(urth) _Dhalgren_: Scathing Towards Women? and a few ?'s about Sev

Jack Redelfs jackredelfs at gmail.com
Sun Oct 22 21:19:29 PDT 2006

Dan'l, I read _Dhalgren_ just a couple of years ago, and I seem to recall
that all or most of the female characters were objectified, scorned and
degraded in one way or another.
I don't remember any outright rape, but that's not requisite for a hateful
attitude towards women.

_Dhalgren_ is supposedly famous for being easy to start, tough to finish,
and I know I almost quit a couple of times. I don't know if I've ever read a
long novel that was so inconsistent. He wrote the first chapter in an
impressive stream-of-consciousness style, only to abandon it entirely
(except for a brief encore at the end), unless you count the bizarre
monologues. I lost track of how many times he'd introduce a few characters
and a new plot, only to abandon everything  and write 50 pages of
pornography, or 50 pages of rambling semi-coherent monologue.
It's a weird book, but not weird-good. I think It may well have been
condemned to obscurity if not for the naughty bits. It's probably one of the
worst novels I ever completed. A 250 page condensed version would likely be
solid, though no _Babel-17_. Maybe "Reader's Digest" could be interested in
the undertaking? *grin*

> Actually, there are passages where various
> characters deliver homilies. Silk does it a _lot_ in

You're right, of course. His characters do moralize,
as people are wont to do, but I think Wolfe does a
good job of leaving a bit of doubt about who's
acting as the authorial mouthpiece. Sure,
Silk may show a lot of wisdom, but within
definite limits. The mere thought of Hyacinth turns
him into a quivering schoolboy, and his moral center
is defined by devotion to a absurd religion that
worships feuding videogame deities - plus it only
recently quit sacrificing humans, and for the wrong
reason at that.

On an unrelated note, let me throw out a question that
has always intrigued me. Sometimes Severian was able
to heal with the Claw, sometimes not. Did we ever figure
out what criteria determined his success or failure?
Toward the close of _Citadel_, in one of
Wolfe's fuzziest Hallmark moments,
Sev realizes that the claw is just a common thorn,
and that "the power was inside me all along!
I healed Triskele!"

Was the power specific to Sev as the Conciliator,
or just general divine (or Hierogrammatic, if you
want to be SFnal) power accessible to any old

Either way, you'd think that afterwards he would heal
people by simply laying his hands on them or
something. Why didn't he ever do this?

I seem to remember an idea that Sev
dying for the first time in _Shadow Of The Torturer_,
drowning in the Gyoll. Is this theory strongly supported
by the text or is it just wild conjecture? If it's a good
theory, it means Sev was an aquastor throughout. Did "the Claw's" healing
power come from the fact that Sev was an aquastor? Is that the SFnal
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