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From: James Jordan <jbjordan4@home.com>
Subject: (whorl) Bad Horn and Rape
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 16:35:36 

At 09:37 AM 4/16/2001 -0400, Allan Lloyd wrote:>

> > (As an aside, I know that Wolfe's attitude to women has been
> > before, but these books do seem to bring out the worst in him. Women
> > seem to be inconvenient accessories, to be picked up or dumped at the
> > hero's convenience.

         For some reason I did not get the original of this post, and this 
is from Alga's reply to it.
         I think you've made a good case for seeing Horn as Bad Horn, and 
this adds a lot to reading the trilogy in terms of progressive 
transformation of the character. At the same time, the harsh treatment of 
the inhumi at the end seems (emphasis on seems) to be by the emerging Silk, 
as I pointed out the other day.
         Women to be picked up and dumped at will. Well, we all know that 
the Odyssey is partly behind this narrative, and Odysseus was hardly a 
model of faithfulness to his wife. What is of note, though I don't know how 
much Wolfe has thought about this, is that pre-Christian heroes like 
Odysseus don't really undergo the kind of moral transformation we have come 
to expect in literature of the Christian (and "post-Christian") era. 
Odysseus does not change as a result of his descent into Hades; no "death 
and moral resurrection" here; and he's about as vicious at the end as he 
has been all along. But both Horn and Severian are becoming better people, 
though not very dramatically. They make a little progress, not great 
progress. In the case of Horn, it's Silk's influence, in various ways.
         Rape? Hey, what else are women for? Sure, MY WIFE is to be 
protected (and maybe yours also, if you're my equal), but the rest are fair 
game, to be used at will. That's the "ancient heroic" attitude, pretty 
much. (Though Homer was not totally blind to the problem, as the first book 
of the Iliad shows.)
         Shellac mentioned rape in Wolfe. Well, rape is about as common as 
oxygen in most of the world in most of history. Our sensibilities about 
equal treatment have been formed by the Bible, gradually, over centuries of 
its influence -- whether we personally accept the Bible or not. "Democracy" 
in Greece means male citizens only, not women and not the many slaves. The 
Hebrew scriptures required slaves be freed after a few years, required 
masters be punished if they abused their bondservants, and punished rape 
with death. Israelites were forbidden to have sex when the Ark of the 
covenant was in the field, i.e., in the context of battle; thus, no rape of 
the enemy women. (Setting the special provision to wipe out all the 
Canaanites; I'm speaking of "normal war," not "holy war.") St. Paul says 
men and women have different roles, but are fundamentally equal before God 
and in Christ. Parts of the Bible were written by women (Songs of Deborah, 
Hannah, Mary). 1500 years of this stuff being read, studied, preached, in 
churches all over Europe had a effect on culture -- though the effect has 
not been as great as it should be, IMO. In a broad way, femin-ISM is as 
much as anything else a "Christian heresy."
         Wolfe, I'm sure, is quite sympathetic to some of the concerns of 
feminism. Men have very often treated women very badly, historically, and 
Wolfe wants us to think about this fact.
         Rape and also the sexual abuse of children is pretty damn common, 
and he's trying to deal with it. It's clear that HE does not approve of it. 
Where traditional epics like the Odyssey might find Odysseus' adulteries 
"good stuff," and the Kalevala presents Lemmenkainen's fornications as 
humorous, it's pretty clear that Horn's and Severian's follies are not held 
up for our amusement. Even in Jack Vance, though Cugel gets his 
comeuppance, his dalliances are presented as light humor. I don't think 
Wolfe ever presents adultery or fornication that way. Wolfe's "realism" is 
designed to make us uncomfortable, but I don't think his own moral 
perspective is hard to discern.


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