of the Three:
& The Waste Lands:
Book One, 1.i-1.xxiii
Put On A Happy Face
Well, this week marked the end of The Drawing of the Three and the beginning of The Waste Lands. The transition between the two books is like winter giving way to spring. Up until now, Roland has been struggling to survive in the harshest possible environments, all alone. Even when he would meet someone along his path, like Allie or Jake or Eddie, he was still alone. Now though, he has friends, he has a Ka-Tet. And he’s no longer dehydrating in a desert or dying on a desolate beach, they are living in a lush forest, eating deer meat and sleeping in shelters. They have plenty of water to drink, plenty of wood to burn, and plenty of ammunition to shoot.
Things are finally looking up, and not just for Roland. The other two have fallen blissfully in love. Eddie has overcome his withdrawal, and Susannah has confronted her plurality, emerging as a new, more powerful identity. The three of them have all found a happy stasis.
The gunslinger smiled. He had done more smiling these last five weeks than he had done in the five years which had come before them.— The Waste Lands, p. 7
At least, that’s what they would have each other believe. But as the inner conflict brewing within each character is revealed, it becomes clear that they are using this newfound happiness to mask a secret shame.
A Guilty Ka-nscience
Roland, we learn over the course of this week’s pages, is going insane as his dueling memories tear his mind apart. He is in incredible pain and is terrified of losing his sanity, yet he hides his suffering from his companions because he is ashamed. He is ashamed of his vulnerability, of his failing mental fortitude, and most of all of the memories we know to be true, in which he kills Jake to catch the man in black.
Eddie is also hiding something from the group. He’s not lying or being particularly secretive, but by only doing his wood carving in private, he is withholding his true self from his wife and his Dinh. It’s not a big thing, and obviously neither Roland nor Susannah would judge the hobby, but because of the psychological damage done by Henry, Eddie remains self-conscious about his whittling. He makes himself smaller to hide his guilt of being good at something.
He felt a burst of shame, a sense of wrongness; that strong sense of secrets that must be kept at any cost…— The Waste Lands, p. 24
Meanwhile, Susannah is carrying her own burden, which she hides behind her playful attitude. Of course she is ashamed of the things she did as Detta, but more than that, she is scared that part of her enjoyed doing those things. “I’m crying because I’d do it all again, if the circumstances were right, she finally confesses to them around the campfire (p. 56).
Have You No Shame?
This impulse to hide one’s shame and pretend everything’s just peachy is very human, and something to which we all can relate. I recently became a father, and I remember the early newborn days when sleep was in short supply and I was losing my mind just like Roland. My wife and I were at the ends of our ropes trying to keep this infant girl alive, and yet every time friends or family asked how we were doing, we would brighten up and talk about how happy we were, and what a joy the baby was.
Not that any of that was a lie; we are happy, and our daughter is a joy, but at the time we were also run down, frustrated, stressed, and worried that maybe we weren’t really cut out for parenthood. And all of these things were compounded by the guilt of feeling them in the first place. So we kept it to ourselves, showing the world a facade of only cheeriness.
However, once we were able to release that impulse and allowed ourselves to remove our masks of pure happiness, we discovered that nobody was judging us for what we had been so ashamed of. If we lower our guards and share our suffering with others—just as Roland finally shares what’s happening to him with the others—we might find sympathy, and we might find help.
Roland sighed deeply. “I don’t know how to begin,” he said. It’s been so long since I’ve had companions… or a tale to tell…”— The Waste Lands, p. 44
If, however, we choose to keep our shame private—like Eddie staying back at camp so he can whittle alone—we alienate ourselves from those who might help us. In Eddie’s case, being apart from his friends almost turns out to be fatal, as he soon finds himself facing down a 70-foot robot bear all by his lonesome. Luckily Susannah and Roland are able to get there in time and save him, but it’s fair to say that his unwillingness to share his true self with the Ka-Tet nearly cost him his life.
We all feel shame, for many reasons. Whether we decide to hide it or share it with those in our Ka-Tet is up to us. I for one will try to resist the urge to hide. Instead, I will share my true self with the people I most love and trust that I won’t be judged.