The Two Towers: Novel Summary: Book III - Chapter 10

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Summary: Gandalf and his companions enter Orthanc to confront Saruman; Gandalf warns them to beware of the defeated wizard's voice. Saruman attempts to gain control over those with whom he speaks. The audible sound of his voice is "an enchantment," but also his words are subtle and beguiling, falsehoods wrapped in just enough lies to be potentially persuasive and, therefore, dangerous. He asks Thoden why there cannot be peace between them; he sows doubt and mistrust with his courteous speech. But Thoden resists, telling Saruman that there can be no true peace until the wizard and all his works "have perished." At times during his speech, Saruman betrays his true feelings of anger and even fright; but, repeatedly, he "master[s] himself" to attempt to show himself reasonable and ready for reconciliation. Gandalf, not in the least dissuaded by Saruman's voice, gives Saruman a chance to leave Orthanc; but Saruman, motivated by hatred and pride, refuses to leave. He rejects the possibility of redeeming himself by offering his services to Gandalf in the war against Mordor. Gandalf magically breaks Saruman's staff, literally and symbolically breaking Saruman's power. At that moment, a large, round stone falls from above-Wormtongue has thrown a palantr, a seeing-stone, at Gandalf. Pippin runs after it and picks it up, but Gandalf quickly takes it from him.
 
Analysis: Saruman is, in this chapter, a master of modern (mis)communication. The danger of his voice is not so much that it is magical as that he uses it to misdirect and to deceive. His words are almost persuasive, however, to those who hear them. Tolkien is clearly criticizing the modern (ab)use of language-much as George Orwell does in 1984. Saruman would no doubt approve of "doublespeak." He knows how to manipulate language to hold out false hopes, a point driven home by the image of the ray of light shining through the "door of escape" by which Saruman stands. Readers need only contrast this single ray of light with the brilliantly overwhelming light at the end of Chapter 7 to know that Saruman is no bearer of true light, of true hope. Readers should note also how Saruman flatly rejects the only real hope offered to him in this chapter: the chance to leave Orthanc and be free. He cannot even imagine true freedom any more, so conquered is he by his lust for power. He imagines himself "free" when he is, in reality, a prisoner-in a prison of his own crafting. As Gandalf notes, "Often does hatred hurt itself!"




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