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From: StoneOx17@aol.com
Date: Sat, 14 Sep 2002 13:10:04 EDT
Subject: (urth) PEACE: egg and intrigue

The recent charge that discussions on this list have become "loony" 
made me start thinking, and I think part of the problem is that we are
concentrating too much on the hard aspects of the books.  In my most 
recent rereading of Peace, I noticed some really nice aspects I hadn't 
noticed before, but I haven't mentioned them here because they seemed 
more obvious than most of the discussions here.  But on looking through 
the archives, it's not clear that anybody else has noticed them, either.  

In http://www.urth.net/urth/archives/v0030/0040.shtml, Adam Stephanides says,
on the relation of the embedded princess story to Olivia's life,

> ... in the Chinese egg affair, Olivia tries to maneuver Macafee into using 
> trading prowess for her benefit, like the merchant; but her plan backfires
> somehow, and she ends up buying the egg herself.

It's the "somehow" I will concentrate on in this post.  I had always had the
general impression that Olivia didn't marry Macafee because he ended up 
with the egg, and had thought this seemed quite petty of her.  Now, I think
I understand better what happened.

Both Olivia and Macafee are serious collectors (unexpected connection: as, 
later, is Stewart Blaine) who covet the Lorns' Chinese egg.  Mr. Macafee
conveys to Olivia, via Eleanor Bold, the message that he will buy the egg and
give it to Olivia for her birthday.  Not to be outdone, Olvia sends back the
message that she wants to buy the egg and give it to Jimmy Macafee for his
birthday.  However, her plan actually is to bid the price up, but still let
Mr. Macafee buy it for her (possibly as a test of his devotion, as in a fairy 

When they go to look at the egg, Aunt Olivia leaves her checkbook at home
and brings cash; this way she ensures that Mr. Macafee (who, she knows, will
bring his checkbook) will be able to outbid her.  She knows the price of the 
already -- the cost of a good sewing machine -- and she brings enough to bid 
the price substantially above that.

When Em Lorn meets Olivia Weer and James Macafee, however, she likes
Olivia a lot more, so she figures out a way of bending the rules against
commerce on Sundays so as to allow Olivia but not Jimmy to buy the egg.  
Mrs. Lorn says she can accept cash--left in a jar--but not a check, because 
writing her name on the check on Sunday would be the sin.  (This is really a 
fine distinction; I am sure that Mrs. Lorn believes it is a minor sin either 
and came up this rule to ensure that Olivia gets the egg).  Later, Olivia 
realizes that Mr. Macafee could have evaded this restriction by making the 
check out to cash.
Two questions come to mind: Did Mr. Macafee realize this at the time, but
fail to mention it because he wanted Olivia to give him the egg for his 
Does Olivia believe he realized it at the time?  If she does, this is a 
better reason for refusing to marry him, and further, this reason corresponds
well to that given in the embedded tale of the princess: that "the heavy 
hanging from his belt bruised her each time they embraced."

While we're on the subject of the egg, in my last rereading I also found the 
answer to a question asked earlier by Roy Lackey:

> _Why was there not a single mention or hint of the famous Egg at the 
> birthday party_? It should have been the center of attention, but doesn't 
> seem to have been there at all.
It's there, but (as befits an Easter egg) well hidden.  At the opening of the 
chapter containing the stories told at Macafee's birthday party, Dr. Van Ness 
shows Weer one of the TAT cards:
     "Look at this card.  Will you describe it for me?"
     "There's a woman--at least I think it's a woman, it might be a boy, an
adolescent.  She's handing that other one something."
     "Very good.  Now you are to make up a little story for me--a story
for which this picture is to be one of the illustrations."

Immediately after this follows the story of the Chinese pillow, so at first it
might appear that this is the story the card illustrates, but I think a better
reading is that the card illustrates Olivia handing over the egg at Macafee's
birthday party.

-- stone ox


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