Welcome to the next section of our reading of Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover. If you need to catch up or recall what happened before, check out the first, second, and third sections of this read.
Jane takes Silver home, and on the way, she realizes how little or, rather, none of her world belongs to her. When she takes him up to the vista, which sits in the middle of the clouds, and he admires the thunderstorm raging around them, she realizes that she’s never bought anything for herself and that everything she has is based on what her mother thought was appropriate. Jane tries to insist Silver come up to her room and make love to her, but he refuses and she yells at him.
Reader Comments: I think that perhaps Lee wishes we readers to endure what Jane suffers, an earnest desire to have Silver be real and capable of love, but time and again, he reminds us as he reminds Jane that he isn’t. I suppose, at least, he’s honest.
Writer Comments: Lee uses a storm as the background element of this scene. It struck me that this is very stereotypical: a fight between lovers or near lovers taking place during a raging storm. More generally, when emotions run high, either yearning passion or rage, a storm is often employed by the author. Every author has heard time and again to avoid stereotypes and clichés, yet there are elements, like storms or sunshine, that often seem immune to this. I think, perhaps, a more accurate description of what not to do would be: Don’t use stereotypes and clichés when they feel like stereotypes and clichés. Lee’s description of the storm is unique, and she melds it to reflect Jane’s emotions. Therefore, it takes on its uniqueness and cliché-escaping abilities because Jane’s emotions and character, which it takes on, are unique.
Upset, Jane goes into her room alone, gets drunk, and cleans herself up. She dons black jeans and a black silk shirt, clothes that don’t fit her usual look. When she comes back out to find Silver, he’s gone. For a moment, she fears that he’s left for good, since she told him she would send him back to Egyptia and that he was a mistake. But she soon finds him reading in the library. She sits at his feet, leans her head against his knee, and confesses that she loves him. Silver is gentle and affectionate, and when Jane asks him, agrees to sleep with her. For the next night and part of a day, they remain together, and Jane becomes more vibrant and confident than ever before. But at noon, Clovis calls to inform her that Egyptia is demanding Silver back and might make a hysterical call to a lawyer if Jane doesn’t cooperate at once. Heartbroken, Jane sends Silver away, but before Silver leaves, he tells Jane to remember that she’s beautiful.
Reader Comments: Ah! Just as I was starting to sigh with contentment that Jane was finally moving toward a better place of accepting herself and finding happiness, it’s all ripped away, as, unfortunately, it should be at this point in a book. Oh, and when Clovis asked Jane of Egyptia, “You didn’t think she was a friend of yours, did you?” my heart just broke for her.
Writer Comments: In this section, Lee does exactly what she should as an author. She gives us almost exactly what we, the readers, think we want: Jane’s happiness. But it’s tainted, a mask of contentment. As Jane says herself, she and Silver pretend that she doesn’t have to command him for him to be with her. It’s a façade, and so true resolution of the plot and Jane’s character is beyond reach. At this point, the plot can only be resolved in two ways. 1) Silver, somehow, finds a way to truly love Jane. 2) Jane learns to be her own person and live her own life where she’s not constantly conforming to what others want of her. I believe the second will happen; I’m skeptical, though hopeful, of the first ever occurring because I just don’t see how it can. My only hope is this unexplained default in Silver.
Jane calls her mother at the conference and requests her mother send money to pay for something Clovis bought for her but she can’t use because she didn’t pay for it. She never confesses to her mother what the thing is, and Demeta evades Jane’s wishes by saying they’ll discuss it when she gets home. In the course of the conversation, she mentions that everything in Jane’s suite belongs to Jane, and in this, Jane finds her second plan.
Reader Comments: In this section, Jane acts with some of the first strength and proactive tendencies that she’s shown so far. It’s brittle but nice, and of course, Jane can’t succeed. I hope at some point in this book, Demeta’s calm, controlled exterior breaks. Then again, perhaps that’s partially because she’s clearly drawn from Demeter, and I never liked Demeter in Greek myth.
Writer Comments: This scene provides a perfect example of how an author needs to set up each consecutive scene with its predecessor. Here, Lee gives Jane her next idea with a throwaway comment her mother makes. Initially, it seems of little importance, but in fact, it’s vital for Jane’s character development and the next stage of the book. No scene exists in a vacuum. Each rests upon the foundations and supports of the others.
Since her mother won’t give her money, Jane determines to sell everything in her suite, use the money to get Silver, and live in an apartment in the city. A representative from Casa Bianca, a resale store, comes to assess and potentially buy her possessions, and Jane asserts herself more than ever before, demanding that, unless Casa Bianca can pay her and remove her possessions that night, she will go with another company. She manages to get her funds that night and leaves her mother’s house for an old, rundown apartment with only one suitcase in tow. Outside, Jane feels that the bubble of her mother’s protection has vanished and that she’s far more vulnerable than ever before. Plus, she’s so utterly unhappy, yet she can’t quite make herself go back.
Reader Comments: Part of Jane’s plan involves purchasing Silver from Clovis and persuading Egyptia to sign him away. I really doubt this is going to happen. I have a feeling that Jane is going to have to become some things she doesn’t like to get Silver. Or, perhaps, only after she realizes who she is will she be able to acquire him. But whatever happens, she’s certainly walked herself into a potentially disastrous situation. Meanwhile, I’m desperately curious how things are going for Silver.
Writer Comments: In this scene, Lee uses a curious range of colors. I could probably write a whole paper on this; though, for your sakes, I’ll just touch on the high points. Of particular note are the Casa Bianca agent’s red nails and Jane’s white suitcase. Red nails can be, as Jane suspects of them, an effort to intimidate, but the color red also implies other things: passion, worldliness, and blood. Casa Bianca’s agent, in a sense, drags away the corps of Jane’s childhood, a figuratively bloody affair. Yet, for all Jane’s desperate and impulsive actions, we as readers know she’s following the path she must to get to wherever she needs to go. When I read the word white in the description of her suitcase, I immediately felt soothed. White is clean, noble, honest, and virtuous. In a subtle way, it indicated and assured that Jane was making the right choice; though, Lee may not have done this consciously. Color is an important tool for implying and complimenting story, character, tone, and to evoke or encourage certain feelings from a reader. It can work on a very conscious and a subtle unconscious level, but it’s good to be aware of it, at least in second drafts and revisions.
Next Monday, join me for the next section of Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover, and we’ll see what Jane does next to get Silver and find her own identity. Perhaps, if we’re fortunate, we’ll also get another hint as to whether or not Silver can eventually care for Jane. Until then, I hope to see you back Wednesday and Friday for other topics, and I wish everyone a wonderful week.