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Day 12

W-3 by Bette Howland

Chapter 10 (p. 180–204, to end)

October 30, 2022 by Lynn Steger Strong

There are lots of boundaries and borders broken in this last chapter: Bette transgressing the limits of the Pass zone; these stories of visitors, the first mention of them since her mother and her sons: the outside world is suddenly upon us, we are about to leave and so is Bette.

These first few expeditions were frightening. Uncertainty lurked everywhere; every corner was a decision, every step was a risk. And if you crossed a certain street, leaped over a certain invisible line, you were suddenly on your own; passing beyond all bonds of protection, striking out into the unknown.

There are so many traps we finally see Bette extricate herself from, each feels herculean: W-3, Jay's pep talk, her sense of herself as specifically and inextricably damaged, the sense of herself as the enemy:

But I knew that I was right, that this was the only way of taking the responsibility, that I had only just now grasped my true situation. You can't take up arms against the outer darkness. You can't rely on self, on argument, on rational persuasion. There is only one thing you really need to know. That it isn't yourself. That the force is the enemy's. That you are alone, helpless, hiding your head—but that you don't want to die.

She's still scared at the end and this feels important: fear means she wants to fight against the dark forces that are not her; it means, head against her son's "high, ribby chest," she wants to live.

It was simple. I was afraid; I didn't want to die.

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