Who are Herbert Stencil's Parents?

"Born in 1901, the year Victoria died, Stencil was in time to be the century's child. Raised motherless. The father, Sidney Stencil, had served the Foreign Office of his country taciturn and competent. No facts on the mother's disappearance. Died in childbirth, ran off with someone, committed suicide: some way of vanishing painful enough to keep Sidney from ever referring to it in all the correspondence to his son which is available." [1]

Late Saturday night, 1956:

"'What day is it,' somebody asked. 'Say, what day is it?'
"Out there something had happened, probably atmospheric. But the moon shone brighter. The number of objects and shadows in the park seemed to multiply: warm white, warm black.
"Somewhere else a traveling clock chimed seven. 'It is Tuesday,' said an old man's voice, half-asleep. It was Saturday.
"But about the night-park, near-deserted and cold, was somehow a sense of population and warmth, and high noon. The stream made a curious half cracking, half ringing sound: like the glass of a chandelier, in a wintry drawing room when all the heat is turned off suddenly and forever. The moon shivered, impossibly bright.
"'How quiet,' said Stencil.
"'Quiet. Nothing at all is happening in here.'
"'So what year is it.'
"'It is 1913,' said Stencil.
"'Why not,' said Profane." [2]

Malta, 1919:

"No appointments, whispered conferences, hurried paper work: only resumption of their hothouse-time — as if it were marked by any old and overprecious clock which could be wound and set at will. For it came to that, finally: an alienation from time, much as Malta itself was alienated from any history in which cause precedes effect.

"Carla did come to him again with unfaked tears this time; and pleading, not defiant.
"'The priest is gone,' she wept. 'Whom else do I have? My husband and I are strangers. Is it another woman?'
"[Sidney Stencil] was tempted to tell her. But was restrained by the fine irony. He found himself hoping that there was indeed adultery between his old 'love' and the shipfitter; if only to complete a circle begun in England eighteen years ago, a beginning kept forcibly from his thoughts for the same period of time.
"Herbert would be eighteen. And probably helling it all about the dear old isles. What would he think of his father. . .
"His father, ha." [3]
"Carla must have told [Fausto] at some point of the circumstances surrounding his birth. It had been near the time of the June Disturbances, in which old Maijstral was involved. Precisely how never came clear. But deeply enough to alienate Carla both from him and from herself. Enough so that one night we both nearly took a doomed acrobat's way down the steps at the Harbour end of Str. San Giovanni; I to limbo, she to a suicide's hell. What had kept her? The boy Fausto could only gather from listening in to her evening prayers that it was an Englishman; a mysterious being named Stencil." [4]

So who is Herbert's mother? Father? If V. is a parody/inversion of the Virgin, with God "in a wideawake hat [fighting] skirmishes with an aboriginal Satan out at the antipodes of the firmament, in the name and for the safekeeping of any Victoria" [5], and those five crucified British soldiers, THEN one could suppose that V. was Herbert's mother ("STEN: You'll ask next if he believes her to be his mother. The question is ridiculous." [6] ) and, by analogy, that rather than having been "conceived without sin" (as the Miraculous Medal says), Herbert had had a quite maculate conception, as the young Victoria Wren had been a prostitute following her "deflowering" by Goodfellow in 1898 [7]. Thus Sidney's thought: "His father, ha." Even if V. is Herbert's mother, God knows who his father was. And just what kind of prophet is Herbert?


  1. Pynchon, Thomas, V., Lippincott, 1963, p. 52
  2. Ibid., p. 392
  3. Ibid., p. 489
  4. Ibid., pp. 318-319
  5. Ibid., p. 73
  6. Ibid., pp. 54
  7. Ibid., pp. 166
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