(urth) The Guild's Revolutionary

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Sun Nov 22 15:58:01 PST 2009

Good thoughts ... ------------------------------ Message: 2 Date: Sat, 
21 Nov 2009 21:56:08 -0800 (PST) From: Jerry Friedman 
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<urth at lists.urth.net> Subject: Re: (urth) The Guild's Revolutionary 
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I'm not so sure.  Thecla says at the end of Ch. XII,
"It [the revolutionary, or the part of her that hates
herself] is a thing from Erebus, from Abaia, a fit
companion for me.  Vodalus..."  I think she mentions
those names because they're who she supported or at least
sympathized with.  The self-hatred caused by the
revolutionary may be making her exaggerate, but it seems
significant that she mentions Erebus and Abaia rather
than accusing herself of cowardly loyalty to the
corrupt Commonwealth or selfishly enjoying her position
while others starved, or some such.

---Because it's the body that rebels against the mind, I would think that even rebels have some idea of the nature of Erebus and Abaia, and Erebus and Abaia must be emblems of rebellion to most people. And therefore I'd think that the technology came from the stars, and that's simply what she's saying.

But if "it" refers to her own personal rebel, not the device---I like that. Thecla sees the nature of her punishment clearly, in that case. So it's just like the Kafka machine---it teaches as it punishes and kills. See next ...


However, I think the revolutionary got its name because
that's what it does--it's not a pun at all.  It creates
something that overthrows the mind's governance of itself.
And to the people of the Commonwealth, this is an entirely
fitting punishment for treason (which is probably what
Thecla is condemned for, whether she's guilty or not).
Letting the punishment fit the crime is important to them--
not only does Thecla say that, but Palaemon tells Severian
it would be "fitting" for him to die by the revolutionary

I think this answers David Stockhoff's question about
why they bother to use the revolutionary given that people
don't know about it, so it doesn't have deterrent value.
Many people in our culture, including me, are
consequentialists, but people in the Commonwealth may
not be so much.  The fitness of the punishment is a
good enough reason without any useful consequences.

---Perfect! It fits with the Kafka device. In fact, that was probably a clue telling us that all the devices should be read in a parallel manner---that they are all meant to "fit" the crime.

And of course words change over time in a sometimes punlike way. If "revolutionary" doesn't quite fit to our ears---it shouldn't.


I partially agree with David Stockhoff here.  Gurloes is
pretending to misunderstand because he has some reason
not to tell Thecla how her punishment works.  (Earlier
she asks whether he plans to explain whatever will be
used on her, and he says, "No, no, I wouldn't do that.")

I'm not sure what his reason is, though.  Maybe it's
some kind of politeness or consideration, as David
suggests, or maybe he's not allowed to, or it's part
of his pretense of being simple, or he's gloating over
his superior knowledge, or he's annoying her by
pretending to misunderstand in a way that makes her
look stupid.

---Thanks for reminding me of that bit of dialog---I looked it up and I'm even more convinced Gurloes simply didn't want to be, in a sense, "crude." :)


But that's true of Allowin's necklace and the kite, too.

Gurloes seems to use "hallowed" as a synonym for "old", which
tells us something about he (and Commonwealth people in
general) see things.  I'm not sure we can draw any
conclusions from it beyond that.

---I agree.

Jerry Friedman

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