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From: "Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net>
Subject: (urth) "Kevin Malone" : A theory & spoilers
Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 02:12:11 

    I have carefully gone over the text and have a theory that covers all of
the major plot points in "Kevin Malone" -- I think. It doesn't require that
I reveal any private, off-list confidences from Tony Ellis, so don't blame
him. In fact, this theory is very different from his. There is no way to
explain it without divulging parts of the plot, so be warned!
    As with everything else Wolfe writes, the story is replete with
authorial misdirection and narrator misapprehensions. For instance, the
"master" is revealed on the third page of the story (p-39, TOR paperback),
when the narrator asks "Will your master be able to see us?" Priest, who
never lies (p-44), answers wryly, "The music room, perhaps, sir?" He then
leads them to the room overlooking a rose garden, complete with gardener,
who presumably isn't blind.
    As the narrator hints, there is no necessary familial relationship
between the elder Malone and Betty Malone. The common surname is
coincidental. Further, I contend that Kevin Malone (KM) having the same
surname is also coincidental, or at least not directly relevant. (His father
may have been related to the elder Malone.) At any rate, KM states that his
father was the "man-of-all-work", his mother the "parlor maid", and that he
lived on the estate (p-45). Priest says that the elder Malone was the
"stableman" and Betty Malone just "one of the maids" (p-48). This is not the
same as KM's description of his parents.
    But, you will say, if KM was not the child of either, much less both, of
the dead Malones, how is it that he was an orphan? He wasn't. The text does
not say that. The narrator asks, "I wondered why you had to leave and go
into the orphanage. Did your parents die or lose their places?" (p-47).
Priest and KM then give the sketchy account of the murder/suicide, in the
course of which Priest says of the elder Malone "...it's possible he was
accused falsely." (p-48) Precisely. The elder Malone didn't kill Betty
Malone. KM's father or mother killed her (probably the father, as a hammer
was used, a tool of a 'handyman'). Betty was a young "tramp" (p-48). She was
sleeping with both KM's father and the elder Malone. One of KM's parents
killed her, out of jealousy/rage. The elder Malone committed suicide, either
out of grief or guilt. The suicide following closely the murder, "they" (the
police) assumed that the elder Malone was the murderer. Case closed.
    Others on the estate may have known or suspected otherwise. KM's parents
were fired or had to quit their jobs. Thus did they "lose their places." KM
was put into an orphanage because his parents couldn't afford to care for
him. KM is "a man of middle age" (p-44) thus, counting back from the "now"
of the story (late 1970s ?), the murder/suicide would have occurred during
the Great Depression, so his going into an orphanage would not have been
that unusual, given the circumstances. This also explains why there was no
mention of a child in the newspaper accounts of the murder/suicide. Neither
Betty nor the elder Malone had a child.
    When KM says "...the house owns me." (p-45), he is referring to his
obsession with it, that he had to amass a fortune to acquire it, that he had
to return and live there. He is possessed by the "spirit", if you will, of
the estate. This is in keeping with the time-honored tradition of
"hauntings" associated with places where unresolved violent deaths have
occurred. It is unresolved because the truth has never come out.  Also, his
obsession to acquire the estate may have been due, in part, to his desire to
keep the true facts of the murder from coming out and bringing shame to
himself and his parents. That's why he "had to have control" (p-47). The
text hints that he may know where the body is buried. He was old enough to
have known the truth about the murder and what led to it.
    This reading also accounts for his misogyny. It was "a tramp" who
brought about his family's ruin and led to his expulsion from his idyllic
home. Which brings us to Marcella, another tramp, also possessed by the
house; "It owns me too." (p-45). All we are shown of her character indicates
that she would never assume the role of a maid by choice.
    Well, it all fits. Anyone buying it?


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

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