FIND in
<--prev V210 next-->
From: StoneOx17@aol.com
Date: Fri, 4 Oct 2002 09:32:25 EDT
Subject: (urth) PEACE as Faust

A while ago, I read Robert Borski's essay, "The Devil his Due," which makes 
the connection of Peace with Faust, and identifies Weer as the devil.  I 
think that Borski often notices interesting things in Wolfe's writing, 
although he doesn't always draw the right conclusions from them, and I think 
that's the case here.  I can't accept Weer as the devil, but the essay did 
lead me to think about identifying Julius with the devil, and that led me to 
an interesting interpretation of the banshee story, which I posted here a few 
weeks ago.  Shortly after that, an image suddenly hit me that connects Peace 
to Faust.  The image is the one at the end of many versions of Faust, with 
the devil dragging Faust down to hell as Margrete looks down from Heaven (or 
ascends to Heaven) and prays for him to be saved. The connection, of course, 
is to the end of the book, where, while Aunt Olivia calls Weer on the 
intercom, Weer makes the fatal error of looking to the enchanted headrest of 
the Chinese philosopher (and thus reliving his afterlife) rather than praying 
to Jesus for salvation.   So we have the identification of Olivia with 
Margrete, and Weer with Faust.  More on this identification later.

Is this really the right interpretation of the ending, leaving the ghost of 
Weer caught eternally in purgatory, while Olivia has ascended to heaven?  It 
seems right to me, but I have only a few pieces of evidence for this:

First, when she's gathering information about the Chinese egg, Olivia 
convinces herself that, besides the Lorn's egg showing the scenes from the 
Resurrection, there is also a matching egg showing the Ascension, and she 
writes to a New York museum asking about it.  A literal reading of this 
raises some bewildering questions (how does she draw this conclusion before 
she's even seen the egg?), but I believe this is intended to be read 
metaphorically: Weer has been resurrected as a ghost, but Olivia has not only 
been resurrected but has also subsequently ascended to heaven.  

Next, at the end of the Chinese philosopher's story, we find the passage:
"Fool!" the old man exclaimed.  "Do you not recognize me?  I have granted 
your heart's desire, and for it I receive your ingratitude!"  
Is this not also a plausible response to somebody who has turned down the 
offer of eternal life?

Finally, the end of Peace occurs right after Dan French's story of the geese 
of Loch Conn, which really should have served as a hint to Weer: "... And in 
time, men, too, will pass, as every man who lives long learns in his own 
body.  But Jesus Christ saves all."

Thinking about it some more, I believe that that there are multiple 
identifications of characters in Peace with those in Faust.  We have to 
identify both Margaret and Olivia with Margrete, both Weer and Julius with 
Faust, and both Julius and Mr. Tilly with the devil.  So we have Mr. Tilly 
passing his (carny) knowledge to Julius, who then passes the (secret?) 
formula for turning lead into gold (oops, I mean potatoes into imitation 
frozen orange juice) on to Weer.  From Charles Turner's letter, it's not 
clear whether the carny medicines are really a benefit for their recipients.  
And as Borski notes, in the long run the factory certainly has an evil effect 
on the surrounding farms.  

-- Stone Ox


<--prev V210 next-->