mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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Discussion Thread Three: Crime & Punishment in the Book of the New Sun.

There are a few points where Gene Wolfe talks about torture & punishment in The Book of the New Sun, most notably in Sword & Citadel. Which touches on some of the questions & concerns I have with crime & punishment. People talk about the American prison system-- which is clearly broken-- but the fundamentals of it are still in question, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, it is easy to say that prison's shouldn't be money making institutions that thrive on creating repeat offenders, or that more focus should shift to rehabilitation, but that is just prison reform. I'm not entirely convinced incarceration is the best solution, & apparently, neither is Gene Wolfe. I don't think it occurred to Mister Wolfe that people might not see Severian's upbringing as a torturer as anything other than villainous-- that is why it takes him till the third book to directly address the concepts of justice & revulsion. See, The Guild of the Seekers of Truth & Penitence are a legal & ethical branch of law enforcement. It is Severian's argument-- or the argument of the guild, through his mouth-- that imprisonment is unjust to the innocent, in that they pay for the guilty to live & eat. That forced labor is unjust because it takes jobs away as well as requiring that they labor under the lash-- which is functionally the same as torture. To that I'd add that creating a state the has every reason to want to convict people for free slave labor is a bad idea, too. Then again, that is what we've got with prisons, isn't it? A system with a strong racial divide, a system that exists to churn out money. Torture-- capital punishment-- is the system that Severian's Commonwealth uses & he maintains that at worst it is no more unjust than any other. Now, we can talk about rehabilitation-- great! Except, that soon becomes code for incarceration. Tricky. Public shame is a good one, too, but it fails at some level, especially on those who either opt out or are disenfranchised by the social system (see also, strong racial divide). Tricksome.
Tags: gene wolfe, ideology, new sun

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