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From: StoneOx17@aol.com
Date: Sun, 25 Aug 2002 09:52:52 EDT
Subject: (urth) PEACE: the tale of the banshee


Despite all the effort spent analyzing many of the embedded stories in Peace, 
there seems to have been relatively little written in this forum about the 
banshee story.  I think that the participants in this story can be identified 
with some of the main characters in Peace, and that this story answers the 
question of "what went wrong?" with Wolfe's relationship to Margaret.  Roy 
Lackey gave much of the same answer to this question already, without relying 
on the hints hidden in the banshee tale, in 
but the banshee story fills in a few more of the details.

My identification in the story is:
Den Weer is Jack,
Margaret Lorn is Molly,
Carl Lorn is Molly's father,
Julian Smart is the banshee.

Let's review the banshee story.  

Molly's father owns a big farm and Molly is his only child, so whoever 
marries her inherits the farm.  Jack and Molly are in love, but Molly's 
father doesn't want Molly to marry Jack, "because Jack had nothing to bring 
to the wedding but his own two hands and a smile."

In the "what went wrong?" speech, Weer says "I was intelligent and 
industrious; Margaret and I loved one another deeply."  But when he comes 
back from college, the Depression has wiped out all of his fortune and made 
jobs very hard to find.  How is he to make a living?

One possibility would be for Weer to marry Margaret and move to the Lorn's 
farm.   The Lorns likely still have their farm, since they wouldn't have had 
large bank loans, because the farm has been in their family for years and 
Carl Lorn is naturally frugal. Even though the income from the farm has been 
greatly reduced, they can at least grow enough food to feed themselves.  It 
would be reasonable for Weer to help on the farm if he is to marry Margaret; 
she is the Lorn's only child, and so will inherit the farm. Later in the 
book, the farmer delivering potatoes to the factory says "When I was a boy, 
there wasn't anything anybody could have that was better'n a farm.  If a 
doctor or a banker could marry a widow that had a good one, they'd stop what 
they was doing and work it."  This farmer is ten or twenty years older than 
Weer, but taking this and the banshee story together, I conclude that when 
Weer was about to graduate, he and Margaret proposed that they get married 
and that Den move out to the farm and help work it.                           

From the banshee story, we see that Carl Lorn didn't want Weer to marry 
Margaret.  He disapproved of selling the egg, and he's tight with money 
("only Daddy never gets nothing at the store if he can find something else 
that'll do") so Weer has two strikes against him, being Olivia's nephew and 
being penniless.  In the banshee story, Molly's father tells Jack he'd have 
to spend the whole night in the barn haunted by the banshee and not be thrown 
out; in Weer's real life, Carl probably told Weer that he wouldn't let 
Margaret marry him unless he could support her.  So Weer has to take the job 
at the factory (the real-life parallel of the barn); unfortunately, the 
coldhouse prank kills somebody, and Julius blackmails him into staying at the 
factory until Julius dies.  In this scenario, it doesn't even matter whether 
Margaret knows about the coldhouse prank.  Weer can't marry her unless he 
finds another job which pays better, and he can't leave this job because of 
Julius' blackmail.  Eventually, Margaret gets fed up with Weer's inaction and 
marries Mr. Price (whom we suspect, from his surname, has sufficient money).  

There are some interesting differences between the banshees in Peace and the 
banshees in Irish folklore.  Looking on the web, it seems that in Irish 
folklore, the banshee is a woman sidhe who wails before somebody is going to 
die (and most important families have an associated banshee that predicts 
deaths in that family).  In some versions of the legend, if you catch the 
banshee, she has to tell you who is going to die.  However, she only 
foretells deaths, unlike Wolfe's banshee, who causes them.  Note that Wolfe 
is playing off the folklore banshee: when his banshee is caught, she does 
tell Jack "who's to be born," although one might suspect that she's lying out 
of spite.

Wolfe's banshees are ghosts (quite fittingly for Peace) who are "the spirits 
of midwives that have killed the baby because someone gave gold to them to do 
it that it might not inherit."  This gives grounds for identifying the 
banshee as Julius: in 
I speculated that Julius may have killed Mr. Tilly so as to inherit the carny 
business, which, while not an exact parallel, is certainly similar.  

Jack stays in the barn haunted by the banshee three nights.  The first two 
times, the banshee forces him to speak the name of someone whom she later 
kills, first "the meanest man [Jack] can think of, a man that robbed 
everybody and never gave poor folk a penny," and second, "a real old lady 
that was goin' to die anyway."  The third time, he defeats the banshee.  If 
we identify the banshee with Julius, this is reminiscent of Weer's comment 
that he recalls uncle Julius clearly "only at three stages of his life."  The 
first stage is when Julius tells the story of Mr. Tilly.  The second stage is 
at aunt Olivia's funeral.  And the last is when Julius is an old man and the 
president.  This seems a little strange, because Den lived with Julius for 
quite a while, and this period doesn't seem included in either of these 
stages.  However, if we take these three stages as corresponding to the three 
nights in the banshee story, then we are led to suspect that Julius killed 
both Mr. Tilly and Olivia for their inheritances.  We know (since Wolfe has 
confirmed it) that it was Peacock who actually ran Olivia over in his car, 
but there are at least two reasons to suspect that Peacock might have 
conspired with Julius: first, Julius Smart and Professor Peacock were good 
friends, and second, there's the mysterious letter from Peacock to Julius 
that Weer is unable to read.

Is there any more evidence for this correspondence between the banshee story 
and Weer's life?  In the other stories in Peace that we know have parallels 
(the princess and her suitors, and the marid), there is a correspondence 
hidden in the characters' names.  The link from Molly to Mary to Margaret 
seems obvious, but I don't see how to get from Jack to Den.  Any ideas?

- Stone Ox


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