- The word “bitter” is used
- Every time I bang my head against the book in frustration
- Jenny and Carol behave in a way that is not age appropriate (99% of all SDA authors can not write believable children.)
- The Book goes on and on for pages about Bible Study
- Sybil acts like a Bible Worker/Sabbath School teacher
- Sybil does something creepy
- One of the characters indicates that they are “crazy” for reading the bible/praying/going to church/whatever normal thing lots of mainstream Christians do
- Bill acts like an emotionally abusive husband
- Sybil acts afraid of her husband
That would be the drinking game so far. Then I’ll see if I can get Kitty Baby to pose for a picture. I don’t know how animal photographers do it. My girl is pretty stubborn.
I just did some math. We are only 43% of the way through the book. 43% into the book and the main plot point, the apocalypse, hasn’t even started. Unless the main plot point was supposed to be the endless amounts of Bible study, in which case, what a dull book.
In any case, we’ll never get anywhere if I sit around moaning, so, let’s get started.
First, we’re going to talk about Sybil and Bill. Bill’s been showing up a lot in this book, and, intentional or not, the author portrays him as emotionally abusive. Let’s play “see if you can spot the warning flags.”
Sybil is cleaning the apartment in readiness for her and Meg’s bible study. I don’t know why she doesn’t just make the maid do it, but in any case, Bill tells her to sit down so he can talk to her. Why he can’t talk to her as she fluffs pillows, I don’t know.
Sybil: Bill, why have you been home these past few days? What’s going on at the office? It isn’t like you to sleep late and lounge around with the newspaper. Is something wrong? Are you ill?
Bill(laughing) most wives scold their men if they are away from home. You never did that, but you’re scolding me now because I’m here. That’s a switch.
Sybil: I’m not scolding, and you know it. But something is going on. Now out with it.
We learned two things from this conversation.
- Sybil isn’t human. She never shows her husband that she is upset that he is never around
- Bill and Sybil do not agree on the definition of the word “scold.”
- June doesn’t know how to write convincing dialog
- June doesn’t know how to write human beings
Sybil tells Bill that he hasn’t talked with her about anything but business in 30 years.
Sybil: You’re frightening me a bit.
I have to wonder how often she’s frightened of him, first off. Second, Bill only ever talks about business, really? I doubt that. That’s not human. Also, Sybil said that Bill could be really charming when he wanted to be. It’s not charming if you only ever talk business to your wife. This is not how real life relationships that don’t end in divorce work.
Bill: There’s nothing to fear. The past few weeks I’ve been having an occasional stab of pain in my chest, so I went to a specialist and had the works. He didn’t find anything of any consequence but said I had to slack off and get out from under the pressure. Insisted I take a month off. So you’re stuck with me for a while.
It is true that excessive amounts of stress can cause chest pains. I know, because I show up to the ER every 2 years or so with chest pains, and they do EKGs*, Chest X rays, and blood tests. An actual heart specialist may do more tests, I wouldn’t know, but I do have some clue as to what June Strong means when she says the specialist gave Bill “the works,” even if she herself does not.
Sybil: You mean you’re not going to the office for a month?
Bill: Think you can survive?
Sybil: Oh Bill…(her eyes fill with tears, and she cannot go on.)
Because of the odd dialog, it looks like Sybil is crying because Bill will not be gone enough. We’re probably supposed to infer that she is crying because Bill is having chest pain that needs monitoring, or that she is crying from happiness that he will be around more. But uh, I’m not really seeing that here.
It’s also kind of weird that her immediate response to the fact that Bill is having chest pain and that his doctor told him to take a month off is to ask him if this means he won’t be going to the office. Her first response isn’t to ask “Are you feeling ok?” or “Why didn’t you tell me” or “Is there anything the doctor said we should do?”
Her first response is to make sure he will be home, then burst into tears. This, to me, does not sound like a woman who is happy to have her husband all to herself. This, to me, sounds like a woman who was happier having her husband at the office all day.
It gets worse.
Bill: (taking her hand): I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the past few days about the way I’ve treated you for years, just dashing in and out and assuming you were ok because you didn’t complain. I’d almost forgotten what a special person you are. At that little get together at Meg’s the other day, neither of those young women could hold a candle to you. You’re a beauty, Sybil, and I’ve taken it for granted for far too long(emphasis mine)…..
Even before I went to the doctor I’d been thinking it was time to quit. All those airports and restaurants were beginning to get to me. But it’s hard to slow down when you’ve been running around for 30 years. Can you understand that?
Did you catch that? I didn’t catch it at first either. And then it dawned on me: Bill isn’t apologizing for treating Sybil the way he has because he’s realized Sybil is a valuable human being with a mind of her own. He is apologizing here because he has realized that Sybil is beautiful. After he says this, he starts going on about the early days of their marriage when they were poor. He does not mention any other quality in Sybil that he likes, just that she’s beautiful.
Seeing how beautiful Sybil was made him realize the mistake he was making. That’s…. not creepy at all…. No…
Bill offers to take Sybil traveling with him, for shits and giggles this time instead of business. Sybil asks about money
Bill: Don’t worry, woman. There’ll be no budget. The rat race has paid off, and we’re set for whatever years we have left.
The pretty little trophy wife isn’t to worry her pretty little head about money. Bill forbids it.
Sybil: I’m worried about the chest pains
Bill: The doctor said they were simply a warning sign, nothing more. You are not to mess up the good years we have ahead by fretting.
The pretty little trophy wife isn’t allowed to worry her pretty little head about money or her husband’s chest pains, both of which are things that a partner in a marriage needs to know and at least be a little concerned about.
This may have sounded like a sweet thing to the author, but it’s not. It sounds kinda controlling, actually. Whenever a partner tries to keep you from thinking about money, it’s a red flag.
Sybil asks Bill to let her share the things she and Meg have been studying about in the Bible, but Bill refuses:
Bill: I’d do most anything to make you happy, but you must not ask that of me. The Bible means no more to me than a collection of fairy tales. You and Meg go right on ahead, if this brings you pleasure, but count me out. I’ll be in the Den, watching TV.
I can’t tell, here, if he’s being reasonable or not. In one tone of voice, this is Bill being incredibly nice. In another tone, this is Bill being passive aggressive. As everyone who writes knows, tone of voice is lost in writing, and so body language is often used to convey what we are missing through tone of voice.
Bill shifted his weight to his left foot. “Well,” he said. “I’d…. I’d do almost anything for you Sybil, but…” He ran a hand through his hair. “Honey, I’m not really interested.”
Bill folded his arms over his chest. “Sybil,” he said. “You know I’d do almost anything to make you happy, But count me out. I’m going to go watch TV in the den.” He turn around and stomped off, making as much noise as possible, slamming the door on his way out.
Those paragraphs are not great writing. But at least you get the point. Reading this passage, I can’t honestly tell how we are supposed to read what Bill is saying.
In the absence of any visual cues, I look to the other characters, to see how they respond to his behavior.
Sybil: But you’ll be bored.
Why? Does Bill not like TV? Then why is he going to go watch it? Why does he not read a book or something? Does Sybil have to be around him 24/7 if he’s home? Must she be by his side at all times, never allowed to do her own thing?
The way Sybil reacts to Bill’s behavior tells me way more than Ms. Strong probably intended.
Bill: Well, its a lot better than being bored at home than in a lonely motel somewhere.
(Bill leaves the room and Sybil sits with a troubled look until the doorbell rings.)
Bill will be bored without Sybil at his side? Oh dear… no wonder Sybil “sits with a troubled look.” We’re probably meant to interpret this as sadness at her husband’s refusal to study the bible, but it all just makes Bill look like a controlling asshole.
We get this heart wrenching paragraph before she and Meg start Bible Study.
Sybil tells Meg about Bill’s retirement, and then says:
Sybil: I tried to get him to join us, but he has no interest in religion whatever. He’s in the den watching TV and didn’t seem to mind that you were coming. I just feel sort of numb. It hasn’t quite hit me yet that he’ll be around. I guess I’m not really letting myself believe it for fear he’ll find it too dull and go back to work, chest pains and all. I just have to keep him happy, Meg, somehow.
Why should Bill mind Meg was coming? Sybil is her own person still, isn’t she? She’s allowed to have her own friends, right?
Sybil is worried that if she can’t make him happy, he will leave. That is a huge red flag, right there.
Sybil abruptly changes the subject to our favorite thing: Bible Study!
This week they’ve been reading the book of Luke, though it’s so long neither of them actually finished it.
This bible study is 8 pages long, and I’m only highlighting the relevant parts:
- Sybil worries that she can’t accept God’s love because she is not used to being loved, because Bill was always gone.
- Meg says divorce could’ve done that to her, but didn’t, because of the children, who very obviously still loved her.
Speaking of the divorce, Sybil asks Meg how the dinner party went, really.
Sunlight: I wish I could tell you I was all forgiveness and understanding, but the truth is I felt hate, anger, and fierce jealous some of the time. Mostly I felt hurt.
Meg, it is ok to take more time to heal. It is also ok if you never want to have a dinner party with them again. Just because you forgive the guy doesn’t mean you have to invite them back into your life.
This is something most Christians and Adventists don’t seem to understand.
Meg says the girls thanked her for having Jim and Marie over, but I didn’t see them do that, and I doubt it happened. What mostly likely happened was that Jenny made some comment about how it was nice to have her parents be nice to each other for a change.
Sunlight:(Still speaking): Fortunately, Luke took my mind off Jim this week. Michael bought me this Bible. isn’t it beautiful? What would I do without Michael?
I know I’m not supposed to think of Luke, here, as a person, but the way it’s written….. SNORT.
In any case, Sybil’s response just confuses me:
Sybil: Learn to appreciate him of course.
Then she goes straight from this confusing sentence (without Michael you would learn to appreciate Michael… what?) to talking about the Devil. She wonders why God didn’t just kill Lucifer before his rebellion got out of hand.
The typical response to that is that Lucifer had free will, and that God needed the show the angels how bad sin is. Basically, kids, Lucifer’s free will to wreak havoc trumped your free will to not grow up on a sin filled planet. And the angels’ need to see how awful sin was trumped your need to never be abused.
Basically, God cares more about angels than he does about us.
June Strong doesn’t see it that way, however, and we get long paragraphs of Meg and Sybil studying it out in the Bible, coming to conclusions that, frankly, one can only get from reading Ellen White.
At some point, Meg says that this (the Bible study re: Lucifer) is more exciting than Star Wars.
This was a big thing in Adventism for a while. For a while they were trying to convince children that The Great Controversy was more exciting than Star Wars. Spoiler alert, this never worked. Provided, of course, that the person in question had actually seen Star Wars.
Sybil: ….So, you think that the Earth has been sort of a proving ground for the universe in which Lucifer has had freedom to demonstrate his rebellion against God. If that’s the case, I’m not sure I like being a part of this experiment.
First off, can you even get this outside of Ellen White? I admit to only having skimmed the Bible passages the two women read, but I still am not getting that out of the passages they read.
Also, I have to agree with Sybil. If our planet is part of some huge cosmic experiment, I don’t like being part of it either. I want out.
I’ve been part of a scientific experiment before. There are all kinds of ethical hoops you have to jump through. Nowadays, we believe that you can not just involve people in experiments without telling them. I had to sign a bunch of paperwork and be informed about everything. Sybil, basically, is saying here that we fallible humans have a better sense of ethics than an infallible deity.
Because God never asked me if I wanted any part of this. He asked Adam and Eve, because 2 people can give consent for everyone ever born on the face of the planet.
And people wonder why I hated God as a teenager.
Meg and Sybil jabber about Christ’s death for a few paragraphs, then Sybil says that they should close.
Sybil: Meg, we’ve got to wind this up a little early tonight, because it’s making me nervous having Bill shut off in the Den.
Why? Why would this be something that makes Sybil nervous? This is like, the 3rd or 4th time in this chapter she has outright stated that she is afraid of Bill. And she’s shown it all throughout.
I’m not sure if the author is attempting to show us an abusive relationship or not, but it definitely seems like Bill is a controlling prick.
Real men don’t care if a woman wants to study the bible with her (female) friend.
Sunlight: If Bill is going to be home for a while, I think we shouldn’t try to get together every week. Why don’t you come to my house in a couple of weeks if it’s convenient?
Why would Bill being home make a difference? Sybil might think it would because Sybil is afraid of Bill, but how does Meg know to be afraid of him too?
Jared, instead of being concerned for Sybil’s well being, starts reminiscing about the good old days of heaven, before Lucifer’s rebellion. He wishes he could show the two women all of that.
This, folks, is why bad things happen to good people. The angels don’t see the warning signs, either.
Because the Bill/Sybil dynamic wasn’t often enough, Jared has to keep talking.
Things are going too well for Sybil and Sunlight. The Rebel does not let go of his citizens so easily. What plottings(sic) lurk in his crafty mind?
This sentence made me laugh out loud because it is just so terrible.
I have noted the young man, Michael, searching furiously in his Bible this week, a can of beer ever beside him on the table. He has been making careful notes. Sunlight will be astonished at the conclusion to which he has come.
Michael drinks as he reads the Bible (I approve). I was kind of under the impression Michael didn’t drink at all, what with the way he’s reacted to Meg’s drinking so far.
As to this astonishing conclusion, we’ll have to find that out in chapter 8. First we have to get through chapter 7, which is even worse than chapter 6.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me plow through the rest of this chapter:
I can’t get Lucifer out of my mind
Sounds like a mental illness.
Sometimes, until the cross, I looked with pity upon him and his followers. I longed to have things as they were before, to have him reinstated…I wondered, if he were given another chance, that perhaps all could be as it had been before. But that awful day when the Prince hung on the cross… I finally saw the fury with which Lucifer sought to destroy him. Finally I understood the evil within that once glorious being. I knew there could be no turning back, and I have not found it in my heart to pity him since that day.
This idea is actually found in one of Ellen White’s books. That the angels of heaven, at first, kinda wondered whether or not Lucifer may have been right. Until the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, when Lucifer’s actions put him there, their hearts were settled forever against him.
This isn’t meant to have the angels of heaven look like motherfucking douchebags, but…
It is believed by Christians that Jesus took roughly 4K years to be born on this Earth. That’s 4,000 years of humans being murdered, raped, and tortured in unspeakable ways. Lucifer, from their perspective, caused all this.
And yet, the angels still had niggling little doubts, until Jesus, who they knew wouldn’t actually die forever, was killed? Screw all those other people who got crucified, we don’t care about them.
Jared and the Angels can go fuck themselves.
*Or is that an EEG? I’ve had both tests and can not keep the letters straight. I’m talking about the heart test where they hook you up to a bunch of electrodes and read the electrical patterns of your heart.