Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 4, Chapter 11

By M.T. Anderson

Part 4, Chapter 11

  • Octavian doesn't know why the Young Men keep him in such horrible conditions for so long, unless they're just trying to break his will.
  • One of the Irish boys who feeds him though, tells him that the men get together in the day to talk about Octavian, and says that they're going to interview him.
  • But how does one prepare for an interview in Octavian's condition?
  • Octavian does it by getting angry.
  • He thinks about all the slaves who died in the war, about Hosiah Lister, whose freedom only came through death.
  • Octavian the narrator tells us that in Latin, slave—or servus—means spared one.
  • Back then, slaves were automatically seen as the dead.
  • So Rome was actually built by dead men, just like Rome's children were taught by dead men… until the Romans finally died and joined the dead themselves.
  • That's the case for the slaves Octavian worked side-by-side with—they were like the dead too, and they were being asked to die again for the war effort.
  • He recalls the epitaph the doctor wrote about Hosiah Lister, and he feels this deep sadness, not just for Lister, but for all the slaves who can only experience freedom through a total lack of being, through death.
  • Finally the Irish boy fetches him for the interview.

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