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From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) VRT=???
Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 14:19:01 

Fellow Readers:

For years I've always believed "V.R.T." to be one of GW's more enigmatic
titles, in that no matter how many times I read the text I could never
quite figure out what all three initials stood for. 

By paying close attention we do learn that V stands for Victor. This is
disclosed by RT, VRT's scurrilous father (p.180, Scribners), who, along
with his son, scam various people by claiming to be descendents of the
original populace of Sainte Anne, the Free People/abos. (RT appears to be
entirely human, but VRT is only half so.)

Ten pages later, Dr. Marsh (who will be killed and then impersonated by
VRT) reveals the T stands for Trenchard, again more as a casual aside than
anything else, but obviously how the father-and-son tandem are known to the
community of Frenchman's Landing. RT himself also has an alternate Annese
name, Twelvewalker.

This then yields the name Victor Trenchard. But what about that damn R? I
always assumed it stood for the same name in father and son and for a while
thought all three initials were meant to suggest the word ViRTual--as in
Victor Trenchard is the virtual (as opposed to actual) twin of Dr. Marsh.
Still, it doesn't fully satisfy.

mantis's recent quip about it possibly being Rodman is actually quite sound
and was my own first best guess for a long time. After all, we know from
certain textual evidence that Number Five's true name is Gene Wolfe, so
Rodman--GW's middle name--certainly seems apposite and does expand on the
novel's thematic core. Unfortunately, I could never find any textual
evidence to support this.

In fact, as in much of Wolfe, most of the clues are elusive. But they are

On the second page of the novella, for example, we see a junior officer
examing what he thinks is the case file of Dr. Marsh, who has been
imprisoned both as possible spy and murderer of Maitre (Marsh himself is
actually dead at this point; VRT is the prisoner in question). He finds a
school composition book initialed VRT, inside the back cover of which is
revealed the following information: "Rm E2S14 Seat 18." _Directly_
underneath this, we read: "name." Obviously, the alphanumerics involved do
not signal a name (at least none that I've been able to readily decode),
but seem to refer to a classroom and seating arrangement. I do, however,
want you to notice the presence of the R, the E, and the 2.

Later, on p.178, Dr. Marsh details his first meeting with RT, informing us
that contrary to the old man's alleged Annese heritage, "In my opinion his
actual descent is Irish." Marsh then notes the color of RT's hair, which is
red--a reference that is made several more times in the text.

For some reason probably having more to do with luck than intuition,
several days ago I was browsing through CASTLE OF THE OTTER, when I came
across Gene Wolfe's biographical details.

Lo and behold, what do I learn but that both GW's father and firstborn son
are named Roy Emerson (a practice I happily refer to as nomenclatural
cloning). 2 RE's!

This sent me scurrying to the dictionary. "Roy," I learn with frisson, is
"_Gaelic for red_" (Italics mine)

Can there now be any doubt that VRT is named after both Gene Wolfe's father
and son and stands for Victor Roy Trenchard?

Lest anyone think this is truly cockeyed (not all of my FIFTH HEAD
ramblings have been entirely well received), I offer the following as one
additional item of support:

In prison VRT describes how he and his family lived within the vicinity of
St. Madeleine, a church.

Madeleine--besides the obvious reference to Proust--is the name of Gene
Wolfe's firstborn daughter.

Robert Borski

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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