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From: "Robert Borski" 
Subject: Re: (urth) the dog-boy of Carnies Past
Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 14:19:48 -0500

Barker Roy again, from that Texas grab-joint of his:

> Whoever the real Mr. Mason may have been (Tilly or Smart or Weer or
> the cover-story in Charlie's letter is that Mr. M. has just died. Even if
> that's a lie, and ignoring the problem of Doris being at least ten years
> old to be the daughter of Den and Sherry, _where has she been for the last
> fifteen years or so since birth_?

Hattiesburg, Mississippi--or somewhere around there. At least according to
Charlie that's where the carnival is playing when Doris joins the show.
Perhaps she's been in an orphanage there--very often the typical repository
for unwanted children--at least until she's too old to be considered
adoptable, given the boot, and forced to find work. (I know you're old
enough, Roy, to remember a time when children born out of wedlock were a
source of great shame, embarassment, and scandal--not like today--and when a
woman began to show she was said to have gone off  visit distant
relatives--frequently a euphemism for a home for unwed mothers. This, in
fact, is how my father entered the world.)

> Also, Mrs. M.'s hostility toward Doris is too great to be accounted for
> by money concerns. The mere presence of Doris seems to be a personal
> to her. Not letting her get enough to eat, even when someone else pays for
> it, and tearing up her new clothes, that someone else bought, aren't about
> money. It seems to me that Mrs. M.'s animosity is misdirected to Doris
> because she can't get at Mr. M., probably because he's dead. If Weer was
> Mason, he was alive, and all she had to do to get even with him was
> to expose him in his home town.

You're attempting to apply real-world logic here to what is essentially a
modern retelling by Gene Wolfe of Perrault's "Cinderilla." Wicked
stepmothers are a staple of such tales--as is Mrs. Mason here. Wolfe
cleverly adds enough details to make you wonder who "Mr. Mason" might be or
whether the tale is even real or simply part of Charlie Turner's Dickensian
sensibility imagination run amok--just as you wonder whether Julius T. Smart
is really apothecary Tilly, and if so the horde of questions this raises.
(How has young son Rodney died? Who or what moves the curtains in Tilly's
house? Why does Julius never mention being married before?) Perhaps it
doesn't even matter because in the tale of "The Alchemist", it's the
parallels that count--Smart is an alchemist too whose hardened heart costs
him a wife. Indeed, as mantis has shown in a series of posts, all of the
little stories in PEACE have some further relevance to the larger account.
I'm therefore curious as to what you (or Adam S.) believe the overall
significance of Doris's sad history is to either the novel or the life of
Den Weer. Does it have any relevance--typological, symbolic--or is it just
simply tossed into the mix for sheer entertainment value, making it alone
the dog-that-wagged-its-own-tale?

Robert Borski


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