(urth) Close Reading: Torturer Chapter II: Severian

b sharp bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 11 12:05:27 PDT 2006

Addressing some notes from JWillard's post (and apologies for repeating 
things from my previous posts)

>Paragraph #3: "That first recollection is of piling pebbles in the Old 
>Yard."  Casual comment, or >something more?

I think it is very important, paired with Severian's later, augmented 
recollection of piling pebbles, "as Thecla dodged the hooves of my father's 
mounted guard". Others attribute this less importance.

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

Does the location of Vodalus' victim mark her as an armiger?  She is on 
higher ground, not near the river, right?  I notice the term "potter's 
field" is used for the burial area of the scruffiest.  The internet says: "A 
potter's field is a place for the burial of unknown or indigent people." and 
"The term comes from Matthew 27:7 in the New Testament of the Bible, in 
which priests take 30 pieces of silver returned by a repentant Judas and 
"used the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners."

>#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?

In our politically correct world, this comment might seem misogynistic but I 
don't see it that way.  First, the comment has an ironic tone because women 
are stereotyped as the nurturing gender.  A similar comment noting men are 
more cruel than women wouldn't garner much attention.  It might be Wolfe 
acknowledging the stereotype of the ball-busting woman who has been given 
unchecked power.  Then again we have Severian killing Madame Prisca for the 
crime of a bit of cruel taunting...Looking across all Wolfe's work I think 
it could be said that males and females generally tend to stay within 
traditional gender roles (yes, there are exceptions, but generally..).

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

I think it is pure fantasy.  Eata's blonde hair and light complexion mark 
him as being from the South.

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

I have one, I think.  There are 5 coffins.  "..two empty ones lay on the 
floor.  Three more too heavy for me to shift and still intact, waited on the 
shelves along one wall."  Some have wondered when Severian's corpse might 
return to inhabit one of the empty coffins but it is the closed coffins 
(presumably full?) which are "waiting" not the open ones.
    This ties to my previoius posts suggesting the five coffins refer to the 
five heads of Cerberus, lliterary avatars of Wolfe, and a cameo appearance 
in the funeral bronze.  If the two open coffins gave us #5 and Severian then 
who will be released from the other three?  Latro?, Silk?, Horn?  Anyone 
have thoughts on who Wolfe's primary avatars would be?

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

He hears a woman crying.  I think it is his mother's cell, the near-death 
experience forcing his memory back further than stacking pebbles.  Later (in 
Urth?) he remembers nursing in a cell and a dark haired woman, I think.

>#28:  Why does the boatman (Charonus?) have "tar-stained clothes"?  I'm 
>sure it's something >obvious.

Sailors on old wooden ships and boats would waterproof them with pitch or 
tar, making "tar" a nickname for sailors.  This boatman, Dorcas' husband and 
Maxellindis' uncle are all sailors and all discuss undines so I think they 
might all be the same person, Severian failing to notice. (I don't have 
Citadel here but wasn't Dorcas' final boat "freshly pitched"?)


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