(urth) Close Reading: Torturer Chapter II: Severian
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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