Claire Growing Up

Moral maturity and the nature of morality are themes running through all seven volumes of Railroad to Zanzibar; the first two volumes involve adolescent morality, moving toward the freedom and responsibility of adulthood. Because Claire’s exile lasts a very long time, her moral journey is long and complex; at times she is saintlike, and at others monstrous. All of that will come later, and I can only see the broad shape of it from here myself.

The topic of adolescent progress toward moral awareness comes up in chapter 31 of volume I, “The Circle of Embroideresses”:

…Claire was young enough to still believe that in the end there must be some resolution to the matter of cruelty, and that the brittle wall of civilization must give way before the raging sea, and cruelty flood in unresisted, in a final and annihilating war of all against the All.

In pursuance of this vision of the absolute, she clung too to a belief that the heart of man is not situated utterly below the level of the sea. Rather she was convinced of some rock in the soul, that rock which men call the Good, which must rise up above the roaring waters; a rock which stands not only now, but forever. Therefore she believed that even in this final deluge, the rock of the Good must provide a roost, yes, a roost and a shelter, for that love of mortals, one for the other and all for the world, which makes bearable the bitter condition of men who must die.

These were the dramatic beliefs of the inexperienced patricia, and as she revolved the problem of the cruelties of Genova before the eye of her reason, these beliefs presented themselves to her as well.  Though she had set aside none of her beliefs, yet now she found she was not so certain of that rock in the soul which men call the Good, neither that it was solid, nor that it should stand forever, nor that the dark sea might not rise over it. This lack of certainty was another change wrought in her since she was cast out from Zanzibar.


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