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From: Ed van der Winden <ed_en_jose@gironet.nl>
Subject: (urth) Ideas about Peace
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 16:38:30 +0200


I'm new to this list. I've been reading the archives now for a while and
now I'd like to contribute
something. I've recently read "Peace" for the third time and I've had
some ideas that I have not seen
elsewhere. There are quite a lot of spoilers in what follows (there
certainly are if I'm right).

First I like to talk about the situation that the main character, Alden
Dennis Weer, is in. I think
lots of people agree to the fact that he is dead, and has been dead for
some time. I won't repeat the
arguments that I've seen before. Some people suggested that the Chinese
pillow that is mentioned at the end might mean that the whole book is
actually a dream of young Dennis, about how his life might look. I don't
think so: I think Weer is actually dead and that the Chinese pillow is
pointing to the fact that Weer is reliving his life over and over again.
I think that this is the quiet damnation that he is "living" in: endless

There are some other clues for this. The first is the only mention of
the word "peace" in the whole book. It is in a passage from one of the
books that Gold made up, a piece of text with lots of lliteration, i.e.

The second, very important clue, is his name: Alden Dennis Weer. I once
read (I don't remember where) that someone had been wondering about the
name and came up with: "All then, then is" for his first names. I never
thought further about this, until when I last read "Peace" I came across
the fact that Weer is a descendant from a Dutch family. I am Dutch, and
you know what "Weer" means in dutch? It means "again". (It also means
"weather" but that is not very important, I think ;^) So when I
translate his name, we get: "All then, then is again". And again, and
again, and again...

One last thing to mention is the talk about the "brand new" axe in the
beginning of the book, although Weer admits to having used the axe many
times before (I cannot quote because I do not own a copy of "Peace": it
is in the library). I think this means that Weer is going to relive his
life again in the book that is before us, but has lived it many, many
times before.

In the beginning of Peace, Weer tells us that he is not going to tell us
some of the details ("the story of Napolean") because they "invariably
offend". So we know from the start he is going to leave out parts of the
story. What I think is that Weer relived his life many times, each time
leaving out something else, until the offensive stuff is deleted almost
entirely. Most of all, the offensive stuff that Weer himself is
responsible for.

Now I want to move on to the next "big idea" I have. I cannot help but
feel that I am right in what follows, ever since this idea came to me. I
want to stress that I think it better not to read further if you have
not read "Peace" and plan to do so.

The first time I read "Peace" I did not understand very much (although I
understood Weer to be dead), the second time I read it the thought
struck me that Weer was a mass murderer, and the last time I read it I
thought all the time: "No, he didn't do it. He did not kill this or that
character." My hypothesis is that Weer doesn't lie to us, the readers.
He only leaves things out, but he does not lie. There are a number of
characters that have died in mysterious circumstances, and you cannot
help but wonder if Weer killed them:
* Bobby Black was obviously killed by Weer by accident, when he was only
* His aunt was hit by a car, killed by Peacock (I read that Wolfe
admitted this in a personal talk - I had not spotted it myself);
* A man was killed in an accident in the factory. I do not think Weer
did it himself. I have no real arguments, just then "it does not ring
true", given the manner in which he talks about the accident.
* Margaret Lorn may be killed, but I do not think so. He calls her on
the phone sometimes in later life (without saying anything) when she has
kids allready. I could imagine Weer killing Margaret earlier in life but
not after such a long time;
* The librarian (I forgot her name) that went gold digging with Weer,
may have been killed by him, but again I do not think so. There is a
phrase in the book, after she went, (Sorry, I cannot quote) that implies
that she left the town alive. She pulled a gun on him, they had a fight,
but he did not kill her.
* There are little clues everywhere in the book that other characters
may have been killed, but none of them convinced me.

Then Gene Wolfe himself has said that Weer did not kill most of the
characters in the book, so we know he cannot be a mass murderer (if we
believe Gene). So, I'm left with Weer who did not kill. At the same
time, the obvious answer to the question: "What did Weer do, that such
a terrible fate happened to him?" is: "He killed someone", certainly in
a book where the above clues are everywhere.

My answer to all this is: I think Weer killed only one person on purpose
in the whole book. I think this person is Julius Smart. The most
important clue I think is the phrase that Julius Smart may well be the
"central (or main) character" in the book. How can this be if so little
is said about the man, and Smart was meant by Gene Wolfe to be (his own
words) "an ordinary middle-class American" (something like that). The
answer: Smart is the central character of the book because by killing
him, Weer ended up in the situation he is in now. Only by killing Smart,
did the story that Weer tells us in "Peace" come into existence.

In the archives I came across a conversation that someone had with Gene
Wolfe (the one in which the killing of Olivia by Peacock was mentioned)
in which it was mentioned that Weer comes to own the juice factory
because he inherits it from Julius Smart, because Weer was Olivia's heir
and became Smart's heir when they married. I think this is "motive".

I think Smart was killed by Weer with the boyscout knife that he talks
so much about. He cannot find it, because it is in a room of his "house"
that he will not enter, one of the memories that he does not want to
have. I think this is "means".

I now have means and motive, so I must try "opportunity". This is
harder. Weer had the opportunity to kill Smart. Smart was a frail, old
man, who worked in the same factory as Weer. As we know from the last
chapter: accidents happen in a factory so Smart could easily have had
"an accident"
(but then again, would Weer have done this with the knife? Oops!) Well,
so much for opportunity.

When I read the only fairly large piece of text in "Peace" about Julius
Smart with the above theory in mind, it almost sounds as if Weer is
telling us: "The man was old, frail and sad. Everyone mocked
him. What I did was not terribly wrong. I helped him out of his misery."

I want to end this large piece of text with the observation that
although Weer is, in my opinion, a killer, at the same time he is, as a
lot of readers feel, a rather sympathetic man. The story of Weer is the
story of a man that had a lot of misfortune in his life: he lost the
love of his life (Margaret Lorn) without knowing why, he ends up with a
lousy job (before he owns the factory) although this was not expected,
later in life he loses another possible partner (the librarian) and a
chance to get rich (there is no gold). Weer killed once, only later in
life. I feel Weer is a sad man, not an evil one.

I hope this will stir up a lot of discussion because I still have
questions about "Peace". Maybe my ramblings here will generate ideas in

One last clue to the fact that Weer killed Smart: I have not read "The
Changeling" but is it not about one guy killing another and then taking
his place?


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

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