Quadrant Three Services Zone
Faculty Residence Wall
University of Delgado
In which Theo has a meeting with her mentor.
It seems to me that there’s a worrying disconnect in the way both the Safety and Theo’s mentor respond to the incident on the scavage court. Leaving aside the question of whether it was Theo’s carelessness or Roni’s that was more responsible for Roni getting injured, it bothers me that neither seems inclined to address the fact that Roni’s response was to knock Theo down and kick her repeatedly in the ribs. It’s downright weird to have an act of willful violence skate right past after so much attention has been paid to Theo’s clumsiness; that’s no way to build a Safe society.
Actually, on re-reading, I suspect this is at least partly an artifact of the story being told from Theo’s point of view, and just because Theo’s talking-to focusses on her own part in the incident doesn’t mean that Roni isn’t getting her own similarly focussed talking-to somewhere else. But I think I’d be happier with some direct evidence of the existence of Roni’s hypothetical talking-to, because as it stands it feels like Theo is getting blamed for getting kicked in the ribs. And somehow I lack confidence in Roni getting a proper talking-to from, presumably, the same person or persons whose past responses to her behaviour have left her the kind of person who knocks people down and kicks them in the ribs.
(Am I over-emphasizing the “knocked her down and kicked her in the ribs” thing? Call it a reaction to the perceived lack of emphasis in the story, and we’ll move on.)
Even apart from that, I don’t like Marjene because she seems to be the kind of person who, though she genuinely wants what’s best for you, is operating from a preconceived notion of “what’s best” involving a generic “you” that doesn’t consider individual differences and isn’t influenced by actual evidence. It strikes me as typical of Marjene that she greets Theo with a (presumably habitual) hug that hurts Theo’s injured ribs when she’s just finished reading the report on the incident in which Theo’s ribs were injured. I bet it didn’t even occur to her that the hug might not be the best greeting in this instance, because it would first need to occur to her that there might be such a thing as an instance in which the hug might not be the best greeting.
(I really will stop harping on Theo’s ribs now. I promise.)
And it’s not just that she doesn’t notice implicit indications that she’s on the wrong track (Theo is surely too polite to complain when Marjene rubs her the wrong way, but one would hope that an advertant mentor would start to get some idea after a while); in the case of the medication, she’s been confronted with an explicit difference of opinion, and her response is that here is an obstacle to be got around by fair means or foul, not that there might be something here to enquire into and learn from.
One thing I don’t hold against her is her reaction to Theo calling Jen Sar “Father”. That has the feel of authentic deep-down shock at behaviour she’s been brought up to consider inappropriate. I expect there are things local custom has taught me are inappropriate that I’d react to just as abruptly.
And it’s a cunning bit of storytelling that that reaction happens in the same chapter as Theo’s rumination on the Mother-Daughter Center, which provides the background that helps to make sense of the reaction. An onagrata may be handy for many things about the house, but fathering he is not for, unless and only for as long as the woman chooses. One begins to get the impression, if one hadn’t already, that a long-term relationship like Kamele and Jen Sar is not the norm.