Conversation about Agulis at the Gene Wolfe Facebook Appreciation Club

I’ve been rereading BotNS (this is my second read of it) and I just finished the part where Sev fights Agulis with the avern. I’m interested to hear what people think of the accusations Agilus levels agains Sevarian. Agilus says Sev has wronged him three times. Are we meant to take these accusations seriously? They're very strange. Is this just a last ditch attempt by Agilus to get out of being killed, or is Sev actually guilty of something, either legal, moral, or cultural. Are the powers that Agilus refers to simply that the avern didn’t kill Sev when it wounded him? Here the quote,
“First by entrapment. You carried an heirloom worth a villa about the city without knowing what it was you had. As owner it was your duty to know, and your ignorance threatens to cost me my life tomorrow unless you free me tonight. Secondly, by refusing to entertain any offer to buy. In our commercial society, one may set one's price as high as one wishes, but to refuse to sell at any price is treason. Agia and I wore the gaudy armor of a barbarian - you wore his heart. Thirdly, by the sleight with which you won our combat. Unlike you, I found myself contesting powers greater than I could comprehend. I lost my nerve, as any man would, and here I am. I call on you to free me.”

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Wilson Dolaghan I think they are morally skewed accusations that we are meant to sympathise with or pity on some level as they represent his incapacity for repentance and thus salvation. It also is an opportunity for Wolfe to show Severian's better side, which has been in remission for a while up to that point. Borrowing from Cecilia Michel Lopez here a bit, but I think it's trying to demonstrate an idea of the unrepentant sinner in the face of divine justice.
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Cecilia Michel Lopez Actually, I think the most important thing going on there is how Sev replies to those three points. He isn't trained in law, remember, because Torturers aren't supposed to judge. What's going on there is a somewhat truncated form of the (medieval) Scholastic debate, which is the form in which Aquinas wrote the Summa. It gives us a glimpse of Severian's education & the eroded remnants of Catholicism's intellectual tradition hanging around - not just liturgical elements, like the cathedral & altar, lingering.
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Cecilia Michel Lopez It's also the same moral bullshit we see with Agilus about incest - that he's not actually responsible for boffing his sister, since he's told her to go marry the skanky old sailor. A habit of greed & self-justification in everything he says in jail.
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James Pepe I would say that his reply is thoroughly un-Thomistic, unless you are referring to something other than this reply, "Laughter came unwished-for, carrying with it the taste of gall. "You're asking me to do for you, whom I have every reason to despise, what I wouldn't do for Thecla, whom I loved almost more than my own life. No. I'm a fool, and if I was not one before, surely your darling sister has made one of me. But not such a fool as that."
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Cecilia Michel Lopez I mean Scholastic in its form.
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Marc Aramini Wilson Dolaghan New Sun has been discussed so much from reviews to the Urth list I feel it is almost impossible to determine where certain ideas come from regarding its interpretation. This is not the case with Wizard Knight, Short Sun, Sorcerer's House, Latro, Home Fires, "The Changeling," "Seven American Nights," and The Fifth Head of Cerberus, where my theses are a bit more original and clear. Originally I did not intend to have anything on New Sun in that book, but the publisher insisted I write something on it. I wasn't going to write on the long fiction until I got to Fifth Head and thought gee something is missing in the existing consensus. In hindsight my plan, to write on Wolfe's most obscure stuff and ignore the popular stuff, doesn't seem too prescient. The problem with peeping in on discussions from new readers on New Sun is of course one of "oh no, not this again ...." I forgive them; they know not what they do.
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Marc Aramini No, it is ridiculous and confused with no moral grounds at all. He thinks carrying something valuable around and tempting others is more morally culpable than killing innocent bystanders and tricking someone to their death.
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Reply19hEdited
Curtis Scissors Didn't he actually die though? The power Agilus refers to is resurrection.
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James Pepe Oh yeah, you might be right because he has the claw at this point in his boot right? But he doesn't know it yet? But why would Agilus assume that Sev had died and been brought back rather than simply be resistant to the avern for some reason?
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Marc Aramini Here’s that gnostic wisdom - the claw is the false excuse we have for severian’s Miraculous survivals, but in itself without Severian, who resurrected triskele as “the smallest of those dead” before he ever had the claw, it means little save for its association with him. The source of such a resurrection might no entirely lie with the body of Severian alone given the hierodules, but severian’s unique power is undeniable. The Avern is extremely deadly poison.
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Marc Aramini This is how wolfe works: first we see Dorcas revive and only know she is a corpse if we are familiar with the acts of the apostles and tabitha Dorcas or are very clever in linking cas and Dorcas, though the claw is not yet given as a reason for such a resurrection. Then we learn of the claw and believe it to be the cause, but our first impression was more correct all along - all the world is a relic, and the claw but a thorn. (Though thorns are not merely thorns given the vision of a brush coming to life and running up a tree at the coming of the new sun)
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James Pepe I'm not sure who you mean by cas, do you mean Cassandra? Also, are we meant to think that Dorcas is the person who grabbed Sev under the water when he dove down to get his sword?. Also, what do you mean by first impression? Our first impression would be that nothing strange, or at least supernatural, is going on. I never thought of Sev as ressurecting Triskele in the most proper sense of ressurection, but analagously, sure. Sev's surviving the avern is odd but not unheard of. The apperance of Dorcas is odd and her having come back to life is heavily implied, even to a first time reader and someone who doesn't know who Dorcas is reference to. But even then it would be quite a leap to think of Sev as being the conduit for her ressurection.
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Marc Aramini I mean the girl cas who died long ago, the boatman’s wife, in a chapter titled Dorcas in which Dorcas does not appear. Yes, she is the woman in the water when he went to get his sword.
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Marc Aramini Perhaps I should rephrase that: if we were prone to speculate on cause and effect and recognized Dorcas was resurrected given our religious backgrounds and the chapter title Dorcas in which an old man searches for the body of (dor)Cas, then at that point we would not know of the claw ... because it isn’t really the claw doing this.
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Marc Aramini Triskele is literally described as “the smallest of those dead” and the first chapter is titled resurrection and death ... we should be looking for these things already given the “near” drowning
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Marc Aramini The source of his angst and his power are also revealed early: the miraculous flambeau that he knows is approaching (the new sun) and his apprehension of the nenuphar death flowers is well founded. Dorcas’ fear of drowning and water is real, but she is quick at every opportunity to adorn her hair with flowers post resurrection. Both her and severian’s submersion are of course meta-narrative symbols, and the provenance of flowers for good and ill, from the Avern to the thorn to the green man, all hint at what that post-new Sun world might be ultimately be like, if humanity cannot stay the same.
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Simeon Lawler Giving quite a lot away here, should I even read your book now Marc Aramini?😄
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Marc Aramini Simeon Lawler well there’s always more where that came from. 
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James Pepe I guess the question is, then, why has Sev been chosen as the conduit for these miracles? In the lives of the saints, they usually give up their sinful ways before they start performing miracles.
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Reply16hEdited
Marc Aramini Slight spoilers for urth here ... There is a reason involving the passed trial that is hinted at in that vision at the start of shadow of the torturer but not explicit until Urth, the connection between sev and the conduit to a higher energy state (there called yesod) which takes the form of the approaching white fountain/new sun.
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Marc Aramini This is still science fantasy, though Wolfe has that scene in claw at the start where sev says golly gee when did my water bag get filled with wine?
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Marc Aramini Simeon Lawler I wrote it as an accessible reference work for Wolfe fans, not to sell books, which is also why I don’t monetize my YouTube channel or ever seek patronage. I do, however, accept worship and respect. Everyone has a price, but some have more insidious and intangible endgames. Answering these threads achieves the same ends.
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Nathan Carson I wonder if “Cas” is also a small nod to Clark Ashton Smith?
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James Pepe Well if Sev is not Christ, and hes not really what we would call a saint, then what is he? what is the meaning we're supposed to take?
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James Pepe And, I think, more importantly, if he is neither of those things, why make constant allusions to them?
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Marc Aramini All great questions and ones I think worth pondering based on some individual criteria. Have I said I don’t believe Wolfe’s interviews without some reservations? Well, let me say it again. Maybe reading urth of the new sun would give you some more concrete perspective on his role in the scheme of the heiros.
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Patrick McEvoy-Halston At this point in the book, Severian has already decided that to some extent he was "entrapped" to help Thecla suicide herself, simply in having earlier participated in saving Vodalus... to save someone is to be their slave forever. This said, how he, Agilus, reacts to his crime contrasts starkly with how Severian reacts to his own. Severian, that is, agrees that it would be just if he was executed, and it's others who offer several (three?) reasons why he absolutely must be spared.

Agilus has great mental agility, and I wonder if when we read of the tale of the cock and the angel where the cock supplies three reasons why he should be spared, if we can't help but have in mind Agilus. Both are keeping intact their wellspring... endless self-belief and will, to the end.

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Reply19hEdited
Patrick McEvoy-Halston This is the passage I was thinking of: “I understand," I said, and though I remembered the thin piece of gold Vodalus had given me, safe in its hiding place, I knew I could not take advantage of whatever wealth it might represent. It was the guild's will to cast me out with no more money than a young journeyman might be expected to possess, and for prudence's sake as well as honor's, so I must go.

Yet I knew it was unfair. If I had not glimpsed the woman with the heart-shaped face and earned that small gold coin, it is more than possible I would never have carried the knife to Thecla and forfeited my place in the guild. In a sense, that coin had bought my life.

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Marc Aramini It is a false coin, for what it is worth.
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Gerald P Leb I find Agilus' prevarications while awaiting execution to be one of the funnier scenes in the book. The first thing he does when Severian shows up is admit to incest. He says something like:"whatever you might think about me and my sister is true. Now that I am going to be dead she will be able to marry the old man who dotes on her or somebody else." The old man is an important character. Be on the lookout for him. And then he goes on with his three accusations, which are absurd, of course. Severian reports them verbatim but hardly gives them a second thought, I would imagine.
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Patrick McEvoy-Halston But it also replicates the retort Lochage gives Petronax... where it is made to seem that there is no greater crime than being ignorant; not being "wake to your business." That is, Agilus argues that Severian has not been awake to his responsibilities, to his business, as a "citizen" in a commercial culture, something he should NOT now have been so ignorant of, been prompted to think about, in this highly commercial area during a time of high mercantile activity, considering he knows already of how his torturer's cloak affects people at its outskirts... in a savage culture.

He was drawn to think of how his torturer's garb could unravel a tenuously kept-together society in an area characterized by savagery, but didn't think on it enough to be wary of how his opal-addorned sword would affect others as he entered a densely commercial area.
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Gerald P Leb The lochage was telling his subordinate to do his job. The idiot revealed his insubordination on his face and was immediately punished by his officer using Severian as an instrument. I am not going to address your comment further. Are you in graduate school?
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Reply19h
Jonathan Jones There's a lot of intelligent and well-considered analysis here. All I have to add is, Agilus is a little beotch.
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Frater Julianus I figure Agilus was just being a fairly typical criminal. Severian had probably heard all those arguments before.
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Eli Aragon I think it has something to do with the nature of authority
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