Book Notes

Book 1, Chapter 13 Notes from The Once and Future King

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The Once and Future King Book 1, Chapter 13

Arthur rests for three days, and by the end of it he is going crazy with boredom. He begs Merlyn to turn him into an ant, because that way he can slip through the keyhole to his room, which his nurse has locked. Merlyn grudgingly agrees, and Arthur immediately becomes tiny. He sees a sign above him: "EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY." Book 1, Chapter 13, pg. 121 He hears a noise in his head, like a song on the radio that repeats over and over, and he hears a voice, constantly giving him simple directions. He meets another ant, who is pulling dead ants into a certain confused order in such a way that makes Arthur want to ask him, "Are you happy?" He finds, however, there are no words for "happy" in the ant language-no words for any kind of abstract feeling. He cannot say right or wrong---only "done" or "not done." When Arthur tells another ant he is not doing anything, the ant pronounces him insane-"not done." Arthur is able to pretend he is an ant who fell off the nest that morning, and they send him to prepare mash in another part of the nest. He chews the food, preparing it to be stored. He listens to the conversations of the other ants, which are repetitive, stupid and boring. Arthur realizes, "he was a dumbwaiter from which dumb-diners fed. Even his stomach was not his own." Book 1, Chapter 13, pg. 126 Arthur learns some of the philosophy of the ants. They believe that any ant not from their nest should be killed, even if it is of the same species. They believe they are being threatened by "enemy" ants, and have a right to kill them. They say that the enemy is more numerous than they, and is thus unfairly trying to conquer them, but also that they are more numerous than the enemy, so they have a right to be conquerers. They are just preparing to go to war when Merlyn rescues Arthur, sending him to bed in his own house.

Topic Tracking: Duty 1
Topic Tracking: Might Makes Right 2

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