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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: (whorl) Horn as antihero?
Date: Fri, 04 Jan 1980 10:44:25 

I just finished rereading OBW.  It's quite impressive, but also
puzzling.  In particular, Horn's character remains an enigma to me,
although the narrative is saturated with his personality.  In
particular, I want to ask about the moral dimension of this enigma.

When I started the book, Horn seemed a decent guy trying to do the right
thing (despite his prejudice against Sinew)--not as saintly as Silk, but
not nearly as twisted as Severian.  But then I got to the part where
Horn, in essence, sells his family to Krait to get out of the pit. 
Shortly afterwards, he brutally rapes Seawrack.  And later, as Rajan, he
digs up and revives inhumi to use against the Hannese troops, which
could be seen as the Blue equivalent of biological warfare.  At this
point I was ready to say that Horn was worse than Severian.

When I read the book again, I realized that one could put forward
mitigating circumstances in each case.  Horn in the pit was
psychologically weakened by his extreme thirst and fear, and vulnerable
to Krait's manipulations.  Besides, Krait had threatened to attack
Horn's family if Horn didn't convince him to rescue him, so it could be
argued that Horn was actually protecting his family (though Horn never
makes this argument).  Similarly, one could argue, as has been done on
this list, that Horn was not responsible for his rape because of
Seawrack's song, although Horn explicitly rejects this excuse (and that
line of argument is unlikely to win Wolfe friends among feminists).  And
as for reviving the inhumi, Horn was fighting a war which he regarded as
justified, and there would have been some inhumi around anyway.

So is Horn an antihero or a flawed but fundamentally decent man?  My
sense is that Wolfe is generally sympathetic to his flawed protagonists,
but few if any of them have transgressed as seriously as Horn.  The
question isn't made easier by my doubts as to how trustworthy Horn's
narrative is; at one point (the start of Ch. 12), Horn accuses himself
of writing a "tissue of half-truths," without being very specific.


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