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Shadow & Claw (The Book of the New Sun #1-2)
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2011 Reads > S&C: Thecla (spoilers, Shadow, ch 10-14)

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message 1: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 16, 2011 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
What do you think of Severian's relationship with Thecla as client, and his betrayal of the guild in order to show her some mercy?

When I originally read these books ten years ago, this was one of the most moving elements, and really helped humanize Severian as a character.

This time, I still find it haunting (especially the torture scene), but I also found the amount of time the book spends showing their relationship to be much shorter than I remembered. Maybe this is a case of knowing what's going to happen effecting the reading.

I also noticed this time that in chapter 16, when he is supposedly obsessed with grief for Thecla, he also falls instantly in love with Agia, and not really in a 'latching on to someone out of desperate grief' way, so that lessened some of the tragedy's impact for me as well.

I know that Severian is not through thinking about Thecla, but these are my initial reactions at this point of my re-read.

What do you think?


message 2: by Jared (new)

Jared (jared_king) | 51 comments To quote Bon Jovi - "like a poet needs the pain"

On relfection, maybe Severian is (dont know how to describe this...) adding more emotion to the events? As an unreliable narrator...IMO the way he (retells that he) acts in certain situations doesnt seem to match how one would act if they felt the way he says he did (huh?)- You dont beat and torture someone you love. Mostly.
Its not unreasonable to suppose that Severian's love for Thecla and indeed 'all the other women' has evolved over time, and that is reflected in his retelling. I need someone to condense this into a coherent and concise quote!


message 3: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 16, 2011 09:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Jared wrote: "IMO the way he (retells that he) acts in certain situations doesnt seem to match how one would act if they felt the way he says he did (huh?)- You dont beat and torture someone you love. Mostly. "

I see what you're getting at, but in Thecla's case I think that's a little unfair, as he was genuinely torn between the Guild that had raised, supported and trained him his entire life, and this woman he had actually, IMO, come to care for. And he *did* end up betraying the Guild for her.

Jared wrote, "Its not unreasonable to suppose that Severian's love for Thecla and indeed 'all the other women' has evolved over time, and that is reflected in his retelling. "

That's a really interesting idea -- I'll be considering that as I continue the re-read.


Larry (lomifeh) | 88 comments His reaction to Agia was much more physical I thought. He wanted her in a big way. With Thecla is much less primal and more along hte lines of "love" in the more classic sense I felt.

His reactions to the various woman, all different, are definitely evolved over time. We see both physical and emotional reactions.


message 5: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments I'm with Jared. Thecla isn't exactly the paragon that Severian makes her out to be. Severian's love for Thecla is Romanticized and idealized. It humanizes him, certainly, but I don't think it's "true love" (for lack of a better phrase).


message 6: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Ed wrote: "I'm with Jared. Thecla isn't exactly the paragon that Severian makes her out to be. Severian's love for Thecla is Romanticized and idealized."

The fake Thecla at the whorehouse points out that Severian isn't in love with Thecla; he's in love with the Platonic ideal of Thecla, which the whore and the prisoner are merely shadows of. So to large degree I don't think it's Thecla's death that affects him -- it's that he no longer has a conduit to the Platonic Thecla.


message 7: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Well, Colin just commented in the unreliable narrator thread about how Severian later offhandedly mentions Agia trying to claw his eyes out in a rage like Thecla would when things got too much for her -- certainly a contradiction of how he had previously represented the time he spent with Thecla. So that casts even more doubt on their relationship's storybook nature.


Larry (lomifeh) | 88 comments Jlawrence wrote: "Well, Colin just commented in the unreliable narrator thread about how Severian later offhandedly mentions Agia trying to claw his eyes out in a rage like Thecla would when things got too much for ..."

If anything I suspect he is glossing over aspects of their relationship. There are hints that there may have been a physical aspect to it though it is never mentioned explicitly. He treats Thecla differently though, he portrayed that part about raging regarding her situation but not really directed at him specifically. Agia was directing it at him.


Colin | 278 comments I hit that part in Claw, Larry. P.261, he is describing or explaining how he views and deals with his photographic memory.
"I can even now close my eyes and walk into Thecla's cell as i did one winter evening; and soon my fingers will feel the heat of her garment while the perfume of her person fills my nostrils like the perfume of lilies warmed before a fire. I life her gown from her and embrace that ivory body, feeling her nipples pressed to my face..."

That certainly confused me when i read it. Was that his photographic memory there, replaying an actual event? Or was that his imagination working in conjunction with his memory, threading memories together from his time with Fake-Thecla? Because that certainly puts another layer of his 'betrayal' to the guild, if he is fornicating with a client despite 'resolving' to only be her friend and not get close to her.


Larry (lomifeh) | 88 comments Colin wrote: "I hit that part in Claw, Larry. P.261, he is describing or explaining how he views and deals with his photographic memory.
"I can even now close my eyes and walk into Thecla's cell as i did one ..."


Yup it's hard to tell really, but I've always felt there was a lot more there. Thecla had such a huge impact on him that I can't imagine it was more than he stated. It's part of why I love the books, it is very real in how he wrote it I think.


Larry (lomifeh) | 88 comments Colin wrote: "Because that certainly puts another layer of his 'betrayal' to the guild, if he is fornicating with a client despite 'resolving' to only be her friend and not get close to her. "

His betrayal of his guild for her is such a powerful thing beyond merely showing her some mercy to a friend. He goes to great lengths before to explain how the one thing he did have for the guild was loyalty if nothing else. He felt more strongly for her than he did for his own guild at that point knowing full well the potential consequences.

He is definitely a complex character.


message 12: by Katenicholls (new)

Katenicholls | 4 comments I have spent a lot of time wondering about Severain's description of his relationship with Thecla and how his description becomes more sexual over time. Could it have something to do with the fact that it is not Severain's feelings we are getting later in the novels, but Thecla's? In the original description of the relationship, we see Severain essentially in a state of puppy love. The more graphic innuendo we get later may actually be Thecla's fantasies about the young Severain, not the other way around, and not really of revelation of something that happened that Severain chose not to tell us about.


message 13: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments The incorporation of Thecla's memories/personality into Severian's psyche has already taken place by the time Severian puts pen to paper in order to record the events we read in The Book of the New Sun, so I don't see any reason for some memories to be "colored" by Thecla but not others.

P.S. The character's name is Severian, not Severain.


message 14: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Ed wrote: "The incorporation of Thecla's memories/personality into Severian's psyche has already taken place by the time Severian puts pen to paper in order to record the events we read in The Book of the New Sun, so I don't see any reason for some memories to be "colored" by Thecla but not others."

True, that integration has taken place, but I'm still intrigued by the idea her consciousness might have some precedence when Severian is specifically remembering their time together (that she might partially take over bits of the narrative of those memories - a shadow of how she was able to partially take over his body several times during the events of Book of the New Sun).

But I admit there are additional things that argue against that. There are a number of incidents of Severian contradicting something he wrote earlier that have nothing directly to do with Thecla (his reaction to executing Agilius, for example), which makes his pattern of saying one thing and revealing a different version of it later look independent of Thecla's consciousness, even though that pattern includes his memories of her. (view spoiler)


message 15: by Katenicholls (new)

Katenicholls | 4 comments I came across another comment that interested me in the same way. Just after Severian has integrated the memories of the previous autarch (and predecessors), he says, "It was not that Thecla was gone (and indeed I could not wish her gone, though I knew that in many respects she had been a cruel and foolish woman)." This is the first time I have noticed a derogatory comment like that (spoken or thought) by Severian about Thecla. To me it feels like a major voice change, like the first time he can separate his consciousness since he ingested hers.

I realize that all of the book is written after he is autarach, but to me it feels like it is intentional on the part of Wolfe to point out the fact that a typical narrator couldn't separate himself in the future from his own personality changes in the past, but Severian with his unique memory can. It seems to me that integrating in all of the memories of his host of predecessors brings his voice back to being more his own as he "self rules" all the voices inside. It would make sense, then, for there to be a lot less narrative trickery in Urth of the New Sun. Or maybe I just think its more fun that way.


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