Wither, Ch9

Last time on this horrible book, Cecily is now pregnant from being raped. Rhine grudgingly acknowledges that maybe Cecily is deserving of slight sympathy, then goes back to explaining that the real issue is Cecily not being properly fawning toward the servants and also she’s so whiny just because she’s scared she’ll die! It’s so hard being Rhine and having to put up with this.

The rapist is happy she’s pregnant, so he unlocks the floor and lets them out.

She spends her days wandering the garden, but she can’t find the way out and just ends up back at the mansion. I’m finding it harder and harder to believe she actually wants to escape.

She thinks about her dad talking of his childhood and going to a carnival with a house of mirrors. Apparently, there are no carnivals or house of mirrors things in the current day.

He said that the house always looked like it went on forever, that it was infinite, when from the outside it was really as small as a tool shed. The trick was looking past the illusion, because the exit was never as far as it seemed.

So she tries to channel his spirit and do that. It’s a shame her dad was a city boy, because there’s a far easier solution. Let me explain.

Is the sun currently right above you? If yes, it’s noon.
If not, was the sun right above you earlier? If yes, it’s afternoon. Your shadow is pointing in the opposite direction it as in the morning.
If not, it’s morning. Your shadow is pointing the opposite direction as it does in the afternoon.

Go outside. Use your shadow to make sure you’re going in as straight a line as possible. If you left in the morning, sit and wait when it’s noon, then remember your shadow has reversed when using it as a guide for the rest of the afternoon.

You will probably not be able to go straight, but using your shadow you should be able to tell the difference between heading sideways or backward, so you at least won’t get so turned around you accidentally end up picking your way back to the house.

In the event the place is a ludicrously twisty maze, which I doubt because it’d be a chore for the men and they prefer the women’s imprisonment to not inconvenience them, bring a pad of paper and start making a map. If you can’t do that, then remember the simplest way to solve a maze is to follow one wall. It won’t be the shortest path, but you’ll see every bit of the maze’s far wall. Either there’s a way out, or at least you’ll know for sure you’ll have to push through a wall to keep going.

For advanced travelers, pay attention to any slight gaps in the hedge walls, particularly when you can’t find the other side of them. It’s quite likely the hedges mark the boundaries of the property. With this in mind, it’s best to focus your efforts anywhere other than the rose gardens. You want the least painful hedges to crawl through. Listen for any cars.

Climbing a tree may seem like an obvious option, but don’t, because it’s also going to be obvious to anyone watching. It’s unlikely any tree will get you high enough to see past the all the groves of other trees. Rhine is several stories up and can’t see any sign of the end from her window.

This is without getting into the fact that there are apparently trucks making deliveries, which means there’s a road out. She claims there’s no road right by the house or sign of tire tracks, but if she gets far enough out and just circles the area she should run into it. If there’s a particular area she can’t reach because of how the garden’s set up, that’s where it must be. Crawl through the hedges there.

I’ve never been good at solving puzzles; my brother is the one who solved the Rubik’s Cube on the first try. He’s the one who took an interest in the science of things, asking our father questions about the destroyed countries while I was busy admiring the pictures.

I don’t think why the ignorant protagonist is such a favorite. People who like to solve puzzles are annoyed by a protagonist overlooking the obvious, people who don’t like to solve puzzles usually do like someone else solving them. This is also yet another thing for her brother to be awesome compared to her – she seems to have no traits of her own but the fact she’s pretty, and even then, her brother has the same eyes.

And no one who has a Rubik’s cube in their house can claim they’ve never played any games.

When she gets sick of looking for a way out, she swims in the pool and plays mini-golf and tennis.

She also hangs out in the kitchen because she has access to the candy there, having still not realized she can ask for the damn stuff.

cooks talk about the weather and how they’d like to serve the bratty little bride a dirty sock. Gabriel, as good-natured as he is, agrees that Cecily has been particularly awful lately.

Gabriel isn’t good-natured, and I hate all these people so much.

The rapist feels bad he’s “neglecting” his other two victims, so he says he’ll get them something.

I almost ask for a crate of June Beans, because I heard the kitchen staff complaining about early-morning deliveries, and since then I’ve been fantasizing about escaping on a delivery truck. But then I think of all the progress I’ve made earning Linden’s trust, and how easily it would be destroyed if I were caught

So she asks for a trampoline.

I guessed this earlier, that she’d spend most of her time sitting quietly. The book seems to present this straight, as if of course this is the only way to deal with things. She doesn’t even try to ask for something that might help. The book claims she’s been thinking about the trucks, but this is actually the first time it’s come up. It’s very clear the author doesn’t want her to escape and has no interest in the subject, because it’s one of the various things that keep getting handled in this after-the-fact manner.

(The June Beans idea is also idiotic because there’s still a crate of them down there, so the staff would just start bringing her those.)

She and Jenna play on it, and Jenna asks if he’s been in her bed recently, and Rhine says no.

“Rhine?” she says. “When he came to you, it wasn’t .. . for children.”

I was mentioning earlier that getting someone pregnant and actually fucking them don’t need to go hand in hand. I think this is just being used in an euphemistic sense, really – I mean, this is a word where “consummate” is considered unbearably crass – but it’s still bad because it’s trying to distract from the fact he’s doing it because he wants to.

Rhine asks if he’s gone to Jenna. She says yes.

This surprises me. I think back to Jenna’s reliable morning routine of taking tea in the library and burying her nose in romance novels. There hasn’t been a single morning when she has seemed rumpled or out of sorts, especially not the way Cecily was.

That’s what’s confusing Rhine, not the fact Jenna said she’d sooner die, just that she doesn’t seem properly shamed and broken.

“What was it like?” I ask, and immediately a hot blush spreads across my face.

These books are indescribably vile.

Jenna is all “eh”. “He kept asking if I was okay. Like he thought I’d break or something.” She laughs a little at the thought. “If I was going to break, he wouldn’t be the one to do it.”

Then Rhine thinks about how she’s a nervous virgin and how The very thought of Linden kissing me sets my nerves on edge, puts my stomach in knots. but she’s totally fine with him sleeping in her bed and nuzzling her because those things aren’t sexual at all. So she switches the topic to why has Jenna changed her mind on the hating thing?

Jenna says she still hates him. “I’ve hated all of them. But this is the world we live in.”

See, she’s already a slut, so it’s okay. Only Rhine needs special protection from this, because she still has her virginity and something to actually lose.

Rhine doesn’t get it, and then Jenna’s surprised to realize Rhine’s a virgin. “How were you earning money?”

How were you, Jenna? Prostitution usually happens when there’s more workers than jobs, so women can’t get regular employment but have to get their money from employed men. That requires a population boom. Starving kids and a tiny handful of wealthy rapists who buy their own wives isn’t going to provide much employment.

I think of all the girls who dance in the park at New Year’s parties, how some of them will slip into a car with a wealthy first generation.

There aren’t many of those. It’s clear that, though it makes no sense, plenty of first gens have menial positions stripping sheets.

Although…hm. All the first gen servants we’ve seen have been women. So maybe women can’t get normal employment but any first gen men are wealthy. Not that it’d make the slightest bit of sense that way either, but it might be the idea.

And all the brothels in the scarlet district with blacked-out windows.

But those are full of kidnapped girls, remember?

God this setting makes no fucking sense.

Rhine says she thought that the orphanages gave them enough, which is totally irrelevant to the fact she’s saying she saw that plenty of girls were prostituting themselves so it shouldn’t be a shock that a girl was prostituting herself. There’s the horrible sense that what she’s really saying is “But you don’t seem like a filthy whore who has sex for fun, and I thought all prostitutes were like that.”

In my mind Jenna begins to materialize in a new light. But I don’t judge her. I don’t blame her. Like she said, it’s the world we live in.

Oh, good, as long as she had no choice you’ll forgive her for sleeping around. How progressive of you.

Also, and this is even worse, I think – Jenna is not confused she’s a virgin, she’s confused Rhine hasn’t had sex for money. Because there’s no other reason it’d be weird a girl with four years to live would never have had sex or even kissed someone before. Both of them agree that sex is not something women do willingly.

“If you hate him so much, why not refuse? Linden is so mild, I can’t imagine him forcing himself on any of us.”

Well, he obviously had no problem with the kidnapping thing, or imprisoning you. So he clearly doesn’t have much investment in consent.

Also, look at the word choice. Not getting raped isn’t an issue of decency, it’s an issue of aggression.

Not kicking puppies isn’t impressive. Not kicking puppies because you’re too lazy manages to be even less so.

And right after saying that she says she’s worried the rapist hasn’t been “pressed the issue”.

Has he sensed my hesitation and allowed me the luxury of time? How long before his patience is gone?

1) Rhine is fine with being fucked by her owner who murdered a dozen other girls, she’s just a bit jittery about her first time.

2) Not raping her immediately is a luxury because he’s so nice.

3) You can’t not have sex, he gets that by right so if you refuse eventually he’ll lose “patience” and rape you anyway.

But back to Jenna. Jenna, it turns out, hasn’t even been technically consenting due to being too depressed to fight about it. She’s actually doing it because she’s terrified the rapist’s dad will do something worse to her. And agreeing because of a threat is, and I realize this is hard to apparently very hard to remember but I swear it’s true, not consent. The only thing that can be said about this is that the rapist isn’t aware he’s raping his older wife as well as the younger one, and it’s not clear he’d care.

Jenna, what has Housemaster Vaughn done to you? But I’m too afraid of the answer. The image of Rose’s hand under that sheet sends a cold ripple up my spine.
There are ugly, dangerous things lurking beneath the beauty of this mansion.

There’s also the child rape thing right in the open. And all that murder. And the fact you’re imprisoned slaves. But hey, keep whining about OMGGGGGGGGGG dissection is ICKYYYYYYYYY why won’t someone think of LINDEN-CHAAAAAAAAAAAAN and how he deserves to do whatever he wants with Rose’s dead body just like her living one!


  1. Savanah says:
    Can we switch for Jenna pleaseeeeee! She is so much more interesting!
  2. Fool says:
    Jesus Christ this book is disgusting. How did it possibly get published as YA? The one time you actually want the Moral Guardians to censor a book, they’re nowhere to be found! Argh!
    1. Farla says:
      I can’t say I actually want it censored. But at least a bunch of moral guardian outrage would get the topic out there.
  3. Colme says:
    I posted to the author’s Facebook Page again. She had some… interesting things to say. The link is below:


    1. Farla says:
      by today’s standards, there’d be a strong case that that’s what’s going on.

      Huh. I thought being right about my guess it reflected her own feelings would sort of insulate from the facts of the matter. Turns out it doesn’t.

      It’s sort of like I want to start shouting and never stop, but also this empty futile feeling that it’s all meaningless.

    2. Farla says:
      It’ probably best to stop poking her. It’s bad enough she made this acceptable in the book, having her say directly that it’s ambiguous and not really rape for her fans to hear is just reinforcing it.
      1. Colme says:
        I hear you. I don’t really have it in me to criticize someone for simply being ignorant to a problem anyway. The fact she doesn’t get it is depressing to me, but I can’t be frustrated at her personally, just the result.
        1. Farla says:
          I wouldn’t describe that nicely. This viewpoint is why courts can’t convict rapists and why even now people see marital rape as an oxymoron, and she’s an adult, she’s responsible for the things she believes.
          1. Colme says:
            That’s entirely fair. I don’t have a shred of respect for this viewpoint, though personally I could only really be mad at her if she were malicious. Such ignorance is pitiable to me; anger is also an entirely legitimate reaction, just not mine.
            1. Farla says:
              It’s that hard for me to believe it isn’t malicious because people who say things like that are usually the same ones who are malicious.

              It’s possible she’s just the sort of person who doesn’t think about it, but most people who think this are also first in line to say to someone who’s been raped that it wasn’t really rape – that they’re lying, or it doesn’t count, or they should have expected it, or they were asking for it, or they deserve it.

              1. Colme says:
                I understand what your saying. My line of reasoning is that someone who writes a back-story of ‘they nuked Antarctica away’ has likely put equally little thought into this. I could be wrong though.
              2. Rachel says:
                I’m just here for the tiny comment box…
              3. Veracs says:
                 Yeah, what is with making these things so small to the point where there is no more than one letter per line?
    3. Niesse says:
      Dear god. She may just be a terrible, horrible person. At least, by today’s standards, there’s a strong case that that’s what’s going on.
      1. Farla says:
        And the worst thing is it’s not like this viewpoint is rare, which is why it’s treated as so unremarkable. There are a lot of people like this.
    4. Veracs says:
       Dear Lord. Just when I thought this whole thing couldn’t get any more vile…
  4. Niesse says:
    Why is Jenna reading romance novels? She’s in one and she’s hating it.
    1. Farla says:
      I think she’s reading modern day romance novels, which still have problems but are usually not this level of rape apologia. Viewed through that light it’s a terribly depressing coping mechanism.
  5. SophieSummer says:
    Wow, you post these fast! I saw this book a few weeks ago and considered buying it, but I’m really glad I didn’t waste my money on it. I mean, is it too much to ask for a protagonist who tries to fix her situation and feels bad about child rape?
    1. Farla says:
      I’m glad for anything that means less money in the author’s pocket at this point.

      And – you know, I actually wonder. I used to read a lot of published books when I was much younger, but I switched to fanfic and it’s only recently I’ve started paying attention to it. So maybe it is a lot to ask from the industry.

      1. SophieSummer says:
        Whenever people say we live in a “post-sexist world”, this is the kind of crap I point to. If dubcon (or clearly noncon) romance is published and enjoyed, then there is still something wrong with how women are viewed in society. It’s just plain infuriating that these kind of things don’t cause serious complaint. When I was 11, I read all the Twilight books (and the Clique books, but that’s another story) and was enthralled. I didn’t understand the harm and didn’t recognize the screwed-up morals. When young girls are fed this kind of nonsense, it messes up their perception of healthy relationships.

        Okay, that kind of became long winded, but I was thinking about how abhorrent this book is and I just wanted to get my feelings out there.

        1. cecamire says:
          Hahahaha “post-sexist world”

          Next they’ll be saying that we live in a post-racist or post-queerphobic world

          I laugh

    2. Igloo says:
      Borrow it from the library. That’s what I did.
  6. Dobranoc Molly says:
    I’m incredibly confused about why the dissection of the dead brides and servants is so awful. What’s evil about using dead bodies to try to find a cure for the virus/genetic cluster fuck/whatever that’s killing the younger generations? That seems like the least villainous thing you can do to a dead body in these circumstances. I could understand if the Vaughan had actually killed Rose himself, but he didn’t. 
    1. Fool says:
      Don’t you understand, dead bodies are just like real people! Desecrating it is just like desecrating the actual person, even though it’s a corpse and will disintegrate in a few months anyway!
  7. purplekitte says:
    I don’t get why having first gen parents is treated as so special and they’re all rich and doctors (when the first gens aren’t being used as servants). Literally everyone in the world around Rhine’s age is either second or third gen. It’s like the original premise was that the first gens were rare and rich and everyone else got “infected with the virus” even though they didn’t have the ancestry. Is it that big a status difference to have a first gen parent instead of grandparent? In fact, it occurs to me that much of the third gen child-rearing should be going to be the grandparents with them being orphaned young, unless the argument is that they were so traumatized by their children dying that they’re going to leave their grandchildren on the streets.

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