As I wandered back toward the guest house, I found myself paying attention to a conversation that Wright and Brook were having there.
“They take over our lives,” Brook said. “They don’t even think about it, they just do it as if it were their right. And we let them because they give us so much satisfaction and…just pure pleasure.”
Wright grunted. “We let them because we have no choice. By the time we realize what’s happened to us, it’s too late.”
There was a long pause. “It’s not usually that way,” Brook said. “Iosif told me what would happen if I accepted him, that I would become addicted and need him. That I would have to obey. That if he died, I might die. Not that I could imagine him dying. That seemed so impossible…But he told me that. Then he asked me to come to him anyway, to accept him and stay with him because I could live for maybe two hundred years and be healthy and look and feel young, and because he wanted me and needed me. I wasn’t hooked when he asked. He’d only bitten me a couple of times. I could have walked away – or run like hell. He told me later that he thought I might run. He said people did run sometimes out of superstitious fear or out of the puritanical belief that anything that feels that good must have a huge downside somewhere along the line. Then he had to find them and talk them into believing he was a dream or an ordinary boyfriend.”
Wright said, “By the time Shori asked me – or rather, by the time she offered to let me go – I was very thoroughly hooked, psychologically if not physically.”
“That was probably because of her memory loss.”
Wright made an “mmmmm” sound in agreement. “I suppose. She’s shown herself to be a weirdly ethical little thing most of the time. It still bothers me, though, and now there’s this new guy she told me about…” (Butler 160-61).
When this scene unfolds, Shori and her symbionts have settled into the guest house in the Gordon family’s community. The Gordon’s have accepted her and Shori has offered to help them in the surveillance and protection of the community. It is when she leaves the guest house to meet with the Gordon symbionts on guard duty that Brook and Wright have this conversation.
Because of Shori’s memory loss, the only information that the reader can gain about the Ina and how they live and behave is through the education of Shori and Wright. While Shori accepts the information that she is given about her culture and life style, Wright struggles to come to terms with the community that he has just entered.
In this passage we continue to see the shift in Wright’s views of the Ina that has been coming about since he first met Iosif and his symbionts earlier in the novel. When he first became attached to Shori, he was unsure of how or why, but he accepted it. He was aware of his feelings toward her and although he did not entirely understand them, he had no intention of leaving. But this passage shows that Wright is starting to doubt that he made the right decision. He knows that he can’t leave, and he’s not sure that he would if he were given the chance, but there now seems to be a slight hint of resentment toward what Shori did to him and what all Ina do to their symbionts. His language makes this clear when he says, “We let them because we have no choice. By the time we realize what’s happened to us, it’s too late.”
But perhaps he would not have such a difficult time accepting the Ina-symbiont relationship if it could be shared just between himself and Shori. Wright struggles with a jealousy that was only mild when Celia and Brook entered his and Shori’s life, but grows when Shori adds another male symbiont to their family, Joel. Wright is clearly torn between wanting to stay with Shori and wanting to leave the life of a symbiont.
This excerpt also provides more of an insight on the relationship between Ina and their symbionts, and this sense of moral code, or social responsibility that Ina seem to feel toward their symbionts. When Wright makes the comment about not having a choice, Brook contradicts him. She explains how Iosif gave her, and all of his other potential symbionts the choice to come with him. This information, along with the various other moments in the novel where the well-being and treatment of symbionts in mentioned, shows that Ina, or at least Shori’s mothers and fathers and the Gordon family, feel a responsibility toward their symbionts, to explain to them exactly what they are giving up and getting themselves involved in. Earlier in the novel, Iosif advises Shori to ‘treat her people well’, to let them make their own decisions and live for themselves. Shori offered Wright a chance to leave but it was too late. The fact that Brook excuses this as being due to her memory loss, implies that it was something that would not normally occur in the Ina community. All symbionts are supposed to choose to stay with their Ina. They should not be forced, or “enticed” by the influences of Ina venom
I feel that this passage was meant to have a twofold purpose. It was meant to show Wright’s struggle in his complicated relationship with Shori, but also to further establish the delicate question of Ina control over their symbionts and Ina responsibility to let their symbionts act on their own.
The fact that this issue has been raised briefly, but periodically throughout the novel, makes me wonder if it is going to develop into a more significant factor later on in the novel.