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From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) FIFTH HEAD
Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 23:17:31 

>    The consensus seems to be that the name of the narrator of _Fifth_Head_
>is "Gene Wolfe". I understand how this conclusion is arrived at, with
>regards to the surname. What I don't understand is how the given name can be
>reconciled with the "roll call" scene two pages after the definitive library
>shelf scene among the Ws. The impromptu class is begun by calling roll. The
>unnamed narrator is called first, then David. It's been a long time since I
>was in school, but I distinctly remember "D" coming before "G". Have you
>ever known of a roll call that wasn't alphabetical? The scene is silly,
>anachronistic and irrelevant to the progress of the plot. Yet it is there.
>Why? It must serve some purpose, in the Wolfean scheme of things.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do know of a roll call that is not
alphabetical. In my family, when my mother wanted to make sure that I and
all my brothers and sisters were present, she used to call our names in age
order, mine first, since I was the eldest.

Since the narrator is supposed to be older that David, this could explain
the order of the roll call. It could also be in order of social rank: the
narrator is the clone of Maitre and his heir, while David is a mere natural
son, really little more than an experimental control.

The scene may be silly, although that is not quite the word I would use to
describe it, but I don't see how you can call it anachronistic; surely we
don't know enough of the history and educational methods of Sainte Croix.

The roll call itself may be irrelevant to the plot, but the lesson that
follows is one of the major sources of information about the aborigines of
Sainte Anne. How reliable this information is, is quite another question,
of course. I don't agree that every detail Wolfe puts in his stories is of
equal significance. Perhaps the roll call was included just to add
verisimilitude. (Obviously it didn't do so for you.)

William Ansley

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

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