s haunting and tragic. Hoom’s father was a horrible man, yet Hoom still loved him in spite of it…even when he didn’t realize it. All that hate melted away into love.

And life doesn’t get much better for Hoom, does it? Did this section get to you? I don’t expect *every* reader to get all emotional…but I know I sure got teared up there at the end. The babies, the children dying. The baby that was buried but the wind unburied and blew up against the house. That’s the kind of stuff that just hurts to read about, to imagine. The situation is desperate. What of Hoom’s marriage? His wife’s adultery? And his good-natured, merciful, compassionate response? His loving the children with every fiber of his being. How can you not feel for Hoom now? How can you not see him as a good guy? It was such a heartbreaking scene, for me at least, to see Hoom risk it all to save the life of his first born son. To willingly sacrifice himself for the chance–remote as it was–of saving him. Wow. And all those people working as a team in this life-and-death situation. And oh how it ended. Those final minutes, those final goodbyes. So horrible yet touching. I don’t know what it makes you think of…but I got a flash to 9/11…to some of those phone calls that got made by people who knew that they were going to die…that it was just a matter of time…those final outreaches to connect just one more time with the people they loved most…it just got to me. This scene is one of the most haunting from the novel. A testament to love.

All this tension, this suspense, of two stories juxtoposed together. The timing of clipping back and forth between Lared’s own life-changing life-and-death experience and Hoom’s. Lared’s father having had an accident in which Lared has to try to save his father’s life. Talk about responsibility. Talk about fear and courage. To act when every minute counts despite being scared and unsure of what to do. His praying for a miracle. Again just really powerful images and powerful characterization.

I don’t know about you, but up until this chapter, up until Lared’s realization, I didn’t much like the father. He was so harsh. He didn’t really “get” Lared…or so we thought. Yet here we see him as a father who loves his son and is proud of him. We see him happy to be a father. We also see him scared and angry in this chapter.
Lared didn’t have an easy choice, did he? To be the one to cut his father’s arm off in the attempt to save his life…knowing that his father’s livelihood came from being a blacksmith…knowing that so much was at stake here…not knowing if this would make any difference…if his father would die anyway…or not knowing if perhaps his father could be saved without making that sacrifice.

This chapter also has one of those light bulb moments. Stipock’s realization…

It isn’t iron that makes a civilization. He thought of Hoom, loving his children, and tolerating the intolerable between his wife and his friend. That is civilization, to bear pain for the sake of joy. Hoom grew up before I did, Stipock realized. He found out that if you try to eliminate the pain from your life, you destroy all hope of pleasure, too. They come from the same place. Kill one, you’ve killed all. Someone should have mentioned that to me when I was younger. I would have acted differently when Jason put me in his world. I was the devil, when I might have been the angel if I tried. (199)

Through Lared and through Hoom we are left with two poignant stories that sometimes you don’t know how much you love someone, how much you really love someone…until they’re life is at stake. It takes a strong wake-up call at times to break you out of your comfort zone, your complacency, your taking everyone and everything for granted. And it is easy to forget sometimes. The little things, the big things, the anger, the bitterness, the pride, the regret, the little frustrations that can make people difficult to live with, difficult to love.

This chapter is all about humanity. This is meaning-of-life stuff. Here we see dozens of characters all perfectly flawed examples of humanity in action. We see the good, the bad, the ugly, the foolish. We see the best and worst. We see all the emotions–love, hate, anger, fear, courage, regret, guilt, joy, pain. Really I can’t think of much that isn’t here, isn’t revealed. We are who we are…and we can only try to be the best we can be. To love, to forgive, to embrace life and live it to the fullest.

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  1. This was a HEAVY chapter. Seriously. I’m definitely finding myself liking this book more and more. I think it’s a pacing issue for me. Normally I enjoy getting lost in a book, but I just haven’t had time to, so I’ve been reading it in “a chapter here, a chapter there”.

    Personally I liked the fact that Jason gave Stippock his memories back. I think it was the right thing to do and I have to say that I somewhat agree that society can’t work when everything’s ok all the time and the past is all forgotten. I know that it’s a work of dystopian fiction, but look at something like “The Giver”. It’s precisely why that book is frigtening and chilling at times…the world just shouldn’t be like that.

    Then we have Lared with his father. I think I stoppped breathing during that scene. This chapter just kept getting more and more tragic. And this was right after the house getting set on fire in Jason’s world. I felt so bad for poor Lared knowing that he would lay this guilt on himself for not being able to fix his father’s arm and for having to be the one to chop it off. And his father’s reaction just made it worse. I did love Card’s style of writing in having Lared dream while leading his father back home. Such a great writer!

    This rest of this chapter was almost unbearable to read for me. Especially the death of the children and the part where one of the little boys asked “why did we leave (can’t think of her name) back there if there’s water up here” or something like that. Like you said, it was extremely emotional between all of the suffering of the journey, the death, the betrayal and forgiveness. Like you said at the end….this chapter truly was all about humanity.


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