I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday weekend.
Today, we return to The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. Last time, things had started to look up for Jane and Silver, and I mentioned that this worried me a great deal. Like any skilled author, Lee justifies that worry in these chapters by setting Silver and Jane into further peril for their welfare and their relationship. Yet she also gives us a little hope.
To catch up or for a refresher, here are the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth parts of this reading.
Life looks hopeful for Silver and Jane, and at the end of the month when rent is due, filled with surety, Jane takes Silver out to eat. She’s thrilled with her beautiful natural hair and her slim figure that her mother always fought with capsules that forced Jane into a plumper, darker appearance type. On their way home, Jane and Silver encounter Jane’s old friends, Medea and Jason, both of whom are cruel to Silver. But Silver stares them down until they flee. Jane feels cold, and that night, she and Silver do not sleep together.
Reader Comments: This represents an odd note for the book, but one that complicates the already emotionally intricate story. Silver, who claims he is programmed to make everyone happy, demonstrates his first intentional antisocial behavior, hinting at his peculiarity as a robot. I hope this soon leads to the revelation of his capacity to experience genuine love for Jane, but I fear that this indicates an emotional separation between Jane and Silver instead.
Writer Comments: The times when someone acts out of character is when we can often glimpse their innermost workings. Of course, breaking our expectations of a character should not occur for the convenience of the plot, but when it comes naturally from the character, it opens up many facets of expression and insight into them.
The next morning, Jane goes to buy groceries, but her credit card, which was supposed to automatically renew that day, is denied. In a daze, she calls her mother, but instead of begging for help, she counters her mother’s every effort to manipulate Jane into returning home and confessing her location, from canceling her line of money to informing Jane that her protective police code (her ability to summon police robots to her rescue) will be turned off in three days, for her own good of course. Jane leaves the phone kiosk and runs into Silver and proclaims that it’s all over.
Reader Comments: So Demeta, Jane’s mother, is the villain of the story. I wonder if Lee interprets the Hades, Persephone, Demeter myth similarly to me. She’s doing an excellent job of alluding to it. Demeta lives in a palace in the clouds, an Olypus. Silver is not alive and represents a world of nonlife, Hades. And Jane/Persephone is caught in the middle, in love with her Silver/Hades and yet still dependant on and shaped by, in many ways her mother, Demeta/Demeter. Even Jane’s appearance changes to better represent the world of the dead. Her hair pales and her figure thins, wraithlike, yet Silver/Hades provides for her in every fashion he knows how, comfort and beauty and unfaltering adoration.
Writer Comments: Lee uses several images here to mirror and indicate Jane’s emotional state. The rain, Jane cutting her hand as she hangs up on her mother, and a rabbit Jane draws in the misted glass of the phone kiosk that melts from the heat as she talks to her mother. I’m sure the exact meanings behind these, particularly the rabbit, can be debated. Lee may even not have been fully aware of them as she wrote the book. But we can learn from this that the actions Jane takes as she speaks with her mother and the circumstances of her environment, even cutting her hand, help paint her emotional state without directly naming her emotional reactions. Together, this presents a more vivid and rich picture than simply stating, “Jane was upset.”
Silver takes Jane home and proposes they perform for money. In the midst of this, Jane glimpse hints that Silver is more than a robot, that he has true feelings and possesses genuine kindness. Delighted, she agrees to let him perform, but he informs her that she too will sing, an act she refuses.
Reader Comments: Ah-ha, so Lee is finally acknowledging more to Silver than circuits and programming. She further complicates this by making Jane suggest that not even Silver fully realizes what he feels or what it means.
Writer Comments: It’s amazing what a little hope can do to revive us. It’s equally amazing how a little needle of hurt can destroy a moment of happiness. Lee employs both aspects of life in these chapters. If we wish to write emotion truthfully, we must look to our own emotional experiences, which are never simple and often as changeable as the wind.
Silver leads Jane to an arcade and begins to play. A few people start tossing coins into the cookie jar they set on the pavement, and soon, a large crowd gathers. Jane remains silent and observant, refusing to participate yet enjoying Silver’s music. When a man insists he wants to hear her sing as well, the mood of the crowd shifts, demanding Jane perform. Silver skillfully deflects their wishes and soon sends the crowd off with the promise that he’ll play tomorrow and, perhaps, his girlfriend will too. Despite their overflowing cookie jar of money, Jane is anything but content or pleased. She’s furious. She lashes out at Silver, verbally ripping him apart for being just a robot and manipulating her as he manipulated the crowd. Silver escorts her home in silence and leaves her there. By this time, Jane feels awful for her behavior and is thoroughly sick of herself. She sleeps for a long time, and when she wakes, Silver is still gone.
Reader Comments: Jane, Jane, Jane, you’re just hurting yourself here. Yet I understand, in a way. Jane is confused, conflicted, and torn between what she desires and what’s safe. She’s afraid she’s wrong about Silver really caring for her and afraid of the horrible pit of poverty and hardship she’s thrown herself into. She feels utterly inadequate at the same time. But, Jane, don’t mess things up with Silver just because of all that.
Writer Comments: By this point in the story, I’m not 100% certain that Silver will come back. I’m 98% certain, but that 2% is enough to really worry me. Always leave doubt in the reader’s mind that the hero will succeed. It makes for a far more interesting and compelling story.
Join me next Monday to learn what happens next in Silver and Jane’s story and Wednesday and Friday for more journeys into the speculative.
And once again, happy holidays!