Who is Enoch Root?

Re: Cryptonomicon & Baroque Cycle:

Could someone explain this character to me?

It is not at all clear to me whether the various people who go by this name (sometimes as Enoch the Red) are supposed to be the same person, different people with the same position in a secret organization, or something else.

‘Root’ among other things refers to older words from which newer ones are derived; same holds for languages in general. ‘Enoch’ is a Biblical character – more importantly, Enochian is the ‘language of angels’ that was supposedly given to Enoch, and used in various magical traditions. So if the name ‘Enoch Root’ is meaningful, just what is intended to be meant?

Is it a coincidence that ‘Enoch the Red’ brings to mind the Istari? If not, what meaning does that have?

I am so very confused. Stephenson’s habit of writing past intermixed with present only perplexes me further. And the theme of Cryptonomicon, which Enoch Root relates, and which seems to be explored and manifested in the Baroque Cycle, makes things even harder to understand.

4 Responses to “Who is Enoch Root?”

  1. It’s pretty clear to me that the Enoch Root in Cryptonomicon is the same Enoch Root who was in The Baroque Cycle. Stephenson mentions that Enoch Root knows “the secret of long life,” is an accomplished alchemist (as seen from his silver-refining operation in the Netherlands in Quicksilver), and the Trial of the Pyx scene from The System of the World, it is made clear that in Stephenson’s world, Enoch’s alchemical concoctions have real effect. Also in The Baroque Cycle, Daniel Waterhouse figures out that Enoch made himself an early patron of both Newton and Liebniz under assumed names but does not seem to have aged at all, and Quicksilver begins with him taking a similar sort of interest in a young Benjamin Franklin. So this is a man who has figured out how he can avoid aging and dying, and who occupies his eternity by fostering the growth and development of extraordinary people.

  2. I suspect that, but it seems so… ‘magical realism’. The rest of the books is either historically accurate or historically plausible. Having actual alchemy discover things that modern science hasn’t… well, it seems incongruous with the overall tone of the series.

  3. latsot Says:

    I think there’s no doubt that Lawyer is correct and Enoch Root is one seemingly ageless man. Further evidence of this is has apparent resurrection and supernatural healing of various characters (including himself) both in Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle. At the very beginning of the Baroque Cycle, Daniel Waterhouse is so surprised at root’s unchanged appearance after several decades that he’s worried he’s having a heart attack and he’s not the only one to notice this.

    It does seem rather incongruous with the otherwise relative scientific plausibility of the books, but I think that’s just the game Stephenson is playing. Root is a walking plot device to the extent it becomes tedious. He’s supposed to be mysterious, with unknown resources at his command. He always turns up in exactly the nick of time (even after seemingly dying!) and consistently manages to place himself just where he wants to within organisations. I think you’re supposed to wonder how he achieves all this and the unexplained mystery of his apparent immortality, resurrection and his magic cigar box are meant to provoke exactly your reaction: what is going on here?

    Personally, I think Stephenson overplays all this a bit. I’m sure a book or short story clarifying some of Root’s background would be welcomed by a lot of people.

    • I see “Root” as just another bit of Stephenson’s wordplay. A root user is a superuser, with access to powers that other accounts cannot access. A man named Root is a super man, with access to powers that other men cannot access.

      Ithink his appearance is a hoot.

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