In Defense of Thomas Covenant

farntfar

She turned me into a newt.
Joined
Oct 26, 2013
Messages
2,339
Location
France.
is there any moral issue?
Erm. I suppose this could be asked. Although I think what you really mean to ask is, is there a legal question, since no-one has been hurt.
There is certainly an ethical question, which again isn't quite the same.

Is it a reasonable thing for a man to imagine raping a woman, if he doesn't actually go on to do it?
Basically, no it isn't. Certainly not if, as I think someone put it earlier, he gets off on it.
To ask yourself how would you act in the future if ever you had committed such an act, may be a reasonable question. And this is essentially what Donaldson is doing, with the added confusion of Covenant being entirely unconvinced (at least at the beginning) that it was anything other than that illusion.

As the books go on, and he becomes more and more convinced that the Land is real (or at least that he must act as if it is, and be accountable for his actions while there, even if it isn't), he becomes more and more haunted by the act, (and by what he did next).

In the same way, the act, by you or me or anyone else, of imagining raping someone, is (in many ways, and very nearly) as bad to us as actually doing it, if in in the process we derive pleasure (sexual or otherwise) from the imagined act.

Better, certainly, that the object of the rape doesn't actually exist and have to suffer as a result, but in terms of the rapist's psyche/soul/conscience/moral wellbeing or whatever elseyou want to call it, he's pretty much as damaged.

So I really hope that neither you nor anyone else goes on to market a virtual reality program "Being a rapist!"
But I have the dreadful feeling that eventually someone will.
 

Ray McCarthy

Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Messages
8,090
Location
The Mid West (of Ireland)
"Sex dolls", both passive and animatronic have been on sale for ages, both male and female. Worse than VR if someone has a "rape" fantasy.
 

SilentRoamer

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 5, 2015
Messages
1,251
Erm. I suppose this could be asked. Although I think what you really mean to ask is, is there a legal question, since no-one has been hurt.
There is certainly an ethical question, which again isn't quite the same.
Yeah I meant in a legal sense, I probably should have parsed my thoughts a little better.
From the PoV of the criminal he is performing the criminal act so in this instance intent was everything but the way Donaldson framed TC's character it was very difficult to outright hate him even if you hated the acts he commited. His belief that The Land wasn't real and his personal deficiencies added extra dimensions to his actions.
 

farntfar

She turned me into a newt.
Joined
Oct 26, 2013
Messages
2,339
Location
France.
We were meant to be as ambivalent about our feelings for Covenant as he was about the Land.
 

Ray McCarthy

Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Messages
8,090
Location
The Mid West (of Ireland)
Is it only rape if it's non-consensual by a sentient being? It's not to do with how tender or violent it is, so surely VR wouldn't count?

I've no idea though what goes on the mind of a rapist. Or even if they are many different kinds or all the same. The passage in the book was jarring though.
 

farntfar

She turned me into a newt.
Joined
Oct 26, 2013
Messages
2,339
Location
France.
As you say, Ray, that's exactly the problem that Covenant faces.
At the time of the rape, he only just arrived in the Land and doesn't yet believe it's real. For him it's just an illusion. It has no actual reality, and he therefore has no responsibility to anyone in it.
He nevertheless feels disgusted by his own actions and becomes attatched to Lena. He further finds himself beholden to her mother and father who help him out despite what he's just done to their daughter.

As we go through the first 3 books he becomes more and more convinced that the Land really exists, until eventually it has more importance to him than his "real life". His feelings of guilt therefore grow and grow along with that conviction
 

Secher_Nbiw

Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2016
Messages
24
I think the rape is equal parts self-destruction ("well, I'm this horrible and disgusting already, why not go the whole way and really show myself what I am" mentality, as he is convinced the Land is just his own delusion) and part uncontrolled ecstasy ("my body, it works! My cock works!") It's also a reflection of just how broken the whole situation is: how completely divorced from society Covenant has become, how broken his body and mind is, how broken the Land and it's people are, how desperate it's inhabitants are for some saviour they'll let anything slide. It also sets things up for the realisation that when they win, the price is so incredibly high as to almost be a Pyrrhic victory. It removes any naivete and innocence from the tale instantly, introducing moral complexity in a way that was missing from a lot of other fantasy epics.
 

Guillermo Stitch

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2018
Messages
171
It was many years ago when I read the first trilogy and, if I recall correctly, I started the second and decided quickly that there was no more there for me.

I think the rape scene was brave. It is interesting to grapple with the morality of someone who has done a terrible thing but who may be redeemable and upon whom others rely in any case. There is no sense, for me, in which acknowledgment of that complexity absolves the act.
 

dannymcg

Your mother was a hamster
Joined
Sep 9, 2016
Messages
4,526
Location
Cumbria UK
It was just a story!
He had saving graces despite doing vile acts. Like Elric of Melnibone having slaves tortured while he dined so he was entertained by their screams - they were both nonetheless on the 'good' side
 

svalbard

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 28, 2007
Messages
2,269
My problem with Covenant was mostly about him being a whinny cry baby. His endless foot dragging. His failure to get with the program. Finally, his tormented, self flagellation which just goes on and on. Dudes a buzz kill.
With you all the way on this.
 

Onyx

Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2018
Messages
1,000
I don't see Donaldson doing something new and challenging - his Gap Cycle books were so rapy that I couldn't finish them. It just seemed like an extended, space-going sex-bunker scenario. I don't think he's worth reading - "prurient" comes to mind.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

picklematrix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2018
Messages
464
I picked up the first book when I was probably way too young to be reading that kind of thing, so i think i misunderstood a few aspects of it. I might try again now that its been a few decades.
 

Scookey

Author of the AD2045 sci-fi series
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
144
Location
UK
Think I was about 13 when I started reading these books and, from what I remember, the rape scene just came across as part of the reveal of what a warped, twisted, pain yet important journey Covenant was on. It in no way sanctioned or justified rape and I think it was only used to highlight the difference between Covenant's numbness as a lepper and the overload of sensory input he had in the Land.
I still think they are a brilliant book series (both of them) and admire Donaldson for the creation of them.
 

Anthoney

Bearded Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2018
Messages
684
Location
South Florida
I still think they are a brilliant book series (both of them) and admire Donaldson for the creation of them.
The world he created was fantastic. I based a 3 year D&D campaign on a version of the place. He used ideas from several other fantasy writers but he made them his own. I guess that's part of why I feel so let down by Thomas Covenant. He was the weakest link.
 

Scookey

Author of the AD2045 sci-fi series
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
144
Location
UK
The world he created was fantastic. I based a 3 year D&D campaign on a version of the place. He used ideas from several other fantasy writers but he made them his own. I guess that's part of why I feel so let down by Thomas Covenant. He was the weakest link.
He was the weakest link yet, if he had been all powerful and mighty and standard super-hero type, would the books have been as good as they were? Wasn't it the contrast between his Land powers and his sense of self from the 'real' world that made the whole thing so compelling?
 

Anthoney

Bearded Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2018
Messages
684
Location
South Florida
@Scookey
I certainly think that's what he was trying for. I think he succeeded to much. If I'm listening to a movie and they have a baby cry create a situation or make a point that's one thing. If they just let the baby cry and cry it begins to annoy me. I feel like my natural human reaction to hearing a baby cry is being abused.

Now that I think that through it feel like I'm in abusive reader writer relationship with Donaldson.
 
Top