Enoch Root Lives

Spoilers for Cryptonomicon follow…

There seems to have been a big controvery about the character of Enoch Root and his miraculous coming-back-to-life bit. Example. I don’t really see what the problem is or why this is such a big deal. I mean, admittedly, very little if any of Cryptonomicon is science fiction, so this could be coming out of the blue, or, if I may, gold.

Stephenson doubters point to this passage, said from the POV of the omniscient narrator:

When Enoch Root dies, the only other people in the room are Rudolf von Hacklheber, Bobby Shaftoe, and the Swedish doctor.

They do not mention when Rudy then instructs Shaftoe to “make sure that the doctor files the death certificate.” Now, okay, this might be fine dialogue-wise, because we know that everyone is worried about Julieta getting married and all that, but I think it’s just a setup for what’s to come, namely Root coming back to life. Namely, this passage:

Bobby Shaftoe loiters outside, staring back up the street. After a minute or two he sees Rudy poke his head out the door of the doctor’s office and look one way, then the other. He pulls his head back inside for a moment. Then he and another man walk out of the office. The other man is wrapped in a blanket that covers even his head. They climb into the Mercedes, Blanket Man lies down in the back seat, and Rudy drives off in the direction of his cottage.

Who could the man under the blanket be, if no one is left in the doctor’s office but Rudy and the dead Root? Well, then it should be pretty clear. It is established that Root carries around a Cuban cigar box, it is stated that a brilliant white glow emenates from a tiny crack in the box. Bobby dreams that he knocks the contents of the box out of it and then the dead limbs around him come back to life. Sure, this is a strange fantasy, but it is in the book right before Enoch dies. How much of a setup do we need?

Enoch Root is an alchemist, or something similar, and he posesses the (a?) Philosopher’s Stone! Or, if you read Harry Potter, a Sorcerer’s Stone. Not very hard to comprehend, IMHO, at least not on my second reading of the book (I admit I was somewhat confused the first time through). Could it be something more? Could Root be a strange spirit or angel or such? Possible, but alchemy is a fairly simple explanation which fits in with the premise of the book. And as soon as I finish this, I’ll start in on Quicksilver, which will hopefully make things a bit more clear.

5 replies on “Enoch Root Lives”

  1. Oh, and I didn’t state this explicitly but one must assume that Rudy, who knows about Societas Eruditorum and has connections to Root, went and got the stone from the cellar of the church when he heard the news. After all, Shaftoe refused to take Root to the church when he was dying in the back seat, even though he demanded it, so that he could save himself.

  2. Wow! Of course Enoch lives, and Rudy and such know about it! Page 850, my friends.

    “I went into town to renew my acquaintance with Enoch Root.”
    “He made it?”
    “He made it.”

  3. Not to mention, it’s all explained in The System of The World…

  4. I gathered from the “System of the World” that he was Methusela’s father. As he did nto not die but was transformed, that is taken away to heaven bodily as opposed to being taken away in spirit and leaving the body behind.

    Reguardless, I loved the books

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