From: "Roy C. Lackey"
Subject: (urth) PEACE: 3 Misses Date: Sat, 17 Aug 2002 00:56:28 -0500 Before this latest PEACE discussion dries up altogether, I still have a few things lying around from the last discussion. This is one of them. Some elderly people, as their physical and mental abilities decline with age and they loose the ability, even willingness, to cope with the present, often become preoccupied with the past, with their youth, particularly their childhood. One of the ways this manifests itself is the tendency to call things by their old names; say when a store or company changes its name, they often continue to call it by its old name. In the same way, the place where you buy gas for the car is a "service station", even though it's decidedly not anymore, and you store food in the "ice box", not the refrigerator, because that's what those things were called when they were growing up. I think A.D. Weer is like that. The little that we learn of his life is mostly from his childhood; not much about his adulthood and almost nothing about the prime years of his manhood. As Weer himself says in his "what went wrong" soliloquy: "When I recall my childhood, and forget (as I sometimes do) everything else . . .". This is the only good reason I can come up with for his persistence in calling certain married women by their maiden names. He does this with three females. He does it in the presence of other people in the story, and directly to the reader. Two of these females the reader knows he knew when he was a child, Eleanor Bold (Porter) and Margaret Lorn (Price), so calling them by the names he first knew them by might be understandable for a befuddled old dead man in his second childhood. But then we have Miss Birkhead. We don't learn that she was married with children until Miss Hadow interrupts the concluding Sidhe story. That bit of information, coming where it does in the book and otherwise contributing nothing to Weer's story, must be significant. We don't know what she looked like, or how old she was when she died. The only clue along those lines is that she had been Smart's secretary before Weer's, but we don't know for how long. Weer was grown before he went to work for Smart, and it seems doubtful that he would have had much, if any, contact with Smart's secretary, even if she had been working there that long ago. When he was a middle-aged employee he saw Smart only once every two years. So when did he pick up the habit of calling her Miss? If she was unmarried when she became Weer's secretary, then she must have been relatively young, because she went on to have two children. Weer was in his mid-to-late forties when he took over the company, much too old to excuse his lack of respect for her married state, if she got married only after he became president, and too old for him to be referring to her as Miss in the frametale, if he was reverting to childhood associations as he apparently did with Eleanor and Margaret. The mystery is deepened by the fact that Miss Hadow, someone Weer claims never to have seen before, doesn't bat an eye when he asks the whereabouts of Miss Birkhead, even though she clearly knows that that is not her name. She apparently even calls her Miss Birkhead too, when she asks about sending flowers. Miss Hadow should have no reason to do that. Could Miss Birkhead be some unnamed, or differently named, female from his childhood? Someone who appears in the book, or is at least hinted at? -Roy --