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From: adam louis stephanides <astephan@students.uiuc.edu>
Subject: (urth) Severian's reticence
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 15:07:30 

One of Severian's quirks as a narrator, and one which makes it quite
difficult to get a grasp of his character, is his sometimes withholding an
important fact about a situation until long after he has seemingly
finished narrating that situation.  The most prominent example is his not
revealing that he and Thecla had been lovers until long after Thecla has
breathed her last.  (I am ashamed to say that I completely missed this
in my earlier reading of BotNS.)  There are a couple of other important
examples, also concerned with Severian's love life.

1)  In Sword, ch. 25, very near the beginning, Severian discloses that
Dorcas had had strong feelings for Jolenta and had been very depressed at
her death, that he believes that Dorcas and Jolenta had engaged in "sexual
play" at some time, and that he had been jealous of Dorcas's feeling for
Jolenta, though not, he claims, sexually.  I don't think that
any of this had been mentioned at the time it happened: certainly not
Dorcas's depression at Jolenta's death, and to my recollection no hint of
any relationship between Dorcas and Jolenta beyond Dorcas's natural
goodness and compassion on the one side and Jolenta's contempt on the

2)  My other example I'm less sure of.  In Citadel, ch. 2, Severian loses
himself in his memories, and "Dorcas's voice whispered in my ears:
'Sitting in a window ... trays and a rood.  What will you do, summon up
some Erinys to destroy me?"  The first of these sentences is close to
what are almost the first words Dorcas speaks in the text (though not
identical; another can of worms).  The second I was unable to find.
Severian's thoughts immediately following suggest that this sentence was
spoken to Severian, and its juxtaposition with the first sentence suggests
that it may have come near the end of their last conversation, in which
case their parting was stormier than Severian let on at the time.  Or it
may have had something to do with Severian's jealousy, discussed above.

Having noted this recurring pattern, I have some questions:

1) Are there any other examples I've missed?  (One may be his disclosure
late in the book of the very high mortality rate among the apprentices,
but I don't remember if Severian had mentioned this at the time.)

2) What does this quirk tell us about Severian?  Other quirks in his
narration have been explained by his allegedly perfect memory, but I don't
see how that would account for this.

3) What explains, in particular, his suppression of the sexual
relationship between himself and Thecla?  (Severian's motives for the
other two omissions are more obvious.)  I can think of two, not
necessarily exclusive, possibilities.  Severian, as we know, has a rather
unhealthy attitude towards women.  He may not have wanted to contaminate
the "purity" of his relationship with Thecla by admitting it had a sexual
component.  Or: Severian was ashamed enough of having "betrayed his guild"
by giving Thecla a knife, but he had to narrate it because it was crucial
to his story.  He may have wanted to keep quiet about his earlier
"betrayal" in having sex with Thecla against Master Gurloes' strict


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