The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season

by

N. K. Jemisin

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Misalem Character Analysis

Misalem was a powerful orogene born thousands of years before the novel’s present day, who is used by the Guardians as a cautionary parable for young orogenes. Supposedly Misalem decided for no particular reason that he wanted to kill Sanze’s Emperor (Anafumeth), and murdered thousands of innocent people on his way until Shemshena, the first Guardian, was able to stop him. Misalem is thus used as a bogeyman to show that orogenes are dangerous monsters who need to be controlled by Guardians. Alabaster tells Syenite that there is more to the story, however, and that Emperor Anafumeth was a cannibal who was responsible for the murder of Misalem’s family—this is why Misalem wanted to kill the Emperor.

Misalem Quotes in The Fifth Season

The The Fifth Season quotes below are all either spoken by Misalem or refer to Misalem. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Orbit edition of The Fifth Season published in 2015.
Chapter 11 Quotes

You are representatives of us all, the instructors say, if any grit dares to protest this treatment. When you’re dirty, all orogenes are dirty. When you’re lazy, we’re all lazy. We hurt you so you’ll do the rest of us no harm.

Once Damaya would have protested the unfairness of such judgments. The children of the Fulcrum are all different: different ages, different colors, different shapes. […] One cannot reasonably expect sameness out of so much difference, and it makes no sense for Damaya to be judged by the behavior of children who share nothing save the curse of orogeny with her.

But Damaya understands now that the world is not fair. They are orogenes, the Misalems of the world, born cursed and terrible. This is what is necessary to make them safe.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite, Misalem
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

“All the accounts differ on the details, but they agree on one thing: Misalem was the only survivor when his family was taken in a raid. Supposedly his children were slaughtered for Anafumeth’s own table, though I suspect that’s a bit of dramatic embellishment.” Alabaster sighs. “Regardless, they died, and it was Anafumeth’s fault, and he wanted Anafumeth dead for it. Like any man would.”

But a rogga is not any man. Roggas have no right to get angry, to want justice, to protect what they love. For his presumption, Shemshena had killed him—and became a hero for doing it.

Page Number: 418
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Fifth Season LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Fifth Season PDF

Misalem Character Timeline in The Fifth Season

The timeline below shows where the character Misalem appears in The Fifth Season. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6: Damaya, grinding to a halt
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...begins his story: 1,200 years ago, before the Fulcrum was established, a powerful orogene named Misalem tried to kill the emperor. Before the Fulcrum, orogenes had no real training, but Misalem... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Schaffa says that Misalem came to Yumenes and demanded that the Emperor come out to meet him, or else... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...the nature of orogeny, and so she tried to clear the city of everything that Misalem could possibly draw power from. When Misalem faced the Emperor, then, he reached for the... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...truth—as an orogene, she is not like Shemshena, the hero of the story, but like Misalem, the murderous villain. (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...Shemshena did, learning to neutralize the threat of any orogene that might become like another Misalem. Now that Schaffa is Damaya’s Guardian, he says, it is his job to ensure that... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...story, and he seems to know that she doesn’t like seeing herself as the villain Misalem, someone needing a Shemshena Guardian to control her. Damaya admits that this is true, and... (full context)
Chapter 19: Syenite on the lookout
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...are surely wanted criminals, with one or the other made out to be the new Misalem. Syen realizes that he’s right, as the destruction at Allia contradicts everything that the Fulcrum... (full context)
Chapter 22: Syenite, fractured
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...him learn the basics. Alabaster strokes her hair and reminds her of the story of Misalem and Shemshena, and that the orogenes will always be the Misalems of the world. Syen... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...after the Season ended, the Sanzeds maintained their cannibalism, raiding the comms of other races. Misalem was the only one to survive one of these raids, and his whole family was... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Syenite thinks about this: Misalem’s rage was certainly justifiable, but roggas aren’t allowed the luxury of rage, and Shemshena was... (full context)