The Outsider

The guards let only one of them down the passage to Socrates’ room; it had been promptly decided that the merchant Crito would be that one. A stern warder left him outside the barred door of the sceptic’s cell.

Socrates sat huddled in the corner of the candle-lit room, but the old man jumped up when the door opened. “Crito!” he said. “I’m so glad to see you. But what are you doing here?”

Crito closed the door behind himself. “Hush,” he told his friend. “Gather your things, we need to go.”

“Go? I don’t understand —”

“I’m here — and Simmias and Cebes too — to buy your freedom. Come, the guards will let us pass if we go quickly.”

“No Crito, I’m not going. Not like this.”

“Come now, Socrates. We can’t let it be said that Crito was too cheap to buy his friend’s escape! We must hurry.” Crito reached to take Socrates by his tunic’s sleeve, but the sceptic pulled away from him.

“I can’t, Crito. I can’t.”

And so Crito went alone to the exit of that place; and he faced Simmias and Cebes and told them, “Socrates is too stubborn for his own good.”

“What did he say?” Cebes asked.

“That when he came to this City he agreed to abide by its rules, even benefited from them. Leaving now, he thinks he’ll damage the state and society. Injustice cannot be answered with injustice.”

Simmias sighed and shrugged and said, “His always been wiser and stupider than everyone else.”

“Let’s go,” said Crito. “I need to rest, then. I want to be with him at his execution.”

14 thoughts on “The Outsider”

  1. This is a terrific piece. I think the tone is perfect. It has just those subtly archaic touches that make my students complain that they can’t understand even those most straightforward bits of Plato. :)

    The only–very small–comment I have is that some of the contractions jar a little with the tone. But, really, I think this is great!

    1. I’m really glad you like it, M :) That voice has always amused me. I sometimes find myself automatically using bits and pieces of it when I haven’t thought about how something should sound.

  2. Lovely retelling of this tale. I like the formalish forms (eg ‘went alone to the exit of that place’. and generally enjoyed the slightly abstracted impersonal interactions of the characters.

    I liked the ‘wiser and stupider’ line but am not sure it fits in with the rest – I think I would have preferred this to be more formal or the entire dialogue to be more informal and naturalistic.

    Great idea for a micfic I suspect I will copy it soon.

  3. Lovely idea, to rewrite a famous old story which puts faces and characters to the details of the past. I like the way you don’t mention any of the famous details, like the hemlock and the charges, but expect the reader to know them. It gives the piece a secret, rarefied quality.

    I particularly enjoyed Crito’s description of Socrates’ reasoning (“That when he came to this City … answered with injustice.”) That whole paragraph is beautifully put together and the sentiments in it are subtly and cleverly expressed.

    I really like the formal, archaic language that you use. In general, you carry it beautifully across the whole piece. There are a couple of places I felt that modern language crept in, e.g. “I’m so glad to see you.”, “Let’s go.” and “… than everyone else.”

  4. I really enjoyed the voice, as did everyone else too! I thought it almost biblical at times (“the exit of that place” for example) which is probably exactly right for the period (even though this is philosophy, not religion). Sadly, I don’t know the actual story very well (slept through my classics), so I don’t know how it ends (although the hint at “execution” is ominous).

    Great storytelling, thank you!

  5. I don’t know this story at all. But I really liked the “Injustice cannot be answered with injustice”. It reminds me of a line from one of my favourite characters, a nobleman – if we don’t obey the rules, then who will.

  6. [ Social contract? Are we talking about Flickr again? 😉 ]

    I also don’t know the story (was in the pub that day?), but really enjoyed your take on it.

    +1 for the great formal, archaic language.
    Rereading it now, I spot the contractions and more modern turns of phrase as standing out and breaking the flow ever so slightly. On the first few reads I didn’t notice at all though: I think that the archaic stands out and I noticed it, whereas the modern didn’t hit any filters, so didn’t set out any alarms. If that makes any sense.

    Also +1 to the “That when he came…” paragraph being great, and very well constructed.

    Great language, voice, and Philosomaphisers!

    1. Flickr! Time for another batch of pictures!

      I’m glad you liked the story 😉 And no, don’t think we ever spoke about good ol’ Socrates in a pub. I’m also glad that you didn’t mind the contractions, even if it was only on your first reading. But I think you might be in a minority :(

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