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Exploration of Mutual Slavery


   "...and you are to pass your terrarium project on Friday" the teacher announced,

In the penultimate row was a student couple, Clara and Nico. Upon hearing the teacher's announcement, their minds had clicked, both at the same time, to one thing they thought they ought to be. But they retained their composure, sitting shoulder to shoulder facing the board, though not for another moment.

"Nicky, hear this, I am to create a terrarium for you alongside mine, that you may not worry about it anymore." Clara offered gleefully.

"Uh, no, actually, Clai, and hear me now in turn, I was thinking, I be the one to create your terrarium, alongside mine, that you may do other more important things for yourself." Nico counter-offered.

"No, no, dearest. Anything for you is most important than everything for me."

"Oh, no, my own, I would be most worried if you do my project for me; it would give me unrest, than if you let me do mine for myself, alongside, and giving priority, to yours."

"No, and o please, let me do it for you," pleaded Clara. She had inched closer to Nico now, wrapping her arms around his shoulder.

"I would never bear to let you be subjected to such work. My hands are made for you; it was meant to be dirtied for you," Nico fondled Clara's pale hands devotedly.

The teacher, seeming to have spawned right at them, smacked the armchair, which snapped the couple's attention out of one another and into the teacher, but they retained their physical touch.

"You," she pointed her long and bony finger right in the middle of Nico's eyes, "are not to do her project," and now at Clara, "neither are you to do his!"

She fixed her bent posture and stood rigidly in front of the two, and eyed them strictly, as if holding them in scorn, finding any evidence to have them at great fault, but in complete vanity.

"You," she continued, "are to create your own project yourselves. No, you will not have the other do your terrarium; no, you will not do the other's terrarium." She had maintained her look at the two, as if she was referring to them alone, but also managed to convey it in a way, intendedly, for the whole class.

Dread have dawned at Clara and Nico's faces. The teacher's idea was, to them, a death sentence. Groans and meaningless protest gushed out of their mouths, and their body tensed, and they struggled for the second to express what had truly filled their hearts, and if not for the limited space and the slight inconvenience brought by the obstructing chair-arm, they could have thrown themselves at her feet and begged out of desperation and the momentary haziness of their thoughts.

"But ma'am!" cried one.

"But ma'am, indeed!" cried the other.

"That was most!"

"Most, indeed!"

"Pah! No but's, no most's!" retorted the teacher.

"But, ma'am?! Am I not qualified with the pleasure of serving my master?", Clara tried to reason.

"And mostly, ma'am?! Am I not equally qualified with the same pleasure of serving my mistress?", accompanied Nico.

But the teacher again retorted, and the couple protested, and they were almost shouting.

"Wait, wait, wait, wait...",

Another student interrupted. He sat at the final row, just right behind the couple, and had heard eveything. Now the attention of the three, and really of the entire class, was at him, and all was silent. He stood up off his chair, unnecessary to the case, and continued, speaking to the teacher, but directing his speech to the two.

"She says she wanted to serve her master, and he says he wanted to serve his mistress. She is willing to do his project alongside her own, and he is willing to do her project alongside his own. Both of them wanted to put the other first, before their own very self--"

"He understands!" The two turned their heads away from him with disinterest, and they looked back at the teacher, ready to argue on their appeal again.

"Hear me, now!" The student pleaded to the teacher, as if she was the one who turned her head away.

"Hear him, now!" The teacher to the two, but they never turned their heads back again. "Go on,"

"I say, if they wanted to serve each other to their fullest," the couple's eyes gleamed with sudden zeal at the phrase, but they kept their heads straight. "...if they wanted to serve each other to their fullest, hear about this: that Clara, and you mustn't hear this Nico, you must do Nico's project alone, abandoning your own, that you might dedicate your entire focus in your work for him. And that Nico, you mustn't hear this Clara, you must do Clara's project only, possessing your entire being in service of her, even if it meant leaving your own. In that way," the last part being directly addressed to the two, he now returned his face to the teacher. "...in that way, the two of them, and I'm sure both of them weren't hearing this, by giving themselves in full service to the other, would be able to produce the required project for one another, and therefore for themselves... and I reckon you, ma'am, could say no more, for it is not wrong." Finally, he added. "But that was merely my opinion, and any of you are free to take it in application."

"Indeed, your suggestion seems right." The teacher replied.

"Not wrong, ma'am." He corrected, and went back at his seat.

"Not wrong, not wrong at all." She now turned to the two, and upon seeing them her eyes flared. "Actually, no, it's absolutely wrong!" She suddenly roared, to the surprise of the student, which had just calmed his spiking heart only to be nervous again. "No! What did you say, that they abandon their own work for the other?! No! It is my duty not to encourage this kind of self-surrendering behaviour! This... is unhealthy! Not healthy at all, for the individual. Couldn't you, any of you, live aside of one another? Couldn't you, any of you, learn to act for yourself, and not always in 'service' of the other? Couldn't you, any of you, love yourself?!

"But I do love myself, though never more than I love him, and if my love for myself is obstructing me from giving my fullest being to him, I shall abandon it." She answered back.

"There! There! Proving my point, that you do not love yourself! Think for a moment, your own soul, had he dropped dead in front of you right now--"

"How dare you!" Clara had started up off her seat.

"Free yourself!" She grabbed Clara with both of her hands by the shoulder, and shook her repeatedly. "Free yourself! Free yourself!"

Nico started up as well, and tried to break Clara off of the teacher while saying, "We are free! We are free! We had freely chosen one another!"

Nico had pulled the teacher away with such a force that she had stumbled backwards, to the horror of the rest of the class. Several students had already risen up off their seats, and aided the teacher up. Clara, after having been freed from the teacher's grasp, sought her another's chest, and there buried her weeping face, and Nico, after having been freed his own off of the teacher's grasp, took her lovingly, and embraced her most affectionately.

Such was the scene that afternoon. That day, Clara and Nico was sent to the guidance office, and were suspended for the next few days. They were sent off at sunset, amber hues painted over them as they walked through the empty campus. Hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, head to head; they could easily be classified as a single being with four feet. They had loved each other more than anybody could ever love their another; more than anybody could ever love their own selves. To them, and for them, love is a mutual slavery; slavery with no master; freedom to be a slave; a servant of a servant, and they derived unbridled and pure happiness to all of these. They are the extension of one another's soul, and it is almost safe to say that one of them would die the second that the other did, and that they would continue to live for as long as either of them goes on. 

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Fri Jan 12, 2024 4:21 pm
VKTOR says...

I had this idea going on about love, that, with the individualist ideals being impressed upon nowadays, people seemed to have lost themselves the conception of love. With the prevalence of the utmost importance of personal freedom, people seem to be very unwilling to give it up for anyone even for their lover, that is to say, that though they are in a romantic relationship, with someone they call the love of their life, their soul mate, their future, they still are in greater love of themselves.

(To get things clear, though, I might say that I couldn't speak for the ideals and conception of love in any other period, that I couldn't speak for any other forms of love than what I have observed among the young people of my country and among what I have frequently been seeing through the media, that I couldn't speak for my own opinions on love, for I had no conception of it myself; you could say, that I know not what I am saying.)

And I am not prefering something over the other; only, that I would like to entertain the idea of Mutual Slavery. The basic idea was that humans tend to be too protective of their freedom, especially now when the greater many in mainstream media is advocating it, that they even put their own selves first in between love, which kind of contradicts their own idea of love itself, whatever that is. I thought that couldn't work.
But how about the other way around? Slavery, being the opposite of Freedom, I thought of a romantic relationship wherein the couple actively serve each other, as one would to a master, except that there is no master. Service was also the most integral part of their relationship, as they are keen to serve each other with their entire being. They had given their being for the other. Hence the term Mutual Slavery. Though, slavery seems like an odd word, for they aren't being forced, and did in fact chose with their own freedom to give that exact same freedom up; despite those, I chose to kept the name.

I have my own criticism of the idea though.
- I have no idea what love even is, and how it exists in this context, because it was too focused on the deliverance of service to one another.
- Their happiness and the pleasure they derived from their service seems to be a sort of constant variable set to the max.

In the story, I tried to explore these ideas through the face of a student couple. The concept may have been infantile right now, that's why it's so fragile. But it's really interesting, think about it.

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Points: 54
Reviews: 4

Thu Jan 11, 2024 6:14 am
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thart12 wrote a review...

Hey, I'll be reviewing your work. Please have in mind when you read this critique that you do not need to find any of what I say useful. All of what I say is just my opinion.

What caught me first in this piece was the use of language and the writing style. The sentence structure you elect for in many cases is not contemporary, so you had me thinking you were going for a style more akin to that of other periods in literary history.

Furthermore, the words that some of the characters use in their dialogue is fancy and eloquent to the point of being unrealistic. While this could be a useful device, it may also have the consequence of the reader not taking what the characters have to say seriously.

The student who gives the speech to the teacher (the speech starting with "I say, if they wanted to serve each other to their fullest..."), reminds me of John Galt from the novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. If you don't know John Galt or his speech, I suggest a quick google search about it. Both of the speeches are complex in language and aimed at driving home a point. John Galt's speech was aimed at driving home a point that the author agreed with, so I ask if that is what you are going for with this student's speech. Something to keep in mind as you revise. (Also as a side note, the student's speech in your story has basically the exact opposite idea of Galt's speech, which is about, in part, radical individualism)

To be more specific on the language, there were some changes I think you can make with word choice without altering the overall style. There are some redundancies and usage of words which don't actually add anything to the story. For example, "Eventually that day" is a clunky phrase. I'd keep it at "That day" or even "later that day."

Additionally, I'm not a fan of the word "seemed." In most cases, it doesn't add anything. Why not just say "Dread dawned on Clara and Nico's faces"? Just some personal choices I'd make, but up to you if you find them useful.

Finally, the last paragraph. The last paragraph, halfway through it, switches to present tense, which confused me. Usually, it's a good idea to keep the tense consistent for the sake of clarity. Also, the last paragraph sounds like the author speaking directly to the reader, which is different from the rest of the narrative, which was the telling of a story. If that was the intention, then it works, but you may want to work on the consistency of the tone of the story.

Overall, an interesting piece of writing. It'll be cool to see a revised version of it. Good job :)

VKTOR says...

Hi, thank you for the review!
I see what you think about the writing style. As much as I was tempted to say that the writing style was brought by some romanticism attempt of sorts, I should say that it was... that it was a weakness derived from me, that I had not adjusted the dialogue according to who speaks it. It had came naturally, I should say. Though, I pretty much liked the result myself, and so I kept it. I understand the importance of making the use of language simpler, and should apply it next time, if the need for it arises, which I am absolutely certain is inev--I should probably stop.

The unnamed student's speech, to answer your question, wasn't exactly designed, to use your words, to drive home a point. Rather, he served to pose a sort of compromise between the teacher's and the couple's ideas, if that worked at all.

I also see your suggestion in language and grammar. As English wasn't really my primary language, I mostly use it intuitively. Though, of course, that isn't to say that I am excused of grammatical errors. I might need to take special attention on the tenses and the tones, as you have so kindly suggested.

I was very much thrilled at receiving a review, and I appreciate it very much!

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Points: 389
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Wed Jan 10, 2024 8:15 pm
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silkrat wrote a review...

Hello! I'm Silk and I will be reviewing you today. As per usual, You know your work better than anyone, so If you feel like the things I offer up today are not relevant to the message you are trying to convey, or do not help your writing, feel free to disregard! With that out of the way, let's get started:

This short story is, on the surface, a satire piece about a devout couple at odds with each other and their instructor over a class project. The highly formal writing style and absurd characters works well to reinforce the comedic aspects, but does not take away from the reader's reflections on the idea of "Mutual Slavery" proposed. The overall writing felt inspired by romantic period authors, but did not necessarily stick to one era in terms of writing style. At some points I felt like I was reading something similar to Arthur Conan Doyle, other parts felt more Shakespearean. I don't have a lot of experience with the older classics, so I wont comment on that aspect any further. The archaic style did make make it difficult to parse what exactly was being said, and difficult to recognize if words were actually being used correctly by virtue of so many being thrown at the reader in such an extravagant style of writing.

This piece could do with a going over by an editor, there are some spelling mistakes and grammatical errors throughout. Some of the adjectives used felt fancy for the sake of sounding fancy, and if that was the intention then it works. Overall, there is not a long wrong with this piece. A fun suggestion I'd like to make, that you can feel free to disregard because it is a little off topic, is naming Nico and Clara something that is anagram-ed, mirrored, or something of the sort, I think it would be a fun little detail to enhance their complete interdependence.

This work is very interesting. The scene where Clara was being shaken by the instructor and is broken away by Nico is quite nice. The monologue in the scene about freedom accompanied with Clara physically breaking free was super effective!! That was my favorite part of the entire work.The absurdity and extremes of each character presented is done very nicely, I did not think there was an instance where they were "too much." The super formal way the couple speak to each other was immediately amusing, and I think that this piece overall just works really well in this style of writing. If it were written in a less formal way, it would not be as funny and would lose a lot of charm.

This is a well crafted piece of writing, but could use a round of editing to catch some spelling mistakes. It was pretty funny, and kept em engaged throughout. Despite the satiric presentation, this work did make me reflect on the health vs happiness of the relationship Clara and Nico are in. Well done.

Thanks for sharing your writing!

VKTOR says...

Hi, Silk! Thank you for your review!

I didn't really expect it to be funny more than it was absurd, but I liked the sentiment, and I could certainly looked at it by that angle now.
I wasn't entirely sure, though, about the use of language, whether, as you have said, they are being used correctly. I think I'll be taking extra attention on that from now. The whole archaic style really just so happened, and I felt it was good, and I kept it.
The names Clara and Nico were really just names I used for the sake of naming them, so I really liked the idea that you proposed. I'll try to do it next time, when I needed to.

Again, thank you for reviewing my work, and I really appreciate it!

You'd better wise up, Pony... you get tough like me and you don't get hurt. You look out for yourself and nothing can touch you, man.
— Dallas Winston, The Outsiders