“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” – J.M. Barrie (via goodreads)
Lately, I have been reading books that I have found online. I know what everyone is thinking, “Only psychos and weird fans write things online! You won’t find anything of real substance on the Internet!” Well readers, I am here to prove you wrong because Division of the Marked by March McCarron is anything but a book written by an obsessed fan.
This book was on a website called Wattpad; Wattpad is a place where people of all different writing levels, all with similar passions for writing, post their work for the world to read. While we may think that writers with degrees in creative writing are more likely to publish elaborate and polished pieces with hundreds of thousands of views, there are many adolescent writers, trying to make it through high school, who also write unique pieces that attract plenty of views as well. These pieces are not limited to just stories, but also poems, letters, and other forms of creative expression through written word.
As seen in +love+, I take covers extremely seriously. Thankfully, this book has an intriguing cover; the division mentioned in the title is highlighted by the cover’s two opposing colors, blue and orange, which happen to be complementary colors. In art class, we are taught that when complementary colors are brought together, they cancel each other out, but when placed side by side, they complete each other in a sense that you can truly see the beauty of the two opposing colors.
Before we delve deeper into the novel, I would like to place a last-minute note: if you have not yet read this book, please proceed with caution, as my opinions and takeaways will cloud your judgment, so it is advised that you read this book before continuing this post.
Every year, fifty children, all fourteen years of age, from all over the world that have the Mark of Chisanta are called to join their fellow Marked, so that they may learn the way of the Chisanta and hone their specific skills. The Chisanta are both aliented and revered by the general population – the masses understand the Chisanta’s contribution to society, but are repulsed by their giftedness that benefits society. This year’s crop of Marked Children consist of the protagonists, Yarrow Lamhart and Bray Marron. McCarron highlights the difference between these two Marked Children from the start; Yarrow is perceptive, while Bray is a woman of action. However, like complementary colors, the two complete one another, as Bray makes Yarrow more of a man’s man, while Yarrow calls forth the softer sides of Bray. In a nutshell, Yarrow and Bray are the ideal couple, even at their young age.
However, all good things must come to an end, as Yarrow and Bray’s differences lead them to the two opposing groups within the Chisanta. Yarrow finds home with the introspective Cosanta, while Bray joins the proactive Chiona, which she now calls family. Immediately after categorization, the two fall into the same resentment and mistrust that has frayed the relationship between the two groups for many years. Due to their duties, Yarrow and Bray separate and embark on their ten-year training, leaving feelings unresolved. Living hundreds of miles from one another eventually leads them to worry less about the other’s wellbeing, until they almost disappear from each other’s conscience.
Ten years has made Yarrow and Bray almost unrecognizable to one another. Yarrow has braided his long hair and speaks with a soft tone like the Cosanta, while Bray, per Chiona custom, has shaved her head and has adopted a confident tone. He has spent the past decade studying the Fifth, the inner workings of the human mind, an elusive and dangerous area that is not popular, even amongst the Cosanta. Dedrre Alvez, a fellow Cosanta, is the closest Yarrow has to another student of the Fifth, but even then, Dedrre is only a former student, and can only explain so much to Yarrow. Bray has also become an expert in criminology, an uncommon area amongst the Chiona, spending her decade investigating a myriad of crimes, not exclusive to the Chisanta. Their unique experiences brings them together for the conflict of the series – for the past few years, more and more Marked Children have gone missing, and have not been able to receive their personalized Chisanta education.
Conflict aside, the real focus is Yarrow’s study of the sacrifices, especially the first one, propagation. Dedrre explains that propagation is not simply giving up your child, but also the joy, sadness, and experience that only a child can bring to a couple’s life. For many of the Chisanta, giving up children is not a hard sacrifice, but for a couple, it is unfathomable to not have a child, as their union is physically represented by the presence of one to call their own; such implications cannot be easily disregarded (Chapter 9). When Dedrre first explained the true meaning of propagation, it did not have a great impact on me, as the reader, but when Yarrow was in the position where he had to consider making this sacrifice, it made me think about my own life.
For Yarrow, his “happy ending” was never something he questioned because it was almost natural to see that Bray would be his lifelong companion and mother to their beautiful daughter. This almost certain truth made him extremely blissful, as he always knew that he loved Bray and their love was validated through the existence of their child. However, when Yarrow was in the position to save the world or preserve his happiness, he realized the true gravity of sacrifice that propagation expected from him. Because they were not a couple at that point, Bray, unlike Yarrow, would never know of the happy ending she could have had with Yarrow and their unborn child – Yarrow decides to shoulder the burden of propagation alone. He painfully realizes that his happy ending is expendable in the grand scheme of things, paltry in comparison to the fate of the missing Marked Children.
Reading Yarrow’s sacrifice and his silent farewell to his unborn daughter brought tears to my eyes, as I wondered about my own uncertain future and the sacrifices I will be called upon to make. We are asked to sympathize with him for making this brutal choice alone, as there is something so compelling about Yarrow’s agonizing choice to save the world he loved so much, as well as his love for Bray, in shielding her from the knowledge that would give her pain. In many ways, Yarrow is wiser and selfless than many of the Chisanta; he has seen and read things that the rest of the Chisanta, much less the world, will never understand.
Not only is he discriminated by the Unmarked, but also his own people, who celebrate their specialness over the regular folk. Consequently, the choice that Yarrow makes forces him to walk on a perilous path only a few Chisanta before him have walked on. Even his potential, and hopefully eventual companion, Bray cannot walk down that path with him; he must carry his cross alone. Through this, Yarrow shows readers the real meaning of true love – as ignorance is bliss, sometimes it is better to make sacrifices for someone you love, rather than letting them suffer. Yarrow would rather die than see Bray upset over the daughter she will never be able to love, so he keeps this fact to himself, letting her live without the burden of knowing what could have happened.
Yarrow’s sacrifice makes me wonder if sacrificing your unborn child, or sacrifices in general, for the sake of mankind is worth it. We were all raised to think that societies work for the greater good of the population; a government would ideally want to save all 100% of their population, but in reality, only 90% are saved at the expense of the unlucky 10%. Is it fair? No, but this way, more lives are spared and society would be able to continue with its 90%, as opposed to its 10%. The issue is that no one ever talks about the Yarrows, the 10% who cannot have their happy endings, while everyone else gets theirs, ignorant of the sacrifices few have made for the comfort of many.
As I become older and reach appropriate working and childbearing age, I worry for my own unborn children, that may, but hopefully will not have to stand on the opposing scale of the greater good. We are all called upon to make sacrifices for the world we live in, but for me, I am not quite sure if I can make the noble choice that the few, like Yarrow, have made. Call me selfish, but I, like most people, seek their happy ending.
the wife (and children) you haven’t met yet