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From: "James Wynn" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Women; Incomprehensible Three
Date: Tue, 9 Sep 2003 14:16:29 -0500

> ...there was some discussion before about women in Wolfe.
> Well, I must say that while I adore Wolfe, I find his
> Crypto-Catholicism and anti-feminism irritating...His narrators so
> consistently paint a world in which women are either divine or divine
> bitches, and always incomprehensible, is very very aggravating. Long
> Sun and Short Sun beg for a half-decent female character who isn't
> crap. General Mint doesn't count, she is the virgin Joan of Arc, beyond
> humanity in person.
> That's my opinion, held after rereading the books a few times. The
> women are stomach-churningly idolised or jammed in the mud, and the
> 'good men' casually rape, murder and kill.

Well, as Horn said, you saw what you saw, but using the Long Sun as an
example, I have come to a much different conclusion.

Wolfe takes the stock stereo-types and puts them through facinating twists.

Rose is initially portrayed as your typical rudas, but then as the story
progresses we find she's a much more complex and ironic character. Mint is
your typical wilting virginal child, but in Calde we find that she is no
child; she's in her late 30s and is deeply questioning her choice of
vocation ~ like her mythological namesake she is literally being seduced by
Death. She's hardly defined by her virginity. If anything (like all the
sibyls) she exhibits all three aspects of Grave's White Goddess ~ sacred
virgin, killing nymph, and cthonic prophecying underworld bride of Death.

Siyuf is a termagant, but the leadership of Viron *and* Trivigaunte are
deliberately revolting characters. The Trivigaunte officers are competent,
professional, and sympathic characters.  Furthemore, IMO the twisted nature
of Trivigaunte culture represented by Siyuf is intended as a foil to have
the reader to take note of the irrationality and cruelty of the machismotic
culture of Viron and Typhon's Urthly city.

And what of Chenille? What of Marble negoticiating for Silk's release with
the Ayuntamiento, her crippling guilt, and her heartbreaking societal
plight? I contend that even Hyacinth is a more complex character than she is
generally credited as being.

I've yet to see a "good man" in Wolfe's major novels. They are all
ambiguous, frighteningly wounded men.

~ Crush


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