I am confused about the Kesselman characters (mother and son). When a female voice spoke to Ragle on the phone, reminding him about attending his first civil defence class, she said that Walter could drive him to/from the class to save time, being a 15 minute car journey away. I am assuming this voice was Mrs Keitelbein (as this identity was used by a female who called at Ragle's house in person about joining the CD class), but Mrs Keitelbein only lived a block away, and it was more likely that Mrs Kesselman lived a 15 minute car journey away, because he had driven to her house (on the hill) before. It's as if during that phone call, Mrs Kesselman momentarily forgot (and so made a mistake) about maintaining her alter ego identity of "Mrs Keitelbein".

If this is correct, then why was the book written that way? Why does the book seem to purposefully confuse these two identites, as if to merge them together for some reason, so that they become one identity? (Mr Black mentions to Lowery that he knows someone called Mrs Kesselman, so a person by the name of Kesselman does seem to exist.)

The thing that puzzles me is if there is only one identity, and Mrs Kesselman had created an alter ego (Mrs Keitelbein) in order to sidestep Mr Black and the city authorities (as she was an "undercover lunatic"), then why did the Kesselmans sidestep Ragle in her house on the hill, by escaping from the locked closet, and presumably, alerting the city authorities to Ragle's current location, as he was quickly overcome by a group of city workers?

  • 2
    I’d have to re-read it to answer better, but mixing up and conflating alter egos and aliases is a bit of a Phillip K. Dick trope. If you haven’t read A Scanner Darkly I’d say that’s the ultimate example Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 15:46
  • 1
    Regarding your comment below about the new title, you can edit your own questions and answers at any time with the link below them. You can also edit anyone else's questions and answers, but until you have enough reputation it will need to be reviewed by someone else before becoming permanent. Have a look at the tour if you haven't already.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 10:11

1 Answer 1


No, there's no confusion with the Kesselmans. The Kesselman house is much farther away, he drove quite a while through the countryside to get there at night.

This is what she says:

"...Walter can drop by and pick you up in his car; and I know he can drive you back home afterward. The class is only about an hour at the longest, so it wouldn’t be more than an hour and fifteen minutes at the very most. "He doesn’t have to give me a ride," Ragle said. "You’re only half a block away.""Oh that’s so," she said. "You’re just up the street from us. Then you surely ought to be able to make it; please, Mr. Gumm—as a favor to me."

So she estimates 15 minutes there and back, as an upper bound. She's only trying to convince him that it won't take too much of his time. That said, it does seem like she didn't remember how far away he is exactly.

The Kesselmans are loyal One Worlders, the Keitelbeins are lunatic agents, different people. Black speculates they chose the name for the similarity, knowing he would have trouble telling them apart, although why he knew the Kesselmans i don't know.

  • In Black's office, when discussing things with Lowery, it's interesting to note that he says that Kesselman dropped by recently with her CD clipboard and literature. Also, in the Kesselman house, Gum noticed a photograph of his factory, and there was a copy of Time there too, which Keitelbein also had. BTW, I am new to this SF website, and I see that my original post has been edited by Admin, but they've got the name wrong in the edited title, which has a little bit of irony to it. Also, I feel that the word "purposefully" needs to be used next to the word "confuse". Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 7:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.