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EoA: Meet the Protagonists

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 14-15 (Chapter Three)

We finally get a look at the protagonist, Joshua Jordan, but indirectly by means of his wife and daughter, who are Abigail and Deborah Jordan, respectively.

Now, while I’m not much chop on the exact significance of the North Korean names chosen for chapter two, it’s worth examining the choices made here for Joshua’s wife and daughter. Taking his daughter first, Deborah, we find that it is derived from the Bible, being ultimately related to the Hebrew Dvora/Dabora. So again, the theme of Biblicality runs through the naming of the “good guys” – it’s a shout-out by LaHaye and Parshall that Joshua and his family are the ones to root for.

Seems like this book might be aimed at the same kind of audience as Left Behind; them that got the product are encouraged to feel good about having it. We’ll see if appeals to male vanity and RTC* vanity are as bad as in the Left Behind and Babylon Rising books.

Taking up the choice of “Abigail” for Joshua’s wife – well, sure enough, it is also Biblically derived, originating from Avigayil/Abigayil. Mark one more down for the good guy column.

It beats picking names out of 1950s-era baby-name books or porno movies, though.

So, what are these two ladies doing in the chapter?

“There was one unusual thing about that night for Abigail Jordan. At long last she and her nineteen-year-old daughter, Deborah, had managed to book tickets for an opera at the Met. Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Abigail tried to arm-twist her husband, Joshua, into going, but she had to laugh at the improbability of that.”

So. We don’t know Abigail’s age (even Irene gets an age, of forty), but we do know Deborah’s. How close her story will parallel Chloe’s of Left Behind, we shall see.

So where’s Joshua?

“Besides, Joshua was scheduled to fly back to New York from a meeting with some military brass in Washington. He was taking the shuttle to JFK and would then, in his private helicopter, go directly to his Manhattan office to do some late-night work with his research and development team.”

Hard-working guy. I’m reminded of Walter Groteschele, who lived in New York and regularly flew to Washington, DC for conferences in Fail-Safe. At least Groteschele had either a standard government jet ferry him around, or he flew commercial.

Joshua Jordan, however, gets a private helicopter. This is evocative of wheeling-dealing corporate CEOs who have these kinds of luxuries to let them escape the traffic jams that plague the common people who have to use cars.

I may be reading too much into this, but it seems like LaHaye and Parshall are falling into some of the same patterns as LaHaye and Jenkins: giving their characters charmed and special lifestyles that come with being the favored ones, even if they don’t know that yet.

So what picture can we draw of the Jordan family? Joshua is a highly-placed man with contacts in the US government as well as maintaining a separate private-sector research lab of some kind. Oddly enough, this probably is realistic if he’s a highly-paid consultant, especially given the revolving-door syndrome and the weakening of the Chinese walls that used to separate government and the private sector, especially in areas of military spending.

Abigail is his fortunate wife, and Deborah the stellar daughter. Presumably they don’t work. And I’d guess that Joshua spends a lot of time on the go and not so much at home.

“Still, Abigail had applied her powers of persuasion. Clever arguments came easy for her. She’d been trained as a lawyer. ‘Look, Josh,’ she’d said to him on her cell phone earlier, ‘I know you don’t like the opera, but Madame Butterfly is actually a story about a lieutenant in the Navy who has this conflict–‘ Her husband chuckled and cut her off. He even managed to say it with a straight face: ‘Navy? You got to be kidding. Abby, honey, even if I didn’t have to work late, let’s remember that I retired from active duty as a colonel in the Air Force. The Air Force. Sitting through an opera about a sailor, hey, that’d be a betrayal to all my flying buddies…’ “

(Ed. note: Bolded words are my emphasis. Italics are in the original text)

So we learn that Joshua used to be a flyboy. And we learn that Abigail was “trained” as a lawyer. So she doesn’t practice law presently – this further reinforces aspects of gender roles that seem to be common to Left Behind and Babylon Rising, which emphasize that the man is the breadwinner and the wife and children are at best, helpers of his success or at worst, mere appendages, present solely as a testament to his power to fit into the accepted cultural construct of the Successful Man.

Another egregious aspect of gender roles come into play here. Let us consider the bolded phrase again. By claiming Abigail has a legal education, LaHaye and Parshall are having us assume she has carefully honed her skills at presenting valid points, making her case – in short, doing things lawyers in courts do to try and convince judges and juries that the facts as presented either support or do not support the plaintiff’s/prosecution’s case on the balance of probabilities (or reasonable doubt, in criminal cases).

Yet Abigail is a woman. And as a woman, just as in Left Behind, she is to be fundamentally secondary to men in apparent intelligence. Just as Rayford Steele can patronizingly lecture Hattie Durham about his religious conversion by waving his Male Hand of Silence at her, just as Buck Williams can have his gleeful one-up on Chloe when she discovers she made an erroneous assumption about his married status, so too can Joshua Jordan patronizingly tell his wife she got a basic fact wrong about his military interests.

Never mind that she’s been married to the man for at least nineteen years, had a legal education, would know that he would only be interested in plays or shows that might appeal to him as an Air Force guy.

Can’t have that. She’s got to heartily make her “clever argument”, and get gently swatted back by her man.

Maybe I’m over-reading this, but given the level of grossly egregious misogyny I’ve been seeing in the other book series produced under LaHaye’s aegis, I can’t help but read that above paragraph not as an innocent mistake by a woman who’s seen maybe far too little of her husband in recent weeks, but as a purposely constructed reinforcement of the “silly woman” who has to be “put in her place” by a man.

And just as, in Left Behind, Hattie Durham is portrayed as a clueless dimbulb who plays a transparently obvious prank involving reporting Rayford for alleged religious harrassment, through which his Manly Brain immediately cuts to the truth, we have this sentence after that paragraph:

“She’d tried not to laugh at his sly comeback, but it was hard.”

So his comeback is “sly”, as opposed to, like normal people might think, patently patronizing. Thus, Abigail is the legal airhead who can’t remember her hubby likes the Air Force, and her function is to giggle and laugh at anything he says, because Manly Comebacks are Funny.

More on Deborah. She’s at West Point.

“A cadet at West Point, Deborah was heading for a career in the military. Yet Abigail was delighted that she still loved girly things. A good love story, even in Italian, would be right up their alley.”

Girly things. God. What on Earth is this?

If I wasn’t convinced that Edge of Apocalypse is also aimed at RTCs, this would probably about cement that conviction. The sexually dimorphic gender roles just keep getting hammered at again and again on this one page.

Surprise! We get some physical appearances! LaHaye and Jenkins were pretty bad about not doing this.

“[Deborah] had Joshua’s dark, penetrating eyes and a softer, pretty version of his square-jawed face. Like her mother, Deborah was tall, thin, and athletic.”

So we get mother, father and daughter’s physical traits all in one go. Impressive, that.

I’m going to stop here as the paragraphs just after this segue into the more action-oriented material and I’ll want to do a rather brief presentation of that and move into chapter four.


* RTC = “Real True Christian”, an acronym devised by Fred Clark to describe those among evangelical and fundamentalist sects who feel themselves to be the “worthy Christians” by reason of self-perceived righteousness.

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10 thoughts on “EoA: Meet the Protagonists

  1. Abigail (“her father’s joy”) was used for many years as a generic term for a waiting-woman or servant, which has unfortunate associations given the RTC gender role template. (Deborah means “bee”.)

    Well, obviously, if you don’t have your own private helicopter, you just aren’t a good enough Christian! Give more money to your pastor.

    I think that the main reason for the usual lack of physical description is that these characters are meant to be identification figures for the readers. Even this description of Joshua could apply to an awful lot of people.

    (Perhaps “she still loved girly things” is meant to be code for “she isn’t one of them ball-busting lesbians even though she’s going for the military”. Which betrays that the authors haven’t (knowingly) met very many lesbians. Well, there’s a surprise.)

    • Re: the girly things line…

      That would seem to be the coded inference. Kind of like Verna Zee and her “sensible shoes” indicating that she’s a (horrors!) feminist at least, if not an out and out lesbian (which she is, in fact).

      It’s kind of annoying when they try to fly this kind of stuff past the radar to avoid being obviously accused of being misogynistic and homophobic.

  2. Wow, Abigail Jordan sure has shades of Laura Murphy, doesn’t she? A highly-educated woman who has voluntarily given up a career, or taken a more “feminine,” “helping” career, while her husband’s career is given the highest priority.

    And the implication is not even that she is doing it to be there for her kid (since Deborah is now away from home), but just so that the light will never shine on anyone except The Man.

    And the thing is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to stay home, or to change careers, or take a job that doesn’t necessarily utilize all of your education. It’s just that patronizing tone of LaHaye’s that creates the problem. Argh.

  3. I read those names backwards, at first. That is, I assumed that Abigail her-father’s-joy was the daughter, and (Judge) Deborah was the mother.

    As I recall, Deborah was the only person in the entire Book of Judges who showed any sense at all. It’s specifically stated that she was called to be a “judge over Israel” in the days before there were kings, exactly because all the men were being incompetent idiots, or worse. (If the Bible is a library, Judges is the horror section.)

    So I wonder what that tells us about young Deborah’s future at West Point, once the bombs begin to fall?

    And why, when a certain type of author wishes to make it clear that his manly-man protagonist is above girly things, why are they always slagging on opera? What did opera ever do to them? (Not that Butterfly is one of my favorites, but still.)

    • Amaryllis, my guess as an un-American outsider is that opera is a shorthand for those effete and sinful sophisticates on the coasts who don’t appreciate the Real America in all its sweat-sodden glory.

  4. And now I’m reminded of the Ogden Nash poem (hey, if I can quote him on Slacktivist, I can quote him here, right? Right?) about a conversation between Mr. Kiplinger and Dr. Kissinger:
    “One dowager,” said Kiplinger,
    “She goes beyond Kiplinjery.
    She dragged me to the opera
    To add Yseult to injury.”

  5. So I wonder what that tells us about young Deborah’s future at West Point, once the bombs begin to fall?

    Completely just a wild guess here, but thinking she doesn’t have a future for long. Wife and daughter are in NYC, father is in DC, bombs headed toward NYC according to earlier post. Guessing wife and daughter get nuked, so JJ has the whole “revenge for killing my family” thing going on.

    I haven’t read ahead, it just really looks like where this is going…

  6. Is it just me or is it weird that Mr. Air Force Only’s daughter is going to West Point and not, say, the Air Force Academy? I know West Point is considered prestigious, but I’d still expect him to prefer she followed in his footsteps in her choice of military branch.

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