O'Pinions & O'Bservations O' O'Bscure O'Briania


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The Soul

Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2000 07:51:19 -0800
From: Susan Wenger

"The Soul" is only about one full page long. So it should be easy to figure out what it's about, right?

"She" had but just left the cemetery. Is she dead?

The warmth came up from the ground, from the side of the hill, from all around, an enveloping warmth . . .In the cemetery, the cold lingered among the cypresses . . . she rested on the wall above the cliff and let the grateful warmth soak in. I usually think of a wall above a cliff as a cold and windy place. Death is cold. Is she finally warm, past death?

If the story had been called "Grief" or "Mourning," I'd think she's alive. If there's only one character in a story and it is called "The Soul," ithe title itself lends direction to the interpretation, yes?

"A poor soul, she thought, would have to go down the path that was before her . . ." And the story ended with her bending to see the winding of the path. So I think she's the poor soul that has to go down the path.

Ideas, anyone?

- Susan


Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2000 08:25:44 -0800 From: Marshall Rafferty

On Sat, 12 Feb 2000 07:51:19 -0800, Susan wrote:

"She" had but just left the cemetery. Is she dead?

It looks like it, unless she's one of the many dead/alive. When I read a story like this I'm struck by the different O'Brians. Reading his sea stories made me realize how badly commas can disrupt a line of text. I've even thrown out most of the commas in my own sentences.

Then I read "The Soul" and thought, "My God! All these commas!"

Marshall

p.s. I didn't care for the story, except for the line about the "traject".


Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2000 15:23:18 -0800
From: Susan Wenger

--- Marshall Rafferty wrote:

It looks like it, unless she's one of the many dead/alive. When I read a story like this I'm struck by the different O'Brians.

Most of O'Brian's stories (all of them?) which we've read so far had a man as the main character. This one could have easily had a man's soul. (or could it)? Why is this story's narrator a woman? Was he just setting it that way for variety, or does the idea of a woman's lost soul add something to this story? Are we more (or less) sympathetic? Is this a hint as to the particular sin committed to cause her soul to be in limbo?

Susan, puzzling it over


Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000 20:10:27 -0800
From: Marshall Rafferty

Susan wrote:

Why is this story's narrator a woman? Was he just setting it that way for variety, or does the idea of a woman's lost soul add something to this story? Are we more (or less) >sympathetic? Is this a hint as to the particular sin committed to cause her soul to be in limbo?

Hmmm. I read the story again, while over-tired and it seemed to resonate with someplace for the first time. Still puzzling. I don't know why he uses a woman. Is there anything particularly feminine about her feelings? In this state the atmosphere feels like when you've been really sick and start to feel better for the first time.

Marshall

p.s. For some reason I never noticed the phrase about the cemetery's "high pigeonholes where the poor dead lay..." For some reason I don't know what this means, can't picture it.


Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 10:58:32 +0000
From: Martin Watts

For some reason I never noticed the phrase about the cemetery's "high pigeonholes where the poor dead lay..." For some reason I don't know what this means, can't picture it.

I believe this refers to a wall with niches in which the bodies (or ashes?) of those unable to afford a burial plot are placed. Presumably the higher in the wall, and so out of reach for flowers etc, the cheaper the niche.

Martin Watts
50 45' N 1 55' W.
The Borough and County of the Town of Poole


Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 07:10:34 -0600
From: Philip Sellew

exactly -- the Romans called 'em columbaria (dove/pigeon cotes) the urn would be placed within (too small for whole bodies) and then usually the opening is plastered over and then ornamented, labelled with name, age, etc., or both.

Typically used by burial sodalities, or extended families. Not as flashy as the huge funerary monuments still ready to wow you outside ancient cities like Rome or Ostia or Pompeii, but they could be topped by interesting architecture. Some columbaria have been discovered with funerary busts of the deceased. So POB's 'poor dead' may have a double meaning [I haven't read the story :))] -- not wealthy or ambitious enough for a larger memorial, but also characterized by the poverty of death


Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000 21:23:53 -0500
From: Don Seltzer

[Note: Don wrote one post on The Soul, The Path, and The Walker. For organizational purposes, I've divided it into separate parts for each story.-- J.F.]

Starting with The Soul, I share Marshall's view that it appears to be describing a type of Purgatory, one which is a journey along a linear path. How quickly you make that journey and reach your final destination seems to be dependent upon what unpaid sins you must still work out. Although a good person might pass less worthy ones on this journey, "She" wonders if there is anyone that she could pass.

Don Seltzer


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