Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Shadow", Chapter 7, Part 1

Whatever the reason, I loved her at once - loved her, at least, insofar as a stupid boy can love. But being only a stupid boy, I did not know it.
Severian has just met Thecla. There's a St. Thecla (surprise) in the apocrypha, who was a companion to Paul. In that story, she's a chaste maiden, which doesn't quite fit. But she visits Paul in his cell when he's arrested, which is quite nicely symmetric with Severian visiting Thecla. Later, Thecla is sentenced to be eaten by wild beasts. This has an analogue later in the book; we'll get to it. Before that, she was to be burned at the stake, which might also have an analogue later in the book. Sorry about teasing you all, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers. Wolfe seems to put down stupid boy love. But is it because it's simplistic? The way a pet or a small child loves you - is that somehow substandard, too? And since we've got the religious angle here, isn't that what your love for God should be like - simple, pure, unconditional?
She smiled, and I felt as I had when I had been in the Atrium of Time and had come inside to a warm room and food. She had narrow, very white teeth in a wide mouth; her eyes, each as deep as the cistern beneath the Bell Keep, shone when she smiled. "I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't hear you."
We've all been there, I think. Also, this again illustrates that Severian can't really remember everything, just everything he is focused on. "She sighed, and all the gladness went out of her face, as the sunlight leaves the stone where a beggar seeks to warm himself." -- Gene-ius.
"Wait. Aren't you going to ask me why I'm here?" "I know why you're here," I said as I swung back the door. "To be tortured, eventually, like the others." It was a cruel thing to say, and I said it without reflection as young men do, only because it was what was in my mind. Yet it was true, and I was glad in some way, as I turned the key in the lock, that I had said it.
If one were jumping to conclusions, this could indicate the fabled misogyny that some people find in this book. But let's read the next couple of paragraphs:
We had had exultants for clients often before. Most, when they arrived, had some understanding of their situation, as the Chatelaine Thecla did now. But when a few days had passed and they were not put to torment, their hope cast down their reason and they began to talk of release - how friends and family would maneuver to gain their freedom, and of what they would do when they were free. One would withdraw to his estates and trouble the Autarch's court no more. Another would volunteer to lead a muster of lansquenets in the north. Then the journeymen on duty in the oubliette would hear tales of hunting dogs and remote heaths, and country games, unknown elsewhere, played beneath immemorial trees. The women were more realistic for the most part, but even they in time spoke of highly placed lovers (cast aside now for months or years) who would never abandon them, and then of bearing children or adopting waifs. One knew when these never-to-be-born children were given names that clothing would not be far behind: a new wardrobe on their release, the old clothes to be burned; they talked of colors, of inventing new fashions and reviving old ones. At last the time would come, to men and women alike, when instead of a journeyman with food, Master Gurloes would appear trailing three or four journeymen and perhaps an examiner and a fulgurator. I wanted to preserve the Chatelaine Thecla from such hopes if I could.
So he was glad he said it because he loved her and didn't want to give her false hope. I don't know whether I agree that no hope is better than false hope. Especially in this case.

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