Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thoughts on The Wreath and relationships

You know how there are those girls who read the Twilight series, and then fall into the Edward camp or the Jacob camp? Well, I'm in the Simon camp. I love Simon. And perhaps that colors my impressions of Kristin throughout the book and the trilogy. Erlend is just not my kind of guy, which makes it even more incomprehensible to me that Kristin throws Simon over for him. There are some books in which I can about foolish relationship choices and feel objective or remote from the situation, but I had a very strong negative reaction to Kristin's rejection of Simon. I disliked her so much by the end of the book that I had to go ahead and read the rest of the trilogy, to get the full perspective on her.

(Caveat: my husband is much like Simon. So I'm a partisan.)

I'm reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis's Perelandra, which I'm dredging up from memory: God can bring good out of evil, but it is not the good that He originally intended. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that though the rest of the trilogy, Kristin and Erlend go on to live a rich life together and do love each other very much. And looking at their children, one can indeed see the good that sprung from the seed sown on rocky soil. But this false beginning stains Kristin and Erlend's happiness, and creates an internal conflict that time and again surfaces and leaves destruction in its wake.

There are two kinds of couples, I think: those whose drama is external, and those whose drama is internal. Kristin and Erlend have internal drama -- strife between them, driven by their own anger or bitterness at each other. My husband and I will never be a good subject for a novel or a movie because any drama in our lives is driven by external circumstances (finances, job, whatever) but doesn't pierce through to the heart of who we are as a couple, and so doesn't create conflict between us. Kristin and Erlend have this conflict built into their very identity as a couple, not just because they sin (who doesn't?) but because they persist in that sin and allow it to define how they interact with each other and with society. I found it telling that at first Kristin longed for a pregnancy as a sign of their commitment to each other, a real bond that would cement their love and stand as a signal to the world that they had were committed to each other, come what may; but when Kristin finds herself pregnant right before the wedding -- the true sign of their commitment before God and before medieval Norway -- the pregnancy is a wedge and a mockery and is a chain rather than a bond.

Remember how that pregnancy results -- Erlend doesn't take Kristin's refusal seriously. He's become accustomed to her acquiescence in sin and pleasure. What started off with such high-minded sentiments (see Betty's post below about rationalizing sexual sin) has come to this -- a not-quite-rape that results in what will soon be a very public shame. The time of "getting away with it" is over, and the toll on their relationship will last a lifetime. Forgiveness and mercy are available, but it will be very hard to break out of the pattern of spiritual rationalization and rejection of mercy that Kristin is establishing now.


Melanie B said...

I'm in the Simon camp too.

mrsdarwin said...

I wanted to clarify that I think the problem with the pregnancy is not the mere fact of it, but that by the time it occurs it's something shameful, to be hidden -- just one more deception in the whole tapestry of deception Kristin and Erlend have been weaving. Perhaps if she became pregnant that first time, it would have been better. It might actually have been a public bond between them, to be acknowledged and borne with pride. But that secrecy, which is the real acknowledgment that what they've done is shameful, is what is so soul-destroying.

Betty Duffy said...

Ugh. I've had a few Erlend's in my life. Feel lucky I escaped them. (But still love a man with good hair.)