Since The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin’s use and significance of the word “shattering” in the trilogy has always intrigued me but I constantly felt that I was unable to coherently parse enough thoughts together to formulate a blog post about it. As I scrolled through the 101/431 tag on the (Im)Possibilities blog, it only made sense for Abby’s post to catch my eye with her introductory blurb focusing on the earth’s shatterings in Jemisin’s world.
In her post, Abby connects Toni Morrison’s comment that “Slavery broke the world in half” with the context of The Broken Earth. Morrison points out that present-day society is shattered and broken because its foundation of slavery and other dehumanizing institutions allows for “atrocities such as the World Wars, genocide, mass shootings and police brutality [to] become not only possible, but almost expected.” In connection to this statement, Abby reminds us that “Sanzed society [is also] a society built not only upon an earth quite literally broken, but built upon (dependent upon)” the institution of slavery and the oppression and prejudice that comes along with it as well. However, unlike us ordinary humans, the oppressed orogenes in The Broken Earth have the individual ability to immediately take matters into their own hands. Abby specifically focuses on Alabaster and how he uses his Fulcrum-trained orogeny against the physical heart of the Sanzed empire that manipulated and dehumanized him since his conception. While Morrison is only referring to a metaphorically broken earth, Alabaster literally breaks the earth in “an attempt [to] fix what has broken humanity by beginning anew.” Even though Abby’s post is limited to the first book, I was able to make a sudden realization after reading her post in the context of my current reading position in the trilogy.
Back when the class was reading The Fifth Season, the Shattering Season is first mentioned as “the first and most terrible of the Fifth Seasons” that is cryptically said to have been a result of the destruction of Father Earth’s “only child” (380). At this point in Jemisin’s heavily detailed world, I was determined to try to absorb as much of the Stillness as I could so that I could keep up with Essun/Syenite/Damaya. Despite its importance in creating the apocalyptic world the historians who compiled the chronology must have been living in for thousands of years already, I flipped to the first appendix and surprisingly found no mention of the Shattering Season. According to the Editor’s note, “Much of the information about Seasons prior to the founding of Sanze is contradictory or unconfirmed…[as] agreed upon by the Seventh University Archaeomestric Conference of 2532” (454). Now that we know Hoa is responsible for the Shattering Season by flinging the moon out of orbit, I wonder whether the Shattering Season counts as contradictory or unconfirmed.
Although Syenite mentions that no lorist or geomest has confirmed who Father Earth’s child is, she has been Fulcrum-trained for the majority of her life and knows of no other history than the one Sanze gives her. As we continue to learn of the extent at which non-orogenes will go to control and use orogenes, it would come as no surprise to me that the truth “contradicts” with the Sanzed Empire’s motives. If Hoa’s shattering is similar to Alabaster’s in that it was for the freedom and liberation of orogenes by reconstructing a new earth, then the Sanze Empire would be more likely to bury the truth of an orogene being independently powerful enough to do so in order to continue manipulating the present-day generations.
In my last blog post, I discussed the rule of three that is constantly present in Jemisin’s work. With these two shatterings in mind, my conspiracist mind wonders if the trilogy will end in a third shattering to round off the trio. Hoa’s ominous message in The Obelisk Gate doesn’t help either: “Ah, this ridiculous war of ours. We use your kind so easily. Even you, my Essun, my treasure, my pawn. One day, I hope you will forgive me” (234). Even though I adore his character, I’ve been a little more wary of his intentions since that interlude. From what we’ve garnered, Hoa and Antimony have been nudging Essun towards bringing the moon back to orbit; they never directly tell her to catch the moon. In fact, when Essun first brings it up, Antimony simply replies “‘That is an option’” (172). At this point, I’m curious if the third shattering will be a result of Hoa tricking Essun into shattering the moon itself or even colliding the earth with the moon to end the war.
(I’m aware of just how destructive it would be for the two planetary objects to collide but one faction of the war would indeed come out alive as the winner!)