Friday, September 4, 2009

"Shadow", Chapter 2, Part 1

But Ymar the Almost Just, observing how cruel the women were and how often they exceeded the punishments he had decreed, ordered that there should be women among the torturers no more.
Now that's the kind of inflammatory statement a blog needs! I've seen comments about the book that call it misogynistic. A couple points: first, it's told entirely in the first person, and Severian just said he was raised in a medieval, monastic-like, all-male environment, where most of his interactions with women were with "clients" or "the witches" (more on them later, maybe). So if Severian is sometimes a misogynist, that doesn't mean that the book is misogynistic: it's just good characterization. Second, "misogyny" is a very strong term that I think is overused. Severian's attitude towards women is rather more complicated than hatred or love or condescension or respect. It's all of those and more: a realistic attitude, in other words. I suppose you've never been cruel to a man, ladies? ;) As to whether men or women are inherently more cruel, all my experience suggest rough equality here. Comments welcome. Ymar is the name of another saint, by the way. Couldn't find the etymology of the name. :( I just had a random thought about the title of the book ("Shadow of the Torturer" for those following along at home). I already mentioned that "shadow" could be the initial reference to all the sun symbolism, but shadow can also mean the spirit or soul. Also, in Jungian psychology:
The Shadow is considered to be a collection of inferiorities, undeveloped, and regressive aspects of the personality. They are primarily of an emotional nature and have a kind of autonomy, displaying an obsessive or more accurately a possessive quality. These aspects are generally associated with projections. Projection is defined as "the situation in which one unconsciously invests another person (or object) with notions or characteristics of one's own.
So this first book could be about Severian's "undeveloped soul."

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