Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fear - Chapter 2, Part 2 - Sanctuary

Fortunately for Lowry, his wife hasn't vanished when he returns from making a sandwich, and he commands her to "Just sit there and be beautiful" while he eats and relaxes.  Then he remembers that bloodcurdling scream of hers he heard upon coming home, which of course would be a very odd thing to hear if she came home after he did.  But Mary decides it "Must be the Allison radio.  Those kids can find the most awful programs and they haven't the least idea of turning them down.  The whole family must be deaf."  So it was nothing to worry about, just the neighbors listening to Mary Lowry Screaming in Terror with the volume cranked up.

Lowry continues gazing at his wife, reflecting on how "so young and so lovely" she is, and how odd it is that she settled down with someone ten years her senior... but we can't have a Hubbard protagonist be unappealing or anything, so we're reminded that Lowry spends so much time outdoors that he's in excellent condition and doesn't look much older than someone in his early 30s.  Still, Lowry worries that his time spent away and "usual lack of demonstrativeness" might cause her to reconsider.  Especially since, it is revealed, Mary was courted by none other than Tommy before she wound up with Lowry.


"Yes, Jim?"

"Mary, do you love me a little bit?"

"A lot more than a little bit, Jim Lowry."



I'm not sure about this section, specifically why there are dashes instead of question marks.  If Jim is supposed to be trailing off instead of fully asking the question, I think an ellipses would work better, and as it's written it sounds like Mary is instantly interrupting Jim's question every time he says her name, except there's no narration to support this.

"Tommy once asked you to marry him, didn't he?"

I'm not sure why he has to ask her that when he just remembered the fact.  Maybe he's still doubting his memory?

A slight displeasure crossed her face.  "Any man who could carry on an affair with a student and still ask me to marry him-- Jim, don't be jealous again; I thought we had put all that away long ago."

"But you married me instead."

I should hope so, or else Tommy is going to have questions about why his wife is out comforting another man.

"You're strong and powerful and everything a woman wants in a man, Jim. Women find beauty in men only when they find strength; there's something wrong with a woman, Jim, when she falls in love with a fellow because he is pretty."

Yeah, it doesn't matter if they're often absent, have buried jealous tendencies, act domineering mentally and physically, and still haven't said "I love you," women go gaga for strong, powerful men.

At any rate, Mary scolds Lowry for staying up late while "half on fire and half frozen," so he lets her march him upstairs to bed.  Lowry then gives her "a long kiss and a hug sufficient to break her ribs before he let her return to the living room," because I guess he felt the need to show her who's boss even after caving to her attempts to help him. 

When Lowry undresses for bed, he notices something strange about his clothes that he hadn't detected when he was stumbling home, or greeting his wife, or calming down with a sammich - there's tears and wrinkles all over them, as well as stiff patches of dried mud.  Then when he's in his pajamas and washing up he notices another aberration, a scarlet mark on his forearm like a brand or tattoo, four little marks like a rabbit's footprint.  "Strange," he thinks twice as he crawls under the covers.  Hey, if he'd been marked by Satanic forces or something he'd surely remember it, right?

Lowry goes to bed, and Hubbard builds mood.  The full moon is shining through the window, the wind is moaning under the door, and to Lowry's malaria'd mind it sounds almost like someone's voice.

The wind was whimpering and every few seconds it would weep, "Where?"  And then it would mutter out and grumble and come up again as though tiptoeing to his bedside to cry, "Why?"

Jim Lowry turned over and again pulled the covers down tight against his ear.


A whimpering complaint.


Having built mood, Hubbard decides that the best way to continue doing so is to repeat the "Where? Why?" lines two more times as Lowry continues to freak out at rattling windows and other night noises.  Then the door opens, he sees a white shape approaching soundlessly carrying a shining knife!  Lowry leaps to his feet, knocks the weapon away, and realizes he just disarmed Mary of a glass of milk, oopsie. 

Double oopsie, in fact - Lowry not only broke the glass, but cut Mary's hand while doing so, even if she tries to hide it.  He quickly extracts the sliver of glass from the cut and "applied his lips to it to make it bleed more freely," eww.  You know what he doesn't do?  Apologize.  Fixing the damage he caused ought to be enough, right?

It's at this point that Lowry decides to talk more about what happened that day.  He reveals that he's been fired over that stupid newspaper article and they'll have to move somewhere else, but Mary laughs off his concerns because she'll follow him anywhere, since she feels lonely when he's not around.  Lowry gives her a smooch and feels like "a priest might feel touching the foot of his goddess."  I'm glad the narration is here to help us see the affection he feels for his wife, since his action and dialogue doesn't always make this clear.

Then he elaborates on the whole "I don't know where I've been" thing he mentioned earlier that Mary wasn't interested in, and explains that four hours are missing from his memory.  Mary theorizes that he fell and hit his head, or is suffering from malaria, but Lowry doesn't have any bruises, and he knows that if malaria "blacks out a mind, then it is so serious that the patient isn't going to feel as well as I do now."  Y'know, teeth chattering, jumping at shadows, heart gripped with dread, nauseous with fear - he's fine!

Mary advises him to get some sleep and start on figuring out what happened tomorrow, but Lowry is in no mood for rest, so she can only watch in resignation as he dresses himself for a late night stroll.  He mentions that weird feeling that he had an appointment that afternoon, says he'll be back in an hour, and away he goes.  A man shaking from malaria, scared out of his wits, and unable to remember what he did that late afternoon, has decided to take a midnight walk and his wife can't gather the gumption to stop him.  All she can say is "Good night, Jim."  So ends Chapter Two.

Overall, I'd say the word for this part of the book is "informative."  We learn some important information about our principal character and his wife, and get a look at their relationship.  The trouble is that I'm not sure what we're supposed to take away from it - this book is seventy-five years old and predates the feminist movement, so while Lowry and Mary's marriage looks a bit off to us, is it meant to?  Is this glimpse of Lowry's domestic life supposed to lull us into a false sense of security, or clue us in to the darkness lurking beneath the surface of his cheery worldview?

If I had to choose, I'd go with the former, based on what we've seen in Hubbard's last two novels.  The guy's ideas of love and romance are a bit... well, from this we can see that they didn't change much in forty years.

Back to Chapter 2, part 1

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