Here's a mega post that involves a bit of psychology behind why Will and Jem do not realize that they each love Tessa.
SPOILERS FOR CLOCKWORK PRINCE BELOW.
writingwithink asked you: Obviously everyone has noticed that Jem doesn’t notice Will’s feelings for Tessa. But, why doesn’t Jem notice? It’s not like the way Will looks at Tessa, or vice versa, is the way people who are ‘just friends’ look at each other. And, Jem is Will’s parabatai/brother/best friend. Jem has spent the last five years being Will’s best friend, the only one that Will allowed to love him. Also, why didn’t Will notice Jem’s love? I know Jem was been busy with proposing, and Will with his curse, but…
I’m answering this here with a repost of previous answers I’ve given to this question because 1) most of the question answering I did was just after Clockwork Prince came out, and so a lot of people I think skipped them, because they hadn’t read the books yet and 2) At the time they were all under cut tags. So, on the topic of people not noticing things, some of you may have read this before:
Why doesn’t Jem notice how Will feels about Tessa? What a rat he is.
I think that, when presented with a really painful situation like the one at the end of Clockwork Prince, there is a sort of natural desire to assign blame. It makes it less painful to imagine that what’s going on is someone’s fault — Tessa’s selfish! Will is entitled! Jem is blind! — than to think that these are basically decent people trying hard to be good, and they get screwed anyway. Because one is a moral lesson (always a bit comforting, as it offers the illusion of control) and the other says life is a agonizing lottery of tragedy and chance (not comforting at all.)
A lot of people comment that Jem should have realized Will loved Tessa because in Clockwork Angel he says that he noticed that Will thinks she’s pretty. But Jem noticing Will noticing a pretty girl is hardly equivalent to Jem noticing Will being in deathless love. Will notices pretty girls all the time. Lasciviousness is in fact, part of his false persona. Jem noting that Will thinks Tessa is pretty in CA is not about him commenting on Will’s feelings so much as it is him getting confirmation for his own. [Sometimes, my husband offers, when you think a girl is a babe, you want confirmation from your buddy that she is, in fact, as babelicious as you believe.]
Jem is an observant guy. But he is under no illusions that he knows everything about Will, and he is frank about that. From Clockwork Angel, when he tells Tessa he has no idea why Will won’t speak to his family:
““And you’ve never asked him why?”Nor does Will think Jem knows everything about him.
“If he wanted me to know, he’d tell me,” Jem said. “You asked why I think he tolerates me better than other people. I’d imagine it’s precisely because I’ve never asked him why.”
“I don’t know,” Tessa said. “I’m not sure anyone does understand you, except possibly Jem.”What Jem offers Will, what makes their relationship unique and workable, is precisely this: unconditional love without demand, perfect trust without perfect understanding. Will’s statement that Jem doesn’t understand him is not a criticism of Jem. He does not want Jem to understand him, because he doesn’t want his curse understood. He deliberately lies and hides things from Jem, and Jem knows it and accepts it because he loves him, but it’s a far stretch from that to “Jem ought to be able to read Will’s mind.”
“Jem doesn’t understand me,” Will said. “He cares for me— like a brother might. It’s not the same thing.”
Only Professor X can read minds.
Certainly Jem is able to tell that Will is in no good mood, but Will is often in no good mood, and much of Will’s upset during Clockwork Prince can be put down to his awful near-encounter with his family and his panic over their well-being. Because a lot of it is about that, and Jem would not be incorrect in assuming so. There seems to be an assumption here that Jem and Tessa ought to be able to see through Will like glass, even though Will says over and over that he isn’t interested in Tessa. If Jem and Will are really all that close, the assumption seems to be, surely Jem would be able to read Will’s mind and see he loves Tessa? But the flip side of that assumption is: since Jem and Will truly know each other, Will also knows exactly how to lie to Jem and make it stick. As for poor Tessa, we’ve been over this: there is no reason to assume a guy who repeatedly says he isn’t interested in you or commitment is not serious. Tessa made the choice she did with the information she had to hand: you can’t make choices based on things you don’t know.
[Also, if the suggestion is that parabatai ought to be able to read each other’s mind: why is Will so dense as to go off and drug himself up at an opium den and have no idea what that would do to Jem? Why does Will not notice that Jem loves Tessa, given that Will is bending every last atom of his will to concealing his love for Tessa, but Jem isn’t bothering? More on that below.]
And lastly, it’s not like Jem doesn’t have his own stuff going on. He’s dying, and dependent on a drug whose continued availability is limited. He’s in love with a girl, but knows that being a dying man, he doesn’t have a lot to offer. When she unexpectedly accepts his proposal, he’s joyous. Meanwhile, the last time he saw Will, Will was in a terrific mood (as he’d just had the curse lifted.) So Jem’s sitting there, basically overwhelmingly happy for probably the first time in his life since his parents died, and when Will comes in, he’s supposed to flip like a switch and suddenly care about nothing but the possibility that Will might be unhappy despite the fact he hasn’t mentioned it and was just fine an hour ago?
C’mon, let the guy have his moment of happiness. After all, as we know, life is a meaningless lottery of tragedy and chance.
Why doesn’t Will notice how Jem feels about Tessa? What a rat he is.
This is a bit more difficult to explain (in my mind) than why Jem didn’t notice Will loved Tessa (though I get asked that more!) — not because there’s a not a valid reasons but because it isn’t as concrete as “Will was hiding it.” Jem wasn’t hiding it. And yet, Will genuinely didn’t realize. So, why?
I don’t want to say “Will doesn’t think of Jem as a threat” because that implies all sorts of things — that people don’t see Jem as masculine (not true) or that Jem is some sort of beta or sidekick for Will, which isn’t true either. However, what is true is that for five years Jem has been a source for Will of only good things — in some ways, his only source of good things. Jem has protected him. Jem has loved him. Jem has had faith in him when nobody else did.
In a lot of ways Will isn’t capable of imagining that Jem might be the cause of pain for him (in any other way than Jem himself dying.) In his mind, Jem’s a part of him. It would be like him imagining that his own left hand might suddenly start punching him in the face. That’s why when he finds out that Jem has proposed to Tessa, his first reaction is disbelief: “Jem? *My* Jem?” Jem is his, his parabatai, his other half, his blood brother. Jem is not separate enough from him, in Will’s mind, to take independent action that would be shocking or surprising to Will.
Will is also completely caught up with and distracted by his own circumstances — desperately trying to get the curse off himself, protect his family, protect Tessa (from himself) protect Jem (from running out of drugs.) He is stretched about as thin as you could be. Under normal circumstances, he would probably also have noticed Jessamine was sneaking around, but there’s too much going on: he just doesn’t have the room for it.
This doesn’t make him a bad or selfish person. His circumstances are desperate and extreme. They require his full attention. But he himself thinks it, at the end of the book: “Will had never considered [Jem’s romantic happiness]. He had dwelled on whether Jem was safe, whether he was surviving, but not if he was happy.”
Being too caught up in whether your best friend is going to die to consider whether they’re into the same girl as you doesn’t make you a bad person; in this case, Will’s human frailties are far out of proportion to the level to which he is punished for them. But then, this isn’t a morality tale: it’s the messy story of three good people trying to do right, caught up in an impossible situation. The desire to lay blame on one of them is reasonable, but I think the thing about it that makes it upsetting is precisely that nobody really is to blame.
My .02, anyway!
Based on this info, what do you think will happen to the TID trio? Share your thoughts below!