[DWJ] Fire and Hemlock: so many questions

Roberta Klarreich rklarreich at gmail.com
Sat Nov 23 23:54:59 EST 2013

Hello all,

I've been rereading F&H for this month's discussion (a bit tardily), and
rediscovering a lot that I'd forgotten as well as noticing things that
never stood out before. I find, though, that this book leaves me with lots
of questions, far more than typical. So I decided to compile them and
unleash them on you guys, because what else is a mailing list for?

Here you go, in no particular order:

- Whose funeral is it at the beginning? First we hear it's Laurel's mother,
later we hear it's Seb's mother. I'd guess the "Laurel's mother" thing is
some kind of cover story to satisfy the real world, but why is there a
Will? Doesn't everything already belong to Laurel? What is really going on

And should we take it that it really is Seb's mother? Does Leroy have to
marry Laurel's sacrifice in the same way that Laurel married Leroy's
would-be sacrifice? Can Seb really be that indifferent to the death of his
actual mother? (I know, he's Seb, but still.)

- Is Seb actually attracted to Polly, or is this all part of his and his
father's plan?

- When Polly tries to read the fairy stories Tom gave her, she is disgusted
by the heroine of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," and fails to find
the one true fact Tom assured her would be there. On reading the little
summary of the story and Polly's reaction to it, I was struck by how close
it is to Polly's eventual transgression that leads to her losing her
memories: "The girl had only herself to blame for her troubles. She was
told not to do a thing and she did." It feels to me that Tom is trying to
indirectly give her the tools she needs to protect herself and him, but she
fails to notice this one--because she's too young? too arrogant?

- Is there any significance to the fact that Polly initially mistakes
Laurel for Nina?

- What draws Tom to Polly to begin with? Why does he take an interest in
her at the Will reading? Is he already hoping that she will become his
savior, or does he really just want to save her from boredom and give
himself an excuse to stay outside? Just how much does he plan out her
eventual rescue of him? Is he really making a concerted plan?

- Does Tom know from the beginning (of the book, that is) that he is
destined to be a sacrifice?

- In the big denouement, Polly ultimately does the opposite of Janet in the
poem--she pushes Tom away instead of clinging to him. But in reading the
chapter epigraphs I realized that all the intervening years she was holding
onto him, rather than in just a moment at the end. Instead of Tom changing
into a serpent or a snake in her arms, she has to deal with Leroy's malice.

- In the scene at the fair, why does Seb try to lure Polly into the Tunnel
of Love? Does he think he can kill her more tidily there, or is he trying
to protect her from his father's plan? Why is he arguing with his father

- Is Seb an ordinary person who is actually four years older than Polly? If
Leroy Sr. hadn't gone tumbling into the abyss, would Seb have lived out his
life and died in the usual way?


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