Parable of the Sower Critique: Chapter 7

I wrote this story my sophomore year at boarding academy. It was my friends’ Christmas present.

The chapter starts Sunday morning, of course. Holly is filled with dread. She is not going to church. She will not obey the law. She is terrified of what that means.

The next day, Aralyn’s alarm clock goes off early. “we have to go to church.” she tells me, “and after that, training sessions!”

What kind of training sessions? Training sessions for what? This could’ve been really interesting…. I wish teenage!me had included it.

On second thought, no I don’t. This is long enough  too long as it is.

“Holly, you have to [wake up]! Otherwise you’ll go to jail!”

“Tell ’em to send the cops.” I mumble into my pillow.

I just want to clarify what teenage!me was thinking: teenage!me was thinking she’d rather go to jail than have to get up so early on a Sunday morning. At this point, Holly isn’t resisting church. She’s resisting the idea of getting out of bed.

Because not even the threat of jail time can get me out of bed in the morning, I guess.

Anyway, Mrs. Gladstone isn’t dealing with this bullshit. She forces Holly out of bed, and they have an argument.

“Oh yeah. That’s right, you don’t like church. Well ya know what? Tough luck! Its church, or jail?” She leers at me, “whats it gonna be?”

God, Mrs. Gladstone is such a caricature!

In all fairness, I am in my late 20s now, and I still might pick jail. Well, no I wouldn’t, but as an atheist I would at least consider it.

Holly, of course, chooses jail, which pisses Mrs. Gladstone off.

As an adult, I have a lot of sympathy for Mrs. Gladstone. She’s doing a thankless job trying to keep kids from going to jail or being killed. She’s also got eleventy billion kids to keep in line. It’s honestly enough to make any woman lose her mind.

“Fine! Get yourself arrested! I don’t care. I’m only trying to help.” she leaves the room muttering to herself.

In her mind, Mrs. Gladstone is doing good things. She’s the hero who saves children from being brutally tortured. When the children rebel, it’s not only majorly frustrating, it’s also heart breaking. Teenage!me didn’t write Mrs. Gladstone with this in mind, but adult!me is looking at this going, “Mrs. Gladstone has some bad methods, but she genuinely cares about these children. She’s doing this to Holly because she’s frustrated and she’s scared and she honestly believes she’s helping.

But people in teenage!me’s world were black and white, good or evil. Mrs. Gladstone isn’t good, so she’s evil.

Holly grabs her blankets and falls back asleep, but wakes up to pounding on the door. Is it police doing a sweep of the houses to make sure that everyone not on death’s door isn’t hiding at home? No, it’s Tall-Girl.

Holly apologizes for having stolen Tall-Girl’s wallet, and Tall-Girl forgives her…and it’s cringe worthy but sure. Whatever.

Holly and Tall-Girl aren’t sure what they should do. They don’t feel comfortable staying at the house, because Mrs. Gladstone could come home at any moment. Why she would do this isn’t something we get a reason for. It’s honestly more likely that the church police would burst in.

Holly and Tall-Girl decide to drive around for a while, because no one driving around during church would be at all suspicious.

As they drive, they find Aralyn walking by the side of the road. She’s wearing pants, and she’s just snuck out of church. I wish we could hear how she managed it.

Tall-Girl takes Holly and Aralyn to her house. All 18 year olds own their own houses, even those who are still in high school.

Aralyn finds her voice, “Who are you?”

Suddenly, it strikes me for the first time that I do not know Tall-Girl’s name.

“Yes,” I turn to face you, “who are you exactly?”

She laughs, “You mean you’ve been hanging out with me for a week and a half and you don’t even know my first name?”

Holly points out that she doesn’t know Tall-Girl’s last name either.

Mandy Green. Tall-Girl-With-The-Blond-Hair is Mandy Green. It’s…. not a terrible name…. like fucking Aralyn.

Teenage!me actually gives times in this chapter. We are told that the girls stay at Mandy’s house until 11:50am, at which point they return to the house.

Mrs. Gladstone comes back, and she’s furious. Bad enough Holly is going to get herself arrested, she’s going to get Aralyn arrested as well.

Mrs. Gladstone kind of reminds adult!me of that one church lady who got really upset when the little kids tried to imitate me…. Remind me to do a blog entry about that sometime, because that’s another topic and it is just so ridiculous.

But Mrs. Gladstone is not based on Mrs. H, so we won’t get into it now.

Surprisingly, Mrs. Gladstone doesn’t do anything more than yell. She just stomps off. Poor Mrs. Gladstone. Her efforts are not appreciated.

Note also the lack of punishment. Worst dictator regime ever.

Aralyn feels terrible about having gotten Holly in trouble with Mrs. Gladstone. Holly tells Aralyn that it’s Satan making her feel that way, and we get a section break.

Honestly, it’s a valid point. Aralyn realizes that her actions have consequences, and in this particular universe, those consequences could be rather permanent. (In the form of death.) It is Aralyn’s conscience, not Satan, that is making her feel that way.

Things are not black and white, but they were for Teenage!me.

I can’t count the weeks that go by, but my stomach continues to bulge out more. One day Aralyn wakes up, looks at me, and asks, “Are you pregnant?”

Why can’t Holly count the weeks? Is time doing that thing where it speeds up, then slows down, then speeds up again?

Also, I can’t believe I wrote Aralyn to be so oblivious. Would a 12 year old actually not notice? 12 year olds aren’t stupid for gosh sakes.

Aralyn asks what it’s like to be pregnant. Teenage!me doesn’t know the answer either, so she gives something she found while googling.

“Well, its weird when it kicks….its like, I feel it, but it doesn’t hurt.”

……

I sigh, I guess she wants more information than that. “At first sometimes you get sick in the morning, this is called morning sickness. That’s awful, but, usually that tends to go away after a while. I’m extremely clumsy because I’m so big, and, that’s pretty much it.”

This isn’t terrible. It’s not good writing, but copying an answer from Google is a lot better than what happens when teenage!me makes shit up.

We are told that Holly loves the Sabbath, and is happy because Aralyn has been going to church with them. The 2 girls are very loud as they climb out the window and  down the tree. Aralyn teases Holly about being slow, and Holly retorts that duh, she’s pregnant. Pregnant people aren’t too fast at climbing trees, I guess. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never tried to climb a tree while pregnant. (Has anyone ever tried to climb a tree while pregnant?)

Aralyn turns and runs toward Mandy’s car, which is waiting for us in the driveway, as usual. Only this time, so is Mrs. Gladstone.

Well shit. They just got caught. DUN DUN DUN! What is going to happen?

The short answer: nothing. Which is kind of unsatisfying.

Yanno, this almost could have worked. Mrs. Gladstone could end up being the one who turns Holly and Aralyn in. She knows Holly and Aralyn are lost causes, and she wants them out of the house before they can corrupt the others. Just because Holly and Aralyn die, she reasons, doesn’t mean the other children have to.

Instead I went some other route, one that I never bother to explain. It’s pretty anti climactic. Mandy and Mrs. Gladstone go inside, and Holly makes up some lame excuse about having to go to the bathroom so she can evesdrop.

The downside of writing in first person: you have to make your main character overhear stuff they don’t know about.

Mrs. Gladstone is crying.

“Oh Mandy! I didn’t mean to be a stumbling block to all these kids when I started this! It just… I’ve made a mistake and I think its too late! The last plagues are being carried out even as we speak!” I nod silently. Its true.

Wait, what? No it’s not! What last plagues? Where? When? Where are all the earthquakes, volcanoes, and natural disasters that are supposed to happen? A plague is mentioned once, but never again. When was the water turned to blood? What about the stars falling from the sky and the heavenly bodies being shaken?

NONE OF THAT HAS HAPPENED.

Teenage!me wanted this story to hurry along, but it drags in all the wrong places.

Sadly, we don’t get to hear what Mandy says to Mrs. Gladstone. We don’t get to hear anything else about her, except that she is wrong and she knows it. Again, this would’ve been a much better story if Mrs. Gladstone thought she was the good guy. Good woman.

What was teenage!me thinking when she wrote the character of Mrs. Gladstone? What exactly is Mrs. G’s backstory? I don’t even think teenage!me herself knew. I think teenage!me was kind of making up bullshit as she went along, because at some point she just had to end this.

So Mandy and Holly and Aralyn all go to church.

And then teenage!me though this part was so great when she wrote it…. and I just… want to go back in time and beat her over the head with a tire iron.

We are just singing “There Is A Treasure” we are just singing the chorus (….And I would rather die than live one day without you….) When suddenly, we hear the front door burst open and footsteps rapidly approaching the trap door. We hear the table being smashed against the wall, then the trap door being thrown open..

There is a momentary pause of shock, we hear footsteps pounding down the stairs. I’m scared, but I keep singing, “Because your love is better than life…” Everyone joins me. As police officers thunder into the room and order us to shut up, we just sing louder. The police cuff me and all the other members and, with much violence, (which I won’t get into because I want this to be G-rated)

You weren’t worried about that when the students were beating the shit out of Holly. Teenage!me you’re inconsistent!

And throw us into the police cars. We are still all singing at the top of our lungs, which only infuriates the officers, who spray us with pepper spray. It stings like the devil himself, but it just makes us sing louder, stronger, and with a passion.

I’ve never tested this out. After being hit with pepper spray, can you even sing, at all?

I do have pepper spray in my possession, I will not be testing this. At least, not on myself. Now, if someone else comes up to me and will not stop singing…

Ahem. Moving on.

Holly is thrown into a dark prison cell, and teenage!me spends the next few paragraphs explaining just how dark it is, and comparing it to how spiritually dark our world is. Gag gag gag. Does anybody have a time machine?

There are 8 other people in the cell with Holly. I’m not sure how she knows that when it is COMPLETELY DARK. They all took roll call, I guess.

One of the cellmates is Tori, Holly’s best friend from like, 3 years ago. I think Real!Tori was actually my current room mate when I wrote this.

“Yes!” she exclaims, “Holly, I’m so glad you’re here! I mean—“ she breaks off, realizing that that is the stupidest comment to make to a fellow inmate. Take my advice; if you should EVER go to jail (and lets hope that you don’t, unless its for religious persecution) never ever ever ever ever EVER say that you are glad to see someone there. (at least, not to an inmate anyway)

Teenage!me isn’t wrong, but she’s overexplaining it. I also love how she says it’s ok to go to jail if it’s for religious persecution. I’m pretty sure people who are actually being persecuted are just thrilled to be in jail.

Eyeroll.

Holly tells the cell mates that she is pregnant, and one of them tells her that the guards are going to take the baby away as soon as it is born and raise it in The New Religion.

Teenage!me wasn’t sure, at this time, what happened to babies who are born in jail. Did they leave the babies with the incarcerated parent, or take them away and put them….somewhere?

So, part of the reason this passage fails so badly is because the writer is an inexperienced teenager who doesn’t know much about the world. The internet is still kind of new to her, and she isn’t used to being able to google for answers. Teenage!me thought to do it for some things, but not others.

This is a copout on teenage!me’s part, rather than a plot point in the story. The fact that it kind of works with the plot (or so she thinks) is merely coincidental.

In any case, Holly freaks the fuck out:

I gasp, “No!” I scream, “No! I would rather it be still-born then be born and never know Jesus!” I start crying. I’m scared. And I don’t wanna kill my baby, but neither do I want it to be lost….

Wow. Ummmm what?

Holly is an unstable child who under no circumstances should be allowed to care for her baby. She is seriously considering killing it rather than letting it be raised a non-Adventist. That’s horrifying.

And yet I have some sympathy for Holly. Holly is a brainwashed teenager who honestly thinks the choice is between killing her baby and letting it go to hell.

One of the other cellmates reassures Holly that God would never allow the child to be taken. Why? Has he prevented other children from being taken? If not, then why would Holly’s baby be any exception? Holly is also ignoring that, the way things are going, the child will not live to reach the age of accountability on this earth, so of course the child would be saved anyway.

 The guard pokes his head in and tells Holly she has a visitor. Holly is beyond shocked. Who possibly could it be?

Surprise! It’s Matt! Remember how I said his only purpose in the story was to impregnate Holly? Well, that’s what teenage!me had intended when she first wrote this, but then she decided to bring him back, because she could use him.

Again, this part is totally not plagiarized from the book “Midnight Hour.” That was sarcasm, this scene is totally plagiarized from that book.

Matt sees Holly, and figures out she’s pregnant. He is surprised, and Holly is worried he won’t love her. She clearly doesn’t love him anymore, so I don’t get why she even cares.

Matt is excited, and asks what Holly is having. Holly quips back that she’s having a human, of course, duh.

Matt asks her if she wants to know the gender, but Holly says she wants it to be surprise. This was probably more acceptable in the mid to late zeros when I wrote this. Nowadays it’s almost a requirement because everything is very gendered, not to mention the popularity of “Gender reveal parties.” I don’t understand these parties, but to each their own, I suppose.

He grins, “hey, yeah! That’s cool! How’d you like to get out of here, move in with me, and we could live together to raise the baby!”

Is…. that gonna be allowed?

Holly doesn’t think to ask this question. Instead she’s all, “but I thought you hated children.” Matt said that yeah, he did, but that was before he found out he was actually going to have one.

Teenage!me meant for this to be a lie. Of course Matt didn’t really give two shits about his own child. But honestly, as an adult, I can kinda see it happening.

Or at least, I don’t think it’s completely unrealistic.

Matt says that there’s a catch, and of course there is. No way is the government going to let Holly out of jail scott free. Holly should know this.

Matt thrusts some papers that he wants her to sign, which basically say that Holly renounces her religion.

Holly throws a fit.

He glares at me. “Holly, I am offering you a chance of life! Of freedom! I’m offering you a chance to keep your baby from being snatched out of your arms and your….refusing me??”

“yes.”

Holly can’t sign the papers because if she does, she’ll go to hell. Is there a reason God wouldn’t be ok with her signing the papers, getting her freedom and her child, and then running away once she gets the chance? Yes, because to deny God, under any circumstances, is to deny yourself a trip to heaven.

Matt tells Holly that she has 7 days to change her mind and storms off. Holly goes back to her cell in tears.

The chapter ends with teenage!me promising that things are going to get much worse. Except… they really don’t.

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