Two Roads: Two Meanings Part 2
This is the fourth in a series of articles that explains the inspirations that led to "The Rose's Thorn." Warning, there are spoilers in this article; so if you want to remain totally unspoiled, please do not read this until you have read all the way through the book.
Last week we talked the theme of two roads and what it meant to make choices that lead you down one certain path or another. Here is the second article about the two roads mantra, and perhaps it is the biggest reason why I chose to name the series “A Two Roads Novel.”
I think by nature, most, if not all, people are conflicted in their self-identity. Humans are very multi-faceted in their relationship with others, and that dimensionality leads to a lot of conflict when you factor in the expectations we place on each other. Naturally, we want to take a thing and categorize it by “putting it in this box or another.” Whether good or ill, we make grand assumptions about a person based on their appearance, personality or even their hobbies. Obviously a lot of these generalizations can lead to prejudice, racism or any host of uncool things because as Reading Rainbow always taught me, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
For Christopher, we see the duality of his being, being a noble by birth but feeling much more comfortable with the non-noble people such as Gerald or Apelles. In the eyes of others, he will always be perceived as a noble no matter how many steps he takes in order to distinguish himself from the likes of Malcant or others. We see this especially through the eyes of Isabella who refuses to see him in any other light and treats him rather poorly. Nobility is the expectation everyone has for him though he would rather walk the path of commoner instead.
For Isabella, the two ways people perceive her are so drastically different. Early in her life and even in present time, she is treated as any woman might be – judged by her beauty (ergo the moniker “the Flower of Pelagia”) and very paternally coddled by the likes of Stachys. On the other hand, she is feared and revered for her fighting prowess – indicated by the Conqueror title and her aloof and cold exterior exhibited early on in the book. She clearly hates being treated any other woman and indeed relishes the fact that she is the first or only woman to do X. Yet when the time comes to use those wiles to advantages, she is willing to make that sacrifice. How she is perceived now, as the Conqueror, seems to be more comfortable a role to fill, as she garners much more respect this way, but hopefully you’ve noticed throughout the book that she is starting to gradually shift away from that position. She realizes that perhaps revenge isn’t the greatest cure-all and wonders what comes next in life. She is changing, evolving and trying to find a new identity.
This search for the new “her” is hopefully the impetus for the breakdown that occurs late in the book. These are the two roads others expect her to follow – the gentler way of the Flower or the ruthlessness of Isabella the Conqueror. She wants but cannot imagine any other way than these two roads people are driving her down, and this is the main conflict for her.
Can you relate to this conflict Christopher, Isabella and other characters experience in The Rose’s Thorn? There are so many expectations that others place on us based on our race, our upbringing, our schooling, our gender or even our clothes. I know for myself in the past, I struggled hard with the fact that I was Chinese living in predominately white Florida. I distinctly remember the times of prejudice I faced and wish that I was born white. I even grew to hate the other Asian people I saw around me because I waved them all off as boaters. Quite an ironic circumstance, if you can imagine. I was fortunate that I moved to Seattle after my sophomore year in high school, and I grew to understand how to function as an Asian American – not quite Asian and not quite American.
If you are struggling with who you are as a person and the expectations that others have foisted upon you, my encouragement is this. You do not have to be forced down the road others would have you travel. Be confident in the person God has lovingly made you, and as long as you find yourself in the center of His will, you have every right to blaze your own path regardless of what other people think. There’s more than just two roads.