In Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age, the rescued girls raised on the Chinese Primers form their own phyle and seek Nell as their ruler.

While the connection between Nell and the Mouse Army is through the Primers and Hackworth would be the hand behind it, why would he want to do that? What does he gain from it?

  • 2
    Hi! I'm not sure how familiar you are with the site's format, but it really doesn't work well with multiple questions asked at once. Please can you pick one to ask first, or split them onto separate pages so they can be answered separately.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 22:23
  • You might also find that some of your queries are answered by existing questions about the book.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 22:40
  • I did check the questions, but didn't find answers to those questions. The only reference is for the Mouse Army, and the explanation doesn't really add up I think: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/4551/…
    – Moohbear
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


He created 3 primers. I think he really wanted one of the girls from the Victorian phyle to complete the primer and maintain control. I don't think he ever imagined a poverty stricken, street child to do better than Victorians. And Nell almost didn't make it out of her apartment when she was a small child.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. You're saying that Hackworth didn't want Nell to lead the Mouse Army? Do you have any evidence for this?
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 19:58
  • I don't see any evidence showing that he wanted Nell to lead the Mouse Army. I see two possible things he might have wanted to happen: 1. Convert the Han Chinese orphans to become Victorians at least in beliefs no matter which girl leads them. 2: In his arrogance/moral superiority, I think it never occurred to him that Nell would do so well - but if she is converted, it's ok. Who ever finished the primer would become the queen. I think this leads back to NS' libertarianism and Snow Crash. Culture is the operating system and after that it's up to an individual's talents and effort. Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 13:23

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