From: "Roy C. Lackey"
Subject: (urth) PEACE: Smart Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2002 23:37:20 -0500 We know even less about Julius Smart than we know about Weer, for all his being a "symbolic" figure and "the central character of this book". I want to address two facts related to him that seem to be antithetical. We are told that for 25 years, since the death of Olivia, that Smart did not speak to his nephew, Weer. We are not told why. Despite this estrangement, when Julius died, Weer inherited the company. Again, why? It would seem that the fact of, or circumstances surrounding, Olivia's death triggered the alienation. If the former, it raises (A) questions about their relationship while she was alive; if the latter, what were (B) those circumstances regarding her death that would cause Julius to want to have no more to do with him? (A) Weer lived with his aunt and Julius for two years after their marriage, in his aunt's house, and was living there for almost an equal length of time before the marriage, the entire time they were courting. Smart was, de facto, a father surrogate for Weer, from the age of ten or eleven to thirteen. He was about fifteen years older than his nephew. Weer returned to his parent's house, just down the alley from his aunt's house, when they came back from Europe. Weer was either in high school or college when his aunt died, which is cause for a digression. It is usually assumed that the choice not to speak was Smart's. The dates of Olivia's death and when the juice plant was built may be relevant. Weer states that Smart was already making money while Olivia was still alive and he was still living with them, but the source of the income isn't given. It almost has to be from the drugstore, because Blaine's account of his own and his bank's fortunes implies that it wasn't until a few years after the start of the Depression that a local market for potatoes was created by the plant's operations. The plant had to have existed by 1935, because Weer accepted a job there while he was still in college. The fact that Olivia named the juice product implies that it had been invented, certainly, and possibly that it was in production before her death. In any event, this would seem to place both her death and the plant's founding sometime in the early Thirties. That Weer continued to live with his aunt for two years after her marriage means that he was about eleven when they married, which places the year as 1925. If the assumptions in the preceding paragraph are correct, then Olivia lived for 6-8 years after marriage. Whatever strain, if any, that Weer's presence for the first two years put on the marriage should have ended when he went back to his parents. Did it? He states that his parents remained forever strangers to him after abandoning him for several years. Did he cling to the stability that had been afforded to him by his aunt, whether or not Julius was amenable, and despite the fact that he resented the changes that Julius brought to his life? Did Julius resent the boy, only tolerating him for his wife's sake? (B) And then there's the question of Olivia's infidelities. How could Weer, a boy, be aware that she was having sex with both Peacock and Macafee, and Julius not be? When Weer wrote that "--when she was Mrs. Smart--repent three or four times a year of her casual connection with Professor Peacock and her occasional nights with Mr. Macafee", did he mean that he was present when she confessed to Julius? (And where was young Den those nights?) To whom else would such an even token confession be meaningful? Which brings me back to the circumstances of her death. Was it an accident? Not likely. We know only from Wolfe's say so that Peacock was the culprit; the text gives no hint. Why did he do it? Jealousy? Of Macafee? I don't see the relevance; she was married anyway. Or was that the reason, that Julius was jealous, and Peacock was his friend, who would kill for him? Or was jealousy the pretext and the real reason money? Would Olivia's death bring Smart some money (he sold her house to the city), money he needed to start up the plant? Was that nailed-down letter from Peacock to Smart (which would/should not have been on either Weer's real or replica desk) relevant? What if that letter, which Weer obviously has knowledge of, implicated Smart in Olivia's death, whether before or after the fact? (Perhaps Peacock was blackmailing Smart, or threatened to, or Smart feared he would. Perhaps, also, Smart's pharmaceutical skills were used to silence Peacock, who "died only a few years afterward of a complicated series of disorders said to have been aggravated by hypertension". Shades of the Tilly tale.) What if Weer had read that letter? What if the choice not to speak to one another after the funeral was Weer's? That he despised Julius, but with his father's wealth being sapped by the Depression, he took advantage of the situation to make Julius an offer he couldn't refuse? In a Faustian twist, Weer agreed to a fixed term of silent service--say twenty-five years--at the end of which Julius would hand over the company to him and fade away--maybe to join the circus or live on the beach in Florida. Smart would have accumulated a handsome personal fortune by then, enough to live out his days in comfort. Smart would have only been in his early sixties when Weer took over his company. People just assume that Smart had to die in order for Weer to gain control of the company, and that he did die. But the text doesn't ever say that Smart died, or even hint at it. And during those twenty-five years Weer would be guaranteed a living wage. This scenario might also explain the "what went wrong" angle. Weer wouldn't inherit his father's estate "between the ages of twenty and thirty" as he, and perhaps Margaret, had rather optimistically and unrealistically planned. But he _would_ inherit his uncle's wealth between the ages of forty and fifty. Either he felt he was unable to tell Margaret of his scheme, because she might rat on him, or he did tell her and she was unable or unwilling to wait that long. -Roy --