Warnings: The Fifty Shades series is extremely sexually explicit and involves BDSM. Because of that, and because they are not exactly well-researched or high-quality literature, I will mention things such as abuse, rape, rape culture, male dominance, sexism, relationship violence, and consensual BDSM. Also, the books began as Twilight fanfic, so I will be mentioning Twilight (which is a major squick for a lot of people just by itself).
This chapter is also known as The One Where Ana Dreams Christian Feeds Her Strawberries, Gets Up at the Crack of Dawn, Goes Flying, and Eats at IHOP. All of that would be fine–good, even–if we were talking about anyone other than Ana and Christian.
The chapter opens with Ana dreaming that Christian, trapped in a cage, is trying to reach her with a bowl of strawberries, only he can’t reach her because something is gripping her and holding her back from him. When the actual Christian wakes her up, she tells him she was dreaming. He asks her about what, and all she says is that it was about his effort to feed her strawberries. What strikes me as weird is when he tells her his therapist would “have a field day” with that. Why? I thought the whole “you’re dreams are a window to your soul” thing went out of fashion a long time ago. I think Ana has enough waking-life problems that she doesn’t need to wonder if her dreams are trying to tell her something.
In the meantime, Ana notices Christian’s good mood. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t it a little strange that she’s making note of his good mood? She’s noticing because it’s unusual. Some of the things she says that bother me about it (emphasis mine):
I gaze at him but he still looks amused . . . thank heavens. [She’s grateful that she hasn’t set him off.]
I notice the Twinings [tea] label, and inside, my heart sings. See, he does care, my subconscious mouths at me. [She needs proof that he actually likes her, because it’s not clear.]
He’s so loveable when he’s playful and carefree. [He’s not particularly loveable at other times.]
He is in such a good mood. [She’s making note of this because it’s rare.]
Once they’re in the car, he turns on his iPod to play a selection from La Traviata.* I think this scene is trying too hard. First of all, while it comes across as Christian being pretentious and showing off his superior culture/knowledge, this is actually the author being pretentious and showing off her knowledge. I genuinely hate when writers do that. If you can’t work it seamlessly into your plot, don’t pour factoids into the story so that readers are keenly aware that you really, truly know your shit.
Second, even if one assumes that the music Ana and Christian each choose is some commentary on their relationship, it’s far too in-your-face. As the Wicked Witch of the West says, “These things must be done delicately.” You want to write some deep metaphor about this screwed-up relationship? Awesome. Just please, please do it more subtly, so that we readers have the chance to discover it for ourselves. Your characters should not intentionally create the metaphor.
Third, the whole thing reads like that song about “to-may-to” vs. “to-mah-to.” He plays opera; she plays Britney. He’s had lots of women; she’s had one man. He doesn’t do relationships; she wants more. It’s annoying. We get it–opposites attract when there’s kinky sex involved. Who is the author trying to convince, us or her characters?
Eventually, they get to a fairly uninteresting scene where they go gliding. Actually, I might have liked this scene in a
better different story where the characters weren’t in an unhealthy relationship. Instead, we have Ana, Christian, and her effing inner goddess. Yep, she shows up again, this time to hide “under a blanket behind the sofa.” So the Divine Miss G breaks out the pom-poms when she sees chains and a riding crop, but she cowers in fear over going gliding?
It turns out the reason Christian has taken Ana gliding is because he wants to give her “more” in their relationship, and this is his way of doing it. In real life, that’s what we’d call a FAIL. It’s true that she had to trust him not to get them both killed, but there’s no real deepening of their relationship. The kind of trust Ana’s looking for (and rightly so) is on the emotional level. She shouldn’t have to be surprised by his good moods, and she should be able to expect that he will trust her with what’s inside him. Her trust in him should also run deeper than the knowledge that she won’t die if he takes her flying. This is a good time to use that metaphor–let us see their emotional trust in the same way we’ve seen their physical trust. Don’t use the gliding scene as the method of achieving more, let it be in parallel to the relational more.
I’ll leave it there for now. Next week, we’ll join Ana and Christian at IHOP for some sexy pancake times.
*La Traviata (which my spell check doesn’t like and wants me to change to “aviatrix”) was one of my mother’s favorites; I always hated it–it’s just so damn depressing. The music is lovely, but if I remember right, that’s the one where the woman dies of consumption. I remember watching a production of it with Mom once, and she was all impressed that they used a skinny performer in the role of the dying woman. She said that the robust opera singers never looked much like they were suffering. Um. Well, there’s actually a reason why opera singers are mostly not petite–one needs a lot of power behind an operatic voice, and many very small people find that after years of singing, they start to sound like they’ve got consumption. I don’t think the point is to look the part, anyway–it’s about singing the storyline.