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From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) Flowers
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 21:45:08 


I, too, was very impressed with your essay on the language of flowers and
its application in the analysis of _The Book of the New Sun_. And I thank
you for your appreciation of my efforts in writing the Oz/Eyeflash posts.

I also think you summarized the problems with the scene where Severian
finds Dorcus in ruined Nessus well. In part, you wrote:

>5) When Sev last sees Dorcas, it is in the ruins of lower Nessus.
>Traveling up the Gyoll aboard the _Samru_, Sev spies "...a little boat,
>newly built, tied to an ancient pier." What follows is either an
>absolutely astonishing act of intuition or the one instance in the entire
>Urth Cycle when slow-witted Sev is smarter than the reader. He asks to be
>put ashore alongside the boat, and there reveals what else he saw from the
>deck of the ship; "...a wilted scarlet poppy left lying on the single
>seat." (IV, XXXII). By means inexplicable, he finds his way to the
>long-deserted shop where Dorcas had lived with her husband and child.
>"Perhaps it was no more than the perfume of the blossom she wore, because
>when I saw her she had an arum, freckled white and sweet as Dorcas herself
>had always been, thrust into her hair. No doubt she had brought it there
>for that purpose, and had taken out the wilted poppy and cast it down when
>she had tied up her boat." What purpose? As the text reads, it means the
>purpose of guiding him to her in the shop via the scent of the arum. Yet
>there is no way for her to know or even suspect that Sev is anywhere near

I do have an alternative to offer to your interpretation of the passage you
quote about the poppy and the arum. I think it is also valid and removes at
least one of the mysteries you raise (that is, how she knew that Severian
was near enough to follow the scent of the arum). I don't mean to start
another iron man debate; I just offer my observation as an illustration of
how Wolfe's prose, rich in ambiguity, can be often be interpreted in
different ways.

As I read the passage, the "purpose" Severian alludes to is merely that she
brought the arum to put it in her hair as an ornament, because she knew or
suspected that the poppy was wilting.

William Ansley

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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