In the beginning of the semester I wrote a blog post about my prediction that Essun, Damaya, and Syenite were the same people. I was right, but that’s not what this post is about. After reading two books-worth about the character of Essun, I’ve begun to recognize that she doesn’t even know who she is anymore. She corrects people when they use the wrong name for her and yet questions if she is still Essun anymore. Instead of changing who she is again, she does what most of us tend to do in our real world and proceeds to change as a person without completely changing her identity.I was interested in this because of how obvious her transformations were in the past. Essun is born “Damaya” and raised as a non-orogene child. When she finally assumes the position of a proper orogene, she completely changes her identity from “Damaya,” the human/grit, to “Syenite,” the Fulcrum-trained orogene.
“If I pass.” Damaya closes her eyes. She can’t look at him and say this. Not without letting him see the it isn’t right in her eyes. “I picked a rogga name.”
He does not chide her on her language. “Have you now?” He sounds pleased. “What?”
She licks her lips. “Syenite” (The Fifth Season, 331).
Syenite, in the geology world, is a coarse-grained intrusive igneous rock. Syenite is fairly hard and when it breaks, it shatters. “Even the hardest stone can fracture. It just takes the right force, applied at the right juncture of angles. A fulcrum of pressure and weakness” (The Fifth Season, 440).
When Syenite needs to hide her orogeny and feign a “normality,” she changes her name to Essun, and with it, herself. She creates a home and a family. She becomes a creche teacher. She starts to become comfortable and, what I think is the most like herself she will ever be able to be.
Until, once again, her life falls apart and she has to start over again, only, this time, a significant part of her life (and herself?), Nassun, is still out in the world connecting her to her older life. On her way to look for her, she runs into the village of Castrima where orogenes and humans live in tandem. Here, Essun grows and changes some more, in both herself and her orogeny. Instead of being a lone sole, like she always seemed to be, Essun becomes part of a community, she says, “This is a community. you will be unified. you will fight for each other. Or I will rusting kill every last one of you” (The Obelisk Gate, 335).
Now that she’s changing again, learning more orogeny, too, she thinks about what she would be called if she were still in the Fulcrum and if she hadn’t gone through everything she has,
“How many rings?”
You grimace in distaste, consider trying to explain the “unofficial” rings Alabaster gave you, consider being humble… and then finally you settle for accuracy. “Ten.” Essun Tenring, the Fulcrum would call you now, if the seniors would bother to acknowledge your current name. and if the Fulcrum still existed. For what it’s worth (The Stone Sky, 219).
Needless to say, as her transitions progressed, they became less noticeable. I didn’t notice it until I read a certain quote that I have now lost (if I find it again, I’ll add it in). I also wondered how, maybe in some way, her progression as an orogene and as a person is a form of self-love. She still has some self hatred, but over time, as she’s learning, is it diminishing? I’ll leave you with this excerpt:
“I…I don’t know anything about that.”
She shrugs. “The hero of the story never does.”
Hero? You laugh a little, and it’s got an edge. Can’t help thinking of Allia, and Tirimo, and Meov, and Rennanis, and Castrima. Heroes don’t summon swarms of nightmare bugs to eat their enemies. Heroes aren’t monsters to their daughters (The Stone Sky, 222).