Frequently asked questions from readers of Rubbing Stones
- What are the major themes of Rubbing Stones?
~Self-forgiveness: This theme starts with the initial interview of the patient by the resident psychiatrist. So, what does the patient want? Like many, she comes in ostensibly wanting validation that her husband (boss/father/sister/etc) is unfulfilling/incompetent/whatever…it’s the desire for the therapist to side with her against the outside agent (a common surface presentation). Some of the residents do that, others blame her, but the part that leads to the empathic failure is the lack of being able to empathize with her underlying self-hating (and therefore defended against) part in the destruction of her marriage.
This theme repeats with Michael and Thabani, both of whom are helped by Jane’s understanding of this. This knowledge as well as Jane’s belief that people generally do the best they can given the circumstances and their own legitimate limitations, allows her to not be too deeply conflicted over her own actions later. Relief from this self-accusation allows both Michael and Thabani to rise to their better selves (which only works out well for Michael).
~Catalytic Characters: A second underlying presence shows a different kind of theme. It is the role of the 2 catalytic protagonists, Jane and Katura. “Catalytic protagonists” because neither of them is significantly changed by the action of the plot. They end, internally, pretty much where they started. They represent the quintessential maternal role of providing the arena for growth, they are catalytic to others. In Jane’s case, Michael grows into an active agent of his own destiny. She does this also for Thabani. In Katura’s case, at the very end (after he has made the shift described below), she provides Japera the opportunity to see himself through her eyes, to return to who he was before his desperation (and desire to please his own father) takes him significantly off course. Whether he is able to be self-forgiving we never really learn.
~Attachment: And this leads us to a third important theme. Japera’s shift is due to his developing attachment to Michael. There is a repeated theme that through attachments shifts are made. Jane wants to shift the I-thou-it dynamic (as per philosopher Martin Buber) such that she teases out areas in the group that their humanity in the eyes of the captors will be disarming (literally). These attachments (Japera-Michael and Thabani-Jane) work in both directions, however, and are dangerous as seen by Zuka’s point of view…resulting in Thabani’s death and Michael’s near death at Zuka’s hands. But, ultimately Michael’s attachment to Japera wins out.
2. Why didn’t Rick go for help by following the road back that the supply truck came in on?
This is due to the sheer distance this part of the river is from civilization. The road that is traveled by truck for many hours to bring in supplies, would take several days on foot. This means leaving fresh water without a means of carrying it (as was shown by Paul’s thwarted plan) and exposing oneself to the desert heat away from the trees that border the river, and protect from the intensity of the sun, not to mention the wildlife dangers. Additionally, the question of who would save them is pertinent given the Mugabe regime. As we saw earlier, friend and foe are interchangeable depending on what purpose they serve (the regime had the police chief killed when he was no longer serving their purpose) and it is not clear that saving Americans would be more advantage than allowing the world to see them murdered by the opposition. Or, even if the Mugabe side wanted to save them to show their benevolence, their competence to carry this off is questionable and it is just as likely that Zuka would’ve taken everyone out at the first sound of numerous trucks coming down the road.
If you have questions that you’d like me to address, please contact me through this website. I will either respond directly, or will post answers if they seem like something others might also enjoy. Thank you!