In geology, the rock cycle, specifically of a sedimentary rock, consists of weathering and erosion, transportation, deposition, and lithification. It takes a geologist to understand how a rock is formed; how each layer was created in different circumstances and time. So how are people formed? What makes them the way they are? How do we become a boulder, stuck in stubborn, close-mindedness? Perhaps we humans are seized by the pressures of the world in which life flattens out like a piece of metamorphic slate. I immediately think this happened to Essun, whose life literally and psychologically can be compared to the rock cycle.
I think of weathering and erosion as all events, people, forces, whatever, that contributed Essun’s physical and emotional breakdown. Corrundom’s death, Innon’s death, Uche being murdered, Nassun being taken away all add to her emotional erosion. Hoa describes the impact of relationships as “a person is herself, and others. Relationships chisel the final shape of one’s being.” Each being ’s loved one fossilized and eroded away. She lost so much of herself in order to survive. The winds and waves of loss broke her apart into the tiniest of clasts.
As the rock cycle continues the eroded elements are transported to various locations via rivers or streams. Some of these Essun, as Syenite, was also transported and changed as a result of her journey with Alabaster. This journey made her question and doubt the forced Fulcrum training, and she became disappointed in the society they lived in. Essun’s journey to Castrima also changed her. Essun left Tirimo to look for Nassun and Jija and encountered Hoa and Tonkee as a result. Her journey helped her to survive the apocalypse and made her stronger in the process.
Essun is “deposited” into Castrima and progress in finding Nassun is halted. She becomes a part of a community, to her surprise. She wonders why they let her stay without issue. She joins the leadership board and but convinces herself that she will leave when the time is right. She holds back a part of herself to become a member of Castrima because she does not feel that the people would accept her as an orogenes no matter what Ykka says. She tries not to form any emotional bonds which would make parting difficult. So like a piece of sediment, she stays put. Everything comes to a halt.
The next step in her emotional rock cycle is the lithification, this is when sediments get compacted together at their final resting place. Essun literally begins to turn to stone. She turns to stone by helping the people of Castrima have a safe place to live. She has found people she loves, and friends she would turn to stone for. She also is connected to people who will travel to the ends of the earth for her. It seems like she found a place to settle. She made unbreakable bonds. Surprisingly, she realizes how much she loves Castrima so she no longer looks for a way out. She seeks only a way in. So when she leaves to save the world she brings her faithful companions. These words ring true, “You feel no fear. You are not alone.”(Jemisin 351).
Parfaits, lasagna, rocks, and people have layers. Layers that bare the imprints of the past. Like the psychological baggage from each of our decades, every layer of rock lived through history as well. N.K. Jemisin tells us how each layer of Essun’s character is formed. But like a rolling stone, she gathers no moss. She is able to save the world but gains nothing for herself.