Half-Circle Sea Hold in "Dragonsong"

Half-Circle Sea Hold in Dragonsong

Paisid Aramphongphan '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2004

In Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong, Menolly, a daughter of Yanus, the holder of Half-Circle Sea Hold, is a musically talented young girl who cannot and does not want to fit into her father's traditional conception of young women. Forbidden to play the harp, viewed as a trouble, an embarrassment even, to her parents, Menolly decides to leave Half-Circle Sea Hold, never to return.

No, no one was likely to notice that she was gone until there was some unpleasant or tedious job for a one-handed girl to do. So they wouldn't assume that she'd opened the Hold door. And since Menolly was apt to disappear during the day, no one would think anything about her until evening. Then someone might just wonder where Menolly was.

That was when she realized that she didn't plan to return to the Hold. And the sheer audacity of that thought was enough to make her halt in her tracks. Not return to the Hold? Not go back to the endless round of tedious tasks? Of gutting, smoking, salting, pickling fish? Mending nets, sails, clothes? Cleaning dishes, clothes, rooms? Gathering greens, berries, grasses, spider-claws? Not return to tend old uncles and aunts, fires, pots, looms, glowbaskets? To be able to sing or shout or roar or play if she so chose? To sleep . . . ah, now where would she sleep? And where would she go when there was Thread in the skies? [p. 71:]

Discussion questions

1. Why does McCaffrey decide to make her main character, Menolly, become "one-handed?" How does that affect Menolly's life and her state of mind? Does it have anything to do with her decision to leave Half-Circle Sea Hold?

2. Describe the extent to which external factors such as Thread or the weather affect the way of life in Half-Circle Sea Hold and the inhabitants' psyche.

3. Why is Half-Circle Sea Hold such a strongly traditional society in which individuality is sacrificed for the common good and where all members are expected to contribute to the society, responsible for tasks as ordered by the authority and upheld by traditions? How does McCaffrey convince the reader that it makes sense for Half-Circle Sea Hold to be that way? In other words, how does she make Half-Circle Sea Hold real in the reader's mind?
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Last modified 2 February 2004