Hate is a simple and satisfying emotion that neatly divides the world into friends and enemies. It’s easier to choose a side than to accept that a situation is complex. Once you choose a side, you seek out facts that confirm what you want to believe. And then you dehumanize the enemy.
The easiest way to dehumanize is to take someone’s name away from them. People do that by refusing to call her “Maya,” instead calling her “the young woman” or even “the slut.” Nobody uses the word “rape”; they talk about “the allegation.” Discussion starts with the claim that “she started it,” and progresses, before long, to “she deserved it.”
People cope with the situation by making Maya an abstract person they can blame, not a real person they know and care about. Backman shows how the chain of rationalization progresses until the victim is thoroughly blamed, and he also indicates that the language people use to discuss incidents like this plays a large role in shaping the ongoing consequences.
Benji goes to Hed to see the bass player. After they’ve drunk beer together for a while, Benji tells the bass player he wants to go somewhere. The bass player goes off into the woods, and Benji follows 10 minutes later. They smoke together for a while, but Benji’s impulse control is too strong, and he ends up telling the bass player he’s made a mistake. The bass player calls after him that “big secrets turn us into small men.”
Benji drowns his pain over the situation by leaving Beartown behind altogether. The bass player is completely removed from the situation, so he’s a refuge for Benji. However, Benji is harboring his own secrets, which, the bass player hints, will only cause him more pain in the long run.
Kira tries to talk Maya out of going to school on Monday morning. Maya explains that if she hadn’t been ready for what people would say, she wouldn’t have reported Kevin. After all, this is only going to get worse before it gets better. After Kira relents and drives off into the forest, she screams until her voice gives out.
Maya knows exactly how bad things are likely to be at school. However, she knows that hiding would just be another way of silencing the truth and perpetuating the town’s attitude of accepting hockey players’ entitlement.