Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 4)
God, this book.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Four
Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can’t move. I’m paralyzed with a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by him.
That is how this chapter begins. This is typical of E.L. James’ writing. This is the kind of shit we’re supposed to get turned on by. Just so you know.
Ana continues to be paralyzed. Christian stares back at her for a little while, then shakes his head and tells her, quote:
“Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I’m not the man for you,” he whispers.
Now, I want to point out that, thus far, Christian hasn’t acted like such a bad guy. Sure, I know I’ll hate him by the end of the book, but so far his main crimes are being a little creepy (occasionally) and being described using flowery adjectives (constantly). He’s been pretty nice to Ana, and despite Ana’s insistence that he is a control freak, he hasn’t really acted like one. Kate’s protectiveness of Ana in the last chapter was nice because I’m sure she’s going to turn out to be right about Christian, but so far most of the bad stuff we have on him is informed attributes. He’s honestly been pretty okay.
But this line just pisses me off. Why ask her on a date if she should “steer clear” of him?
Christian props Ana back up on her feet. Ana has a huge internal freakout over him not kissing her, because apparently she’d “made it pretty damned obvious” that she wanted to be kissed. Uh, no, all you did was stare at him and do nothing. Couldn’t you kiss him yourself if you wanted kissing to happen so badly? Oh, that’s right, I forgot: you were paralyzed.
Ana misinterprets this entire encounter as “never mind, he actually doesn’t like me”. What? Can we have a main character who is less of an idiot? Her narration makes it perfectly clear that he did want to kiss her, he just held off on doing so, so why can’t Ana read between the lines of her own damn narration to figure that out?
Ana thanks Christian for the tea and for doing the shoot. Christian wishes her good luck on her exams, but does so in the most “I am in anguish over my decision to not kiss you” way possible. Ana acts all insulted and flounces off. Then she goes and has a cry.
For a few paragraphs, Ana goes on about how she’s never been romantically rejected. She explains that she never put herself out there because she has too many faults. What are these faults, you ask? Well, Ana is “too pale”, “too skinny”, “too scruffy”, and “uncoordinated”.
Let me go through those one at a time.
“Too pale” is not a fault. I say this as someone who is very pale-skinned, and with dark hair and eyes to make my paleness even more apparent. Sometimes I get teased in the summer for not being tan (I am physically incapable of getting a tan, no matter how long I stay out in the sun; the only thing I get in the summer is more freckles), but that is the only time when my skin tone is even commented upon. Also let me emphasize again that I am really really pale and it is literally not an issue.
“Too skinny” is a legitimate problem if you’re actually underweight — maybe due to an eating disorder or illness or something — but if you’re just on the skinny side of average (which I’m betting Ana is), again, that’s not a problem. Have you forgotten how obsessed our culture is with thinness? I’ve been on the receiving end of a few “omg you’re too skinny” comments in middle school, but in middle school I was really kind of scrawny, and also it was middle school. Now that I’m in high school and less scrawny the only comments I get on my weight are positive ones. Really, unless you’re grossly underweight being skinny is not a problem at all, and is in fact seen by our culture as a really good and desirable thing.
If you’re so worried about being “too scruffy”, Ana, then maybe you should take better care of your appearance. This is such an easily fixable “flaw” that I’m not going to bother spending more than two sentences on it.
As for “uncoordinated”, I never heard of lack of coordination stopping someone from getting a date. Lack of coordination is more of a factor in screwing up dates than in not getting them to begin with.
tl;dr None of these are faults and the author is trying to keep Ana from sounding like a Sue by making her feel insecure about her own positive or neutral traits. Ana’s got legitimate negative traits, too — like her insecurity — but I bet the book is never going to officially acknowledge them.
Ana finally pulls herself together and heads home. As soon as she walks through the door, Kate notices that she’s been crying and asks — in a very aggressive fashion, mind you — what Christian did to Ana. Ana explains that he didn’t do anything, she just narrowly escaped being hit while crossing the street. Kate drops the aggression and switches to sympathy, asking if the coffee date was alright. Ana says it was fine but she won’t be seeing him again. Kate wonders why not, because even though Kate thinks Christian is bad for Ana she still seems to want Ana to be with Christian. Did the author take any time to think about the actual motivations of her characters?
There is a totally unnecessary reference to Greek mythology in this chapter. Ana imagines herself as Icarus flying too close to the sun, with the sun in this metaphor being Christian Grey. It is incredibly clunky and poorly done and I doubt it will be referred to again.
Ana studies for a while, then goes to bed. She ponders over what Christian meant by “I don’t do the girlfriend thing”. She thinks maybe he’s saving himself for marriage. This makes no sense, because how is he going to get married if he never dates? Just because you’re dating someone doesn’t mean you have to sleep with them. Gosh, Ana.
Ana has more Christian-related dreams that night: “gray eyes, leafy patterns in milk, and I’m running through dark places with eerie strip lighting, and I don’t know if I’m running toward something or away from it… it’s just not clear”. In related news, the author continues to suck at symbolism, and if “leafy patterns in milk” is a reference to Ana’s tea, it’s a very bad one because she used a teabag and did not take milk in her tea.
The book skips ahead to Friday. Ana and Kate take their finals. Afterwards, they head home to get changed (they’re going out to celebrate at a bar). A package has arrived for Ana. There’s no return address or sender’s name, so she assumes it’s from her mom or stepdad because… I don’t know why, do they normally not write their address on things? She opens the box and of course it’s from Christian Grey. He’s sent her three volumes of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and a card with a quote from Tess on it. The quote is:
Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me?
Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks…
For full effect, picture that in 24-point pseudo-calligraphic type, because that’s how it is in the book. It is incredibly ugly and looks nothing like anyone’s actual handwriting, which is what it’s supposed to look like because of course Grey wrote that on the card.
Ana opens one of the books and realizes it’s a first edition. This tips her and Kate off as to the sender, because no one else they know of could afford such a thing. Also, no one else would be enough of a douchebag to warn someone off with a gift costing multiple thousands of dollars. This makes so little sense that I’m going to wait till the end of the post to complain about it some more. Moving on.
Ana decides she’ll send the books back to Christian with a quote from some other part of the book (Kate suggests “the bit where Angel Clare says fuck off”) and packs them back in the box. Kate and Ana have a toast to exams being over and head off to the bar.
At the bar, they’re joined by José, who isn’t graduating that year but just wanted to party. Hang on — if he’s a junior and Ana’s a senior, how did Ana meet him on her first day of college like she said she did? Author, are you paying any attention to this stuff? José asks Ana what she’ll do after graduation. Ana explains that Kate’s parents bought Kate a condo in Seattle, so they’ll be moving up there. Jose’s comment on this is “Dios mio, how the other half live.” Bad author. No. Stop.
Everyone is getting very drunk, especially Ana. I have to give the author credit, because drunk!Ana is actually pretty amusing. Kate, who has “the constitution of an ox”, tells Ana to get her another drink, so Ana staggers towards the bar before deciding she should probably go to the restroom as long as she’s on her feet. There’s a line, so she pulls out her cell phone for something to do while she waits. Ana sees Christian’s number in her call history and decides to give him a ring, maybe to ask about the books he sent.
Christian picks up the phone, and Ana asks him why he sent the books. He quickly figures out she’s been drinking and asks her where she is. She tells him she’s in a bar, and when he asks again specifies that it’s a bar in Portland. Thanks, that’s so helpful. Christian asks how she’s getting home. She tells him she’ll find a way. Now, this really should be the end of the conversation, because she’s an adult and should be able to handle the situation on her own, but of course it’s not the end of the conversation because naturally Christian has to swoop in and be a hero or something like that. He keeps asking her where she is, she keeps asking about the books, neither of them get answers, Ana hangs up. She feels pleased with herself for a second before realizing that he didn’t tell her about the books, but she’s drunk and can’t hold onto that thought for very long.
I want to take a minute to emphasize again that Ana is pretty entertaining when drunk. Her narration loses all the whininess, pretentious references to literature, and random talk of her “subconscious” that made it so awful. Ana also stops being painfully shy while drunk, actually seems to gain a sense of humor (even if it’s a completely infantile one), and acts self-satisfied with her own stupid drunkenness, which definitely beats her being insecure about her stunning gorgeousness. Instead of thinking everything Christian does is sexy, she thinks that everything Christian does is fucking hilarious. When drunk she also has an attention span of about two seconds, which is kind of amusing on its own. Hell, so far I’m actually enjoying this scene.
Anyway, onward. Christian calls Ana back while she’s in the bathroom. He says “I’m coming to get you,” then hangs up. How does he know where she is? Ana freaks out momentarily, then remembers that she didn’t tell him her location and it’s a long drive from Seattle to Portland anyway.
Ana promptly forgets all about Christian and goes to get the beer for Kate. (Somehow she remembers this even though she’s forgotten about everything else that’s happened in this scene. I don’t know.) After drinking a little more, Ana begins to feel nauseous and tells her friends she’s going to step outside for some fresh air. Outside, she starts to realize exactly how drunk she is; she’s seeing double and feels like she’s about to be sick.
José joins Ana outside and asks her if she’s alright. She tells him she’s had too much to drink, and he says he has too. He offers her a hand (for what?) but when she refuses he wraps his arms around her anyway and tries to kiss her. Ana protests, tries to push him away, but he ignores her and starts kissing the side of her face. I know he’s really drunk, but still — is he so drunk he hasn’t noticed that she obviously wants him to stop, or is he just being a complete shithead?
Before José can actually kiss Ana on the lips, Christian shows up. José, startled, lets go of Ana, who promptly vomits all over the ground. Christian helps her over to a flowerbed and holds her hair back while she throws up again a few more times. José watches this for a bit and then slinks off.
Ana’s narration stops being amusingly drunken. I don’t know if this is because a non-amusing thing just happened, or because the alcohol is wearing off, or because Christian is there, but I suspect it’s because of Christian. Ana is really embarrassed to have just thrown up in front of Christian, and apologizes to him for it and the phone call. He asks her if she’s been drunk before. She hasn’t.
Ana begins to feel very dizzy and faint. Christian holds her so she won’t fall and tells her he’ll take her home. I still don’t know how he found her, or how he got there so quickly. (I guess he wasn’t in Seattle? Maybe he was still at the hotel? I don’t know. We need answers.) Ana says she needs to tell Kate that Christian is giving her a ride. Christian says his brother can tell Kate, because it turns out Kate and Elliot are talking right now.
Christian explains why and how he and his brother are there. Christian is still staying at the Heathman. His brother was there with him when Ana called. Christian found Ana by tracking her cell phone.
Tracking her cell phone.
Ana thinks that this sounds like illegal stalker behavior, which it is, but she doesn’t mind because it’s Christian. Well, I fucking mind. Tracking someone’s cell phone is illegal, it’s an invasion of privacy, and the casual way in which he did this suggests that this won’t be a one-off thing. He is almost certainly going to pull something like this again, and it will almost certainly be treated like it’s excusable behavior, even though it is definitely not. If Ana’s life was in danger, maybe. If she’s gotten drunk with some friends, no.
Also, the way Ana lets Christian off the hook so easily annoys me. Sure, right now she’s really drunk, but I doubt she’s going to get angry with him later. He’s hot, so he gets a free pass on any bad behavior. The problem is, that’s how Ana sees it, but now how I see it, and the opinion of one’s readers is fucking important.
I’ll rage more about this later. Moving on.
Ana tells Christian again that she has to talk to Kate, otherwise Kate will worry. I don’t know, none of your friends seemed too worried about you being drunk out of your mind when you’ve never gotten drunk before, so I don’t know why getting a ride home from Christian would be so much more worrying. Christian is annoyed that Ana wants to tell Kate she’s getting a ride home. Because…? There doesn’t seem to be a reason. Okay, so now Christian is legitimately being a control freak, but Ana doesn’t seem to think this is control-freaky behavior, even though she thinks practically everything he does that isn’t overly controlling is control-freaky.
Book, you suck.
Ana goes back into the bar with Christian. She finds their table, but Kate’s not there. Neither is José. In fact, no one is there except for Levi, the photographer for the student paper. He tells Ana that Kate is on the dance floor. Ana finds Christian and suddenly gets turned on because… he smells nice? I don’t know, read it yourself:
I touch Christian’s arm and lean up and shout in his ear, brushing his hair with my nose, smelling his clean, fresh smell. Oh my. All those forbidden, unfamiliar feelings that I have tried to deny surface and run amok through my drained body. I flush, and somewhere deep, deep down my muscles clench deliciously.
He smells clean, you say? How sexy! The bare minimum in personal grooming! Also, Ana, stop referring to your lady bits as “somewhere deep, deep down”. It’s not the fucking Underland. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that that nice feeling originates from between your legs, you idiot.
Christian gets called a control freak by the narration again. This time it’s because he… ordered Ana a glass of water. And was served it immediately. How long is it supposed to take to give someone a glass of water? If I had a hard copy of this book instead of a PDF, I would throw it against the wall. Actually, I’m kind of tempted to just put the PDF on a flash drive and throw that against the wall, but I don’t want to risk breaking the flash drive.
After Ana drinks the water, Christian leads her onto the dance floor. Ana freaks out because she can’t dance and — wait, why are they dancing? They’re supposed to be finding Kate, then getting out of there because Ana can barely stand on her own two feet. But no, they just start dancing. Ana speculates that she’s able to keep up because she’s drunk. I doubt that is how that works.
They spot Kate, who is flirting aggressively with Christian’s brother Elliot. Ana is shocked by this for some reason. It’s not that she’s concerned that Kate might not be thinking clearly because she’s had a lot to drink, so I guess it’s because she thinks Kate is being awfully slutty or something. God, this book. Christian says something to Elliot (who was probably Jasper in the original, because he’s tall with curly blond hair). Kate spots Ana and just grins and waves. After all that, Ana doesn’t even tell Kate about going home with Christian, because Christian pulls her off the dance floor. Sure, he probably told Elliot what was going on, but still — this is legitimate control freak behavior, and it isn’t even commented on. DAMMIT, BOOK.
Ana thinks vaguely about finding Kate and giving her “the safe sex lecture”. The way she says it implies that this is something she’s done before. Why is the clueless virgin the one giving lectures on the importance of using protection? Ana’s head begins to swim, the world goes fuzzy, and she passes out in Christian’s arms.
The chapter ends there. Thank god.
Holy Cow! Alert:
Holy cow – he’s leading me onto the dance floor.
Bonus: two “Holy shit!”s, two “Holy crap!”s, one “Holy fuck!” and — wait for it — one “Holy Moses!”
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert:
- [Ana is sad because Christian didn’t kiss her] What would Christian Grey want with you? My subconscious mocks me.
- [Ana is still sad because Christian didn’t kiss her] Stop! Stop Now! – My subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration.
- [Ana wonders if Christian is saving himself for marriage] Well not for you, my sleepy subconscious has a final swipe at me before unleashing itself on my dreams.
- [Ana wonders if it’s legal for Christian to track her phone] Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind.
- [Ana is embarrassed that Christian saw her drunk] Oh Ana… are you ever going to live this down? My subconscious is figuratively tutting and glaring at me over her half moon specs.
There’s also a special appearance by Ana’s “psyche”, which screams NO! when Christian doesn’t kiss her.
Great Prose Alert:
- Oh no… not the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition. I shake my head at her in a back-off now Kavanagh way – but I might as well be dealing with a blind, deaf mute.
- Yes, I manage to sound matter of fact.
- Inside I’m doing graceful cartwheels around my head, knowing full well that’s the only place I can do graceful cartwheels.
- I recognize the quote from Tess. I am stunned by the irony as I’ve just spent three hours writing about the novels of Thomas Hardy in my final examination. [Okay, normally I prefer to post these without comment, but… THAT IS NOT WHAT IRONY IS, YOU FUCKING MORON.]
- Okay… so his gray eyes are still haunting my dreams, and I know it will take an eternity to expunge the feel of his arms around me and his wonderful fragrance from my brain.
- “I’m not the strange one, you are,” I accuse. There – that told him, my courage fuelled by alcohol.
- His tone is so, so dictatorial, his usual control freak. I imagine him as an old time movie director wearing jodhpurs, holding an old fashioned megaphone and a riding crop. The image makes me laugh out loud.
- In my groggy frame of mind, he looks yummy.
In the back of my mind, my mother’s often-recited warning comes to me: Never trust a man who can dance.
Thoughts So Far:
Ugh. Seriously, ugh. This chapter started out bad, went through a brief period of being okay, then took a nosedive into Completely Fucking Awful territory.
First of all, Christian’s not kissing Ana at the beginning. I’ve already said that this bothers me because he asked her out then told her she should stay away, and that it bothers me because Ana could have just kissed him herself, but I want to go into that last point a little more. It’s the twenty-first century, Ana, you’re allowed to take some initiative here. Worse, the book doesn’t explain that Ana is too shy to kiss him herself or something like that — which would make sense, even if it’s not exactly female role-model behavior — it just seems to assume that of course Christian has to make the first move because he’s the man. Dammit, book.
Now, on to Christian’s gift to Ana. What the fuck? Who sends someone an incredibly expensive gift to tell them to stay away from you? I can’t decide if this is manipulative or just fucking stupid. If you give someone a present that expensive, especially if you’re not close with them, they feel indebted to you. Best-case scenario, Ana sends the gift back and Grey doesn’t bother her further about it; worst-case scenario, Ana feels like she has to pay Christian back in some way, and he sets the terms for how she’ll do that. My money is on the latter.
Christian’s decision to pick Ana up from the bar is also irritating. Like I said, she’s an adult. She is out drinking with her adult friends. It ended up working out for the best, because Ana’s friends apparently could not care less what she does and José forced himself on her, but how was Christian supposed to know that? He didn’t. He was just being a controlling dick. Ana and her friends are, like I said before, adults, and since they went out with the intention of getting drunk, they should have planned a way to get home. We don’t know if they did or not, and they probably didn’t because Ana and her friends are idiots, but, again, Christian had no way of knowing that.
Back to the cell phone thing. This is creepy, illegal, stalker behavior, and, like I said, it establishes that Christian has no qualms about engaging in creepy, illegal, stalker behavior. Yet we’re supposed to like this character? What on earth is so great about him that it counterbalances this? Answer: nothing. Moving on.
Ana was the only character I found even slightly bearable this chapter, and that was just in contrast to how unbearable everyone else was (and how unbearable Ana usually is). And also because she was drunk for half of it.