(urth) The Piteous Gate (was: Book of the new sun (1-4) questions)

mournings glory mourningsglory at hotmail.com
Tue Feb 21 11:51:38 PST 2006

Mr. Ellis writes:

>The soldiers are driving people off the road, because it's illegal to
>use the roads of commonwealth.
>We're given all the facts we need before Severian even sets off on his
>journey. Master Palaemon tells us: "...there is a redoubt, so I've
>heard, every fifty leagues... [the roads] are patrolled by uhlans under
>orders to kill anyone found on them, and since they have permission to
>loot the bodies of those they slay, they are not much inclined to ask
>excuses." Shadow, XIII

Here's something I don't understand, however.

If it's illegal to travel via the roads, how exactly are all these people 
planning to get to where they're going? On the day in question Severian 
claims the highway leading to the Piteous Gate is "*crowded* with carts and 
wagons and traffic of all kinds." Surely, most of these people are aware 
that traffic is prohibited on the Commonwealth's roads. So what will they do 
once they've passed beyond the Gate? Jump into the Gyoll and start swimming? 
(River traffic does seem to be tolerated.) Melt into the woods and follow 
crude dirt paths--with carts and wagons and beasts of burden? Hide in the 
bushes whenever they sense a uhlan nears?

Moreover, if such a wide variety of traffic is allowed to exit and travel 
beyond Nessus by whatever means, doesn't this simply circumvent the law that 
made road travel illegal in the first place? Wouldn't, in fact, if the law 
were strictly followed, most people be turned away at the Gate? Apparently 
not, since enough people are aware they can reach their destinations via 
alternate means -- which in effect makes the prohibition useless anyway.

"We have closed the roads to paralyze the social order," the old autarch 
tells Severian. Methinks he needs to look again.


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