Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jacen's Menagerie

I'm fairly active in the FanFiction community over at TheForce.Net. I love my Star Wars, and I love reading, and FanFiction provides me enough stories and Star Wars to almost quench my thirst. Almost, as you can see from the number of reviews for other books/stories here, that I still read a lot more than just Star Wars and FanFic. Plus, the non-Spec. Fic stuff that I read never makes it here as reviews.

So, I was reading a FanFic the other day, and the writer had this particular line in place:

Jacen felt his lips peel back, and the man paused – like a pet on an invisible leash.
Instantly, I liked that simple line. It's descriptive of Jacen, his actions, his subordinates and even how he views the universe at large.

Stay with me, I actually have a place where I'm going with this.

Back in the YJK, we were introduced to Jacen's menagerie. This was basically a wall of custom-built cages where he kept his pets. Jacen, the wonderful empath that he was, would tromp through the woods for hours on end, picking up random animals and bringing them back to his wall o'cages where he would then stash them.

And the text makes it very clear, that his biggest trouble was not catching these creatures but rather figuring out what they would eat.

So, we now have back story for what I'm thinking here.

Yet consider just what Jacen is doing here. He's running through the woods, finding animals, tearing them from their environment and shoving them into cages, stripping them of their freedom. Enforcing controls on them, so that they live basically at his whim.

Yes, I know that this is what zoos do, I'm not complaining about it, nor do I advocate turning loose all the animals in zoos. I have no problem with zoos, except when I have to go to one. I'm trying to make a point about Jacen's characterizations here, not zoos.

Regardless, fast-forward fifteen years to LotF. Now, we have a Jacen who's for all intents and purposes a tyrant. He's interning people because of the planet they're from. He's trying to force his view of peace onto the entire galaxy. While he has not yet come right out and screamed from the bridge of the Anakin Solo that if you're not doing exactly what he wants you to do, then he'll kill you, the actions that he takes are definitely leading in that direction.

After the NJO, Jacen never re-started his menagerie. He never again went around picking up animals and tried to figure out just what they eat, or what type of environment they needed to survive.

He didn't need to.

Why? It's because of what Vergere taught him.

Throughout Traitor, our favorite chicken called him a gardener multiple times. Initially, he did not agree with this description, not wanting to choose between the metaphorical flowers and weeds. By the end of the novel, he had accepted the designation. In fact, this was the last bit of Traitor:
A tiny bubble of existence hangs in the nothing. This bubble is called a ship. The bubble has neither motion nor stillness, nor even orientation, since the nothing has no distance or direction. It hangs there forever, or for less than an instant, because in the nothing there is also no time. Time, distance, and direction have meaning only inside the bubble, and the bubble maintains the existence of these things only by an absolute separation of what is within from what is without.

The bubble is its own universe. Within this universe, there are traitors. One is a teacher, and a student; another is a student, and a teacher.

One is a gardener.

This universe falls toward another, wider universe: a universe that is a garden...

Which is still full of weeds.
Notice especially that last line: "Which is still full of weeds." The narrator here is not talking specifically about the Yuuzhan Vong-which is what I had thought when I first read this book a few years ago, after all, those were who Jacen called weeds earlier in the novel. What Jacen is considering here, and yes I know that he's not the POV character, but the line is a reference to his opinions and state of mind, is that there are beings in the galaxy which he will have to cull in order to tame the garden.

Think about it. What is the difference between a garden and a wild field? A garden is orderly, cared for. There's someone there who controls the plants, makes them grow in certain ways and places. Someone there who provides security for the plants by ensuring pests and weeds don't invade the garden. A garden is a very controlled environment.

A great analogy for a police state if you will.

A wild field on the other hand, the plants grow rampant and where ever they can, fighting amongst themselves for resources. They have no protection against pests and weeds beyond what they themselves can produce naturally. It is in essence wild and free.

Anyways, here's Jacen, who's basically changed hats from zoo-keeper to gardener in the course of the novel Traitor. Semantically, there is no difference between what these two folks do. They feed and control their charges. They determine what the best environment for their charges is. In essence, they thing for their charges. Their charges have no true freedom, as that resides entirely with the gardener or zoo-keeper.

Yet in terms of the storyline, especially in Jacen's character arc from the YJK to LotF, it is a startling difference. Jacen as zoo-keeper was focused on animals. He collected his specimens and did whatever he wanted to with them. That fueled and sated his need to control things. Jacen as gardener is focused on all the sapients of the galaxy. While he doesn't collect specimens, he does attempt to force them to do exactly what he wants.

This is seen as early as Destiny's Way where he emotional and logically talks Tahiri into allowing him to poke around in her mind. It's further fueled by his actions in the Imperial Remnant during the Force Heretic Trilogy (FH3), where he spends chapters getting the local Moffs to jump through his little hoops. I won't even bother going into DN3 to describe his actions, and how often he tried to get things done in his own way and in his own time, but basically it was every time he was in a scene.

Of course the ultimate culmination of these forces which have conspired to twist and turn Jacen into a Sith, happened in Betrayal.

I know there's a lot of focus on Sacrifice right now, and his assumption of his Sith name (as chosen during the Darth Who contest), but ultimately, those events were shadows of what he did in Betrayal.

There, he killed, in cold blood a young Jedi Knight, Nelani Dinn. Why? Because she did not fit perfectly into his view of what the garden should be. He had gazed into the future, and he saw a number of them, and the text is quite clear that in the futures that he saw, those where he allowed her to live Luke Skywalker would end up dead. The text is quite clear on that. What it is not clear on, is if Jacen saw every conceivable future. It brings to the fore a number of them for specific mention, and says that he saw scores of them, but nowhere does it say that he saw every future.

Yet, Jacen still killed Nelani in cold blood. Still cut her down, because of what he saw a score of possible futures. He made the decision the same way a gardener would choose to uproot a plant that was getting too close to a much beloved flower.

The text is clear that Jacen no longer collected animals for his menagerie.

But that's because he has a bigger one to play with now.

2 comments:

RJ said...

This was the best essay I've read in a while. Insightful and well-written and really made a ton of sense to me. Well done.

Jacen is the ultimate stasist or anti-dynamist. He is not at all comfortable with the 'chaos' that life involves. Things must be controlled in order to be 'right'.

Great stuff!

Stephen Wrighton said...

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

And yes, Jacen has become something of a anti-dynamist, but I don't think it's so much chaos that he dislikes, nor is it as simple as it must be controlled to be 'right.' Rather it is anything that is outside of HIS control is bad, while if it is under his control it is good.

Again, thanks!

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