Why didn't Lise bargain for her life?
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That is precisely the question that Isak Dinesen wants the reader to speculate upon during the glade scene in the story "The Ring". However, it will be seen that Lisa did bargain for her life, but in a very peculiar way.
The main characters of the story are a twenty four year old man and a nineteen year old woman who is of higher ranking than her new husband, yet, has fought against every obstacle to be with him.
Lise, who is the young bride, has never known a world other than the rich family where she grew up, and the less privileged station of her husband. However, we see that the story sort of hints at the fact that Lise is as naive as she is ignorant of the real world. She treats everything she does as if she were playing in a doll house. Even the way in which her actions are narrated give the impression that Lise is nothing but a young girl who exists in a dreamworld of her own.
Yet, we also witness in Lise a hidden fascination with cruelty and horror. She listens with thrill the story by Mathias of how the wolf would tear up sheep, and how a certain thief operates in mysterious ways. Her silent gusto for the situation makes the reader wonder: Is she tasting for the first time the "spoils" of mischief? Is Lise, really, a damsel in distress rescued by her fantasy prince? Or is there a darker side of Lise?
When she finally meets up by accident with the thief, we encounter her looking straight into the eyes of a rogue, wild, primal man who plays with her nerves by showing her the point of his knife, and then moving it away. In awe, we see how the first thing Lise is willing to give up to save her life is her ring. Either way, when the ring and her handkerchief fell from her hands, the man kicked the ring out of sight and returned her handkerchief in what seems to be a symbol of a form of sexual conquest.
He bent down and picked up her handkerchief. All the time gazing at her, he again drew his knife and wrapped the tiny bit of cambric round the blade. This was difficult for him to do because his left arm was broken. While he did it his face under the dirt and suntan slowly grew whiter till it was almost phosphorescent. Fumbling with both hands, he once more stuck the knife into the sheath. Either the sheath was too big and had never fitted the knife, or the blade was much worn—it went in. For two or three more seconds his gaze rested on her face; then he lifted his own face a little, the strange radiance still upon it, and closed his eyes.
Therefore, we can conclude that Lise bargained for her life in a most peculiar way: By giving up the one thing she had been supposedly hoping to get her entire life- her wedding ring. This is more like a metaphor for an indiscretion than an casual encounter with a thief in the woods. It also is a reflection of a woman who brushes paths with a side of her she is yet to know, and may regret never facing.
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