Study Guide

The Ear, the Eye, the Arm Fear

By Nancy Farmer

Fear

Kuda, said the Praise Singer, spoke as clearly as a child twice his age. Nor did he have childish fears. Kuda was brave, a little elephant whose tusks were itching for battle, like the great General himself. Kuda scowled fearsomely, as though enemies were present right in the room. (1.57)

Right away, we're told that having no fears is a good thing. It's something that Kuda is praised for because it's unusual in a kid his age, and Tendai is jealous of his younger brother's bravery. He wishes he didn't think so much.

Few people were allowed into the library. Perhaps, Tendai realized now, because it was one of the only places Father felt safe. It was at the very center of the house. (2.21)

We know we're supposed to think of the General as a big, tough military dude who doesn't scare easily—and we do—but then there's this description of the library, and we realize that he's afraid of stuff, too. It might be real life enemies that make him shiver, but it freaks him out all the same.

The children stood respectfully to one side as the visitors walked down the trail. Tendai was struck by their good manners. In Mazoe, a stranger would have been greeted with suspicion, if not fear. (14.34)

Tendai likes the idea of not automatically being afraid of strangers, though the book generally shows us good reason why we should be afraid of new people. After all, it's random people who kidnap Tendai, Rita, and Kuda.

He crouched with the neck of the dashiki pulled up over his head and screamed as the elevator shot up. It was a little scream, as screams go, but it felt like a blow to Arm. He had forgotten he was vulnerable to Eye's fear. (20.36)

We get to see the inner-workings of the relationship between the detectives here. Not only can Arm read people's minds, he also picks up on their emotions. Too bad for him that fear is one of those emotions. He becomes scared because Eye is, not because he has anything to fear himself.

The detectives ran as fast as they could. They slipped and slid on rocks and banged into trees. Only fear kept them ahead of the villagers. (26.1)

Even though fear is a bad thing a lot of the time, it can also be something positive. It's fear that puts a spring in the detectives' step, and they make a bolt for it simply because they are afraid of what will happen if they get caught. Let's hear it for fear (for once).

Sekai started screaming. Arm remembered too late how closely his mind was linked with hers. She must have seen the ground drop out from under his feet as the elevator shot up like a rocket. He tried to shift his thoughts, but Sekai's terror was too great. Her fear trapped him. (34.49)

Since Sekai and Arm's minds are linked, she gets upset when something bothers him. Of course stuff that adults deal with all the time is super scary for kids—that's why Arm has to distance himself from little Sekai. Notice how it's not something specific that scares Sekai, just regular old stuff that adults see and deal with day to day.

Eye fainted again when they went up in the elevator. Arm felt queasy from his friend's fear. He and Ear dragged their comrade to a couch outside the Starlight Room. Down the hall they saw an immense, nail-studded door and five villainous-looking guards with weapons. (35.32)

Fear of heights is pretty common, but that doesn't make it any less scary. Eye can see every specific detail, so being way up high is terrifying for him. His fear is actually disabling. He can't function because he's too scared to look around while in the glass elevator. And you thought you were afraid of heights…

The men were brutish, but the spirits that flitted about them were far worse. They were bloated with cruel animal sacrifices. Rage and cringing fear had created these monsters. All the noble aspects of the sacrificial animals had gone, with their deaths, into Mwari's country. Only the evil was left, like a twisted natural force. (37.27)

Okay, we're officially afraid. We hate the idea of rage and fear somehow creating a monster—it seems incredibly threatening. The way the Mask spirits are described fills us with panic, as though we are there in the room, experiencing them just like Tendai is. Eek.

Before he could despair at this turn of events, something happened inside his chest. The heat spread out from the ndoro a hundred, a thousand times stronger than before. The strength of it frightened him, but it was a clean fear such as one might have before a magnificent force of nature—a volcano, for example. (39.5)

There are different types of fear in the novel. There's the kind that leaves you running for the door (like the detectives at Resthaven) or shutting down (like Eye on the glass elevator). Then there's a more intellectual kind that frightens you when you think about it. That's the kind that Tendai goes through here. He's not panicking, but when he thinks about how powerful the spirits are, he feels a mix of awe, wonder, and fear.

He considered a moment and then thought, I wish for courage. Because with courage, you weren't afraid to look at the truth. You weren't afraid to ask questions or do the right thing. (40.46)

In the end, Tendai wants nothing more than courage. Perhaps that's because he's figured out that it's tough living in the real world—you're often met with scary things that you can't control. We just hope courage helps him overcome all that.

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