The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season

by

N. K. Jemisin

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Tonkee/Binof Leadership Yumenes Character Analysis

Binof Leadership Yumenes is a member of one of the Stillness’s most powerful families, but she rejects her family’s way of life and is eventually disowned for it. She first meets Damaya at the Fulcrum, when Binof sneaks in among the other grits to try and find out more information about a secret hidden at the center of the Fulcrum—where the obelisks were originally built. In the years after the two girls are separated, Binof breaks the Yumenes Leadership’s traditions both by wanting to become a geomest and because she is a trans woman, and so her family sends her to the prestigious Seventh University and quietly disowns her. Binof then takes the name Tonkee, continues her studies of the obelisks, and eventually tracks down Damaya (now called Essun) once more because of her connection to the obelisks. The two meet again on the road as the Fifth Season begins, though Essun doesn’t recognize Tonkee at first. Tonkee decides to travel with Essun after seeing Hoa exhibit his strange powers, and they journey together all the way to Castrima, where Essun finally recognizes Tonkee as the girl from her youth. Overall, Tonkee is presented as extremely intelligent, curious, and talkative, fascinated to learn everything she can and lacking in social subtlety. At first very naïve about the world because of her privileged upbringing, in her middle age Tonkee lives as a commless (essentially homeless) woman and seems to have no perception of her own hygiene, as Essun frequently notices her odor and matted hair.
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Tonkee/Binof Leadership Yumenes Character Timeline in The Fifth Season

The timeline below shows where the character Tonkee/Binof Leadership Yumenes appears in The Fifth Season. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 13: you’re on the trail
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
The commless woman now joins Essun and Hoa on their journey, introducing herself as Tonkee but not giving a comm or use-caste name. She claims to have joined them just... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
...sure that Hoa doesn’t eat at all. At one comm, she is surprised to see Tonkee produce a compass—a priceless item during a Fifth Season—and trade it for two pairs of... (full context)
Chapter 15: you’re among friends
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Essun, Hoa, and Tonkee have finally reached the place where Hoa could sense all the orogenes gathering, but at... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
The intimidating woman introduces herself as Ykka Rogga Castrima, and Essun and Tonkee are both surprised to hear “rogga” used as a use-caste name, considering its negative implications.... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...them close their mouths at Ykka’s words, and then Ykka invites them all inside. Both Tonkee and the blond woman with the crossbow suggest that this might not be a good... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...“just another filthy, soul-rusted rogga” who never should have had children at all. She feels Tonkee pulling at her arms and realizes that she is weeping and screaming. Essun feels that... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Ykka now turns to Tonkee and Hoa and again invites them to come into Castrima, but she warns them that... (full context)
Chapter 17: Damaya, in finality
Freedom Theme Icon
...and only when Damaya threatens to yell for the instructors does she introduce herself as Binof. Damaya starts asking her many more questions about what she’s doing here, but Binof hushes... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Though this seems nonsensical at first, Damaya actually knows what Binof means: the massive building of Main is circular in shape, but over time she has... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...Damaya asks again who the strange girl is, and now she offers her full name: Binof Leadership Yumenes. Slowly, Damaya realizes what this means: Binof is not an orogene and is... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Damaya again threatens to call an instructor, and in a panic, Binof offers her money and then privileges for the next time she leaves the Fulcrum. Cursing... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
As Damaya leads Binof toward Main, she notices more adults looking at her than usual. At first, she thinks... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
The two girls enter Main, and as they head toward the spot that Binof thinks contains an entrance to the secret inner room, Damaya grows uncomfortable because they’re now... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...how risky this is, Damaya knocks first, then tries the door but finds it locked. Binof now takes a tool from her pocket and begins to pick the lock. After a... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...missing gap beyond it, between the closet and the inner wall of the building itself. Binof searches the wall with her hands and finds a loose brick, which she removes to... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Though she says that only Leaders are supposed to know this information, Binof finally relents. She tells Damaya that she’s learned that there’s some kind of mysterious artifact... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...everyone feared, and centuries later, the Fulcrum was established on top of the thing itself. Binof says that this is the mystery she’s trying to solve, and Damaya now silently agrees... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Binof blunders ahead in the dark, and Damaya warns her to be careful, sessing that there’s... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...she even relaxes, feeling like her body is overwhelmingly heavy and ready to fall in. Binof catches her arm, and Damaya realizes that she wasn’t especially close to the pit’s edge... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...The Guardian calls Damaya by name and says that Schaffa will be disappointed in her. Binof then declares that she is the one who ordered Damaya here, and it’s her fault.... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...Guardian locks the office’s door. In the Guardians’ wing, the woman stops Damaya and leads Binof away. Binof looks back, but Damaya avoids her eyes, feeling that the strange girl has... (full context)
Chapter 18: you discover wonders down below
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...walking down the steps with them, and seems surprised. They then enter another tunnel, as Tonkee wonders aloud at the ancient nations that must have built these mines and passages. Tonkee... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Tonkee, who has still been asking questions and looking around in wonder, now asks Ykka how... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...smell people ahead, they fully appreciate what Castrima is: an entirely underground comm. Essun and Tonkee are disbelieving at first, until they finally enter and fall silent in awe. They are... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...electric power with a turbine. Most of it was built before the Sanzed Empire began. Tonkee notices that the crystals themselves are glowing, and Ykka says that this is another thing... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...finally introduces herself, giving only the name “Essun,” which itself is a lie, she thinks. Tonkee and Hoa introduce themselves as well. Ykka then welcomes them to Castrima and says that... (full context)
Chapter 21: you’re getting the band back together
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...crystal. Amid her tiredness from the overwhelming day, Essun suddenly realizes that she actually knows Tonkee, and she says this—Tonkee is Binof Leadership Yumenes. Tonkee seems cowed and says that she... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Learning this, Essun grows angry and demands an explanation. Tonkee apologizes and tries to explain: she is a geomest and did go to the Seventh... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Backtracking, Essun learns more about what happened to Binof, who now prefers the name Tonkee. She disappointed her Leadership family by rejecting all their... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Tonkee says that she wasn’t obsessed with Essun on a personal level, but mostly had her... (full context)
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...says that there should have been only one obelisk headed toward Tirimo, the amethyst, but Tonkee insists that there was another one, and it had picked up speed in the last... (full context)
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...ever needs to sleep. Essun goes to bed. She wakes up next to Hoa, with Tonkee asleep in the other room. Essun has no idea how long she’s been asleep, or... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...roggas into a single underground chamber. Finally, they make it back to Essun’s chambers, where Tonkee is eating in the living room. Lerna introduces himself to her, and they are cautious... (full context)