From: "Roy C. Lackey" <>
Subject: (urth) Re: PEACE: a poor man at forty
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 00:30:47 

Adam asked about Weer's family fortunes and, again, I had a piece more or
less prepared that touches on the subject, and a few more things as well, so
I may as well post it now. It repeats some of what Adam posted, but I'm too
lazy to change it.

Mantis has speculated that the rift between Den and Margaret occurred when
they were in high school, when he told her the Tilly tale. That, of course,
is speculation, because we don't really know what happened between them,
because Den doesn't tell us. Dan'l has speculated that what Den doesn't tell
us, but only hints at, is important to him, but too painful for him to think
about, and Adam has noted that much of the middle of the book has very
little to do with Den. So we are reduced to reading between the lines and to
sifting the embedded tales for their possible relevance to Den's life,
which, as both Adam and Dan'l noted, we learn very little about.

So what, exactly, did go wrong? Den didn't marry Margaret. He didn't inherit
his father's estate when he expected to, between the ages of 20 and 30, or,
if he did inherit then, the estate was so much reduced from its former
wealth that he couldn't quit his job at the plant. Where the money went is
no mystery; it was lost to the Depression, when the farms that were the
backbone of the Weer fortunes failed and rent money stopped coming in and
the farms were sold "for a song". We don't know when Della died, but it was
before Den was 40, and his father died before his mother. When he sold his
family's house there was nothing else left of the Weer family fortunes.
That's part of the answer to what went wrong, but not all of it. Where else
to look?

Why didn't he marry Margaret? Did he scare her off with the Tilly story, as
mantis has suggested? Possibly, but that answer leaves me dissatisfied;
there had to be more to it. The corpus of Wolfe's work has a marked tendency
to portray women as sluts and moneygrubbers, and PEACE is no exception.
Olivia, Lois, Sherry--all guilty of one or both. I don't know if Margaret
was a slut or not, but the stock market crash would have occurred when Den
was a sophomore in high school, and the Weer fortunes would have been much
reduced by the time he was in college. That sort of thing can't be kept
secret in a small town, so Margaret would have known about it. It could be
that simple; she was looking for someone with a bigger bank book--and she
found her Price.

But being, like most men, at heart a hopeless romantic, that answer, too,
leaves me dissatisfied, which brings me to where I didn't really want to go,
back to the coldhouse. If Den was the irresponsible party who let that 18
year old kid die--and, like it or not, I don't see the point of including
that segment if he wasn't--then, unlike the case of Bobby Black, he _was_
morally culpable. He was too old to excuse his behavior. The company may
have tried to cover it up, and was successful enough to quash criminal
charges and perhaps a concomitant civil suit (or maybe they paid off the
kid's family; who knows?), but too many people knew about it to keep it a
secret, especially since the plant was probably, even then, the town's
largest employer. Again, one way or another, Margaret would have known about
it. That's not the kind of man a woman wants to marry or to father her

Mantis has linked the "ben Yahya and the Marid" story with its 30 years of
selfless service to Den and the coldhouse prank. I can't think of any better
reason for Den to stay as long as he did in a dead-end job. It was the price
Smart demanded of him for hushing up the coldhouse prank and keeping his job
during the Depression. Den's reward for all those years of selfless service
was that after the specified time was over (Smart's lifespan), he would
inherit the company. When Ron asked Den if he would inherit Smart's wealth,
Den didn't really answer the question, just stated that Smart hadn't even
spoken to him for 25 years and asked rhetorically if he looked like a
"fair-haired boy" (158). I submit that he _did_ know he would inherit
Smart's business. While describing building his fancy house, he wrote "when
the company at last came into my hands" (35). That phrase "at last"
certainly sounds to me as if he had reason to anticipate acquiring the


*This is URTH: discussion of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun and other works
*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at
*To leave the list, send "unsubscribe" to
*To post to the list, write to *Trouble?
*If it's about the Book of the Long Sun, use WHORL list: