Pagerunner

[OB] The Five Pillars of the Stormlight Main Characters

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Perhaps a longer response on the whole thing later, but I've never seen Navani as Dustbringer before - that's pretty wild. What do you see in here for it?

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I'm not sure annoying is the best word for Lift. While you may find her such, it is far more subjective than any of the other character traits. I would use something like immature or childish/child-like, especially since she asked the Nightwatcher not to change or grow older. 

We've also seen hints of Jasnah's past insanity and Lift's past as a thief, which seems like they could be in the backstory column. Jasnah's especially, as she's already in her thirties. 

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Interesting framework. Personally I would put scholar for Jasnah's character instead of Atheist because it seemed to be more important to who she seems to be. Also Shallan's What-in-the- is clearly her "take a memory" ability. Its never explained but it plays a huge role in how effect she is. The split personalities are just her brain trying to cope with extreme trauma (See Dissociative Identity Disorder).

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51 minutes ago, Pagerunner said:

Szeth

Schizophrenia?

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1 hour ago, Pagerunner said:

Szeth

Disillusionment/broken faith fits the best I think. @Kaleid I don't think Szeth is presenting enough symptoms to be truly Schizophrenic, the voices he hears are like the ones Dalinar hears, and I think it's a function of their frayed spirit webs and Spiritual connections to those they have killed.

I haven't read all of this yet, I'll edit my post after I've looked at this in more detail, but this looks like an awesome framework @Pagerunner

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Haven't read all of it, but I had to jump in to say you had an upvote at "annoying" well before I finished reading. :D

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32 minutes ago, hoiditthroughthegrapevine said:

Disillusionment/broken faith fits the best I think. @Kaleid I don't think Szeth is presenting enough symptoms to be truly Schizophrenic, the voices he hears are like the ones Dalinar hears, and I think it's a function of their frayed spirit webs and Spiritual connections to those they have killed.

I haven't read all of this yet, I'll edit my post after I've looked at this in more detail, but this looks like an awesome framework @Pagerunner

 

I might be misremembering but weren't the voices at one point telling him to kill and stuff?

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@Pagerunner all children are sociopaths to an extent.

Empathy is a partially intuitive, and partially learned. You're spot on with lift, because she's still very much a child and that's why she can be so storming obnoxious. 

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I'll take a swing at the mental health angle, since that's a large part of what I do.  Kaladin is pretty straightforward so I'll agree on depression absolutely. 

Shallan is kind of impossible to diagnose.  She doesn't have PTSD, although that term gets overused extensively by the lay community.  I would classify her as "childhood trauma", with everything else being a coping mechanism related to that.  She's demonstrated avoidance mechanisms, and occasional panic attacks as a result.  She has something like a borderline personality disorder also occurring.  The "multiple personalities" thing seems to be more a side effect of overuse of her illusion magic than an organic cause as Hoid seems immediately familiar with her problems.

I think "Anger Management / Rage" are more the core mental health problems of Dalinar's psychological functioning.  Dalinar uses alcohol as a means to an end (self-treating other mental health anguishes), rather than as an end to itself.  It is a substance misuse problem, but I wouldn't qualify it as a classic addiction scenario.  Indeed he has shown the ability to stop alcohol consumption rather rapidly at multiple points, and doesn't have that constant desire/craving to consume alcohol that is so central to addiction.  Teft is a much better example of true substance abuse disorder, the craving to use is always there and he fears regressing into addiction whenever he has free time or expendable income.  Alcohol is something Dalinar uses to retreat from the anguish of Evi's loss and later to hide of the re-awakening thrill he feels at Vedenar, he doesn't have a single minded fixation on using alcohol itself just to use it though.  Also the alcohol benders are a fairly recent change for him, Dalinar's rage and the consequences of him letting it out have been a black mark on his career as far back as we have flashbacks though.Szeth has a cult mentality.  That's not necessarily a diagnosis, but his need to follow an authority it is the source of his problems.

For Renarin I'd note that Aspergers as a terminology has been phased out.  Autism spectrum (high functioning) would probably be the more correct term.  Even with that diagnosis though, I'm not completely convinced.  Renarin has certainly shown a large degree of social awkwardness and likely has a history of bullying, but we haven't seen him grossly misunderstanding social cues from others though or acting unusually inappropriate in social settings beyond excessive fidgeting.

Jasnah we don't know enough about.  She had some sort of acute "madness" as a child, but the fact that it hasn't recurred makes a diagnosis of schizophrenia pretty unlikely.  I think she also had some sort of traumatic event occur as child, and the extreme anger+violence she showed to the potential rapist/murderers in Khabranth, along with her comment about learning that even those you love can hurt you probably offers us a sad clue of what kind of trauma she experienced. :(  It will likely be many books before we get a clear picture of her past though.

Taln seems like a classic PTSD case.  Even after his mind was temporarily restored by Dalinar's rush of stormlight and he started talking lucidly and hopefully, Ash later notes that the sights and sounds of battle reduced him to a catatonic crying mess.  He seems like the classic soldier case of PTSD.  We'll probably see more of this later.

Ash is OCD.  Her compulsion is to destroy any images of herself.  The scene where she forces herself to look downwards because she knows that if she sees any images of herself she will need to destroy them is a giveaway.  It's not a thing she chooses to do, it's a compulsive behavior.

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This is a fantastic framework! I'll be using it for a long time, I think. Two points to add:

One is that I think that we can puzzle out some of the backstories of the characters based on what we already know about them. I'm guessing that some issues from their childhoods will feed into issues that continue to develop. Using perhaps the easiest example, Lift seems to have problems with attachment or abandonment that stem from her mother's death and will likely not disappear anytime soon. Her visit to the Nightwatcher is also tied to these issues. Down the road, we might see a longer timeline for her that deals with her mother's death, the Nightwatcher visit, and even related events that haven't happened yet. (I might also put Lift in the "weirdly wise orphan-urchin" archetype slot for now.)

Also, I'm wondering if there's another layer of complexity at work here. There's a non-magical "wow factor" or conflict attached to their vocation and/or archetype. Kaladin is a soldier made more complex by the fact that he could also be a surgeon. Jasnah is an atheist scholar in a very theistic society. Dalinar is a brutal warlord who becomes a reluctant king intent on unification through diplomacy. That character type doesn't traditionally pop up in fiction as a reluctant king. I'm struggling with Shallan--an artist who...?--which may be part of the reason why I sometimes have a hard time pinning her down as a character.

Anyway, great post!!

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Interesting look at the charterers, I do think each has a different issue to deal with or overcome.

I think Jasnah's problem is that she is paranoid. The have been allusions to this; how she puts her back to the wall, spying on her own family and so on.

For Eshonai/Venli I think it is a inferiority complex of some sort. They think the other sister is doing more for her people.

Ash's issues may be as simple as guilt. To both Taln and the people she betrayed.

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Posted (edited)

Interesting. Can't agree with everything, but yes, all the flashback characters seem to be special even among other Radiants.

A couple of quick thoughts:

Kaladin did very well fighting against the chasmfiend without connection to Syl. Shallan's illusions helped a lot, sure, but it was still a tremendious achievement on Kaladin's part and with a weapon that he was barely trained in use of, to boot. He also did quite well against the fake door guards when he came to rescue Elokhar, his debiliating injury considered. So, his difficulties in the training yard were mostly due to internal discord and infirmity, IMHO. He was still a very talented fighter even without the bond. Also, per OB Syl wasn't created by Honor, but by the Stormfather. She was one of the first 10 made by him, all the rest of whom became deadeyes. He later made another 10, who became progenitors of all the other currently existing honorspren.

Szeth - Sanderson referenced his not properly re-attached soul a few times in WoBs - it is  another special thing setting him apart, which will likely come into play at some point.

Lift - there is something very mysterious and ominous about her native city Rall Elorim and I  think that it's secrets will be a very important part of her flashback. Along with her boon from the the Nightwatcher/Cultivation, her place of origin and, presumably, certain experiences there, is likely what made her special.

And while I'd love, love Jasnah becoming a worldhopper and eventually meeting and having philosophical discussions with Sazed, I can't help but notice that Lift is already equipped for surge-binding while on the other worlds without the need for extremely morally dubious practice of accumulating and spending Breaths. Here is to hoping that Jasnah manages to obtain something similar... or maybe she'll have to team up with Lift, who'd supply her with metabolised stormlight during their travels, while they'd be able to visit inhabited worlds without perpendicularities thanks to Jasnah's Transportation? This could be hilarious and  pretty cool, now that I think about. Also, Jasnah becoming a worldhopper would be, like, Nohadon squared - to your walk to Urithiru, I raise you walking to _all_ planets with sapient population! And Lift is already a wanderer, so...

The WoB that you cited (which was given after WoK only) didn't clarify whether those other characters were supposed to get flashbacks, but if they were and were supposed to become Radiants, I suspect that there would have been changes in the orders compared to what we have now. In particular:

14 hours ago, Pagerunner said:

 

  • ·         Adolin: Edgedancer, Reawakened Blade

IIRC, his shardblade was only described in WoR. And upon re-read, I don't feel that his order affinity was defined in WoK.

Quote
  • ·         Navani: Dustbringer, Fabrial Expert

 

No. Navani is a builder and was presented as such from her first appearance. Resolute, as well.  She was also replaced by Eshonai as a PoV, IIRC. So, Willshaper all the way. Presumably, she would have illuminated first contacts with Parshendi, in this alternative outline having been one of the scholars who interacted with them during the year leading to the disastrous alliance celebration, and she also would have thrown some light on Gavilar's doings during the last years of his life. I like her, but I am glad that we are getting an actual listener flashback instead.

 

Quote
  •  
  • ·         Second Male Herald: Willshaper, ??? (I suspect this was referring to Kalak, as the Willshaper slot is open, but it’s possible that he had an order swap planned for another Herald instead of Ash at one point. Very little to go on here.)

Probably Nale, given that Szeth was supposed to die at the end of WoR. IIRC, Szeth noticed him talking to Elokhar at the feast, so we have "met" him in WoK.

Edited by Isilel
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12 hours ago, Pagerunner said:

I subscribe to the belief that each flasback character represents one Radiant order. The Oathbringer ‘Avengers Assemble’ scene has been talked about in other threads, so I know there are differing viewpoints on the matter, but I hold that each character is also specifically a representative of a Radiant Order. With Szeth becoming a Skybreaker, Renarin bonding a corrupted Truthwatcher spren, and there being some pretty strong signs that Venli will be a Willshaper, the only controversial point of this is Ash as a Dustbringer.

I actually doubt this interpretation, mainly because of this WoB:

Quote

Questioner

What are the other books in The Stormlight Archive going to be about?

Brandon Sanderson

Well each one is going to cover a flashback sequence for one of the characters and each one will focus on a different order of the Knights Radiant. And that's not always the same, like the flashbacks for the first one were Kaladin and it was also Windrunners, but we won't always have them be the exact same.

This doesn't completely invalidate the idea, of course, Brandon could always swap a pair of flashback characters with respect to the books focusing on their Orders, e.g. make Renarin the flashback character for the Elsecaller book and make Jasnah the flashback character for the Truthwatcher book. But either he's doing a weird switch like that or Ash isn't going to be swapping Orders (or he's changed his plans since that WoB, but since that came from the end of 2014 when he had already decided on the current set of flashback characters, I think that's unlikely).

12 hours ago, Pagerunner said:

I’m gonna jump ahead and do Jasnah, because I think I see some hints, especially in Oathbringer, of interesting secrets going on with her. First is her brokenness. We learned she suffered from an illness when she was younger, but we don’t get many details. I suspect this is the source of her brokenness, some long-term physiological effects of this disease. She gives no sign of any physical handicap (the crazy idea popped into my head that she’s unable to feel, but I haven’t looked to see if that’s consistent with the text, regardless of how thematic it might be), but I’m reminded of Helen Keller, and how a childhood illness left her blind and deaf. Her backstory is another peculiar aspect, since I get the feeling we’re in her backstory right now. Jasnah is hiding things from the other characters and from us as readers (her possible Shardplate in Thaylen City being the most egregious). It makes me think her flashback sequence will not end where we meet her in Way of Kings, but extend through the first five-book arc Secret-History-style, possibly including the planned gap years between SA5 and SA6. Oh, and lastly, the WOW factor. I’ve seen it floated that Jasnah seems like a perfect worldhopper candidate, right in the vein of Khriss. I think that would be a fitting way to set her apart from the other Elsecallers.

Firstly, Jasnah is most definitely not unable to feel. There are a number of passages that make this clear, here's one from WoR:

Quote

Jasnah’s eyes were haunted, her expression haggard.

This was not the Jasnah that Shallan was accustomed to seeing. The confidence had been overwhelmed by exhaustion, the poise replaced by worry. Jasnah started to write something, but stopped after just a few words. She set down the pen, closing her eyes and massaging her temples. A few dizzy-looking spren, like jets of dust rising into the air, appeared around Jasnah’s head. Exhaustionspren.

...

‘You’re worried,’ Shallan said, meeting Jasnah’s eyes.

The woman turned away. She pushed a book over something wiggling on her table – a small purple spren. Fearspren. Only one, true, but still.

‘No . . .’ Shallan whispered. ‘You’re not worried. You’re terrified .’ Stormfather!

Words of Radiance - Chapter 6, Terrible Destruction

Secondly, I do really like the idea that Jasnah's flashbacks might be threaded through the first arc. It would be quite a twist if this reading Brandon did in 2014 was actually a reading from Stormlight 10 (or whichever book ends up being Jasnah's).

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@Pagerunner I think I have Szeth's neurological atyipicality, it's a lot like @Subvisual Haze analysis of the Cult Mind, but I think it's a better fit with his primary character trait of Believer, I think it's an intelligent,quetioning fanaticism. I know that sounds like an oxy moron, but it describes his inability to distinguish what is right. He has a deep seated desire to have some external framework that justifies his actions, but is also intelligent enough to see the flaws of the system that he has subsumed himself to. To a certain extent this is what has undone Nale as well, and I think might be what make's it preferable to pick the dunn sphere type of person for the Skybreaker order.

Szeth's character reads like his mind is always at war, drawn between two poles. The definition of what is right by set by his external moral code vs. his reasoned understanding of the obvious wrong that he is being forced to do in order to live by that moral code. I personally like his character and this conflict a lot, and I also think that it's the reason that he has Nightblood. He is innocent in a lot of ways because he is cognitively undeveloped and can't really understand the morality of what he is doing. Szeth also is a tool of restrained violence, who having lived according to the moral precepts of the Stone Shamans has done things that have torn apart his soul, and he was intelligent enough to discern that the Evil he did had no moral foundation whatsoever because the Shamanate was wrong and he was never Truthless. He still has an innate desire to believe in something higher than himself, an inability to take responsibility for the morality of his own actions, but this is something that interacting with Nightblood will probably help him learn how to do.

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Posted (edited)

I overall like this, however I'm not a fan of the Ash-becomes-Dustbringer theory, I think people subscribe to it because they want to match the Order focus of a book with the flashback character, but Brandon never said they would match. Ash may not even be the main present day focus of the book despite having flashbacks.

 

17 hours ago, Greywatch said:

Perhaps a longer response on the whole thing later, but I've never seen Navani as Dustbringer before - that's pretty wild. What do you see in here for it?

This is the first time I see someone mentioning her as a DB, too (or I've forgotten it), however if you consider we were told they like figuring out what makes something tick, it has a certain level of compatibility with Navani's personality. I don't think the attributes of brave and obedient should be taken as face value - LW aren't what we'd usually describe as honest...

Edited by Aleksiel
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9 minutes ago, Aleksiel said:

I overall like this, however I'm not a fan of the Ash-becomes-Dustbringer theory, I think people subscribe to it because they want to match the Order focus of a book with the flashback character, but Brandon never said they would match. Ash may not even be the main present day focus of the book despite having flashbacks.

I think it is pretty strongly implies she is well on her way towards this order by her "desire to break things open to see what is inside". I am not a fan of the proposed book structure either because I feel it is too convenient. Of course, Szeth will become a Skybreaker (now done), of course, Eshonai was on her way to become a Willshaper (not shifted to Venli), of course Ash will become a Dustbringer (because we need one).

I would have loved if Brandon had thrown in a deeper curve ball here by writing the flashback of a non-Radiant and/or a non-Herald character, by making someone who's not a Radiant a main protagonist into some of the books instead of having the books being told from the sole perspective of the new Radiants and the doomed Heralds.

I also wished characters not listed as "flashback characters" were allowed more than tiny story arcs within any given books. It'd would have been great if all characters had a potential for growth, not just the 10 we were listed. I feel it removes much of the hype and the anticipation as anyone not on the list can't really take a more prominent role within those books. One fun of reading is to see unexpected characters grow up. I guess this is what Brandon did with Venli, but seems she stands in for Eshonai, it isn't as compelling as if he had really done with with other characters.

I guess this is just me though.

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Posted (edited)

For Szeth you can make the argument for several regret related disorders. I think the strongest one would be PTSD. PTSD is such a multifaceted disorder in terms of how it manifests and how people handle it. Szeth checks every box for the disease, more so than any other SA character(Shallan has a pretty severe case of it). Another thing about PTSD is that it can be a gateway to other mental illnesses. Mood disorders, depression, etc. Szeth pretty much has handed his own mortality to Dalinar. This "passing the buck" is a major consequence of PTSD. 

For Lift it's possible she has some personality disorder(not DID). In ways she refuses to accept reality and lives in her own personal world. That can obviously be dangerous, but it would make for a great healing arc for a book character. 

Edited by Kered
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Venli may have the character arc of villan turned hero. She tried to save her people, out of glory, by bringing back the old gods. She suceeded. Then she watched as the old gods methodically destroyed all the Listeners for two reasons. They were afraid of them since they had turned their backs on the Fused once, what was preventing them from doing it again? Secondly, the Listeners represented an alternative culture to what the Fused and Odium offered. So, Venli wanted power, she wrought destruction, she watched her people be destroyed, and now is left with the responsibility to bring the Singers out of the soft enslavement they are currently in. For it is not as if they have any choice on what to do with their lifes under the Fused. Therefore I'd put Venli into the character arc of redemption. Her exact character was once scholar, but I somehow doubt thats what she will do. 

On Shallan neurology I'd be tempted to add insanity if you are counting that... 

Szeth a dash of insanity too :D. His character will probably be from the top of a society to the bottom.

Lift is probably urchin character, but annoying works too :P.

Really good table.

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I'm going to have to disagree with Shallan having PTSD.  As a medical provider and former military member over the past 2 decades, that is not PTSD.   Szeth is really clear cut case of PTSD.   Shallan is much more inline with disassociate identity disorder - here is a non-paywall reference.  http://traumadissociation.com/dissociativeidentitydisorder

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19 hours ago, Aleksiel said:

This is the first time I see someone mentioning her as a DB, too (or I've forgotten it), however if you consider we were told they like figuring out what makes something tick, it has a certain level of compatibility with Navani's personality.

Navani is primarily interested in building new things and figuring what makes things tick, if nobody has done so before, is wholly in the service of this main goal. She is an engineer, not a scientist. Willshaper, not a Dustbringer. Though now that this spot has been filled filled by Venli, she will, IMHO most likely become the Sibling's Bondsmith, which is would also agree with her passion for fabrials and civil planning.

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I'm not certain but the "Divine attributes" always felt like they weren't really describing the order so much as being how the post radiant society portrayed them.

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Posted (edited)

@BlackYeti I think that Pagerunner's theory is more along the lines of physical sensation rather than emotional capacity.  

As for the mental aspect of each character, does Lift come across as a bit of a kleptomaniac to anyone else?

Edited by Furry-And-Lovable-Grover
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2 hours ago, Isilel said:

Navani is primarily interested in building new things and figuring what makes things tick, if nobody has done so before, is wholly in the service of this main goal. She is an engineer, not a scientist. Willshaper, not a Dustbringer. Though now that this spot has been filled filled by Venli, she will, IMHO most likely become the Sibling's Bondsmith, which is would also agree with her passion for fabrials and civil planning.

Just because we have a WS doesn't mean there won't be another, it's reasonable to expect orders will slowly regain their numbers. Being something of an inventor may not fit the Order, we know they like new things, but there's nothing on actually creating them. The few sentences on DB and Malata's little screen time also aren't enough to conclude Navani is a likely candidate, but in my opinion if I had to chose between Orders for Navani, DB may not be a bad match.

I sincerely doubt we'll have another Kholin become Bondsmith, it sounds terrible both for meta and in-world reasons - too much power in a single family, too much alethi influence on high Radiant positions making the newly refound KR too akin to an elite alethi battle group than an actual international organization.

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