Yellow Pink Roses in a Glass Vase, Henri Fantin-Latour
Mathias Lauridsen photographed by Ethan James Green for VMAN.
I’ve sat on this for three days and I feel no closer to answering this question.
Because on the one hand, I have a very simple interpretation. As we see throughout DT, Ronan’s concerned about Adam Parrish. He knows there are “fracture lines” all over his face, because he knows what it’s like, to be falling apart but still somehow breathing. We also know that Adam is working with magic he should probably avoid, and that while it flatters his ambition, it’s exacerbating the problem. Ergo, Ronan would like to help Adam, but Adam may be too far gone (“When Ronan lifted his eyes, he saw that the mask had been all that was left of his face. When he’d pulled it from Adam, he’d revealed muscle and bone, teeth and eyeball”).
On the other hand, there’s an insane amount to unpack here, and I’m not even sure if it can all be yet. It’s a scene I can imagine being built upon with time, because at the heart of it is really Ronan’s issues: his self-loathing, his self-harm, his crippling fears about himself.
Pull out these threads:
- The mask was his father’s.
- He pressed his greasy hands to the mask. He didn’t ask permission, but Ronan didn’t stop him.
- “I’ll put it back on.” Please work.
And we can start at least. In particular, if we consider them while remembering the later scene, at the Barns:
Adam was taking a wooden mask from a hook on the wall. It was carved of a smooth, dark wood and looked like a cheap tourist souvenir. The eye holes were round and surprised, the mouth parted in an easy smile big enough for lots of teeth. Ronan hurled himself through the air.
The mask clattered to the floor. Adam, startled, stared at where Ronan’s hand gripped his wrist. Ronan could feel his own heart pounding and, in Adam’s wrist, Adam’s.
At once, he released him and fell back. He snatched up the mask instead. He hung it back on the wall, but his pulse didn’t calm. He didn’t look at Adam.
“Don’t,” he said. But he didn’t know what he was telling Adam not to do. It was possible that his father’s version of the mask was entirely harmless. It was possible that it only became deadly in Ronan’s head.
Suddenly, he couldn’t stand it, any of it, his father’s dreams, his childhood home, his own skin.
"It was possible that his father’s version of the mask was entirely harmless. It was possible that it only became deadly in Ronan’s head." With that, I think it’s easy to see one of Ronan’s messiest and darkest insecurities: He fears he is inherently destruction. To a certain extent, this is actually Niall’s own encouragement, with his subtle shaping of Ronan as a blade. I’m not sure though of the extent to which Ronan is aware of it. You see this tension build up for a bit, actually, as Ronan goes through the house. It’s filled with useless things, but also harmless things. No murderous bird beasts or claws or teeth. It amplifies this sense that he is the problem—that he was given this gift, but because he’s Ronan, he fucks it up.
Similarly, Ronan can see what Adam’s going through. Unlike the others, he can even vaguely hope to understand. They have different issues, but they do have them, which is more than Blue or Gansey can say. He’s Ronan though. Again, anything he can do will lead to ruin. The problem is Adam’s own making, but that doesn’t mean Ronan can’t make it infinitely worse simply by existing. Particularly since Ronan’s desire to help is not totally friendly. See “He didn’t ask permission, but Ronan didn’t stop him.” Adam holds a particular place for Ronan, one that at this point in the series, he’s still unwilling to name. Unfortunately, this mean there’s just another way Ronan could blow this all up—push too far or be too open, and Adam can find out and Adam can reject him and he loses everything, even the vague and strange friendship that they have now.
Considering all of this, it’ll be fascinating to see next book. Ronan has some major breakthroughs in DT. He is able to constructively solve his problems, not only independently, but well. He also, however, throws Matthew’s life into danger and watches his dark half blow himself to bits (and mental health was not built in a day). I do think we’re going to see a Ronan more willing to try, but I’d expect to see these issues crop up again too.
Just another primitive Ronan/Adam analysis under the cut
Ronan Lynch has ruined me
Leonid Sobinov as Lensky in the opera Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Bolshoi Theater, Russia — January 13th,1900
When you walk through a forest that has not been tamed and interfered with by man, you will see not only abundant life all around you, but you will also encounter fallen trees and decaying trunks, rotting leaves and decomposing matter at every step. Wherever you look, you will find death as well as life.
Upon closer scrutiny, however, you will discover that the decomposing tree trunk and rotting leaves not only give birth to new life, but are full of life themselves. Microorganisms are at work. Molecules are rearranging themselves. So death isn’t to be found anywhere. There is only the metamorphosis of life forms. What can you learn from this?
Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal."