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The Quilty Reader

Lawyer, mother, avid reader. Game host extraordinaire! Partner in crime to Obsidian Black Plague! My bookish weaknesses include classics, fantasy, YA, and agreeing to read more books than is even remotely possible.


Part 3: Children of a Bleeding Sun

Mistborn: The Final Empire - Brandon Sanderson



As I previously warned, these posts will contain spoilers, and will give away plot points. Please do not read without being aware of this. This process is intended to enable me to better understand Mistborn as I re-read it, so I'm not going to shy away from spoilers.


In light of that, I am going to put all of the details in these posts after a page break. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I don't want anyone to stumble onto spoilers by accident! 



Vin doesn't die. (I know, I know, this is a tremendous surprise).


This is the part of the book where Sanderson takes the opportunity to establish that The Final Empire is irretrievably broken and utterly immoral. Vin has been accepted into noble society, and briefly begins to delude herself that, perhaps, the nobles aren't as bad as Kelsier says that are - they, really, they probably don't know how terrible it is for skaa. Or, maybe, they're not all bad.


And then we have a moment of shockingly gratuitous violence, casual, nearly an afterthought, when a skaa child is slaughtered just beyond where the nobles are getting into their carriages because he is loud, and is disturbing them.


In the mists, beyond the eyesight of regular people, the soldier drew out a dagger and slit the boy’s throat. Vin jumped, shocked, as the sounds of the boy’s struggling tapered off. The guard dropped the body, then grabbed it by a leg and began to drag it away. Vin stood, stunned, as her carriage pulled up. “Mistress,” Sazed prompted, but she simply stood there. They killed him, she thought. Right here, just a few paces away from where noblemen wait for their carriages. As if…the death were nothing out of the ordinary. Just another skaa, slaughtered. Like an animal.
Or less than an animal. Nobody would slaughter pigs in a keep courtyard. The guard’s posture as he’d performed the murder indicated that he’d simply been too annoyed with the struggling boy to wait for a more appropriate location. If any of the other nobility around Vin had noticed the event, they paid it no heed, continuing their chatting as they waited. Actually, they seemed a little more chatty, now that the screams had stopped.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. (Lord Acton).
Sanderson recognizes the human tendency to excuse people who share one's own characteristics from true responsibility for their bad behavior. When a person is like you, looks like you, is part of your tribe, it is possible to watch them do something awful, and then convince oneself that it was a mistake, or they were confused, or it doesn't make them a bad person. That's what has happened to Vin. Going among the nobles has humanized them to her.
An event like this reminds her: "This is the Final Empire, Vin, she told herself as the carriage rolled away. Don’t forget the ash because you see a little silk. If those people in there knew you were skaa, they’d have you slaughtered just as easily as they did that poor boy."
Concepts like this are, I think, one of the reasons that fiction writing builds empathy. Studies have shown that reading fiction enables children, in particular, to put themselves in the shoes of individuals who are unlike them. Allows them to see the skaa as people, not as slaves, not as automatons, not as chattel or things without intrinsic value. Vin sees the skaa as human because she is one. The nobles do not because they have been raised as monsters.
Is there anything to do with a society like this besides burn it down and warm ourselves on the flames as it burns?