The Commandant is a man who has earned high honors in his society. Well respected for his accomplishments as a soldier and commander, he has no impulse toward conventional material and social ambitions. What does awaken within him and propel him is a desire to establish a new type of society in which relations between people would be free of the corruption and exploitation of the world of Lime Stone. He would free himself, and his new community, of the oppressive authority of his homeland. With all of his fortitude, however, he has problems with the woman in his life. His mistress becomes a marriage-of-convenience wife, the epitome of all that from which he wants to break loose. Her husband, the Lord Treasurer of the House of Trade and Justice, the real ruler of the realm, is an evil man whose oppressive authority feeds on and infests the Kingdom of Lime Stone.
For several years, the Commandant has failed to achieve a relationship of mutual respect with the Lady who loves him and who is eager to bind together their lives. Astutely, she accuses him of having another mistress: Her rival is the sea, with its appeal of challenging venture; it is his work which pulls him from her presence for long periods of time. She challenges his conception of his “work.” She terms his military prowess “a butcher’s skill” and confronts him: “You call it work. You call your butchery work?” That is not her last word: “Whatever you are,” she nevertheless says, “I love you. It is you I love.” He will not be able to say this in a like fashion about her. He has chosen her as his mate in the new-world community, but he falters when, without benefit of her explanation, he hears the report of her scandalous behavior with Boatswain. Having been a conqueror and dispossessor of new-world populations, the Commandant is on the verge of setting up a community in which women would enjoy genuine respect. His Lady has dramatized the perverse status of women in Lime Stone by actually acting the whore with Boatswain. In speaking with Steward’s Wife and Surgeon’s Wife of her complicated and anguished behavior, the Lady says of men and husbands of the Kingdom, “their whoredom is also the whoredom of the House of Trade and Justice. It is the national principle of the continent of Lime Stone. What safer consolation or protection can a citizen have than to know that his private vice is the nation’s religion?” The Commandant, whom an observer calls “a man of dangerous pride,” is ignorant of the depth of her action. He is reduced to helplessness by his deflated sense of himself; mutiny oversweeps the Reconnaissance, and his enterprise fades. Lost is the opportunity of the...
(The entire section is 1099 words.)