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Date: Sun, 16 Feb 2003 08:02:27 -0600
Subject: (urth) Wintry thoughts on Wolfe
From: Adam Stephanides 

Last month, Nigel Price suggested that the "theologies" implicit in Wolfe's
fictions aren't necessarily the same as the theology Wolfe believes is true
in reality.  This is a good point, which can be extended beyond theological
specifics to basic world-views.  Behind many of the posts here which seek to
provide a "Christian" interpretation of Wolfe, there lurks the belief that
because Wolfe is a believing traditional Christian, all his works must
relate to Christ's redemption of humanity, and therefore must ultimately
provide some sort of redemption.  But in most of Wolfe's major works, there
is either no redemption at all -- PEACE, 5HC, "The Island of Doctor
Death...," "The Death of Doctor Island," "Forlesen" -- or what redemption
there is fails to outweigh the horrors that have preceded -- UOTNS, BOTLS,
BOTSS.  One could argue that the lack of redemption is due to the
characters' lack of faith; but even when Christianity is mentioned in these
works, as at the end of PEACE, the works as a whole don't present redemption
through faith as a real possibility.  If one reads Wolfe's works purely for
what is in them, he's one of the bleakest authors I know; perhaps bleaker
than he consciously intends.

Something else that contributes to my sense of Wolfe's bleakness is the
absence of love from his works.  Does any of his major novels have a
protagonist who is genuinely capable of loving another individual (as
distinct from compassion)?  The closest, perhaps, are Green in TAD and Silk
in BOTLS, but there's something obsessive about both these loves: neither
Green nor Silk really knows the woman he "loves," and I don't think either
of them is really interested in knowing her as a person.  (Though it's been
a long time since I've read BOTLS.)  Horn's love for Nettle is unconvincing,
and his feelings for Seawrack and Jahlee are more like lust than love; and
Severian, Weer, and the protagonists of 5HC all seem incapable of love.
Wolfe is a great writer, but his emotional range is limited.



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