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From: "Alex David Groce" <adgroce@eos.ncsu.edu>
Subject: (urth) Mysteries of 5HC
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 10:51:45 

	There has been a great deal of time and energy invested in attempting
to unravel certain mysteries of 5HC, including the Marsch/V. R. T. question
(who killed who?  when?  why?  what's the R.?  was "Marsch" a spy?  how'd #5
guess?  or did he?), Veil's/Liev's hypotheses and the surrounding puzzles
(who's an abo?  Aunt Jeannine?  Trenchard?  are the abos dead?  massacred?) and
the numerous questions of family relationships, parentages, and the past
history of the colonies.

	Not to discourage these interesting arguments, but it seems to me that
Wolfe is very probably not "playing fair" in 5HC.  I trust Wolfe, usually to,
if he seems to invite the reader to consider a question, give the reader enough
clues to answer it, and be fairly certain of the arrived-at answer's
correctness.  In 5HC, I think that it's more as if Wolfe has given the reader
enough rope to hang himself.  I think the answers are intentionally ambigious,
and that "red herrings" that, interpreted one way are not "red herrings", and
sometimes even seem to confirm two theories, abound.
	I don't think this is simply malevolence on Wolfe's part, but an
extremely important thematic decision.  I think Ursula LeGuin once called 5HC
"the uncertainty principle embodied as fiction."  I think she was correct.
	The various "histories" (personal and political) in 5HC are, to some
extent, unknowable even to the participants.  Personal and social identity has
been frustrated, in a truly Kafka-esque sense.  Certainly, the various members
of the "house Wolfe" do not really understand their own identities.  The
various Wolfes cannot grasp their own ability to progress, and cannot escape
their intense alienation.  That their planet seems to be half populated by
their genetic kin extends this self-obession to the whole world.  And, indeed,
the Orwellian (but subtler) government fits in perfectly with the
theme--pushing papers around and playing power games without any sense of
destination, and with no one (apparently) aware of where they really stand in
the whole affair.  The open slavery and sexual exploitation are the outward
manifestations of an undirected malevolence.
	The sister world, St. Anne, is no better.  If we can believe anything
of "A Story", which is doubtful, the previous inhabitants were engaged in
complex, strange, warfare.  And possibly, the next settlers massacred the old
inhabitants, making the question of their possible human origins practically
impossible to determine.  Or, many of the abos may have escaped (although the
shovel test does indicate an attempt at genocide at some point).  Either way,
there's a great deal in the past that both sides want to cover up--one side may
want to hide an attempt at genocide, the other side wants to hide their
continued existance, and possibly conceal how many "people" are actually abos.
	So.  The Wolfe clan isn't even sure how ubiquitous they've become, and
fails so signally to understand itself that no member can break the cycle of
stagnation.  The police-state rulers seem, on principle, to hide and distort
any facts they get ahold of, even from the other members of the government, who
sensibly don't trust each other.  St. Anne & Earth may be spying on this
government, or this may be a fiction invented for unknown purposes.
 Some/all/none of the people on St. Croix may be abos from St. Anne, but if so
they have every reason to hide the fact.  Even if none are, then Aunt Jeannine
is attempting to confuse this truth.  The people of St. Anne also seem to have
a past to hide, and the abos are definitely (if there are any left!) deceptive
and secretive.
	So, are there ANY really reliable narrators in 5HC?  #5 is probably as
close as we come, and although it seems likely he is largely telling the truth,
he leaves out a great deal (such as his "father's" death).  And fails to
explain other things--such as his method of getting rid of Marsch--if it's
simply a wild accusation, it's astonishing that it's (possibly) right on the
mark.  "A Story" is possibly a murder-confession, possibly an anthropological
fantasy, and possibly a real event buried under a layer of myth, or perhaps
even fairly correctly narrated.  Their seems to be no possible way of telling.
 And Marsch's notebook is, I'm convinced, a tissue of misdirection and lies,
whoeever is writing what part of it.
	So, defending any hypothesis, other than the really obvious ones (#5 is
a clone, he probably killed his father, Marsch was probably killed by V. R.
T--although I think this one is easily interpretable as Marsch pretending to be
replaced by V. R. T. for unknown reasons connected to his possibly being a spy)
is difficult.  There is probably evidence to hint at it, and evidence to hint
that it is not true.  It seems to me that the duality of Veil's/Liev's is a
hitn to this--we don't know which is true, if either, and, really, we only
suspect what Liev's hypothesis is because of what Veil's is.  And "veil"
suggests that any hypothesis made hides the truth more than it exposes it.
	Wolfe's suggestion seems to be that surrounded by an atmosphere of
cruelty, habitual deception, and given an attitude utterly dismissive of the
dignity and freedom of other beings, a true understanding of the world, or even
an unimpeachable conviction of one's own identity becomes impossible.  In the
depths of a man-made hell, the soul may still exist, something may persist of
identity beyond a simple combination of "Genes" and environment, but that to
"know thyself" or anything else, except that possibly 2+2 is not equal to 5, is
impossible.  Satan is "The Father of Lies" and the story the begins at 666
Saltimbanque seems to show that Hell's walls may cover a planet, an invisible
an inescapable labyrinth of lies.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." - John 8:32
Alex David Groce (adgroce@eos.ncsu.edu)
Senior (Computer Science/Multidisciplinary Studies in Technology & Fiction)
'98-99 NCSU AITP Student Chapter President
608 Charleston Road, Apt. 1E (919)-233-7366

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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