Masculinity and Madness
Updated: Jun 29, 2022
(Spoilers for the first novel below)
Rise to Dust is a book that deals heavily with mental health. Maybe not always in the most obvious of ways. Mental health does not always mean you are suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. Instead, it can be as simple as if you feel good about yourself. Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? Can you deal with disappointment and rejection? Can you trust others? And can you allow yourself to begin new experiences?
So many people think they are exempt from mental health as if it is a taboo thing only certain people experience. Rise to Dust attempts to make it clearer that everyone is affected, and the way we react to our own internal struggles defines many of our actions and our characters.
It is a false idea that women alone are very emotional and the most likely to experience mental health struggles. In fact, middle aged white males account for the majority of deaths by suicide in the United States. That is almost 70%, 3.88x more than women. Why might this be? I believe it is heavily to do with males' inability to express their own emotions. They are forced to bottle everything up because it is stigmatized that discussing their emotions makes them weak.
Rise to Dust showcases mental health from both the viewpoints of the protagonists and antagonists. And in the end, the line that divides the two is thin. It is not a one-time choice to do what you think is right, but rather, a constant evolving choice.
It is evident that Prince Kythes is an emotional man, or more realistically, emotionally in tune with his own feelings. He allows himself to express them, which becomes important for Amelia who looks up to him. Whereas before, his father was unable to express his emotions and it led to the kingdom being unable to help Kythes when his mother died.
This also carries over to Malucius, the central antagonist of the first novel for Amelia and Kythes. Both Kythes and Malucius worked closely with Thaseon, who did not nurture the emotional needs of the two men. One was able to cope with it more than the other, though I would not be surprised if Kythes took a darker path if Amelia had not come along when she did. If his father had died without Amelia being there, he may have fallen into a deep decline of self-confidence and mental health.
Yet, still, Kythes is kind and sensitive naturally. He is not that physically fit, as shown with the carnival games. But Malucius is. He was a royal guard and would have kept up a strong physique. And I think its important when showing conceptual artwork to capture this. A man with a six pack, long gorgeous hair, a strong jawline and then broken eyes. It helps remind people that anyone can be hurting on the inside.
Now in defense of justice, I do not agree with Malucius's actions. In fact I was watching Batman Begins last night, and a potent quote that was stated was, "It's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you.” I think this is important, because although both Kythes and Malucius were struggling to feel accepted and know which was the right path to take, only Kythes continued to do what was right. That doesn't mean Malucius shouldn't be helped, and in fact, Amelia does her best to do that as she realizes along the story that the two are not so different after all. But it does mean he will have to answer for his action. Though Amelia says, she would stand with him as he did.
I think if he were to have gone with her, she would have ensured he would not have been killed. Though of course we know he did not. But Xaqara later makes a very important point that I was trying to express, that it makes all the difference that she still tried to help him, even if she could not.
I'd love to hear what you think about how mental health and masculinity were portrayed in the novel. Does anyone relate to Malucius in the way that you may look strong and act tough, but inside feel as though you do not know what you are doing?
Perhaps if you read the first novel again, you will see things you did not the first time. And of course, stay tuned on all the social media to be updated with the progress of the second book, where we can see the mental health journey continue for the characters.
(Malucius Concept Art : By Alexander Boehme-Mason)