A dog amongst adoring sheep
Unfortunately there was one other aspect of this book which I found profoundly irritating, and that was the almost feudal assumptions it made about people and their places in society. The women who appeared in the story were all supposedly intelligent, self-sufficient, and educated — yet ultimately they were all behaviorally completely passive. The most aggressive of them is consistently duped by the evil brother, and apparently must have a male boss to grant her legitimacy in the eyes of the law.
The other women are simply pathetic — despite their determined best efforts they are helpless and feeble, unable to save themselves in the face of attack. Invariably they depend on Pendergast to actually save them, as the evil brother effortlessly deceives, manipulates, overwhelms, uses, and discards them. Indeed, they are so pathetically powerless that one of them is actually emotionally shattered by being contemptuously told by the brother that she has no sweetie and is getting older. Um… excuse me? I thought the concept of women as nothing more than the arm decoration of a man went out with the 50’s?!
The few men we are allowed to know are treated only minimally better, with the dog-like devotion of one being rewarded with Pendergast ‘allowing’ him to repeatedly endanger his life for Pendergast. Another is tricked into entering an insane asylum, supposedly ‘for his own protection.’ Three other male friends of Pendergast are dispatched almost off screen, mostly as plot devices whom we are not allowed to know. Indeed, we know the insane brother more than we know Pendergast himself, although even there we never find out what caused the creation of this paragon of evil. I found that a weakness of the book — the brother’s arrogant, absolutely amoral self-absorption defies understanding.
“Save us, Superman!”
I can’t call this the only weakness in the book, however — the supposedly brilliant Pendergast is not particularly attractive or approachable; we are never allowed a glimpse into his thought processes. In the end I found myself wondering a bit tiredly if the authors had created a sort of personal hero/wish-fulfillment character in Pendergast, such that it embodied an idealized form of everything they found most alluring, exciting, and desirable in their conception of manhood. If so, I can’t say I’m impressed with their fantasy — it seems to define masculine greatness as requiring everyone around them to be vulnerable, dependent, and stupid.