Literature Study GuidesWickedBook 4 Chapter 1 Summary

Wicked | Study Guide

Gregory Maguire

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Wicked | Book 4, Chapter 1 : In the Vinkus (The Voyage Out) | Summary

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Summary

Part 1

After seven years, Elphaba leaves the Cloister of St. Glinda with a young boy named Liir in tow. She joins the Grasstrail Train, led by Oatsie Manglehand, to travel to the Vinkus in the west. Elphaba has trouble sleeping and remembers when Tibbett was brought to the cloister for care; he was an incontinent invalid at the end of his life, driven mad by his experience at the Philosophy Club. When he dies the Superior Maunt tells Elphaba it is time for her to leave the cloister.

On the trip Liir befriends the cook's dog, Killyjoy. The train moves into Kumbricia's Pass, a passage through the Great Kells that resembles a woman lying on her back with her legs open. Elphaba convinces a hive of bees to come with the group. While they move through the pass, Igo, an old man traveling to the grasslands to die, quotes lines from the Oziad, and the cook declares his disbelief in the Kumbric Witch, annoying Elphaba.

Part 2

The train hires a rafiqi, or guide, to help negotiate with the tribes who live in the mountains and grasslands beyond. Liir comes to idolize him. The pass moves through forest, and the cook disappears in the middle of the night. The path moves up through higher elevations, and the group encounters the Yunamata tribe in the night. The tribe brings dried fruit and dances with the travelers, but none of the tribesmen know about the missing cook. A few days later, as the train descends, a Yunamata messenger arrives to tell the travelers of a body at the base of a cliff, swollen beyond recognition. The travelers blame Elphaba and her bees. Elphaba dismisses the accusations. The train moves toward the grasslands and the passengers can see the campfires of the Scrow tribe in the distance.

Part 3

When the Grasstrail Train encounters the Scrow, they are introduced to the Princess Nastoya, "the filthiest, least-educated princess anyone had ever seen." Elphaba, Oatsie, Igo, the rafiqi, and a financial speculator named Pinchweed are invited to a private audience with Princess Nastoya in the evening. When they meet, the princess assumes her true form as an Elephant and asks each of them why they have come to the Vinkus. Each traveler answers honestly, including Elphaba, who says she is going to Kiamo Ko to seek the forgiveness of her dead lover's wife and ensure his family's safety. Princess Nastoya is under a spell that gives her human form, which she uses to hide from those who are hostile to Animals. She says Elphaba is in hiding as a witch now and gives Elphaba three crows to contact her if she needs assistance later. Princess Nastoya says Elphaba, on some level, told her bees to kill the cook. Elphaba protests, insisting her only wish now is to do no harm. Nastoya tells Elphaba she has a job to do and sends her off to do it.

Part 4

The Grasstrail Train moves north into the Arjiki tribal lands. The Arjiki tribesmen remind Elphaba of Fiyero. As the train moves into the mountains, Killyjoy captures a baby snow monkey on a small island in the middle of a lake. Elphaba wants to rescue the monkey, but she is afraid to step in the lake. She takes a step anyway, and the water freezes, enabling her to reach the monkey, which she names Chistery. When they reach Kiamo Ko, Elphaba approaches the fortress with the dog, the monkey, and the bees. Liir comes along despite Elphaba's indifference to him; he has nowhere else to go.

Analysis

Tibbett's fate after his night at the Philosophy Club in Book 2, Chapter 3 provides a chilling image of the dangers inherent in the so-called pleasure faith, the religion Frex preaches against in his early days in Munchkinland. In very broad terms pleasure faith emphasizes entertainment as a means to spiritual enlightenment. As evidenced by the Clock of the Time Dragon in Book 1 Chapters 2 and 3, the pleasure faith simultaneously rejects traditional moral standards while providing means to punish individuals who fail to follow moral norms. The Philosophy Club's connection to the Clock of the Time Dragon becomes apparent in Book 2, Chapter 3, when the same dwarf who runs the clock also hosts the live sex show at the club. The Philosophy Club show becomes a live-action version of the Clock of the Time Dragon, complete with references to mythologies that elevate base activity to something more profound. As Tibbett's deterioration and death proves, the Philosophy Club show ensures someone gets punished as thoroughly as the audience members at the Clock of the Time Dragon. The fate of the other two participants at the Philosophy Club is unknown, but Tibbett is never the same after his big night out. Assuming he is roughly the same age as Elphaba, this means he experiences 14 years of torment and dies in his early 30s.

The reappearance of Elphaba's old friend, and his subsequent death, signals to the sisters that Elphaba must rejoin life outside the mauntery. Tibbet's life is over, but Elphaba still has years to contribute to the world. However, Elphaba's travel arrangements show she has other plans and would prefer to keep herself sequestered. After seven years of atonement in the mauntery, Elphaba has not recovered from Fiyero's death. Her goal is to travel to another secluded place, this time Fiyero's ancestral home, to seek his wife's forgiveness for the affair and for his death. In Book 3, Elphaba scoffs at the idea of collateral damage resulting from her resistance activities, but when the collateral damage is the man she loves, she is unable to handle the guilt. Her pursuit of what she once believed to be a righteous cause leads to the evil of Fiyero's murder, and she cannot accept her part in it.

Only days out of the mauntery, Elphaba is already embracing the identity of a witch, showing annoyance when the cook questions the existence of the Kumbric Witch. Elphaba is surprised by her own irritation, but it is severe enough to activate powers Elphaba doesn't know she has. Although she isn't aware of doing so, she sends the hive of bees after the cook, and they kill him. Later Princess Nastoya tells Elphaba she is traveling in disguise as a witch for safety, just as the Elephant assumes a human form, but Elphaba's actions show her identity as a witch is morphing into something more than a disguise.

Elphaba also remains unable to handle human relationships. She keeps to herself among her fellow travelers and treats Liir with supreme indifference. Circumstances through the early sections of the chapter strongly hint Liir is Elphaba and Fiyero's son. He is the right age, and the sisters of the mauntery insist he go with Elphaba when she leaves. The boy disembarks with her when the Grasstrail Train (a wagon train not a locomotive) comes to Kiamo Ko because he has nowhere else to go. His offers to help care for Killyjoy and the bees reveal his desperation for her approval. The last line of the chapter confirms Fiyero is Liir's father, so Elphaba is the most likely candidate to be his mother. Elphaba explains her lack of connection and denial of parenthood in Book 4, Chapter 3, but on some level she must know Liir is her child.

Elphaba has much more success relating to Animals and animals than to humans. Her affinity for Animals guides her actions through her college years in Book 2; her sympathy for Dr. Dillamond drives her to radicalism in the Emerald City. She also gathers lost and stray animals during her journey through the Vinkus, perhaps because of their innocence and goodness. Killyjoy, for example, is kind and befriends a lonely young boy. Even when Killyjoy attacks a baby snow monkey—the one Elphaba will later name Chistery—Elphaba views Killyjoy's action as instinct, not evil. Evil requires intent and malice, which Killyjoy and the other animals lack.

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