(urth) Close Reading: Torturer Chapter II: Severian

JWillard aldenweer at charter.net
Sat Sep 9 23:13:17 PDT 2006

Paragraph #3: "That first recollection is of piling pebbles in the Old 
Yard."  Casual comment, or something more?  My mind traveled to Sev 
being overwhelmed by the Sand Garden (XIX), and his comment, ""I felt I 
belonged there," I said.  "That I was to meet someone ... and that a 
certain woman was there, nearby, but concealed from sight.""  Don't 
know; probably nothing.

#4: "... they seldom had much stomach for expelling us from our lurking 
places in the cypress groves."  Robert Graves talks about the cypress in 
The White Goddess:  "Thus as the tree of Sunday, succeeding the alder of 
Saturday, it symbolized resurrection in the Orphic mysteries, the escape 
of the Sun-hero from Calypso's alder-girt island, and became attached to 
the cult of the Celestial Hercules.  Cypress is still the prime 
resurrection symbol in Mediterranean church-yards."  Are all the 
torturers being groomed as potential new suns?  And how much of the 
Hercules cult is explored in BotNS: Palaemon is a link to Hercules and 
the White Goddess.

#5: Does the layout of where the different social strata are buried help 
us anywhere else?

#6: "...observing how cruel the women were and how often they exceeded 
the punishments he had decreed..."  Is Wolfe in agreement with Severian 
and Ymar, or is this misogynous comment specific to his characters?

#8: What "great northern clan" does Eata believe he belongs to?

#9:  Crucial paragraph, but I have no new observations.

#10:  I'm stupid: Is the giant fox a lion?  I puzzled over this 
paragraph.  It seems so simple, but it nags at me.  Then the line in #11 
nags me more:  "The decades of a saros would not be long enough for me 
to write all they meant to the ragged apprentice boy I was."  Is this a 
pointer disguised as reminescence?  Is there importance in the 
procession/order of animals mentioned?  (Lion (?), snake, hawk.)  Is 
there some astrological significance here?

#11:  "The second ..." Does the white fountain do more than resurrect?  
Any odd critters out there other than Hethor's?

#14:  Once again, torturers have a disturbing idea of fun, don't they?

#20 and 27:  Two comments specific to Eata:  "Eata guessed, I think - 
before they come too near to being men, boys often have an almost female 
insight," and after Sev's drowning, "I ... thought that some defect in 
my own vision was multiplying Eata's eyes."  Are we meant to think 
something about Eata?

#25:  Why a spoon?  Why?

#26:  Is he in Thecla's cell?  Mother's cell?

#12, 21, 27:  What is it with hair in this chapter?

Dialogue after #28: "Someone in the crowd said, "He shot right out of 
the water!""  It's almost as if Severian *himself* is excalibur in this 
Someone who's read this recently:  Why does the boatman (Charonus?) have 
"tar-stained clothes"?  I'm sure it's something obvious.
""No, no," Roche told him, "There are no women in our guild.""  This 
fact is given special emphasis in this chapter, bookended by the earlier 
reference to Ymar and Roche's response here. 

Last paragraph:   "Night atop the khan"  Last chapter we had one mention 
of Erebus; here one of Night.

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