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From: Joel Priddy <jpriddy@saturn.vcu.edu>
Subject: (urth) Wolfe's women
Date: Thu, 19 Jun 97 13:23:54 EDT

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

mantis say:
  >>Let's see, you wrote: "Wolfe's women do seem to have a
kind of limited repertoire: the Stand-In for Divine Love, the Sex
Object, and Agent of Destruction."  Since I don't want to put
in your screen, please expand a little on this by first
which one of the three types goes to each of the following:
[specific list of women deleted]
Second, please enumerate the types available to Wolfe's men, so
we may compare and contrast these two sets (assuming that they
aren't the same).<<

Yeesh, mantis, you mean I need to actually back up the things I

Well, let's see if I can get my muddle of thoughts straight...
Basically, Wolfe's protagonists seem to be men (I repeat that I
haven't read past the first two pages of Pandora), and women
relate to them in kind of standard ways. The man is usually on a
quest for Divine Love, and sex with women seems to be the
preferred metaphor for this search. 
  But (with the possible exception of Apheta), they are not
Divine Love, so there is often a sinister quality to the women in
their position as False Attempts At Divine Love. I refer again to
Severian stating that women love men, but must destroy them.
Also, there's Candy in _Free_Live_Free_ , who says that men come
to her BECAUSE she's physically repulsive (Candy has two of the
most common attributes of Wolfe's women: she's a whore and a
glutton. not as many gluttonous women in Wolfe's writing as
whores, but enough to have struck me as a reoccurring motif. Take
his female gods at the end of _Urth_). 
  Women, in there failure to be Divine Love, have three areas of
emphasis: (1) The Stand-in is largely benign, but still not the
final solution (say, maybe, Valeria); (2) The Sex Object is not
actively malign, but very empty, perhaps emphasizing the futility
of trying to find Divine Love through sex (Jolenta); (3) The
Agent of Destruction. Focusing the sinister, or even Infernal,
side of women's failure to be God, willfully leading the man even
further away from there goal (Agia).
  Maybe this just goes back to the protagonist being male, and
many men having a somewhat limited range of relationships with
women. And there may be similar limitation on his men, but it
hasn't struck me in quite the way it has with his women. 
  To be perfectly clear, I am not saying that Wolfe is sexist,
but his writing does seem to be from a particularly masculine
viewpoint. And I'm not faulting his writing either. William S.
Burroughs' women strike me as being all evil Mother-figures, but
he's still a writing god. And, because Wolfe is a good writer,
there are exceptions to the above: women who are just characters.
  But, it comes down to this: _Peace_ is the only Wolfe book I've
ever lent to female friends and received a positive response. And
the sticking point usually seems to be the portrayal of women.

  While I'm in this mode, I'll make another observation that I
probably won't be able to back up...
  Wolfe is a writer who can let a tremendous amount of detail
about his characters just hang for a long time. Things like: are
they aliens? Robots? If they're cyborgs, are the organics
original or the grafts? And yet he never seems to be able to
resist calling a black character capitol "B" Black over and over
again. In _Peace_ or even (I suppose) the Latro books this seems
just like a historically accurate representation of the
narrator's response, but it seems to be pretty much everywhere in
his writing. He didn't beat us over the head with the ethnicity
of the autocthons. In fact, he never seems to mention ethnicity
unless a character is "Black."
  I'm not trying to be sensitive or judgmental here, just this is
something I've observed, and am not sure why it is so.

Has anyone else noticed either of these tendencies in Wolfe's


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