I find myself attracted to the relationship Roberta and Ethan develop over time. It is one of stark contrast with hints of subtle similarities tying them together in a peculiar way. This is why I have decided to respond to Yaussy’s post regarding this relationship. I agree with it in several ways, but also have to disagree in others.
I believe the one salient similarity Roberta and Ethan shared allowing them to eventually join forces against the jester was Roberta realizing that “Ethan and I were too much alike-too invested in our own brain power and at the same time too aware of our own ignorance-to yield gracefully”(263). In one sense this was a similarity in the convergence of their paths at this particular points , but at the same time it suggest a stark contrast as to how they arrived on this common ground. Roberta came from the world of academia. Ethan was an academic drop out. They both share an insecurity in needing their lives, work, knowledge and accomplishments to somehow justify and represent who they want to be perceived as in society.
Ethan sees himself as a graduate school dropout turned “lead engineer” who was never supposed to get the job in the first place; convinced by the persuasive Harry Minor that regardless of the lack of credentials, Ethan could-would- learn to code and would do something great. In contrast, Roberta comes into the story with a Ph.D. acquired from the realm of academia where “you’re not expected to know anything _really”(265) _and “intellectual arrogance practically describes the professorial classes”(266). Roberta was forced to abandon the status she held onto most dearly in order to enter Intelleginstia, “exiled from academia”(266).
This point in the novel was a crucial moment. The common ground reached by Roberta and Ethan could have led to numerous outcomes concerning their lives potentially saving or dooming them. Roberta even states that “the moment seems large in my memory, a fulcrum, a pivot, the beginning of a trajectory that might have led to a completely different outcome” (268). Roberta was forced to, in her perspective, lower herself in order to end up in the break room. While, Ethan on the other hand was forced to act like someone he truly wasn’t in order to be there. They both came from very different places but ended up together for a split moment sharing the same sense of inadequacy. They “were guarded people, nervous sentries pacing back and forth before the dark chamber of our inadequacies, a room we worked diligently to keep sealed and secret.
I think this point in the novel is interesting and insightful in the relationship Ethan and Roberta share for a brief time before their paths take different routes again. One to be destroyed by the Jester and the other to destroy it.
This image is fairly simple, but I think it describes a common theme in the book. It also represents Roberta and Ethan’s view of technology and how that plays a role in their lives. Ethan strives with all effort to be a programmer, even at the expense of his entire life both figuratively and ultimately literally. He gives everything he has to only feel outsmarted and taunted by his own technological creation within the machine. Roberta sees the computer as a simple device that she is “above” because of her acquired knowledge in the humanities that is like “peeping at the universe through a keyhole”. Both have different views but end up converging their thoughts and beliefs briefly to take on technology and the digital world together.