(urth) PEACE: One Devil

Dave Tallman davetallman at msn.com
Mon Apr 28 22:39:21 PDT 2008

Peter <stoneox17 at aol.com> writes:

> There are a number of mysteries about Weer's secretaries.
> Why does he call her "Miss Birkhead" when the death
> notice says "Helen Birkhead Tyler"  and she is survived by
> her husband and two children.  How does she get sick and die
> so quickly?  Why does he not recognize Miss Hadow, who is
> Mr. Scudder's secretary?

> I'm going to propose that she was unmarried when Weer was
> president, and that after he died, she got married, had two children,
> (possibly quit her job), got sick and died.  That is, this is another
> case of the real world intruding into Weer's memories.  Does this
> seem possible?

Weer has a habit of referring to woman by their maiden names, if that's 
how he first knew them. For example, he refers to Mrs. Price as Miss 
Lorn to Dr. Van Ness (p. 219, Berkeley). The request for the flower fund 
for  "Miss Birkhead" by Miss Hadow is an indirect quotation (p. 243). 
She may actually have said "Mrs. Tyler," and Weer mentally translated 
it.  I think that's more likely than Weer learning of Birkhead's life 
after his death.

If you don't like the Hadow-as-murderer scenario, you still must admit 
there is something peculiar about her. Like Dr. Van Ness, she seems to 
be able to follow Weer across time-jumps. When Weer first visits Van 
Ness in his office, he is new to his company presidency (and still 
thin), aged 40-45. When he leaves that office and returns to work, he is 
probably in his sixties (p. 233). Van Ness gives him an appointment for 
later that afternoon, as if the whole visit was on a single day.

Similarly, if the sickness and subsequent death of Birkhead took several 
days in reality, Amy Hadow has a separate continuity that allows her to 
carry on a conversation with Weer so that it seems like one day to him. 
Some have suggested that such characters are "psychopomps," angels who 
are evaluating and testing Weer.

On p. 226, Weer notices that when he talks to Hadow the office is 
strangely quiet and he can't hear telephones ringing. Hadow may have 
followed him into his "memory room" copy of the office. When he leaves 
that room, he may enter be entering memories of several days later. This 
is the day of the reporter's interview, the day Birkhead died, and the 
last day of Weer's life.

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