Wizard & Glass:
NOTE: I decided to get a Kindle instead of lugging all my books down to the Caribbean (new readers might be interested to know my family and I are about to move from LA to Barbados), so from here on out all page numbers will refer to the Kindle editions of each book. I’ll continue using chapters in regards to weekly readings.
Of all of Roland’s many talents, perhaps the skill I’m most impressed by is his ability to recognize his own mistakes, admit them, and then go and make the same mistake all over again. This week’s chapters are a perfect example of him doing this, and this time it ends up costing him the love of his life.
When Cuthbert confronts him outside the bunkhouse, showing him Rhea’s intercepted note and sucker-punching some sense into him, Roland admits he has “been a fool…I’ve made at least one terrible mistake.” (p. 622) Later he explains to his best friend that the mistake he was referring to was “thinking that love could somehow be apart from everything else. That I could live two lives—one with you and Al and our job here, one with her.” (p. 629). That’s true, but I don’t think it’s the whole truth. It’s not just that Roland tried to keep his ka with Susan separate from his ka-tet; it’s that he never viewed Susan as an equal.
This week’s chapters make it clear that Roland has been underestimating the girl he’s so in love with at every turn. Back at Citgo he dismissed her intuition about Rhea spying on them, yet now he discovers that “someone had been watching all the time. Susan had been right.” (p. 625). And when Roland and Cuthbert are on their way to give Rhea her warning, he reflects on how brave Susan was to visit the Cöos at night, perhaps even braver than him.
Susan came up here alone, and in the dark, he thought. Gods, I’m not sure I could have come up here in the dark with my friends for company.– Wizard & Glass, p. 632
Roland sees that he has been overlooking her importance and undervaluing her. “Susan was meant to help us.” He tells Bert on page 636, “why didn’t I see that?” But he says this only after overlooking her yet again by not including her in the ka-tet’s debate about killing Rhea. If they had brought her into the fold before making their trip to the Cöos, they would have learned the witch possessed the Grapefruit and might have taken her for the serious threat that she is. Even after the fact Susan questions Roland’s decision to leave Rhea alive—“Suppose she sees your plans? Suppose she warns Jonas or Kimba Rimer?” (p. 673)—and again he dismisses her concerns outright.
It isn’t just Susan that Roland underestimates, either. As I said, the young gunslinger doesn’t seem to view Rhea as a serious threat, and she turns out to be the one responsible for Susan’s horrific death. Everyone in town fears her, and yet Roland doesn’t really seem to think she’ll be an issue for them, even after he learns she wields a bend of the Wizard’s Rainbow.
And yet Roland doesn’t ever underestimate how dangerous Jonas and the other Big Coffin Hunters are. He takes them very seriously, as he does with John Farson. In fact, it’s almost as if he takes men more seriously than women…
And why wouldn’t he? His reference point for womanhood is his mother, a person who fundamentally disappointed him. It makes sense that he would protect himself from further disappointment by not lowering his expectations of any women that remind him of her, like Susan and Rhea.
This week’s reading revealed that Roland’s image of Susan as “the girl at the window” was actually echoing a scene he experienced before coming to Mejis—but which we don’t learn about until now—of his mother waving goodbye to him from her own window. And of course, at the end of the book we will learn of Roland’s fatal confusion of Gabrielle and Rhea.
His mother, leaning out of her apartment’s bedroom window: the oval of her face surrounded by the timeless gray stone of the castle’s west wing. There were tears coursing down her cheeks, but she smiled and lived on hand in a wide wave. Of the three of them, only Roland saw her.– Wizard & glass, p. 667
He didn’t wave back.
Poor Roland is a teenager in this book, one with particularly intense psychosexual mommy issues. It’s only natural that—even if it’s for the worst—Roland’s relationship with his mother would affect how he views and treats other women. It’s basic psychology and I can’t fault him for it.
What I can fault him for, though, is recognizing the flaw, apologizing for it, but never actually changing his behavior. If Roland had learned from his mistake and listened to Susan, if he had paid more attention to the threat Rhea posed, she very well could have survived and returned home with him to Gilead.
Whatever mistakes we’ve made, it’s not enough to point them out and cry pardon. The important things—the only important things—are the steps you take to make sure you don’t make them again.