For those of you who read this blog for the little anecdotes about the lives that Ariel and I lead, I helped some friends move last weekend. These were the highlights:
- An old lady hung out by our uhaul telling us how low her rent is
- A glass pane somehow wound up in the moving truck wrapped in nothing but a single doily. Somehow it survived.
- Nobody our age can move furniture without someone shouting “PIVOT”
For those of you who read this blog for the bad books, I have great news for you too: Ana breaks up with Christian today!
Grey: Thursday, June 4, 2011
If there’s one nice thing I can say about E L James’s writing is that even if you haven’t read any of the nineteen chapters prior to this one, not to mention the three parallel novels, you can open the book right to this chapter where Ana breaks up with Christian and not have missed a single thing that’s going on.
We have no contract. Yet Ana’s here. Beside me. What does this mean? How am I supposed to deal with her? Will she abide by my rules?
Look. E L James/Christian Grey. We get it. They talked about having one type of relationship, but have wound up having another. We get it. This is not a mystery that is quite as hard to follow as you are making it out to be.
Which is especially baffling given how hard the rest of their relationship is to follow:
“You’d always rather have sex than talk.” She laughs.
“True. Especially with you.”
Does Christian think this is a compliment?
“Oh,” she says, and I think she’s pleased.
Based on “Oh”??? Holy shit, that’s some extrapolation right there.
“I want you to follow the spirit of the contract in the playroom, and yes, I want you to follow the rules— all the time.” […]
“And if I break one of the rules?” she asks.
“Then I’ll punish you.”
“But won’t you need my permission?”
“Yes, I will.”
“And if I say no?” she persists.
Why is she being so willful?
Maybe because these rules she’s supposed to agree to make no fucking sense! If Ana breaks Christian’s rules then Christian punishes Ana, but only if Ana still agrees that the rule applies? No wonder she keeps asking what the point is. Jesus Christ, this is not an issue that requires a goddamn Noam Chomsky essay to break down.
“I’ll need to reread them,” she says, suddenly all businesslike. […]
I fire up my computer and print out the rules, wondering why we are discussing this at five in the morning.
It’s funny, because the reader is wondering why they’re discussing it for the 8000th time in this book.
They discuss the rules (again!) for a bit, before Ana rolls her eyes and Christian tells her he has to spank her now. Ana responds “You’re going to have to catch me first”, which I guess is as fair a reaction to the situation as any by the point with this moron.
“You’re going to have to catch me first.” She wears a coquettish smile, which addresses my dick directly.
And here I was wondering if we’d ever understand how a conversation about Christian Grey’s fetishes affected Christian Grey’s dick.
“Anastasia, you may fall and hurt yourself. Which will put you in direct contravention of rule number seven, now six.”
Nothing says foreplay like “direct contravention of rule number seven, now six”.
Suddenly (finally?), Ana drops a bombshell: telling Christian her goddamn feelings. This is what’s been saved for the climax of this decade’s biggest romance, you guys: communicating in a relationship.
“I feel about punishment the way you feel about me touching you.”
And from nowhere the darkness crawls over me, shrouding my skin, leaving an icy trail of despair in its wake.
No. No. I can’t bear to be touched. Ever.
Just in case you weren’t sure just how serious a claim this is, E L James has helpfully included reminders on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but overwrought metaphor to just one step above Christian saying “This thing is bad.”
This is what leads to the infamous “Show me how much it can hurt scene”. So this affords a pretty solid (if not crucial) opportunity for James, since the way this scene looks from Christian’s perspective is key to this book’s existence. And, I gotta be honest, she doesn’t exactly do a bad job. This scene does look very different from Christian’s point of view, in that we really see how many times he tosses and turns the conflict around in his head. Albeit with emphasis on “how many times”, because, oh god, I have watched games of football with fewer turnovers than this scene.
Oh no. I release her and step out of her reach. […] I’m stunned. She’d fulfill this need for me? I can’t believe it. […]
But if we do this, then I’ll know. She’ll know. […]
Can I do this?
And in that moment I know there’s nothing I want more…
Once again, surprisingly, the whipping scene actually works way better than expected from Christian’s point of view. Mostly in that it adds dimension verifying a reading that Christian is selfish, immature, and oblivious to the emotions of others, so, uh, dunno if that’s still a win for the “I hope someday I find my own Christian Grey” crowd when I say “it works”.
Because it’s hard to feel like Christian is actually paying attention to the same scene that we’re reading, both during the scene:
There’s no one to hear you, baby. Shout all you need.
I belt her again.
“Five,” she sobs, and I pause, waiting for her to safe-word.
And after the scene:
I drop the belt, savoring my sweet, euphoric release. I’m punch-drunk, breathless, and finally replete. Oh, this beautiful girl, my beautiful girl. I want to kiss every inch of her body. We’re here. Where I want to be. I reach for her, pulling her into my arms.
“Let go. No—” She struggles out of my grasp, scrambling away from me, pushing and shoving and finally turning on me like a seething wildcat. “Don’t touch me!” she hisses. Her face is blotchy and smeared with tears, her nose is running, and her hair is a dark, tangled mess, but she has never looked so magnificent…
Like… Christian does not seem to be in the same book that we are reading. Or even the one that he was in previously.
She’s mad. Really mad.
Okay, I hadn’t figured on anger.
Christian even manages to make this all about him, somehow. Even worse, E L James can’t even help doing it in a dark and mysterious way, AKA a uselessly vague way.
The crying I know and understand, but this rage… somewhere deep inside it resonates with me and I don’t want to think about that. Don’t go there, Grey.
Seriously, like, if you hate Christian Grey, this scene right here is your shit, because he’s clueless in it.
Why didn’t she ask me to stop? She didn’t safe-word. She deserved to be punished.
OKAY. SO. Let’s talk about this mess!
When the Fifty Shades movie came out this year, there was quite a lot of chatter about the fighting between the director and E L James. One of the most significant fights to receive media coverage was over this scene: the director wanted Ana to stop Christian’s whipping by shouting their agreed-upon safe word, but E L James insisted that Ana shout “Stop!”. Why James felt this was important (she won out in the end) is pretty telling of just how badly she misunderstands her story. One of the questions we deal with on this blog is what exactly it is that makes these books “bad”. Is it necessarily “bad” to tell the tale of someone who ends up in too deep in a sadomasochistic relationship and instinctively shouts “Stop” instead of the safe word she consented to? No. But it is then extremely important to ask why that is the story that you want to tell. Because once you throw in this angle where you have to question whether the characters understood the sexual acts they consented to, you are telling A SUPER DIFFERENT STORY. As in not a love story.
Anyway, that’s enough serious stuff for now. Ready for some insanely awful writing instead? Ana starts berating Christian, asking “This is what you really like? Me, like this?” and telling him he’s “one fucked-up son a bitch”. Which is Grey‘s cue for what might actually be E L James’s worst, most on-the-nose metaphor yet:
All the breath leaves my body, and it’s like she’s whipped ME with a belt
Let’s… let’s dwell on this one for a moment.
and it’s like she’s whipped ME with a belt
Holy fuck, you guys. This metaphor.
Ana leaves the room in tears. Naturally, despite that and also despite feeling like he was the one whipped with a belt, Christian still doesn’t get it.
That was, without a doubt, one of the most satisfying moments of my life. A moment ago I felt lighter, the weight of uncertainty between us gone.
It’s done. We’re there.
You might have gathered by now this is a pretty long chapter, so I’ll spare you the gory details, but, basically:
- The next morning, Ana tells Christian that she can’t be what he wants her to be, and then he finally gets it (which E L James rather articulately conveys through Christian’s inner dialogue as “Fuck.”)
- Ana admits that she’s fallen in love with Christian, to which Christian’s narration immediately responds with a paragraph about his stepfather teaching him how to dive. You can’t make this shit up. Ana says “I love you”, Christian starts thinking about jumping off a diving board.
- Christian insists Ana can’t love him, because that’s wrong, because he can’t make her happy doing what he wants.
- Ana rips off the band-aid and announces that she’s leaving, because there’s no point in her staying. She leaves the room to get dressed, and Christian follows her, because “she might want privacy, but if she’s leaving me I need clothes”, because Christian Grey is nothing if not practical.
- Christian Grey puts on a black t-shirt, because it’s “suitable for my mood”. Just in case you missed the subtlety there.
- Welch calls Christian to update him on Leila, because this is a good time for the narrative to devote two or three pages to the Leila subplot.
- Leila has left her husband. Ana walks in on Christian shouting at Welch that he fucked up. Even from Christian’s point of view, it is incredibly unclear how Leila leaving her husband is Welch’s fault.
- Ana returns the gifts Christian gave her, which confuses him. She asks for the money he got for the car, and his inner dialogue rages “Money. It always comes down to the fucking money.” Not once, but twice. Because evidently Christian only started paying attention to the story in the last paragraph. Are we supposed to think Christian’s… what? Insecure? Even in this situation, surely this isn’t the same thing.
- Ana leaves. Christian tries to take in his last sight of her, including “her delicate, elfin face”, which is a great time to learn that this is apparently what Ana’s face looks like.
No…. Ana. Don’t go.
The doors close, and she’s gone. […] The void is now cavernous and aching, overwhelming me.
Bad news: the chapter is nowhere near over. Worse news: E L James is still writing it.
As I stand I touch the wooden table that dominates the foyer, my fingers absentmindedly tracing its delicate marquetry. I’d have liked to fuck Miss Steele over this.
I’m glad we have a whole, other book dedicated to telling the story from Christian Grey’s point of view, answering questions like “How did Christian feel during the breakup” with answers like “This is the furniture Christian wanted to have sex on”.
It makes me hard just thinking about it.
Christian. Babe. Stop.
The chapter goes through the rest of Christian’s first day without Ana, showing the emotional toll that has been wrecked on- fuck it, here’s Christian Grey angrily washing his hair:
I scrub my hair with grim determination.
And here’s Christian Grey talking to himself in the mirror and/or forgetting how reflections work:
“What the hell have you done, asshole?” I sneer at him. He mouths the words back at me with vitriolic contempt. And the bastard blinks at me
Christian finds the model glider that Ana left him as a gift. Long-time readers of the blog might remember that I – in complete seriousness – have said that this was the one thing from Fifty Shades of Grey that I actually thought was kinda touching. With that in mind, here’s Christian’s reaction:
It’s the perfect present from the perfect girl.
Oh my god. I got more emotional about this part than Christian Grey did. The guy writing the “I hate Christian Grey” blog.
This chapter is still not over, and we also learn that:
- Leila and her husband got married during a drunken weekend in Vegas
- E L James still thinks that details about Leila are what this chapter is missing, apparently
- Taylor has some spare modeling glue on hand because building model planes is a hobby of his, because he wanted to be a pilot but was color blind. We are learning more emotional new information about Taylor than we are about Christian, in Christian’s fucking breakup chapter.
- Elena calls Christian and he reluctantly reveals that things with Ana went south. He wonders if Elena “knew this day would come”. Can’t wait for it to take him another two books to figure out Elena doesn’t actually want him to pursue Ana. Although based on how E L James managed to present Elena in this book, I wouldn’t be able to figure it out.
There’s still five more short chapters in this book, so we’re not quite done with Sad Christian yet, but for now I’ll leave you with Christian’s final thoughts today:
Outside, night has fallen; lights twinkle and wink through the pouring rain. The world moves on.
Move on, Grey.