Disorganizer

Here is the thing with vorinism

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A Year or so ago, when I reached a natural stopping point reading Stormlight 2, i started wondering about Alethi society in general, and specifically gender roles in vorinism. (Ohh god, i sound like a judgemental feminist crusader already. It shouldnt be like this, should it?. I assure you that my reasons for pondering this are purely academic.) I send this question as an E-mail to Brandon, but got the "Dear Fan" :huh:letter, with a whiff of RAFO. Thus, i am posting it to the community:

Vorinism splits skills and occupation into male and female, we call those male and female arts. While fighting and politics are supposed to be male, all writing (except for a small selection of glyphs, which could be argued are more labels and heraldry than real writing) is female. While minor rules like male/female food are being ignored (Shallan ignores it at least once with little hesitation), the bit about writing being female, seems to be observed through all echelons of Alethi society, right up to Dalinar, arguably the most powerful vorin person alive. I cant remember a Veden example either. Kabsal is an ardent, so he doesnt count either, especially since ardents are specifically barred from holding positions of power.

At the same time however, virtually ALL military and ( more importantly) political posts are being held by men. The only exception to this are, naturally, scribes and.. what we would call... personal assistants? Alethkar, by all appearances practices agnatic primogeniture. Correct me if i am wrong but The line of succession is presented as: Gavilar, Elohkar, Dalinar and i presume Adolin. Jasnah has never been considered a candidate despite being 8 years his senior, being arguably just as fit a ruler as him (perfect is a word actually used to describe her). [This point is a bit shaky, since she cannot be a warrior, but still]. All the military officers (even the Alethi equivalent of "desk sergeants" i believe) are male, so are all the Highprinces. Aesudan may be considered an exception (as she "manages the kingdom in Ehlokars absence"), however, it is very clear that she is a queen consort, not a queen regnant, and what little we know of her, makes her look more like a early 20th century American socialite than a ruler.

Furthermore, to me, Vorinism seems ( not quite as much as Confucianism, but similar) to be more of a philosophy than a religion. Also (unlike with, say, the shin) there seems to be little fear of divine punishment. Shallan doesnt think of her eating male food as sin and breaks that rule in a heartbeat, and covering her safehand is more a matter of modesty and habit than actual fear of reprisal. And not many instances of actual divine intervention are mentioned ( i can only remember Syls disappearance after Kaladin broke his vow - which has little to do with the issue here.)  

 

Yet written communication is not a small matter for ruling a country as advanced as Alethkar, or commanding Alethkars prized military, or gathering intelligence. This means that every powerful vorin man must completely entrust his scribes with all kinds of sensitive information ( intelligence reports, military orders, royal decrees, tax and census data etc etc) without being able to verify them. That strikes me as highly dangerous in an environment like the Alethi court and war council, to say the least. The books do comment on that problem: In one train of thought, Dalinar himself doubts the honesty of his scribes, and people di try to fill scribe positions with family members and wives/daughters of loyal retainers, but still, this paradox is jarring: Imagine being in a position of power while all your information is essentially hearsay. Even if Alethi use seals (and similar devices) to verify documents, their contents are still subject to dishonest scribes who read them aloud. Instead of an elaborate forgery, all it takes is one bribed scribe.

So it is really hard to imagine that at least some shrewd Highprinces ( lets say Sadeas or Sabariel) havent secretly learned how to read and write. [ If Alethi has an alphabet, this is relatively easy. If however, Alethi consists of logograms (like Chinese), this will take considerably more effort, so that would be an argument against it. Knowing Brandons habit of dipping into Asian culture, this isnt unlikely. ]

I apologize for this long post, but i d like people with more knowledge of the books ( and more guilt-free leisure time) give me their opinions on this. Or maybe i just overlooked something in the books, and all that was one big inane exercise.:blink:

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Woah...I mean I had thought of this before... But never looked quite so deep into this... Impressive.

Okay so first things first the script is currently being translated, which you might find interesting...

But you did fail to mention anything about wives. The wife of the Ruler or Lord would be the first scribe for double checking facts... It would require you but to bribe don't random scribe in the end... It would be bribing a wife or a sister...

 

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The Alethi alphabet is written to look like an EEG. It is spiky 'waves' of varying width and height, if I recall correctly. I know we cracked the code, but it wasn't something I was personally interested in.

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I agree that this is a potential problem but I think it's manageable. After all, it's easy enough to get someone else to verify important communications - which means that it's very easy to determine if someone has falsified communications. This also means that the risk of capture for anyone trying this is quite high, which acts as a deterrent. A big problem would be spies making copies of important communications but that would be a risk even without Vorin culture.

So, while I can imagine such things happening from time to time the fact that most of the important scribes are typically family members suggests that "professional" scribes aren't trusted anyway - it's possible that in the past that professional scribes were used more but after various cases of them being bribed came out it became more and more common to use family members.

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I will check the glyph translation out when i get home, thx alot!

Wives are something i didnt consider well enough true, it weakens my argument significantly. Call me a cynic though - i have a hard time accepting that all married people are able to trust each other completely.  (My own relationships were certainly messier than that).

 

Also If Alethi practice arranged marriages ( especially the nobility), instead of marrying for love (like in most pre-enlightenment societies), trusting your wife can be just as dangerous as trusting a colleague. (Strangely, Kaladins childhood friend Laral could be an example for BOTH options. Although there was the stated possibility that she and Kaladin would marry (hopefully) for love, she agreed to marry Rillir out of status considerations. Rillirs "winning personality" seems to have played little part in their engagement). For a historical example: Edward II and Isabella of France. (yes, the two from braveheart. According to one story, she stabbed him - try not to flinch - in the :wacko: with a iron hot poker until he died in agony. After that she and her new lover set up a regency and tried to deny Edwards son his rule).

This is mostly speculation though. Dalinar and Navani might very well have chosen to marry for love. Adolin also doesnt seem to be restrained by some kind of early arrangement, despite being obviously old enough to marry someone. Jasnah is also not betrothed to anyone, and shallan... well, her engagement with Adolin might be an arranged one, with personal feelings playing no part (at least at first), but it has never been against her will either. Stormlight 3 will hopefully bring some answers to that. ( Personally, i am more of a Shallan/Kaladin guy. For me, their moment in the chasm is Brandons most romantic scene yet. Beautifully written, simple, elegant, not a drop of kitsch, a quiet understanding between two very different and yet similar people lost in a storm, not just of water and rain, but of their lives changing faster than they could fathom. Also, i AM a sucker for rainy romance.)

Edited by Disorganizer
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7 hours ago, Disorganizer said:

Vorinism splits skills and occupation into male and female, we call those male and female arts. While fighting and politics are supposed to be male, all writing (except for a small selection of glyphs, which could be argued are more labels and heraldry than real writing) is female. While minor rules like male/female food are being ignored (Shallan ignores it at least once with little hesitation), the bit about writing being female, seems to be observed through all echelons of Alethi society, right up to Dalinar, arguably the most powerful vorin person alive. I cant remember a Veden example either. Kabsal is an ardent, so he doesnt count either, especially since ardents are specifically barred from holding positions of power.

I think you're overemphasizing just how rigidly the rule against men being literate in Alethkar is enforced. Dalinar is perhaps a bad example here: given how obsessed with honour he is, it's likely he'd be far more concerned with following the rule than other men would perhaps be.

Consider the male bookstore owner that Shallan meets in the Way of Kings. If I remember correctly, she notes that whilst he acts like he is illiterate, in reality that would be a pretense for the sake of appearances. He would have to be literate, because it would be completely impractical for a man in his position to be otherwise.

The Alethi seem to be, for the most part, extremely concerned with their image, yet equally unconcerned with anything deeper than that.

Edited by BlackYeti
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Regarding the marriages being more likely to be arranged (or semi-arranged), this might sound strange but I don't think that would make the problem worse. If anything, it removes a potentially dangerous random element. For arranged marriages, that will mostly be with long term allies which would reduce the likelihood of betrayal - though certainly not eliminate it.

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You see, I don't think this criticism is particularly well considered.

 

Not as a jab, by the way.

So Vorin religion and Vorin cultural practices  need to be separated. Things like the safehand and male and female roles aren't so much Vorin in religious origin, but come from the essay Arts and Majesty, which so far as I know is not the Vorin religious text (the Arguments, I believe, is). So there's a lot of behaviors that Vorin peoples engage in, but aren't necessarily a part of their religion. Further, one's understanding and practice of Vorinism seems more a function of one's Devotary rather than the larger Vorin reglion itself. 

On the matter of males and females.

It is made clear that when Dalinar (or Sadeas, or another Highprince) employs an officer, he's really often employing a husband-wife team. Even a soldier will often be the husband of a scribe or camp attendant, as we see in the aftermath of the Tower. So, we have a man to labour, command and fight, a woman to read, scribe and art. As we also saw from Kaladin's PoV, this can really be weighted to the extent where the 'officer' side of that is really just to do as the woman says. So, essentially, a woman can't hold the rank...but a man can't do all that the role entails without a woman. I'm not sure how it'd work if you had, say, a woman being the only heir of a Third Dahn.  I imagine a woman can hold the rank, but given that the Alethi are only recently unified, and Jah Keved isn't much better, a lot of people would view the Highprinces as largely military positions. 

This said, it actually seems to me to be a neat way to make a couple (or family unit) dependent on one another. There's likely a lot of jobs where a man holds the position but a woman is necessary, it is in the interests of the woman to boost the man up (greater status) and in the interests of the man to keep his woman happy (greater efficiency).

It's also worth noting that a lot of Alethi would probably have sisters or mothers who could scribe for them if they weren't married. So for a man to be really incompetent, he'd have to have no wife, no daughter no sister and no mother.

As a really final note, I think Glyphs are a lot more complex and likely are in the process of turning into a language on their own, like the Stormwardens and Amaram use them. So there's probably an extent to which they can be used to convey orders and meaning.    

 

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Yes, I forgot about the bookseller. Its been a while^^

I do not think arranged marriages are safer though - people betray each other for personal reasons just as often as for political ones. My example still holds: Isabella hated Edward cheating (with men! i myself am not judgemental about this, but a 14th century hardline catholic sure as hell would have been) and sidelining her. Mel Gibson got a LOT of things wrong in his movie, but this aspect of their marriage was about right. Isabella was indeed considered a great beauty in her time, and for her ( essentially the best match that any other man could dream of) being slighted for some dude, must have been infuriating. Also, while she was married to Edward in order to secure peace between England and France over a dispute in Gascony, for most of her time as Queen, France (allied with the scots) and England were enemies. In fact, her french pedigree would be the justification for England to start the Hundred Years War...

So no - arranged marriages do not guarantee loyalty.

Still, I probibly gave this topic more thought than it deserved. I think it is also because of my own obsession with and reliance on reading/writing ( which many of you surely share with me ;)). I just have difficulties imagining a scenario where i am deliberately illiterate - let alone in a dangerous position of power. Can you imagine what it would be like? If i was illiterate, literally my first action would be to learn how to read. Curiosity alone would win me over.

(As you probably have discovered- my own relationships have left me quite cynical. If you are happily married things might look different.)

Edited by Disorganizer
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Savanorn makes a really good point, with 2 small issues.

a)

We are working on the premise that everyone can inititate and sustain a happy marriage though, and this IS kind of unrealistic. Since we brought up Kaladin - he is a military officer with need of good intel, and yet he isnt married, he has no sister and his mother isnt immediately available either. The closest thing he has to a woman he can trust is ( as strange as it is) Shallan - and over 1200 pages of Brandon, he didnt trust her either!

B)

Also, these are soldiers we are talking about. For the Alethi, fighting on the same area for an extended period of time, made having your family with you at all times a realistic prospect. But this is a special case. Not even with all our modern transportation is this a given, not in Vietnam, not in Korea, not in Europe, and not in the Middle East. With politicians, it IS relatively easy  to have your family with you though.

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8 hours ago, BlackYeti said:

 

I think you're overemphasizing just how rigidly the rule against men being literate in Alethkar is enforced. Dalinar is perhaps a bad example here: given how obsessed with honour he is, it's likely he'd be far more concerned with following the rule than other men would perhaps be.

Consider the male bookstore owner that Shallan meets in the Way of Kings. If I remember correctly, she notes that whilst he acts like he is illiterate, in reality that would be a pretense for the sake of appearances. He would have to be literate, because it would be completely impractical for a man in his position to be otherwise.

The Alethi seem to be, for the most part, extremely concerned with their image, yet equally unconcerned with anything deeper than that.

Thats why i suspected that people like Sadeas and Sabariel do know how to read. but thats RAFO^^ I think you are right.

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11 hours ago, BlackYeti said:

Consider the male bookstore owner that Shallan meets in the Way of Kings. If I remember correctly, she notes that whilst he acts like he is illiterate, in reality that would be a pretense for the sake of appearances. He would have to be literate, because it would be completely impractical for a man in his position to be otherwise.

You're either misremembering the scene or mixing it up. In the scene with the bookstore owner Shallan notes that he'll have his wife read it even if he can read, no mention of it being neccasary for hiim to read. It's also worth remember that the book store owner is a Thaylen and they don't have the same standards as the main Vorin nations.

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7 hours ago, Disorganizer said:

a)

We are working on the premise that everyone can inititate and sustain a happy marriage though, and this IS kind of unrealistic. Since we brought up Kaladin - he is a military officer with need of good intel, and yet he isnt married, he has no sister and his mother isnt immediately available either. The closest thing he has to a woman he can trust is ( as strange as it is) Shallan - and over 1200 pages of Brandon, he didnt trust her either!

And Kaladin brings up at one point that having no women he can depend on is an issue militarily, because it forces him to rely on other scribes. 

16 hours ago, BlackYeti said:

Consider the male bookstore owner that Shallan meets in the Way of Kings. If I remember correctly, she notes that whilst he acts like he is illiterate, in reality that would be a pretense for the sake of appearances. He would have to be literate, because it would be completely impractical for a man in his position to be otherwise.

4 hours ago, JE19426 said:

You're either misremembering the scene or mixing it up. In the scene with the bookstore owner Shallan notes that he'll have his wife read it even if he can read, no mention of it being neccasary for hiim to read. It's also worth remember that the book store owner is a Thaylen and they don't have the same standards as the main Vorin nations.

The actual text is:

Quote

"Heavy reading for one so young," the man said, nodding to the woman, who was probably his wife. She ducked into the back room. He'd use her for reading; even if he could read himself, he wouldn't want to off end customers by doing so in their presence. He would handle the money; commerce was a masculine art in most situations.

No mention of it saying that he had to read for the job. Chances are good though that he can anyways.

 

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@Spoolofwhool, I'd say that the part about not wanting to offend customers by reading in their presence actually does imply that someone in his position typically would be able to read. Nevertheless, @JE19426 is correct, I was conflating two scenes (it's been in my head this way for so long I didn't bother to look it up). From chapter 3:

Quote

She hadn't asked, but she was certain Captain Tozbek could read. She'd seen him holding books; it had made her uncomfortable.

Not really as good as evidence as I'd remembered it being, but I'd say it supports my argument quite well.

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22 minutes ago, BlackYeti said:

@Spoolofwhool, I'd say that the part about not wanting to offend customers by reading in their presence actually does imply that someone in his position typically would be able to read. Nevertheless, @JE19426 is correct, I was conflating two scenes (it's been in my head this way for so long I didn't bother to look it up). From chapter 3:

Not really as good as evidence as I'd remembered it being, but I'd say it supports my argument quite well.

True. I'll be honest though, chances are that he can read as well. It would make more sense, especially since he likely doesn't ascribe to Vorinism himself.

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So, lets recap what we have established so far:

1. Alethi are in fact quite aware of this problem and are trying to mitigate that.

2. Husband/wife teams soften this problem up quite a bit.

3. The philosophical ( as opposed to the religious) side of vorinism isnt as unforgiving as one might think, thus:

4. Some male vorin characters in the book can indeed read ( and more may be lurking in the shadows), so my guess wasnt all that off - Dalinar is just a bad example to pick, since he isnt as willing to comprimise as others might be.

5. Alethi script is actually some kind of alphabet (

Man, that post was cool. Kudos to a fellow linguist!)

 

Did i miss something?

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2 hours ago, Disorganizer said:

Did i miss something?

Yes. Ardentia. Very important point as ardents, who can move between both gender roles regardless of their gender, can read. As such, in a pinch, any lighteye could use the ardents they own for scribing, if they do not have any females they can trust for the position. While it's true that ardents are not entirely incorruptible, as we saw with that short takeaway to the ardents in the Alethi Capital, people of faith who by their faith belong to you are likely to be some degree more trustworthy I feel.

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On 12/6/2016 at 10:01 AM, Disorganizer said:

So it is really hard to imagine that at least some shrewd Highprinces ( lets say Sadeas or Sabariel) haven't secretly learned how to read and write. [ If Alethi has an alphabet, this is relatively easy. If however, Alethi consists of logograms (like Chinese), this will take considerably more effort, so that would be an argument against it. Knowing Brandon's habit of dipping into Asian culture, this isn't unlikely. ]

I cannot for the life of me remember where this was at the moment, but I distinctly remember Taravangian having learned the Alethi(Vorin?) Women's Script, so it is within the realm of possibility to do.

I have taught myself a general level of being able to read and write in that script as well, thanks to Harakeke's translation thread. I mention this fact for 2 reasons. Firstly, to say that it is possible (self-explanatory :))
Secondly, due to the fact that I do not use it in my daily routine, I need to use my reference page for a little while before I can read/write without too much trouble. Depending on how active their scribes are for a given span of time, the shrewd Highprince may be rusty with their reading skills.

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Regarding the highprinces reading, it is of course possible that they could. However, you have to bear in mind it could actually be dangerous. If you accidentally let it show, such as gazing at an important text because you need to read it, or something of the like, then people would suspect and you could be politically ruined. As @The One Who Connects pointed out, it is possible as Taravangian can read woman's script (see edit), but also bear in mind that most people consider him to be a slightly dim but kindly man, so little political harm could be done. (Also reminds me that I should try to pick it up, for kicks)

Edit: I'm 99.9% there's a point where he is reading, so it is confirmed he can. Besides, he made up a language for the Diagram. Chances are that he could read before he did that, so that that could be possible. In addition, I don't see how he could've acquired the information required to formulate the Diagram unless he could read, since personally, I find that reading to yourself is way faster than reading aloud. 

Edited by Spoolofwhool
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7 hours ago, Spoolofwhool said:

Regarding the highprinces reading, it is of course possible that they could. However, you have to bear in mind it could actually be dangerous. If you accidentally let it show, such as gazing at an important text because you need to read it, or something of the like, then people would suspect and you could be politically ruined. As @The One Who Connects pointed out, it is possible as Taravangian can read woman's script, but also bear in mind that most people consider him to be a slightly dim but kindly man. (Also reminds me that I should try to pick it up, for kicks)

Thats a really good point, hadnt thought of that. How ruinous showing your reading skills is, depends on how deeply rooted those beliefs are in the nobility. ( not so much the common people - Alethkar is not a democracy). Also, you could just pretend you were wondering what the text said. People DO that some time^^

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1 minute ago, Disorganizer said:

Thats a really good point, hadnt thought of that. How ruinous showing your reading skills is, depends on how deeply rooted those beliefs are in the nobility. ( not so much the common people - Alethkar is not a democracy). Also, you could just pretend you were wondering what the text said. People DO that some time^^

True, but it's still dangerous. Highprinces and the other high lighteyes can be pretty cutthroat, and even one sign that you know something that you could've only learned from reading could spell disaster for you. They have spies in each others scribe group so they could be pretty certain of what you know and don't know. 

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aand here we are, going full circle - scribes cant be trusted! (muahahahahahahah!:D) - thus you are gonna learn how to read.

Just kidding. but the problem is still... there.^^ I think Alethi ( like us) need to compromise on that. For me, curiosity and control freakism wins.

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@FiveLate

your comment isnt that sound, i am afraid.

1. Well, nobody said it was "common".

2. "The subscriptions of the text would be revealed" - and this is supposed to be an argument AGAINST secretly learning how to read? Just because it is desirable for the women who wrote those for people not to understand their comments, doesnt mean it is right, or even likely.

Many of the marginalia in medieveal manuscripts in monasteries [what a glorious alliteration!:D] werent meant to be seen by the abbot (or anyone else for that matter) either, since most of them were either humerous, slanderous or even pornographic in nature. And yet they were made and discovered all the same.

One might think it is just not very smart to disclose private information or commentary so openly.

3. As for Amaram - who said he isnt faking it? I mean come on, one of the major themes in Book 2 was to reveal how duplicitous he is to the world.

Edited by Disorganizer
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8 hours ago, FiveLate said:

One point I think you are all forgetting....the subscriptions added to the texts described by the women that comment on the writers thoughts of the person dictating the text.    If many people crossed the boundary of learning to write....these would all be exposed.

Except they wouldn't be, because to do so, the man would have to reveal that he could read, therefore destroying his standing. 

8 hours ago, FiveLate said:

Second if learning the letters as a male was common....why would Aramean resort to sound glyphs to form words?

No one said it was common, nor did anyone say that Amaram could read. Chances are that he can't, which is why Amaram used the stormwarden glyphs, but it's also possible he deliberately used glyphs to create a safety net in case someone found his room.

8 hours ago, FiveLate said:

To me is seems that at some point any task that could be accomplished with 1 hand was dreamed fit for a woman, but REAL MEN should be using both their hands in all their work....which brings up an interesting point about a 1 armed weapons instructor...

There's a WoB on the matter and this is basically it. The women retaliated by making reading a woman-only activity.

 

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8 hours ago, Spoolofwhool said:

True, but it's still dangerous. Highprinces and the other high Lighteyes can be pretty cutthroat, and even one sign that you know something that you could've only learned from reading could spell disaster for you. They have spies in each others scribe group so they could be pretty certain of what you know and don't know. 

6 hours ago, Disorganizer said:

Many of the marginalia in medieval manuscripts in monasteries [what a glorious alliteration!:D] weren't meant to be seen by the abbot (or anyone else for that matter) either, since most of them were either humorous, slanderous or even pornographic in nature. And yet they were made and discovered all the same.

One might think it is just not very smart to disclose private information or commentary so openly.

If the scribes are foolish enough to make their commentaries in the margins while writing it, even someone who cannot truly read should know the left-to-right format and call them out on that. (Simply watching a few scribes write a decree here and there should show them that text goes left to right)

My second point is no longer relevant as counting letters is far more difficult in Alethi than in Matoran (the script behind this idea) due to Alethi being inherently cursive.

Thirdly: While I realize they could just lie, counting words is still somewhat viable (mainly for proving the margin text). "You expect me to believe you wrote all that in that small space?" or some such, etc.

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