A Mountain To Climb Chapter 16

Chapter 16

It’s Final

If you recall, last week we learned that the doctor is going to let Pearl come home for Christmas, and that Arthur and his friends are planning some kind of surprise for her.

Will Arthur propose? Will Mrs. Lindsay allow Pearl to accept? What exactly is Arthur up to? We’re going to find out in this really exciting (zzzz) chapter.

On that December 24 Pearl was awake early, anticipating the moment she could leave the hospital. She thought back over her 7 months of hospitalization. At last she would have a break. At last she could go home for a few days.

I’m really glad we have an indication of how much time has passed. It gives me a sense of where we are in the story.

Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, teachers at the school, come for Pearl at 10am. We are told that she still needs a wheelchair, and that even the ten mile ride from the hospital to the school was extremely exhausting for her. Pearl has to go straight to bed when she gets home, which is depressing but at least she’s home.

When she and her mother were alone at last, Pearl said, “I never dreamed I’d be away so long. I never expected God to send a whole mountain range in answer to my prayer.”

Yes. God. God answered your prayer. Pay no attention to the Adventists who are basically exploiting youPay no attention to the fact that you kinda caused this yourself by not wearing proper shoes while working with dangerous chemicals.

Have you noticed that people are kind of using “God” and Pearl’s prayer to excuse their bad behavior?

All Christmas Day a constant procession of young people streamed to the cottage under the mango tree. Some of them brought small gifts to show their love for Pearl. Arthur came….and brought her flowers he had gathered from the school garden.

Pearl is popular and well liked. Even after a 7 month absence, they still remember her. I’m not sure how long school years are in Trinidad, but in the States that would be almost a whole school year she’s missed out on.

Pearl enjoyed every minute of her stay at home, especially the party given in her honor. She joined in all the activities she could. The rest of the time she watched from her wheelchair as the others participated.

I guess Arthur and his friends were plotting to throw Pearl a surprise party? And we don’t get to see how Pearl responds to this?  This is all we get about the surprise Arthur was planning, and it feels anti-climactic.

Soon, Pearl has to leave and go back to the hospital.

Another 3 months dragged slowly by–months of pain, of learning to walk with crutches, of weariness, of longing for home and friends. Then one day the doctor asked, “Pearl, how would you like to go home?”

So, total amount of time in the hospital so far: roughly 10 months.

Finally, Pearl goes home. She begins taking classes again, and we are told that she is two weeks late starting them. We are also told that she’s about a year behind. How many more years would she need in order to finish? No idea. We don’t get told.

Pearl never once lost faith. Her slow but steady recovery gave her courage to know she would eventually be completely healed.

Ms. Maxson mentions this as though it is a virtue. But what if Pearl’s faith hadn’t survived? What if she decided her suffering had an earthly cause (it did) and that God was nowhere in it (he probably wasn’t)? That would be ok. It’s ok to have a crisis of faith, to doubt a little. But not according to the author.  In the author’s mind, having a crisis of faith is a sin.

That’s not a message I can get behind.

If belief in God was being presented as something Pearl feels she needs in order to deal with a shitty situation that is out of her control, then that would be one thing. But the author here is advocating that this should be the way everyone deals with life’s trials.  It’s being presented that, if Pearl’s faith had wavered even once, that would have been a terrible calamity.

Sometimes people in shitty situations need religion. Sometimes people in shitty situations need to let go of their religion.

If your religion is such that it is a sin to doubt your God, then maybe you should rethink your religion.

Arthur often visited Pearl, but not once did Mrs. Lindsay permit the two of them to be alone. As the 3 of them sat in the living room, Mrs. Lindsay would shell peas, knit, or do some other handwork. Rarely did she join in the conversation.

Mainstream Adventists date pretty much like normal couples, with maybe a little less physical intimacy. But there is a branch of conservative Adventism that advocates for the exact type of courtship as Arthur and Pearl are having. This is still true in 2017, and I imagine it was also true in 1976 when this book was published. My 2 best Adventist friends, J and J, had a similar dynamic.

Mrs. Lindsay…. is probably just trying to stop the inevitable at this point.

When September came around, Arthur felt he must have some kind of definite understanding with Pearl. He would graduate in 3 months, and he wanted to plan for his future.

Ok, so plan on coming back in a year or 2 when Pearl graduates. If you are forcing her to choose between school and marriage, you are not worthy of her. I get that the phrase “true love waits” is often used by the Purity culture to tell people they shouldn’t have sex before marriage, but I think the phrase applies here. True love waits for you to finish college, especially if the college has stupid pissy rules like, “no married students allowed.”

And I do get that these were different times and different places, but I still think that there had to have been men  who weren’t giant dickheads. Surely there were men who would have waited.

But Arthur doesn’t want to wait. He wants to marry Pearl now. There’s just one problem for poor Arthur: he can’t talk to Pearl because her mother is always around. This is a flaw in many fundy courtship plans. J and J, the Adventist couple I’m referring to, realized this, and they allowed themselves to have conversations alone. They trusted themselves to behave, and so did their parents. Of course, their parents were totally ok with them getting married, unlike Mrs. Lindsay, who is desperately trying to keep them apart so Pearl can finish her college degree.

Instead of having a talk with Mrs. Lindsay, Arthur decides to write Pearl a letter and sneak it to her somehow.

I have no idea why this is presented in the book as a good thing. In conservative Adventist circles, and possibly even mainstream Adventism, this would be seen as something sneaky and not right. So, while I do agree that Arthur and Pearl should have a private conversation, I am puzzled as to why this blatant disrespect of Mrs. Lindsay is seen as something we as an Adventist audience are supposed to like.

Carefully he composed it, telling Pearl again of his love, and asking for a definite answer to his marriage proposal. That afternoon he walked to Pearl’s home with eagerness, the letter in his pocket.

Arthur slips Pearl the letter as he is leaving, telling her to read it when she is alone.

Now, I see where Mrs. Lindsay is coming from. Pearl set out to get an education, and she should probably get it before she marries. *I* think Arthur is a giant dickwad, *I* think Pearl is being stupid to forsake her schooling, but what really matters is what Pearl wants. And really, Pearl is in a very good position here. Unlike some of the other ladies, She didn’t need this college degree in the first place. Pearl is a bilingual secretary. She could get a good job with decent pay pretty much anywhere. If something should happen to Arthur, Pearl is going to be fine.

Other students are not so lucky. Other students would literally be putting all their eggs in one basket. Other students would have to take a leap of faith and risk getting trapped in a shitty marriage with no way out. Which is why this rule is stupid and guys who can’t wait for their women to graduate are pissheads.

After reading Arthur’s letter, Pearl is convinced that he is The One. But what about Mrs. Lindsay?

Peal was old enough to marry without parental permission, but she didn’t want to do that. She loved her mother and wanted her blessing.

I already discussed, last week, that Pearl also knew what Ellen White would have had to say on the subject of marrying without your parents’ permission. We’re not going to get into it now, only to note that this is a thing that exists, and that the author isn’t mentioning it. I have some thoughts on why this is so, but I’ll set them aside. I really do think it’s not too far out of the bounds of possibility that Pearl does not want to alienate her mother by marrying someone of which she disapproves.

But her mother doesn’t disapprove. Her mother is not saying, “no.” She is saying, “not right now.” Which, given the circumstances, is completely understandable.

A conservative Adventist, upon reading this, would shake their head. “Arthur should wait,” they’d say. He should never have sent a secret letter. A conservative Adventist would still have their issues with this book.

Pearl writes Arthur back.

I’ll pray about it for one week. I’ll fast both this Sabbath and the Sabbath at the end of my week of prayer, asking God for a sign, so I’ll know for sure mother can be won over.

Isn’t fasting medically dangerous for Pearl at this point, or has she recovered enough? I am not a medical professional I don’t know anything.

And what sign is Pearl asking for? We get to know:

The sign Pearl asked for was a simple one-that Arthur would come and ask her mother for a book at 3 o’clock the second Sabbath afternoon.

Show of hands–how many of us prayed similar prayers? How many of us got them answered? My hand is raised, and I have had these prayers answered…. a few times. Sometimes I might have been manipulating the circumstances….

During that week Pearl asked God to reveal his will to her. She read everything she could find about marriage. She wanted to be right in this matter, not only for herself, but for Arthur as well.

I can relate. When I was in high school, I was just like this. I felt like I had screwed up my life, and that the area of love, sex, and romance was the only way I hadn’t screwed up. So I read everything I could get my hands on, determined to get it right.

When the second Sabbath came, Pearl prayed more earnestly than ever. She did not want to make a mistake….Slowly the minute hand crept toward 12, while the hour hand poised on three. Just as the minute hand reached its zenith, Arthur knocked.

This is a decent bit of writing. It manages to insert some dramatic tension into a scene that’s really kind of boring, otherwise.

Did this happen this way in reality? Did Arthur really knock just as the clock struck 3? Well, no, probably not.  This is probably that “creative license” we talked about earlier.

Even if it did happen in exactly this way, that’s not really significant because 3 o’clock on Pearl’s clock is not going to be the same as it is on some other clock. Does anybody actually know what time it is? Well, today maybe, but certainly not in 1938.

In any case, Arthur is at Pearl’s house to see if Pearl’s mother has a copy of Patriarchs and Prophets. He’s trying to write a sermon, and the library is out of copies.

Hmm. Did Pearl tell anyone–Rosalind, perhaps–about the sign? Someone who, possibly maybe, I dunno, found out that Arthur was writing a sermon about something? And that this someone who found all this out possibly go to the library and check out every book Arthur could possibly use to write said sermon?

I’m not saying this did happen. I’m just saying it’s a possibility.

But Pearl, of course, doesn’t see it that way. Pearl is ecstatic because God just told her this guy is the one! Would that we were all so lucky.

That evening when Arthur comes over, Pearl tells her mother everything, including the sign and the answer. We go directly from Pearl telling her mother that God sent her a sign to this:

Arthur cleared his throat. “And so, Mrs. Lindsay? He said, “may I be so bold as to ask for your daughter’s hand?”

Whoa. Jeez. Sure. Let’s just drop a bombshell on her like that and see how she reacts. Hang on, this is the first time Arthur has heard this too, right? Did he know what Pearl’s asked for sign was? Shouldn’t he be having like, a moment of stunned silence? Did he know?

I am probably reading too much into this. There was roughly a 30 year gap between the events of this story and the time they were written down, so much of the details are probably a little fuzzy.

Pearl’s mother took a deep breath. “Well,” she began, “I wonder if you two think I’m blind. I’ve seen this coming.”

I’ve spent the entire book hating Pearl’s mother–in this moment, I like Pearl’s mother.

“Who am I to reject such evidence?” She turned toward Arthur and smiled. “The answer is Yes.”

The “Y” in yes is capitalized in the text.

And so Pearl is, once again, sacrificing something for someone else. Do I approve? Well, the timing isn’t at all ideal, but like I said, Pearl has more ability than most to get out of a shitty marriage if it comes to that, so I guess it isn’t that bad.

Next week is the last chapter, yay! It’s basically a wrap up chapter where the author ties up the loose ends and gives us all the happy ending we were hoping for. Well not really, but it’s the ending that Adventist audiences were hoping for. There’s nothing much of substance in it, so I might combine that post with the epilogue, and after that, I have something a little different in mind for the post where I usually write my closing thoughts. That will be interesting.


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