From: "Robert Borski"
Subject: Re: (urth) PEACE: 3 Misses Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2002 00:26:55 -0500 Roy done writ: > Some elderly people, as their physical and mental abilities decline with age > and they loose the ability, even willingness, to cope with the present, > often become preoccupied with the past, with their youth, particularly their > childhood. [Best to skip here my own personal travails in the decline of my brain, with sidejaunts down Nostalgia Avenue saved for unappreciative grandchildren.] > This is the only good reason I can come up with for his persistence in > calling certain married women by their maiden names. He does this with three > females. Two of these females the reader knows he knew when > he was a child, Eleanor Bold (Porter) and Margaret Lorn (Price), so calling > them by the names he first knew them by might be understandable for a > befuddled old dead man in his second childhood. But then we have Miss > Birkhead. We don't learn that she was married with children until Miss Hadow > interrupts the concluding Sidhe story. That bit of information, coming where > it does in the book and otherwise contributing nothing to Weer's story, must > be significant. We don't know what she looked like, or how old she was when > she died. The only clue along those lines is that she had been Smart's > secretary before Weer's, but we don't know for how long. Weer was grown > before he went to work for Smart, and it seems doubtful that he would have > had much, if any, contact with Smart's secretary, even if she had been > working there that long ago. Don't agree with this last point at all. People who work for different divisions of the same company enter and leave the building every day, so one might easily encounter them coming or departing from work; ditto for the company parking lot and cafeteria, to say nothing of the social get-togethers almost every company has (picnics in the summer, Christmas parties in the winter, etc., etc.). You may not see these people in any sort of professional capacity during the day, but outside these moments, at off-the-clock interstices, such encounters are relatively common. Plus Cassionsville itself, being small, may provide for further mixing of seldom-encountered-on-site co-workers. This objection being noted I have yet another thought. Roy, do you think it's possible that Miss Birkhead is meant to be the third member of some sort of linked trio of women? We know that Den has been romantically involved with Miss Lorn, and when he describes Miss Bold at the party commemorating his fifth birthday, it is far from the perspective of a toddler. Writes Den: "[Barbara Black's sister] is radiantly blonde, slender and flexible as a willow--too much so for the other women, for to them a physical pliancy implies moral accomodation, and they suspect Eleanor Bold of the most improbable of lovers: farmhands and railroad firemen, the rumored sons of departed ministers, the sheriff's silent deputy." Later, in comparison to the other women present, he will call her a girl--otherwise, he makes clear, she would be the most beautiful woman at the party--an honor he instead confers on his aunt Olivia. But again it's difficult to attribute these thoughts to a five year old, so somewhere along the line, Den, perhaps smitten as a child by the lovely Miss Bold, has sought to flesh out the fantasy with bits of gossip he's heard later about Eleanor, perhaps even likening himself to be one of her most improbable lovers. Indeed, she may represent the first female outside his mother and Olivia to interest him as a male, even though these feelings are puerile and immature. Margaret Lorn, on the other hand, may represent the second step in Den's sexual development, with Den moving on from the pretend world of his childhood to the very real world of adolescence, with its social and dating complexities, and maybe even a bit of sexual exploration. Margaret seems a little too chaste to give herself to anyone outside of the institution of marriage, which perhaps may be another reason their relationship never works out. Miss Birkhead, however, is a working woman. Could she represent the next stage in Den's sexual development--perhaps being the very woman he loses his virginity to? There's nothing in the text that rules out they're being similar ages, and as I've said, they could have met in any number of ways outside of Julius's office--plus knowing that Den might someday inherit his uncle's factory would seem to make elegible bachelor Weer a most enticing catch for anyone. Onomastically, the name "Birkhead" has eluded me, but according to the OED, "birk" is a variant of "berk" and derives from an "Abbrev. of Berkeley (or Berkshire) Hunt, rhyming slang for c*nt." Which to me, by connotative extension, comes very close to "maidenhead." Might the three eternal misses therefore represent progressive stages in the sexual development of Den Weer--the first timers he can never forget? Robert Borski --