(urth) Were Jolenta and Dorcas lovers?

Dan Rabin wolfe-lists at danrabin.com
Mon Oct 30 21:05:05 PST 2006

My own theory about the passage that Brent Dyer cites is that the 
juxtaposition between Severian's casual treatment of the possibility 
of sex between him and the boy, and the possibility of sex between 
Dorcas and Jolenta, is intended to be strange to us who read it: the 
former is shocking in our culture, the latter somewhat tittilating. 
Severian seems to find both possile relationships not only 
matter-of-fact but also comparable: they are "play".

I also note that Jolenta speaks in the boating scene of her enhanced 
looks leading women to want to protect her (out of lust, presumably), 
whereas Severian's adoption of his young namesake seems to arise out 
of a sense of responsibility rather than desire for sexual 
companionship.  Somehow this makes me think of that bit of Severian's 
character that qualifies him to be the New Sun.

More suggestive associations that I can't weave into a nice essay at 
the moment:

The stories of Jolenta and Little Severian are both woven with 
enemies of the New Sun.

Baldanders starts as Frankenstein, and creates his ideal Doctor to 
manage him as he becomes more the Monster.  The homonculus Doctor 
enhances the "sylph" into an idealized image of human beauty (Bride 
of Frankenstein?), but only for amusement: the creation cannot 
survive without him, and he is indifferent to her survival (indeed 
contomptuous of it).

I think there's some sort of parody of the humas/Hieros 
mutual-regeneration cycle in the Baldanders/Talos relationship, but 
it's not an exact correspondence, since the devoted Talos is more 
like the Hierodules than like either of the two races in question. 
There's also an inversion of the enumerated characteristics of the 
Hieros: "united, compassionate, just" into characteristics of 
Baldanders: solitary, callous, self-interested and ambitious.  But 
then again Talos comments on how Baldanders created him to have 
characteristics that he himself lacked--contrast with the story of 
the humans of the last cycle shaping the Hieros to have the humans' 
*best* (not lacking) qualities.

[I may have the terminology of Hieros vs. Hierogrammates mixed up 
here, and would welcome correction.]

The Little Severian story brings in Agia, Hethor, the magicians, and 
Typhon from the Anti-Sunny party.  Little Severian loses his familty 
to the alzabo and must rely on Big Severian, who rescues the boy from 
the magicians and is himself rescued from them by the diverted malice 
of Hethor.  The boy is lost to the indifferent automatic malice and 
arrogance of Typhon, from whose clutches Severian rescues the Claw 
before losing it to Baldanders.  Rescue, lose is the repeated 
pattern.  At the end of the third volume Severian has no Dorcas, no 
boy, no Claw-as-jewel, no Terminus Est, no guild.  He has been 
stripped of external objects of devotion and sources of power.  He 
rescues the Claw-as-claw and, er, soldiers on.  In the chapel at the 
lazaret he experiences praying to himself.  At this point, when he 
can finally see that his implicit quest for the New Sun leads to 
himself and not through external objects and persons, he gives up the 
Claw voluntarily.  He reports being under the impression that he was 
doing this to fulfill his self-imposed obligation to return the Claw 
to the Pelerines, but (as he himself observes in the first book) it 
is not necessary to understand such symbols to be affected by them. 
He goes on to resecue and lose Master Ash, to lose the companions he 
found at the lazaret, to gain and lose the companionship of 
Guasacht's irregulars, and finally on to "back into the throne".

I just reread the passage in which Severian returns the Claw, and I noticed

1. He puts the Claw pretty much where a relic of a saint would go in 
a Roman Catholic altar, and

2. He bloodies himself tightening the clamps holding down the altar 
stone, so his posession of the Claw both ends and begins with him 

Enough for now.  Amazon US says that _Soldier of Sidon_ comes out 
tomorrow, and Amazon UK claims to have it available already.  We may 
distracted from _The Book of the New Sun_ for some weeks hence.

   -- Dan Rabin

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