Christian the Tragic Spank-Happy Hamlet: Chapter 21 of EL James’s “Grey”


Previous Post.

We open, as always, with Christian waking up. Every chapter opens with people waking up, every chapter closes with people going to bed. What a fantastic way to tell a story, EL James.

Back to Christian. Guess what? He’s tormented:

Sleep eludes me. I’m tormented by Ana’s fragrance, which still clings to my bedsheets. I pull her pillow over my face to breathe in her scent. It’s torture, it’s heaven, and for a moment I contemplate death by suffocation.

do it

Get a grip, Grey.

Yeah, get a firmer grip on that pillow. Don’t let any air escape.

Sadly he just rolls over and thinks about how sad he is:

I rerun the morning’s events in my head. Could they have unfolded any differently? As a rule I never do this, because it’s a waste of energy, but today I’m looking for clues as to where I went wrong.

I get the feeling that EL James intended for this sentence to read as “I’m a no-regrets type of guy. I don’t have time to second-guess myself”. But instead it definitely confirms the fact that Christian is willfully obtuse about everything he says and does to people and then dismisses thinking about it as a “waste of time” if he knows he fucked up.

Anyway, Christian racks his brain to try to figure out if he could’ve prevented the break-up, but decides that they probably would’ve broken up regardless. So it definitely had nothing to do with him beating her with a belt long before she was ready, and right after she said she was not down with receiving pain. And that maybe what she really wanted to test was whether Christian was willing to give up the more painful aspects of the lifestyle for her.

But let’s not dwell on that. What could be learned from analyzing it, right?

Christian imagines Ana at home, huddled in her bed. He quickly reminds the reader that he’s never actually been to her new apartment. I bet that won’t be relevant later. Even though — as you recall — he did get his brother to give him the address so he could send Ana and Kate a bottle of champagne with a note that sounded like it came from a middle-aged uncle.

Christian checks the clock — it’s 2:00am. He tries to go back to sleep.

He has — surprise! — a moldy cheese dream.


It’s really, really, really disgusting. I refuse to post actual exerpts, so the tl;dr is that Christian remembers his birth mother being repeatedly beat with a belt.

Yes. Just like the belt that Christian repeatedly hit Ana with a few hours ago.

No, this is not a coincidence.

The pimp repeatedly calls Christian’s mother a “fucked-up bitch.”

Yes, that’s a paraphrase of what Ana called Christian earlier.

Yes, EL James is intentionally manipulating the reader by making them feel that poor, poor Christian was forced to relive his own pain because of Ana’s mean actions.

Anyway, the pimp also slaps Christian a bit.

Christian wakes up, drenched in sweat.

I take a deep steadying breath, trying to rid my memory of the smell of body odor and cheap bourbon and stale Camel cigarettes.

For the last fucking time, EL James, the problem here is not that Christian’s mother was poor. As you have proven with this very book, people from any economic class can be abusers. Stop using poverty as a flimsy, shitty pop psychology backdrop for your terrible story.

You are one fucked-up son of a bitch.

Ana’s words ring in my head.

Like his.


I couldn’t help the crack whore. God, I tried.


But I could help Ana.

I let her go.

I had to let her go.

She didn’t need all this shit.

I just can’t with any of this line of reasoning.

Yes, Ana needs to leave Christian permanently. But here’s the thing: this book will end with Christian deciding to win Ana back. Not because he wants to change, not because he’s going to stop hitting or controlling her, but because eventually he’ll decide he just really wants her. So all of this hand-wringing of, “I’m no good for her!” and “I’m a product of a cycle of abuse!” gets washed down the drain and will never (at least in Ana’s series) be properly addressed or resolved.

So forgive me if all of Christian’s inner monologs about sparing Ana don’t give me hope — because one, he’s still making it all about himself, and two, he’s going to decide that his dick’s needs come first in the end anyhow.

I glance at the clock: it’s 3:30. I head into the kitchen and after drinking a large glass of water I make my way to the piano.

And Gail and Taylor take another Mydol.

There’s a scene transition which opens with Christian waking up — again. He was dreaming about Ana this time. She was kissing him. He liked that. Robot love kiss.

For a second Christian forgets that Ana is gone. Then he is sad again when he remembers that she is gone.

But yes, he does have a boner. I’m no poet, though, so let EL James’s wordsmithery delight you:

The evidence of my desire presses into the mattress–but the memory of her bright eyes, clouded with hurt and humiliation as she left, soon solves that problem.

Given that Christian is an abuser who gets off on abuse, doesn’t that sound like he immediately came when he thought about how sad she was? I know that’s not what EL James was trying to put forth, but “soon solves that problem” is just vague enough to allow for some gross wiggle room.

Anyway, you’ll never believe it, but Christian goes for a run. What about his shower?!!?! I hope he still has a shower. Don’t leave anything out, EL James. Did he brush his teeth first? Did he turn right or left when he left his building? I need it all.

I have a feeling every one of the next 4 chapters are going to be like this.

“I had a bad dream. I got a boner. I’m sad. I go for a run. I yell at my assistant. I go for a run. I think about Ana. I get a boner. I go to sleep. I have a bad dream.”

Prokofiev’s “Arrival of the Montagues and Capulets” blares in my ears as I pound the sidewalk through the early morning quiet of Fourth Avenue. I ache everywhere–my lungs are bursting, my head is throbbing, and the yawning, dull ache of loss eats away at my insides. I cannot run from this pain, though I’m trying. I stop to change the music and drag precious air into my lungs. I want something…violent. “Pump it,” by the Black Eyed Peas, yeah. I pick up the pace.


These are the only moments when I feel bad for EL James. Because Jesus Christ she is the worst stereotype of a middle-aged white mother.

Wait — scratch that. I don’t feel bad for James, then. I feel bad for all of the perfect nice middle-aged white mothers who would never write anything this horrifyingly bad. Sorry about that, y’all.


Even in 2011 that song would’ve been dated, and since nothing from this chapter was in the original she could’ve just looked up what was top of the charts on June 5th, 2011 (since she’s gone to SUCH great pains to state all of the exact dates and times) and found something that he might have actually been listening to. It’s not like club anthems were hard to find in 2011. Though, looking at the charts, the top song was Give Me Everything by Pitbull, and I’m not sure that would be much better. And certainly not “violent” enough, whatever the fuck that means.

Annnyyywaayyy, you knew this was coming, but Christian conveniently “finds himself” jogging right past Ana’s apartment.

Whoops. How did that happen.

I find myself running down Vine Street, and I know it’s insane, but I hope to see her. As I near her street my heart races still harder and my anxiety escalates. I’m not desperate to see her–I just want to check that she’s okay. No, that’s not true. I want to see her.

I mean, raise your hand if you’ve never done this at least once. I can’t hate on him for it, provided he doesn’t do something much creepier.

Creepier: he keeps jogging until he’s right in front of her apartment. Then he ducks into a doorway so he can’t be easily seen and stares up at it:

The curtains of one room are closed, the others open. Perhaps that’s her room. Maybe she’s still asleep–if she’s there at all. A nightmare scenario forms in my mind; she went out last night, got drunk, met someone…



Didn’t she take off from his apartment at like midnight? I’m not saying people haven’t managed to break up with someone, get drunk, and sleep with someone else within 6 hours before, but does he really think that his sobbing, recently hymen-free girlfriend immediately ran out and hopped on another dick RIGHT AWAY? But forgive me, because I’m actually thinking about Ana here. A person who, in my mind, has personal agency and a will of her own. Christian, meanwhile, is just worried that some other man is dirtying up his possession:

Bile rises in my throat. The thought of her body in someone else’s hands, some asshole basking in the warmth of her smile, making her giggle, making her laugh–making her come. It takes all my self-control not to go barging through the front door of her apartment to check that she’s there and on her own.

I just have an image of him busting down the door and then checking for penii with a mag light. “Come out with your dicks up!”

But Christian manages somehow to rein in his temper and keep jogging by reminding himself that she’s just not for him. But if she was for him, then he’d totally have the right to knock down her door and perform a thorough dickspection, right?

Scene cut. Christian is now at his home office. It’s dusk. He’s been “working hard” all day:

Ros has worked hard, too. She’s prepared and sent me a first draft business plan and letter of intent for SIP.

At least I’ll be able to keep an eye on Ana.

The thought is painful and appealing in equal measure.

Remember, again, that Ana both has no idea that Christian bought the company that she hasn’t even started working at yet, and that she specifically asked him not to interfere. And now they’ve broken up. And while the sale isn’t final, Christian is still obviously going to buy her company. What a prince.

Christian says some business words that I won’t bother recapping because they’re all meaningless, but admits that his attention keeps drifting to the glider. THE GLIDER!

He thinks about that time he and Ana had sex. It makes him miss her. He’s so complex.

Next, Elliot texts Christian because God hates me:

Elliot: Beer, hotshot?

I respond.

Christian: No. Busy.

Elliot’s response is immediate.

Elliot: Fuck you, then.

Yeah. Fuck me.

There’s something undeniably amusing about the fact that Christian is more dramatic than any 13 year old who has ever lived.

Back to Christian. Christian’s sad because Ana hasn’t, even, like, texted:

Nothing from Ana: no missed call. No e-mail. The nagging pain in my gut intensifies. She’s not going to call. She wanted out. She wanted to get away from me, and I can’t blame her.

I get that he is sad, but does he really not know how breakups work? And what I love here is that still, STILL, Christian is making this all about himself. “She doesn’t want… THE MONSTER!!!!” No, she just doesn’t want to be smacked with a belt and told what to eat. Those are both things you could change if you really wanted her back.

But you won’t.

Christian walks into the kitchen. Please God not another kitchen scene:

Gail is back.

Where did she go?

The kitchen has been cleaned, and there’s a pot bubbling on the stove.

That doesn’t sound good. You should probably buy better-quality cookware in future.

Smells good…but I’m not hungry. She walks in while I’m eyeing what’s cooking.


“Good evening, sir.”


She pauses–surprised by something. Surprised by me? Shit, I must look bad.

“Chicken Chasseur?” she asks, her voice uncertain.

“Sure,” I mutter.

“For two?” she asks.

Gail you shady bitch.

I stare at her, and she looks embarrassed.

Salt that wound, Gail. Salt it.

“For one.”

“Ten minutes?” she says, her voice wavering.

“Fine.” My voice is frigid.

I turn to leave.

“Mr. Grey?” She stops me.

“What, Gail?”

“It’s nothing. Sorry to disturb you.” She turns to the stove to stir the chicken, and I head off to have another shower.

YESSSSSSSSS. I was so worried I’d miss today’s shower. Thank you, EL James. Thank you for providing every single second of Christian’s fascinating life. Does he use body wash? What brand is it? Stop holding out on your fans!

And then Christian — the world’s biggest, most dramatic diva — invokes literature’s original big, dramatic, tragic, spoiled, rich, white male diva:

Christ, even my staff have noticed that something’s rotten in the state of fucking Denmark.


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One thought on “Christian the Tragic Spank-Happy Hamlet: Chapter 21 of EL James’s “Grey”

  1. Okay, waking with an erection is not “evidence of desire”, it’s standard operating procedure for a guy. :/

    BTW “Down with the sickness” by Disturbed would be my choice for a ‘violent’ song. Scarily fitting for Christian, too. But I acknowledge I’m old.

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