in Fixed Period

Chapter 02 – Gabriel Crasweller


Gabriel Crasweller, the good friend of President Neverbend, is the first Brittanulan citizen scheduled to be deposited and euthanized in the college.  As the date of his deposit approaches, he becomes more and more unwilling to go to the college.  He eventually escapes this fate through the intervention of the British government.  His name, derived from Latin and Anglo-Saxon elements, foreshadows his liberation from the Fixed Period.  First, “Cras-” is directly from the Latin adverb cras, “tomorrow.”  Secondly, “-weller” is the English adjective “well” and the suffix “-er,” which means “one who.”  This meaning prefigures his escape from the Fixed Period.  Crasweller is the “one who is well tomorrow” through his escape from his deposition and eventual euthanasia.  [CD 2012]


filial reverence

Crasweller has no son who can deposit him or manage his farm once he is deposited.  President Neverbend offers to complete this duty which would normally fall to an eldest son.  This sense of duty corresponds to the ancient Roman concept of pietas–“duty, piety.”  The male head of the Roman family, the paterfamilias, could expect his family to obey him and demonstrate an acceptable reverence to the power he held over them.  Sons were expected to dutifully respect their fathers during life, and when the time came, to bury them in accordance with religious tradition.  The best known performer of Roman pietas is Aeneas, in Vergil’s Aeneid, who, in respect to his gods, ancestors, and descendents, undertakes a long voyage to Italy.  One particularly famous image associated with Aeneas is his escape from Troy the night it was capture:  carrying his father, Anchises, and the household gods of Troy, Aeneas leads a small group of Trojans out of the city, preserving them to found the Roman race.  [CD 2012]


mousometor and melpomeneon

Trollope uses Greek elements to invents these words for musical instruments. “Mousometor” is derived from the noun mousa, “Muse, music,” and the combining form “-meter,” which means “measure, instrument,” and is from metron, “measure.”  “Melpomeneon” is derived from the Greek verb melpein, “to sing, to dance,” and recalls the name of one of the Muses, Melpomene, associated with singing and tragedy.  [CD & RR 2012]

Source:  LSJ.


certain veins should be opened while the departing one should, under the influence of morphine, be gently entranced within a warm bath

The method of death for those who have reached the end of their Fixed Period, a slow bleeding to death in a bath under the influence of morphine, closely resembles the death of Seneca the Younger.  An advisor to Nero, the aged Seneca was forced to commit suicide for his supposed involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the emperor.  He chose to cut veins in his arms and legs, which was less than perfectly effective due to his old age.  He then drank a poison, probably hemlock, and lay in a warm bath, where he was smothered by the fumes from the water.  Referencing Seneca’s death illustrates the manner in which those who have completed their Fixed Period are expected to meet their death.  Seneca, a Stoic philosopher, killed himself without betraying any emotional attachment to his mortal life.  Likewise, Neverbend imagines those being euthanized in the College to die with noble bearing.  [CD 2012]

Source:  OCD.



“Didascalion” seems to be used to mean a school, or college.  This is suggested by the meaning of the Greek noun from which it comes, didaskalion, “a lesson, teaching.”  The use of a Greek word to refer to an institution is in line with other ways in which the Classical past is made to inform Brittanula’s present institutions, practices, and ideals.  [CD & RR 2012]

Source:  LSJ.


Mr. Neverbend

The elected ruler of Britannula is aptly named, since he resolutely promotes adherence to the Fixed Period.  Although “Neverbend” is composed of Anglo-Saxon components, we can find in Sophocles’ Antigone the idea of a ruler not bending to popular feeling.  Creon, the ruler of Thebes, sentences his niece Antigone because she performed burial rights for her brother, an enemy of the city.  Creon’s son Haemon urges him to moderate his views by reminding him that unyielding trees can be destroyed.  In The Fixed Period, President Neverbend’s son, Jack, will also oppose his father.  [RR 2012]

Source:  Sophocles, Antigone 712-714.


tyrannical slaves

Great Britain is viewed by President Neverbend as a tyrant, overstepping its boundaries when it sends a warship to force Brittanula to capitulate to its authority.  Neverbend refers to the sailors aboard the warship, who are escorting him to England, as “tyrannical slaves.”  “Tyrannical” is an adjective meaning “benefitting to a tyrant, or acting in a manner like a tyrant.”  The crew is tyrannical not only because they are carrying out the wishes of the tyrant Great Britain, but also because they are acting above their power when they force President Neverbend from Brittanula.  They are both victims of tyranny and agents of a tyrannical government.  [CD 2012]


ne exeant regno

Crasweller and Neverbend are discussing the possibility that those who have reached the end of their Fixed Period will flee the country.  Neverbend says that, as a last resort, there maybe a writ of ne exeant regno.  This is a form of the Latin legal phrase ne exeat regno, “let him not depart from the kingdom.”  This is a legal order that prevents a person from fleeing the jurisdiction of a country’s court system.  In this case, the government of Brittanula would issue a writ of ne exeant regno if people attempted to flee the island before their deposition.  [CD 2012]

Source:  Garner, B. A., and H. C. Black. Black’s Law Dictionary. 8th ed. St. Paul:  West Group, 2004.