Change Not Growth

The subject of this post is speculation on how I think we’re going to see Sookie changing over the next two books – and in particular how she’s going to change in the newest book. There’s a whole heap of information in Dead Reckoning on aging, changing and the quality of a person, and by the end of the book we have turning points.

Some of the complaints – that happen every single book – is that Sookie doesn’t “grow”. I’m not really sure why the emphasis is on “growth” of the character as if it’s not an acceptable thing to just “grow” by changing. When it comes to Sookie, growth seems to be a by-word for “Start telling Eric everything, just relax and start cleaning his house and fucking him”. Frustrations abound that after ten books, Sookie is still seemingly Sookie, and not a puddle for Eric.

Character growth is called that, but it means that the character changes over time. Not that the character slowly morphs into a Mary Sue you can have take a beating, shrug it off and then go make dinner. It’s absurd to believe that a book is unfinished until Sookie can darn Eric’s socks and fight off a fairy hoard all in one day, without raising a sweat and no discernible angst. Those books do exist – but they’re rather crap. But I have a feeling this is what people want when they say that they want her character to “grow”.

Except that people don’t always “grow” into new things. Bad experiences in life cause people to change but not grow. For example, a parent who loses a child – they do not “grow” as a person – they change, become sadder and feel the loss deeply. I dare say if you suggested to this parent that they should learn and make it positive, and grow from it, you might get a sock in the jaw. There’s nothing positive – no silver lining – out of having your child die, and to suggest that there is is absolutely insulting. That causes someone to change – for sure – but it does not cause people to ‘grow’.

Character growth is the same. When bad things happen to a character, it should affect their behaviour. It doesn’t need to be a positive effect, but something needs to give or change. But calling it “character growth” seems to have misled those who take the meaning of the words as indicative of what the character is doing. That they should be a more positive character, and become a better person. Again, sock to the jaw if you tell some parent it’s a personal growth favour to them that their kid died, and it enriched their lives.

Consider how realistic you would think a character is if their child died because they were murdered, and they came out of it saying “Well, I’m really glad that happened, because now I know I can survive the worst and it taught me to open up to others”. If I read a character saying that I would assume one of three things – that the author doesn’t have a fucking clue what it’s like to have children, let alone lose them or that the character has finally gone around mad from the pain of their loss or that the character was suffering from drug-induced psychosis. I wouldn’t think that I was glad they’d learnt and grown through their problem.

So character growth can also be character change. I’m not sure why the logic is that the more beatings Sookie takes, the more trusting she’ll become of Eric. I mean, it’s doable if he beats her personally, but as I’ve discussed before that’s because there’s something severely wrong with the Sookie who gets beatings and rapings at Eric’s hands – it’s not love, it’s not Stockholm Syndrome – it’s Battered Persons Syndrome. Beloved of your typical rape fic – it’s what makes the rape-as-romance work. But in the rest of writing – non rape-fic writing – then beatings don’t mean automatic trust of the one person who sold her off to Dallas to get one of those beatings.

Sookie in Dead Reckoning is thinking about change – and discussing change. Now, change is not limitless. For example, I doubt very much if readers would like Sookie very much if she came to think like a vampire. Sookie who thinks like a vampire, unthinkingly accepting the killing of those who get in her way and protecting herself is driving away from Sigebert wrapping Eric in silver and letting him die. Sookie who actually looked out for herself the way readers exhort her to (but always make a special exception for when Eric’s in the shit) would take quite the beating in reviews.

Moreover, there really wouldn’t be much of Sookie as we’ve come to know her in the books if she changed like that. All the vampires, weres and shifters would be out of her life, and if they persisted in coming back, it’s off to the police and spilling on all the crimes you’ve seen them commit, and then seeing off the rest with a Bennelli and using the FotS as your shield. Claude, Dermot and everyone else ditched out of her house on their arses, and Sookie working her telepathy to steal from people. That’s what a self-protecting vampire would do. Every interaction would be on her terms – as much as she could do it – and it’d all be about being selfish and putting her needs over the needs of others. Once she’s rich, it’s a matter of just hiring as many bodyguards as you can handle, and no more supe issues.

So the Sookie that would “grow” as a character to do what readers want her to – protect herself like Eric apparently wants – wouldn’t be a likeable character at all. All the best beloved vampire Eric POVs have Eric not thinking selfish thoughts – the same kind of stuff he says out loud like:

“Oh, would you have flung yourself in front of me?”
“No,” Eric said simply. “Because it might have hit me in the heart, and I would die.”

All Together Dead, pp. 221-222

In the best beloved EPOV, Eric is thinking about his love for Sookie, right about the time he’s faceplanting and leaving it to Quinn to save the day, or, as it were, save Sookie. And again – the bond makes this selfishness extra special. This is how he shows his love, and the bond makes him protect her. *snorts* Usually it’s made out like Eric hit the floor without being aware that there was an arrow – because he’s clueless and hits the floor at random times for no fucking reason, and Quinn is way faster at reacting than Eric – as is Andre, who flung himself in front of Sophie Anne in between the first and second arrow. Eric in these EPOVs is almost like Bubba – he’s a fucking nonsensical idiot, rather than just a selfish guy who isn’t going to risk his life for a woman.

In a similar manner, you won’t find an EPOV of the hard bite, or the perspective of the hard bite. I’m sure when I finally do read it, the writer will have found a way to twist it so that Eric is unaware, or doing it out of love.  It’s just taking a while, because well, Eric was such a monumental shitheel, so until they figure out how to make out like it was out of love, it won’t be featured – it’ll be avoided. You’ll only find Sookie thinking about it, in SPOV – and almost eight months after the book has been published, I’ve yet to read Eric actually apologising for it or acknowledging it’s in any way wrong to hurt your wife. It’s usually Sookie doing the grovelling for making it necessary.

If Sookie started thinking more like a vampire, then she’ll take a bashing from the fans – but then, when doesn’t she? And that’s exactly what I think she’s going to do – start thinking more like a vampire – and start being concerned for herself a little more, rather than worrying about others. It’s not so much a character transformation, as a different mindset – a change and not a growth. This will be the change that she needs to go on with – the one that makes all the surviving she’s done up to now worth it.

Now, I’ve covered the hard bite before, but this time I want to take a different perspective as the case study for the change she’ll try. Mainly dealing with how Sookie felt that night, how she’s felt before, and then show you how she’ll have to change. This isn’t her first massacre, after all, sad to say. And each time she’s reacted badly to it – exactly the same as she did this time. In Dallas, she was shocked by the horror and violence around her:

But I was worried about Bill, and I was shocked by the violence, so after a long hot
moment of forgetting the horror around me, I pulled away.

Living Dead in Dallas, p. 214

In Rhodes, she wasn’t jumping for joy at the fact that she’d survived that either:

I saw some things so awful I couldn’t even think about them then.
All Together Dead, p. 292

Except this time, she was responsible for the massacre. She is the reason Mindy and Mark, Akiro and Victor, Audrina – she is the reason that they all came and died. Now Victor – she wanted rid of him – but was she really prepared to look at Colton and say “Yep, well, that’s what you get, ha ha!”. Look at the juxtaposition here:

Colton was kneeling by the dead Audrina, weeping.
I never wanted to see another battle, large or small, in my life. I looked at my lover,
my husband, and he looked like a stranger to me. He and Pam stood facing each
other, holding hands and beaming through the blood.

Dead Reckoning, p. 298

Sookie has always been horrified by human deaths she’s caused – in massacre or not. She was even horrified by Debbie and Sandra. Even though she can rationalise that both of them were awful bitches who wanted her dead, and the only way to ‘fix’ them was for them to die, not once did Sookie feel like it’s okay and bounce around at the thought of their deaths. Here she has to look at Audrina’s lifeless body and know that she was the architect of this.

It was Sookie who lead Eric to Colton, and then to Audrina. As much as Audrina wanted to be there, that doesn’t make Sookie feel any less responsible or guilty for that. Watching Colton weep over the woman he loved has a negative impact on her – as well as all the body parts. One of the reasons she avoided Eric’s plan was because she said:

Eric’s plan was the bloodiest, of course. There would certainly be loss of life.
Dead Reckoning, p. 259

Sookie wanted to try to limit the deaths even before she went with a plan. She didn’t just go with what was easiest, or what had the best chance of success – part of her concern is saving lives.  While Eric is thinking selfishly of how he won, and what he’s going to get out of this, Sookie is looking around realising how many deaths she’s caused. If it had been Eric’s plan to do it this way, then she could eschew some responsibility – but this was all her way. Her way of fighting got Audrina killed. It was dangerous and she died.

The death of other humans doesn’t matter much in this fandom in general. People are usually kicked to the curb like they’re nothing, and few care about their deaths. The only death given any weight is Claudine’s – and rather than blame Claudine or Niall, the people who chose if Claudine would fight, that’s laid at Sookie’s feet. Other than that, no one gives much of a shit if other characters die. Indeed, it’s seen to be the ultimate solution – Sookie kills Bill, Freyda, Jannalynn, Amelia. It’s the quickest shortcut to a storyline, and it’s used frequently and no one cares. There’s no repercussions, and Sookie forgets about it in short order.

But that’s not how Sookie feels – and nor would the average person be okay with it. Bill, Pam and Eric have caused way too many deaths all by themselves to be concerned with the weeping relatives they’ve left behind like Colton – but Sookie – this is something she hasn’t just calloused over. Unless she became vampire, she wouldn’t have time to do so – because it’s only by dint of being vampire that Eric, Bill and Pam have been able to shrug off the deaths – because they’ve caused deaths over and over after hundreds of years.

In fact, Sookie feels the fallout is her responsibility:

I fully believed that Victor had set this in motion with his own intransigence. If Felipe had put someone else in charge of Louisiana, the whole catastrophe wouldn’t have occurred. Maybe I could blame Felipe? No, the buck had to stop here.
Dead Reckoning, p. 302

This is not Sookie in denial about everything – this is Sookie facing up to the hard truth of what she caused. This is what keeps her being a likeable person, even if she is a little more ruthless nowadays. Rather than lie to herself and make out like she was a victim, and has no responsibility for what happened as a result of her plan, she doesn’t become weaker and more callous by just palming everything off as someone else’s fault.

That is one of the qualities where she matches Eric of course. He doesn’t lie to himself (or Sookie about himself – most of the ‘condemnation’ of Eric’s character comes from Eric himself) and say the reason he didn’t protect her from the arrow is because he’s secretly a good guy and he protected himself out of some twisted principle of love. Lying to yourself is something Bill did a lot of:

“But vampires hunt, Sookie. It is our nature,” he said very seriously. “Like leopards; like wolves.”
Living Dead in Dallas, p. 230

Now we all know that one of the vampires for whom this is apparently their nature is Eric. Yet, when presented with an opportunity to hunt the very same FotS terrorists, Eric didn’t lose it and run off after them uncontrollably. Bill uses “vampire nature” to escape from his responsibility for killing people. He can’t help himself – Lorena made him what he is, and he’s just not able to control himself. He’s really been made a victim over a hundred years ago, and he has given himself permission to kill ever since then, never reigning himself in because it’s his “nature”.

Eric critiques that lie later on of course – because that’s what it is – a lie to cover why Bill doesn’t bother to control himself:

“The catch in that comforting theory being that we look almost exactly like you. And we used to be you. And we can love you, as well as feed off you. You could hardly say the lion wanted to caress the antelope.”
Dead to the World, p. 53

Eric doesn’t crap on that it’s as easy as predator/prey. He calls it a “comforting theory” – which is really just a way of saying it’s a way to lie to yourself about what it is that you are and why you do things. Yes, there is an element of predator, but the “I am vampire – I have to kill people” is a bullshit lie that allows Bill to feel okay about losing control and killing people. Not cause he really wants to – but because he was made victim long ago and has no choice *cri cri*.

So Sookie not lying to herself about exactly what her impact is is part of their compatibility. Let me tell you too – for me at least, I’m well versed in gross paedophiles saying they were just loving on a kid, or a rapist saying “She really wanted it even though she said no”. It gets old to hear the lies people tell themselves to justify why their crimes were really okay things to do, and why they’re still good people. Same with Sookie – losing that last bit of honesty with herself will lead her to become a true monster. She would construct Audrina as a necessary casualty that would have died anyway.

Sookie doesn’t try to escape that the buck stops with her. That it was her plan, and she is responsible for the weeping Colton and the dead Audrina – she’s not going to hide from it and lay it all off on someone else – not Eric, not Felipe. She’s going to look that plan right in the face and know that it was her actions that caused this. As Ooshka pointed out, (and I can’t find the link in my comments) Sookie was feeling all powerful before this – but this has brought her crashing down to Earth. Sookie now realises that even if she can survive, she still has to pay a price – and survival is all about being responsible for the guilt and responsibility she feels. She won’t lie to herself about her responsibility in that either to make herself feel better.

Eric ignoring Audrina’s death doesn’t mean he’s lying to himself – he just genuinely couldn’t give a shit. Eric isn’t just ‘punishing’ Sookie with the hard bite for being less than ecstatic – he’s punishing her for being human, and not being a dyed-in-the-wool killer who can just shrug those deaths off like they’re nothing – just like he does. He’s punishing her for feeling bad about the deaths that she is responsible for. Eric has pulled his concern in for himself – as he always does – but in this case, it’s not just that he doesn’t give a shit about Chico’s mother’s pain, but that he doesn’t give a shit about Sookie’s pain.

The issue is not that she doesn’t get that Eric is a vampire – it’s that he has forgotten she’s a human. This was the lesson that Sookie had to start teaching Bill by walking away from him when he wants to be extra-special vampirey and kill all the FotS he can lay his hands on. She had almost 12 hours a day of Bill shoving his vampire needs down her throat – watching what she ate, and what she did, and fitting around his schedule. Eric isn’t quite so in-your-face and so free with his time that Sookie has had this concern…until now.

As you can see, from all the changing Bill has done over his own learned behaviour, he really doesn’t get why it’s bad. Yes, Bill has been training himself not to hurt humans randomly (like not shaking Frannie in From Dead to Worse) and making sure to take himself out of the picture when a fairy is bleeding (like when he went away from Dermot in Dead Reckoning), but he’s just imposed learned behaviour to try to have a chance with Sookie over his feelings. And that’s why even though Bill has changed his behaviour, the underlying attitude is still there:

“Did you think Victor would die without bleeding? Did you think Victor’s people wouldn’t do their best to prevent his death? Did you think no one would die?”
His voice was so calm and nonjudgmental that I didn’t get angry.
“Bill, I never believed any of those things. I’m not naïve.
But seeing is always different from planning.”

Dead Reckoning, p. 303

Bill has stopped himself – started controlling himself in Sookie’s presence, but this is no guy who is telling the truth to himself. He hasn’t suddenly picked up the resources necessary to understand why Sookie finds humans dying a troublesome thing – he’s just imposed learned behaviour – Sookie doesn’t like killing humans, don’t cheer it on, don’t do it in the same room as her. It’s a bit of PR for himself in the suitor race, but it’s not genuine change.

Now, Sookie has finally hit a wall – something she couldn’t deal with, and something Eric didn’t care for her not being able to deal. She couldn’t handle the consequences of her actions, watching Colton weep over Audrina and feeling bad about what she’d done and realises she has to change her mindset to go along with her physical survival:

I’d changed in order to survive, and I was paying the price of survival. I had to be willing to change myself forever, or everything I’d made myself do was for nothing.
Dead Reckoning, p. 308

I don’t think Sookie can change from caring that people die, to not caring about people dying. It’s not that simple – it wasn’t simple with Debbie and Sandra. She can care less, focus on it less, leave it alone more to think of later, but she can’t turn around and just stop caring. People don’t work like that. Maybe the bond would have helped her be happy over the death of another human though:

My bond to Eric was the crucial factor in this decision. I was happy that he was enjoying himself, getting the blood he needed. I was furious that someone had tried to hurt him. Since both of these feelings would not normally be colors in my
emotional palette, I knew what was to blame.

From Dead to Worse, p. 76

The bond is gone. She’s not going to be influenced by it any more – not going to be ecstatically happy over killing, even if she has changed and become more ruthless. The bond had Eric’s back there – leading her to wanting Eric to kill emotionally, while ignoring her own thoughts on the matter. So the change has been external, but also internal – she’s back to the Sookie who doesn’t just intellectually disapprove of killing, but feel happy – the bond no longer pushes her to support Eric no matter what. But that means that she has to change some of her behaviour because she can’t change her fundamental character.

She discussed the possibility of change – true change of that sort of fundamental part of people earlier in the book with Sam:

And I think if you love someone, you make an effort to suppress habits of yours that displease them, right? But those habits or inclinations are still there. Sam, you’re right. Those are other cases of people imposing a learned reaction over the original.
Dead Reckoning, p. 55

Eric’s certainly not in the business of suppressing habits of his that displease Sookie. He’ll bite her hard, he’ll want to fuck her in someone’s blood, he’ll want to grin madly while Colton sits alongside weeping. Waiting for him to do so is pointless. He’ll just get angry with her, like he did with the hard bite and hurt her, rather than suppress habits that displease her.  Eric just won’t take her wants into account. So it is Sookie who must either knuckle under, or start thinking about her wants – much like Eric does with himself. He’s thinking about himself, and now she needs to think about herself.

What do I think Sookie’s going to do in future? I think she’s going to walk away sooner. If she can’t toughen up, and massacre people at will, I think the most sensible thing she can do is take herself out of the equation as soon as possible. She’s been trying to accept Eric and what his life demands of her, but it’s not doing any good – no matter if she goes to the very end of her tolerability, Eric doesn’t like her being anything less than enthusiastically bloodthirsty. This is the turning point in their relationship – when she starts doing what he’s been doing all along – putting herself first, not waiting for Eric to do it. He never will.

I don’t think Sookie can force herself to toughen up any more than she already has. Her torture has certainly affected her behaviour. She has found – at the core of herself – that survival wins over everything else every time. But it’s not just her physical survival she has to worry about – it’s her emotional survival. It’s about how outside actions effect her – she might survive the night of Victor killing – but she’s got to deal with the emotional fall out of what happens when you survive, and others don’t. Sookie’s behaviour has changed as the result of her torture, and I think it bears merit to set out how.

I should say – I’m not at all on board with victim blaming. I wouldn’t tell a child that they “asked for it” by being friendly to a paedophile, I wouldn’t tell a rape victim “they must have done something to warrant it” because they’re out at night, and I wouldn’t tell someone tortured in China that they “called it on themselves” because they chose to believe in a free Tibet instead of going along with their government. Nor do I put the blame on Sookie for not being able to stop her torturers. That responsibility is all on Lochlan and Neave, just like the responsibility is on the paedophile, the rapist, and the Chinese government.

But looking at Sookie’s torture as a part of her character changes strikes me as pretty essential for her lifestyle – the one she’ll lead with Eric. I have said this over time to various people, but I haven’t really expanded on it. Usually when someone says how wrong it was that Sookie was tortured, I point out that it’s essential for her future. So I want to explain my reasoning – and how she has already changed to survive, and now it’s about her emotional survival.

One of the changes is in Sookie’s nudity. It’s something that caused all kinds of trouble when it showed up in Dead Reckoning, and it was a recent comment here that made me think of it again. The fact of the matter is once this has happened:

I could only make a raspy noise. My face was crusted with tears and blood.
“Little froggy croaking,” One said.
“Listen to her. Croak, froggy. Croak for us.”

Dead and Gone, p. 279

How much dignity you reckon Sookie had in that room? Really – think about how it would have felt – they cut and tore bits off her – so deep they left a dip in her inner thigh even after vampire blood. They cut into the soft parts of her – her face, her body. Think about if your body was bared in front of someone who didn’t consider you a human being – but like a funny little frog. Think about how they laughed at her – got off having sex in front of her – not only bared her body but flayed her emotionally.

Now, think about how much do you think she’d give a shit if someone saw her naked? The truth is that she wouldn’t. She’s been bared in front of her torturers – she’s had her inner most animal laid bare – reduced to a joke, reduced to a frog for their amusement. Just like Terry doesn’t care if people see him crazy, or crying and screaming, Sookie lost all dignity in that room.

Lots of readers reference Sookie’s pre-torture personality, but I don’t know that they understand the effects of torture on humans. It’s designed to break you. It’s designed to reduce you to being an animal, responding only to pain and the cessation of pain. That’s how they break people and get them to spill information. It’s all a matter of time on how long it takes to break a person, but everybody – everybody – breaks at some point. It’s the stuff of movie fodder to think that there is someone who doesn’t break. A skilled torturer can break the best spy – and all the spy gets training for is learning how to delay that break for as long as possible, in the hopes that they’ll die first. For Sookie, she didn’t have anything to break to. Neave and Lochlan weren’t looking for information. She broke much sooner because they weren’t interested in ceasing the pain – only in breaking her down to that animal state. And they did.

So what does it matter if Bill sees a bum cheek? Really? In the overall scheme of things, he might have realised her worst fear at one point, but Neave and Lochlan really showed her what fear is – what it’s like to be naked and hurt and left alone to deal. What true disregard for you as a human being – not as a person but seen as a thing – is. Sookie came back from that – was strong enough to cobble herself back together – and left behind lots of petty concerns about dignity and keeping herself sacred as if the worst hasn’t happened.

Of course, Sookie (and CH) gets maligned for that. She is seen as somehow out of character, because “Sookie wouldn’t do that”. Maybe pre-torture Sookie wouldn’t. Post-torture Sookie learned she’d do what she had to to survive. And she did. If it means stripping down to nothing to escape the notice of Kelvin and Hod, well, that’s fine. It’s not as if she hasn’t been naked and hurt and left alone to deal before. It’s not as if there’s anything worse that people can do to her – other than torture her for longer.

There’s also the fact that Sookie has become tougher, and more willing to kill to survive. She’s more willing to get her hands dirty, and actually actively get involved in the violence – in the physical sense anyway:

“I don’t think it would bother Felipe very much at all to kill Victor.”
“And it would bother you, Sookie?”
“Yes. It would bother me.” Though not as much as it ought to.
“So if you could do it in a rush of rage when Victor was attacking you, that would be far preferable to planning a way to kill him when he couldn’t fight back effectively?”

“It shouldn’t make a difference,” I said quietly. “But it does. Victor has to go, though.”
“You’ve changed,” Pam said, after a little silence.

Dead in the Family, pp.86-87

In the case of Victor, Sookie talked herself up to it – moved in part by her desire to kill Victor, get the pressure off and be pragmatic about how to get that done – but when it came down to it, she didn’t like the responsibility for all that death. But she did actually toughen up enough to do the deed on Victor – planning it like Pam suggested that she should.

When it comes to a life with Eric, this actually makes her more able to have a HEA with Eric. Mainly because Eric isn’t particularly supportive. I know, most of the time, she’s exhorted to tell him everything and rely on him, but Eric doesn’t really roll that way. If Sookie relied on him for support, she’d just fall over.

Here’s a good example of when Sookie really does need support, but Eric is more concerned with doing for himself and not with supporting Sookie and being there for her:

I stood there, phone to my ear, on an empty sidewalk in my little town, the streetlight only a few feet away. I’d seldom felt more alone.
Dead in the Family, p. 108

I always thought that this particular line is really quite sad. She’s just heard more news about Bruno and Corinna – and there’s no one there to take that weight off her shoulders – not on Bruno or Corinna, or Victor. Sookie’s life is epitomised – out there alone, in the darkness, feeling alone and only herself for comfort. There’s no rush of love from the bond, no Eric swooping down out of the sky to take all of Sookie’s troubles off her shoulders. There’s just Sookie. Relying on herself to get herself through. Eric doesn’t call, and make things better.

Now, of course, one could argue that this example isn’t fair – Eric is all the way at work, he’s busy, it’s Pam on the phone, what do I want out of the guy? Well, that’s easy. I can show how he fails to support Sookie even when she’s in the same room, and been hurt or upset:

“Eric,” I said, “since I’m all smelly and smoky and covered with fire extinguisher stuff, I don’t think keeping my clothes free of burned hair is a big deal.”
Eric didn’t snort, but he came close. However, he did seem to pick up on my feeling that he was being a total pain, and he shut up and got a hold on himself.
The relief was tremendous.

Dead Reckoning, p. 20

I could have picked all the later instances in the book, but they’re bonded, and here he is, completely supportive Eric Northman, all concerned about his wife who has just been firebombed. The truth is that Eric is thinking about his troubles with Freyda, the worry he has over Sookie’s firebombing – but he’s forgotten that Sookie is actually the victim, and she’s the one he should be concerned with. Not Eric and how Eric feels.

In fact, much of Sookie’s post-torture comforting has been self comforting – barring a couple of instances, it hasn’t been coming from Eric – it’s been from her:

I ate a Little Debbie cinnamon roll when I got home, just because I thought I deserved one.
Dead in the Family, p. 246

She came out of the encounter with Alexei not with Eric saying he’d protect her, and he’s got her back – she came out feeling worried and concerned, too wound up to go to bed, and ate some food to ground herself again. But lest someone argue that Eric stressed out over Appius was the reason why he wasn’t all concerned-protecty Eric he is in fanfic, I give you unstressed, unsupportive Eric:

“I know you are fully aware of how to take care of a fairy who gives you trouble,”
Eric said, after an appreciable silence.
I’d killed fairies before. I hadn’t particularly wanted to be reminded of that. “Yes,”
I said. “And if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll keep a squirt gun loaded with lemon
juice on my bedside table.” Lemon juice and iron – the fairy weaknesses.
“That would make me feel better,” Eric said.

Dead in the Family, p. 152

Nary a discussion about how he’s willing to protect Sookie or leap in for Sookie, or do anything other than let Sookie rely on herself. Eric will feel better, but Sookie will be the one who’ll have to deal with it. It wasn’t Eric looking into Sandra’s machinations either – that was all Sookie. So it’s not just because it’s fairies and he can’t go near them – and as it turned out, he drained Colman and then shot off into the night – but it’s just how Eric is.

While this is great for Sookie’s general autonomy, it’s something that she has to change to accommodate. This will be no guy who turns up to protect or be concerned for Sookie being in danger – this is a guy who will look forward to Sookie looking after herself for the most part. And it’s still showing up in the new book too:

“Eric would like you to come to Shreveport tomorrow night to greet Felipe.”
“Right,” I said. “And that’s it, that’s the whole message?”
Mustapha hesitated. “I got some other things to tell you, not from Eric.”

Deadlocked Excerpt, pp. 11- 12

As it turns out that it is Pam who sends Sookie a message about it being a hard time. Eric just summons Sookie to Shreveport and leaves her to support herself, and freak out all by herself over Felipe’s visit.

The idea that Eric could change his behaviour – after so many books is impossible. After the hard bite, it’s never going to happen. He’s not even going to modify his learned behaviour to make Sookie happy. He’s not going to change into some sweetheart that swoops in and takes care of everything. I’d like to point out too that after her torture, Eric didn’t even splash out (as he would in fanfic) on treatment for Sookie’s physical therapy, despite seeing her a couple of times a week:

My quads were screaming, particularly the damaged one in my left leg. We were in
the gym where JB worked, and it was after hours, because I wasn’t a member.
JB’s boss had okayed the temporary arrangement to keep JB happy.

Dead in the Family, p. 11

And still hasn’t splashed out on it despite Sookie still having issues:

The top zipped up the back, and I turned around so Sam could finish zipping for me. I didn’t have the flexibility in my arms that I’d had before…Oh, the hell with it. Not today.
Small Town Wedding, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, p. 34

And before I get any stupid comments about how Sookie won’t let Eric buy her anything, and refuses it – which is the way to exonerate Eric from being selfish without any proof of his offer to his recently tortured wife (because I know I would sure as shit try in this case even if Sookie had actually refused any and all gifts) – read this post about how she’s never refused a gift from him. EVER.

The fact of the matter is that Eric relies on Sookie to support Sookie, and sometimes to support Eric. It’s time that Sookie starts to change her focus – take care of herself rather than relying on Eric to do it. He expects her to support him while he’s marrying someone else, kill people and celebrate because it will make him happy. Eric isn’t thinking about Sookie’s happiness over his.

This is one of the ways that I think she’s going to do it – and she’ll get the requisite bashing from fans for doing what Eric’s been doing all along – but it’s not as if she can rely on him to care that Audrina’s death upset her, just like he didn’t give a shit about how Tara’s death would hurt her.

We can see glimmers of this new attitude when she’s dealing with others:

It was hard to keep up this level of indignation, especially since I wasn’t used to it – but I knew it would be very bad to give in to my craven impulse to throw open
the door and allow them all to stay.

Dead Reckoning, p. 211

Finally, Sookie has drawn her line in the sand, and stopped thinking about others, and be more selfish for her own sanity, and kick out people who abused her kindness. Amelia, Claude and Alcide got that treatment – one that used to be reserved for those who’d really tried to hurt her like Arlene. It just so happened that Eric pushed her over a line too – and now he’ll be likely to get the same treatment – Sookie, who instead of going along with his plans says “Nope, I’m leaving now. I don’t like this bit. Celebrate alone.” and walking out because he won’t be kind even if she stays.

Sookie can’t stop caring about the deaths of humans, and she can’t change herself not to care about her role in their deaths. She’s changed because of the torture – but not enough. She has to stop being imposed upon by Eric and every single other supe – hold to protecting herself first, and stop worrying about how it affected those who offended her. Sookie will start learning not to change her inner character, but learning the behaviour of selfishness and protecting herself first. She’s not going to “grow” into a more accepting Sookie who falls into a heap at Eric’s feet and ask who Master deems worthy of death. She’ll change, but not grow. After all the bad things that have happened to her, growing to be more accepting is a silly idea. She’ll change to caring about herself, because no one does it as well as Sookie does.