Soulmate: Mary-Lynnette Carter
17-year-old Mary-Lynnette Carter, a High School student with a passion for astronomy, is the lucky lady paired with Ash Redfern. This soulmate couple has been much debated, with many people believing that they aren't suited in any way whatsoever. I personally think that Mary-Lynnette is a much-abused character and that she's not all bad!
Her love of astronomy is central to both her life and personality. She lives her life around star-watching, referring to herself as much more of a "night person" than a "morning person". She has even covered her room in star charts, perhaps in an effort to bring the night inside at any time of day, forming it into a retreat because "She always felt safe in the night." The wonders of the galaxy often move her to tears and she can't imagine anything more profound. Occasionally she thinks that she would like some to "share the night" with and realises that anyone she was romantically interested in would have to understand why she loved astronomy so much. It is also implied that she could never have a relationship with someone who did not themselves have an interest in astronomy. The ironic thing here that it is Ash, not Jeremy, who displays an interest in astronomy, although Mary-Lynnette never really sees this. When she and Ash first touch, the only way Mary-Lynnette can process the experience is by using astronomical terms. She describes her feelings at the soulmate connection as the same feeling she gets when she looks at the stars. Looking into Ash's eyes, she describes them as "strange, prismlike, changing colour like a star seen through heavy atmosphere." The second time they touch, Mary-Lynnette can't equate her feelings with astronomy and resorts to physical violence. Later, when she asks Ash to turn her into a vampire, it is because she has become caught up in the moment and in her own astronomy analogies.
Mary-Lynnette is a very protective person. Her younger brother, Mark, spent much of his early life in an oxygen tent due to poor health. He emerged from this experience quite shy and clingy, and Mary-Lynnette has always felt responsible for him, especially since the death of their mother. She seems to know every aspect of his life and sometimes has to push him to get him to do things. At the start of the book we learn that she is trying to find him a girlfriend in the hope that she would draw him out of his shell a bit. Later, when Kestrel states that the Redfern sisters will have to kill Mary-Lynnette and Mark, Mary-Lynnette only thinks about how awful this whole situation is for her brother. She doesn't spare a single thought for how everything is affecting her.
Although she has apparantly been trying to set Mark up, she has very few romantic thoughts for herself. Her only clear thoughts on the subject are that anyone she was interested in would have to understand astronomy. Ocassionally, she does think about Jeremy Lovett, who she seems slightly attracted to. He forms the basis of her opinion of what a boy should look and act like. Although she and Jeremy have always had some sort of bond, this seems formed on one thing, and one thing alone - Jeremy had watched the eclipse with her and his eyes had "held a spark of excitement, as if he really cared about what he was seeing. As if,for that moment, anyway, he understood." The question here is, does Jeremy understand? Obviously, as a werewolf, Jeremy has an inherent interest in the cycles of the moon. Watching a lunar eclipse would, presumably, be an exciting event for him as a werewolf. It seems unlikely that Jeremy is interested in the wider subject of astronomy, but Mary-Lynnette had no way of knowing this until later in the book when she discovers who he truly is. At this point, Mary-Lynnette realises why Jeremy had shown such an interest in the eclipse. Throughout Daughters of Darkness, she constantly compares Ash to Jeremy, her model of the ideal man. It's interesting that Mary-Lynnette's father is rarely mentioned. He occassionaly speaks to her, but is never named and exhibits very little personality. We are also told that Mary-Lynnette has never been on a date or kissed a guy. So with a distant father, a clingy brother and no past dating history, Jeremy is the only steady male figure in Mary-Lynnette's life and, as such, has a huge impact on her ideals.
One thing that becomes very clear is that, despite occassional yearnings, Mary-Lynnette does not want to find love. She seems happy with her life as it is and love seems completely superfluous. Her attitude to life is practical and scientific. Love, being neither of these things, is simply something that she does not understand. She fights the process, refusing to try to understand it and what it can offer her. Even when she finally admits her true feelings, Mary-Lynnette keeps some control over them. She does not drop everything to be with her soulmate, as so many other Night World characters do. Is she right to do this? Many people would say that no, she isn't. However, the decision is unquestionably the right one for Mary-Lynnette.
On a lighter note, Mary-Lynnette quite often displays an ironic sense of humour. She makes several references to Nancy Drew, comparing her own investigative skills to Nancy's and asking herself what Nancy would do in the same situation. Even when she thinks that Mrs Burdock may have been killed, she retains a certain sense of humour in her dealings with the Redfern sisters. She always seems to realise that what's happening to her is faintly ridiculous.
Her suspicion that Mrs Burdock has been killed also shows another side to Mary-Lynnette. She has a strong sense of denial. With everything that she has seen and everything she suspects, Mary-Lynnette still refuses to believe that a murder could happen in her own backyard, so to speak. This isn't the only time she shows this aspect of herself. Mary-Lynnette refuses to believe that Mark can function without her help; she refuses to believe that Claudine can be a capable mother-figure, often undermining her; she refuses to believe that anyone could ever understand her; and, of course, she denies the soulmate connection.
Despite her love for her family, Mary-Lynnette is quite an isolated character. She seems to provide most of the emotional support in the Carter family, but where is she getting hers from? Mary-Lynnette seems to be on speaking terms with her classmates. Her interactions with Bunny Marten are easy-going, but very casual. She seems to know people but isn't really friendly with them. The only person she is at all close to is Jeremy and even that relationship is vague. They have shared some sort of 'bond' since they were children, but this seems based on the fact that neither of them really make friends with anyone. Mary-Lynnette is also drawn to him because of his possible interest in astronomy, but as I've already mentioned, this is most likely a false attraction. Beyond her family and her schoolmates, Mary-Lynnette was quite close to Mrs Burdock, although their relationship is never really discussed. Once she is gone, Mary-Lynnette's reaction is a little unbalanced, possibly because Mrs Burdock was the only person she could really talk to. Later, when she befriends Rowan, Kestrel and Jade, Mary-Lynnette seems happier. Her friendship with the Redfern sisters will probably help her come to terms with quite a lot of things in her life. Here, it is interesting to note that although Kestrel is the same age as Mary-Lynnette, Mary-Lynnette seems to develop the closest relationship with Rowan, the mother figure of the trio.
Her own role as 'mother-figure' has helped strengthen Mary-Lynnette's 'take-charge' attitude. If she thinks something needs doing, she'll do it as soon as possible and with fierce determination. This is demonstrated most clearly in her search to find out what happened to Mrs Burdock, although this could also be attributed to nosiness.
Obviously intelligent, Mary-Lynnette has a 'nerdish' side. Her interest in astronomy does come across as a bit fanatical every now and then. At one point she launches into a tirade about how UFOs don't exist and about how people should be content to look at the real wonders of the universe rather than making any up. (On a side-note, I'd just like to point out that UFOs are real, it's flying-saucers that aren't :oP) And then, of course, she does have a bumper sticker that reads "I BRAKE FOR ASTEROIDS". Despite her intelligence, Mary-Lynnette makes a snap judgement about Ash based on his appearance. Throughout the book he fights to show her a different side of himself, but she remains biased by her original judgement. When she decides that Ash is lower on an intellectual scale than she is, she quotes Shakespeare, somewhat obnoxiously, believing that he won't understand. Once she has made up her mind it is very difficult to change it and she herself finds it difficult to change her mind about Ash, even when the evidence is against her. She continues to treat him like an idiot until Ash actually has to tell her to stop patronising him. Later, when she sees his determination and obvious intelligence, she can only admit, with relucatance, that he's not as lazy and stupid and she thought he was.
Mary-Lynnette is often criticised for making Ash give up everything while she herself gives up nothing, but this isn't strictly true. She does not drop into his arms, it's true, but Mary-Lynnette has to give up quite a lot. For someone who doesn't believe in love and puts her whole faith into science, a lot has changed. Mary-Lynnette has to accept that there are vampires, werewolves, witches and shapeshifters, knocking her view of the world "right out of the ballpark". She further has to accept that the only person she'd felt a bond with in her life was an unbalanced werewolf who tried to kill her. Mary-Lynnette's encounter with the Redferns altered her perceptions of right and wrong, good and bad, real and fake...it also gave Mark the confidence she had always wanted for him, leaving a hole in her life. She was used to taking care of Mark and now he didn't need her to do that. This must have left her feeling confused and a bit obsolete. The soulmate connection also reveals sides to Mary-Lynnette's personality that she herself didn't think existed. An example of this is her repreated reaction of physical violence to Ash. She herself says "I may not be who I've always thought I am", a scary revelation, surely. She is also forced to admit that she was wrong, something that Mary-Lynnette probably has had very little experience with.
The most damaging revelation, however, is probably linked to Jeremy. I've already mentioned that Mary-Lynnette seems to have drawn her idea of what men should be like from her interactions with him and it is his destruction that hurts Mary-Lynnette the most. She realises that everything she believed about Jeremy was a lie and the final betrayal is when he tries to kill her for having feelings she didn't want and couldn't get rid of. It is only when her male-figure ideal dissolves, that Mary-Lynnette realises that everything is not as she thought it was and that Ash could be a lot worse. Jeremy's fall from grace, also reveals to Mary-Lynnette her ability to kill and brought the idea of being a vampire down from the stars. All in all, if you think about it, Mary-Lynnette's world was completely shattered by Ash and his sisters, and it's surprising that all she did was ask for some time apart from her soulmate.
I have always believed that Mary-Lynnette is one of L.J. Smith's more 'normal' characters. She is much more like a real teenage girl than characters like Keller and Jez. Mary-Lynnette, although her world changes and she finds her soulmate, does not give up her life. She clings to her normalcy, and why shouldn't she? She is one of the only characters that does not drop everything to be with her soulmate, a much healthier response surely? However, I don't think that she had any right to make Ash feel guilty about his past as he seemed to have that covered himself. Who is Mary-Lynnette to send Ash away until he has made himself into someone 'worthy' of loving? It's most likely that she sent Ash away to give herself time to adjust. Everything happened in a few weeks and her mind must have been overloaded. The absence of Ash for a year would give Mary-Lynnette the chance to assimilate what had happened to her, a chance to finish high school and decide what it was that she wanted from the future - a future with a soulmate. Perhaps, to her confused mind, it was easier to tell Ash that he needed to work on himself, rather than admit that she needed to work on herself. Slightly harsh, but at the time it would have seemed like the only thingshe could do.
A downside to her 'normal' reaction is that Mary-Lynnette does not seem to think that Ash will change or that he can make up for his past actions. She seems to believe that his nature has already been formed and that he cannot fight it. But is she looking at the real Ash? Is she looking at Night World Ash, or the other Ash that we catch occassional glimpses of? Ash's appearances in other Night World books show us that he can change and that he is trying desperately to do so. It seems damning in the extreme that Mary-Lynnette does not believes that her soulmate can change and therefore seems to be sending him on a wild goosechase, all so she can feel more comfortable but she is still smarting from what happened with Jeremy. I think that Mary-Lynnette doesn't want to believe in Ash because she is afraid that he'll hurt and betray her just like Jeremy did. Sending him away would lessen the pain of any betrayal Ash did make. All of her actions in the final chapter of the book seem aimed at covering her own back. She doesn't want to be hurt again and she's trying to prevent anything bad from happening. This is clearly seen when she states that Ash will come back to her, but she will always love the night. She does not say that she will always love Ash. She is desperately trying to distance herself from the pain that she believes will come. However, Mary-Lynnette has severely underestimated her soulmate and the power of the soulmate connection.
OK, this is off-topic completely, but I just wanted to share my favourite Mary-Lynnette quote:
she'd taken all her clothes off and started to
dance the mambo." (DoD, page 139)