Welcome to another week of Lunarthon! This week, we’re reading chapters 21-40 of Cress, and discussing social justice in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.
Once again, there’s a lot to mention in this week’s readalong, so let’s get right to it! Cress has survived the desert, a kidnapping and a tense first encounter with Dr. Erland, all to finally be reunited with Thorne and the rest of Team Cinder. For the first time since she learned of her real identity, Cinder finds herself surrounded by her people: Lunars, who have illegally immigrated to Earth to escape Levana’s rule. And Emperor Kai finally makes a stand against cyborg discrimination by publicly shutting down the cyborg draft.
Marissa Meyer has stated that she views the Earthen Union as a world of peace, where prejudices based on race, sexuality and religion are all a thing of the past. But even in this apparent utopia, discrimination still exists. In our Cinder readalong, I looked at how Cinder’s internalised prejudices towards Lunars and cyborgs affected her as an individual. In chapter 34 of Cress, Meyer opens this conversation up further, exploring the legal and social repercussions of widespread prejudice against cyborgs.
For years people had been complaining about the rising population of cyborgs, many of whom received their surgeries at the hands of taxpayers.
Cyborgs were too smart, people had complained. They were cheating the average man out of his wages.
Cyborgs were too skilled. They were taking jobs away from hardworking, average citizens.
Cyborgs were too strong. They shouldn’t be allowed to compete in sporting events with regular people. It gave them an unfair advantage.
And then one small group of cyborgs had gone on a spree of violence and theft and destruction, demonstrating just how dangerous they could be.
It’s not hard to see the thinly-veiled real-world inspiration for Meyer’s fictional history of cyborg discrimination. Just replace the word ‘cyborg’ and you’re sure to find a variation of one or more of these statements made in an attempt to justify intolerance towards any number of targeted groups in newspapers today.
What makes this passage so brilliantly executed is that it’s told to us through Kai, a character born into a life of privilege, who – despite being kind and generous and willing to sacrifice everything for the good of his people – has never thought to question the laws concerning cyborgs and the history of intolerance that led to their status as second-class citizens until now. When baseless attacks like these are so overwhelmingly, persistently present in our everyday discourse, it’s frighteningly easy for reasonable people like Kai to buy into the fear and hatred they spread.
With one speech – not three minutes spent behind the podium – Kai had begun to unravel decades of cyborg prejudice.
It wouldn’t solve everything, of course. There was still the Cyborg Protection Act that claimed cyborgs as property of their guardians and limited their freedoms. But it was something. It was a start.
What did you make of Kai’s speech for cyborg rights? Let us know – and don’t forget to read chapters 41-61 for next week’s Lunarthon!