Throughout the past few weeks, I have been finding it extremely difficult to find inspiration for a blog post. I have many thoughts that come to mind when reading, but have also been struggling to create coherent, well-thought out connections that makes sense that are worthy, in my mind, of a blog post. However, after Professor McCoy gave us some (much appreciated and apparently needed) time to reflect on the blog posts of the class, I have been reminded that I do not need to have all of my thoughts completely mapped out and explained in perfect, coherent sense, ending in a permanent conclusion. I am feeling a new sense of encouragement after reading everyone’s posts, and for that I thank all of you who have crafted these beautiful, perfectly imperfect posts. They have prompted me to return to thinkING, and remembering that this does not always mean having a clear beginning, middle and end in what I’m saying, and that I just need to say something.
So, without further blubbering, I’m going to use the idea that Lizzie presented regarding self-hatred that becomes evident in Syenite throughout the progression of her journey, in order to grapple with an underlying idea that has been presented throughout the novel in a few ways: Religion.
Throughout the entire reading of The Fifth Season, I found myself constantly intrigued by the idea of Father Earth, and the spiritual connotation I have gathered from it. Something that really set off my curiosity of Father Earth being a religious figure was when Syenite proclaimed, on page 168, “Earth damn it”. Immediately, I was reminded of the common phrase that uses a religious figure’s name in vain: “God damn it”… I hear it constantly, from those of religious background, as well as those who are not religious in any sense. In the world Jemisin has created, there has been no instance of declared religion. Yet, Father Earth has taken on the figure of God, in a sense, and not necessarily in a good way in the eyes of the people of The Stillness.
I find this concept especially intriguing due to the fact that Syenite, and all orogenes for that matter, being actual messengers and controllers of the Earth, is plagued with such self-loathing and hatred in being a “rogga”, despite the incredible power and connection she has with the very origin of the reality she lives in. If Father Earth is a God figure, Syenite is, in a sense, an angel (along with all orogenes). The primary job of an angel is to bring messages from God to normal humans, and in The Fifth Season, orogenes decipher and communicate messages from within the depths of the Earth to the surface world. This should not, through a religious lens, be a role that is associated with discrimination and hatred, so I wonder, why is it?
We know, somewhat, that there is tension between Father Earth and the orogenes, as it is touched upon in the book (however I can’t find the specific line I’m looking for that references this, but will edit it in once I find it). Expanding on the idea of orogenes being equivalent to angels, I looked at this through the lens of Christianity: there is God, who is “good”, and Satan, who is “bad”. However, Satan used to be God’s best, most trusted and skilled angel. But he desired to be an equal of God and to rule the universe as well, threatening God’s rules, resulting in his exile, and the title of the first Fallen Angel, cast away from the Father that created him to do good. In result, any action Satan takes is viewed with negative connotation, and it is understood that Satan’s army of fallen angels intends to infiltrate the universe God has created and ultimately destroy it.
But I encourage you to think about this (as this is what I am wondering myself): Is Satan “bad” because he is truly a bad person and was a corrupt angel, or is he labeled as “bad” because God felt threatened by his growing ability and labeled him as an outcast, prompting him to be shunned and disliked by the rest of the world? Replace “Satan” with “orogenes”, and we’re presented with the question that has been tugging at my brain throughout this whole book.
Maybe, the orogenes were created by Father Earth, gifted with the ability to have an enhanced, deep rooted relationship with the Earth in order to be his messengers. But, maybe the orogenes became too powerful for Father Earth’s comfort, and Father Earth felt threatened, resulting in the exile of the orogenes, earning them the widely accepted inherit “badness” that they carry.
If everyone constantly tells you that the skills God gave you, that make you who you are, also make you a “less than good” person, wouldn’t you be convinced, at some point at least, that God hated you and that you really are bad? That you are worthless, unable to do good, despite your incredible gift? I related this, then, to Elsa in Disney’s Frozen: she has an incredible power to wield ice and snow from her hands, yet her whole life she was trained to conceal and refrain from using her power because she was told that she hurts people with it when she feels any negative emotions. This created an intense feeling of self-hatred within herself, which caused her negative emotions to snowball, and cause her powers to be viewed as dangerous. Until, her sister showed faith in her to ability do good, despite the projected badness Elsa exuded. With her self-hatred dissolved, due to the love she received from someone that should fear her, she did in fact do good, earning her a new, non-discriminated against role in society.
Syenite constantly battles with her identity as a negatively connoted “rogga”, and although she comes to accept it in a sense, it causes her (and us as readers) to wonder why she, and all orogenes, have been labeled this way. It takes a near-death experience at the hands of a Guardian for Syenite to realize that “we [orogenes] are the gods in chains and this is not. Rusting. Right” (p. 262). Maybe, it would only take a little faith from an outsider, a Still, being put into the orogenes, for them to overcome the self-hate they all conceal within them, and embrace their gifts as positive traits. For them to step out of the “fallen angel” role, and to step into the role of the victims: victims of a jealous god that feared that the power he gave them would end his self-absorbed rule.
(And just a quick disclaimer, I am not trying to support/oppose any religion/belief. My knowledge of religion and Christianity is surface level in this post, and I am not interpreting the religion itself, but rather I am using it as strictly a lens to interpret Jemisin’s work).