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From: "Alice Turner" <pei047@attglobal.net>
Subject: (whorl) Horn as anithero?
Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 20:43:04 

Adam Stephanides wrote:

> 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.

Adam, the points you raise are serious ones. My opinion, fwiw, is that he is a flawed but fundamentally decent man (and I too was horrified by the rape, as you can see in the archives). The psychological complexity set up in this book is far beyond that of anything Wolfe has ever written before, which bodes awfully well for the series. Maybe a couple of reminders: 1) it is shaping up as based closely on the Odyssey, whose hero was also complex and not always heroic; 2) the time shifts in the narrative allow us to see Horn eventually in Silk's body; he is not Silk, as he tells us again and again, but there are remnants of the old personality (just the way you can't erase programs completely from your computer), and Silk is a depressive; 3) this is a first book in a series; it is possible that Wolfe will allow Horn to develop as time goes on. I also think the Krait thing is rather complex, although perhaps that is hindsight, given how the relationship with Krait develops. But Ho!
rn refers to the episode in the pit, always, as the worst event of his life. I don't think he was altogether rational at the time.


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