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Enoch Root

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Enoch Root
AKA Enoch the Red
Associates Benjamin Franklin
Daniel Waterhouse
Appears in Quicksilver

Enoch Root, also known as Enoch the Red, is a recurring character through The Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon. Although he is not one of the main protagonists of the books, he often appears at crucial times and places. It is unclear from the books whether there is one Enoch Root who is immortal or whether Enoch Root is a name used by several people over many generations though the events of Cryptonomicon and various remarks of Daniel Waterhouse strongly suggest the former.

Enoch is a member of the Societas Eruditorium, a shadowy organization to which it seems no other primary character in either Baroque Cycle or Cryptonomicon belongs. The society appears to be related to the study and advancement of alchemy, and Enoch travels about the world seeking knowledge and supplies from those who share his interest in the topic. There is more to Enoch's secrets than mere mysticism, however, and Enoch appears able to recognize talent and potential in individuals he encounters, and is also able to subtly do things to encourage them to realize that potential. Enoch seems to have encountered Gottfried Leibniz, Isaac Newton, Daniel Waterhouse, Eliza, Benjamin Franklin, and in Cryptonomicon, Alan Turing and Randy Waterhouse, and found ways to get them to advance the growth of knowledge in their respective fields of genius. He procures necessary items and meetings for characters when necessary to advance the plot, and shares the hardships of most of Jack Shaftoe's cabal on their eastward voyage around the world.

Alone of all his acquaintances and friends, Daniel Waterhouse seems aware that Enoch Root is somehow immortal, or at least has found a way to avoid aging, something which Daniel views critically. Root responds to Daniel's confrontations with great embarassment. Another character associated with alchemy, Solomon the Jew in Peter I Romanov's entourage, may also possess Root's secret to immortality. Daniel speculates this based on statements made by Solomon, and Solomon's seeming lengthy acquaintance with Enoch Root, and wonders if Solomon the Jew may not have other secrets besides. If Daniel's wilder speculations turn out to be true, this would suggest that Enoch Root is literally thousands of years old.

Both hip and wise, Enoch Root is much like the author himself and is responsible for some of the most incisive remarks in the books. For example, in Cryptonomicon he has himself placed in a Filipino jail in order to converse with Randy Waterhouse. The conversation, a highly illuminative riff on the differences between Athena and Mars, becomes a metaphor for the Good Guys and Bad Guys of the world.

Neil Stephenson has consistently refused to identify Enoch Root, and will not describe Root's literary function in the books. He has said that to describe Root's role in the books would be to ruin it, and this indicates that the very mystery of the character is an essential part of his role. Speculation among Stephenson fans has been that Root is Stephenson himself, a personification of the deus ex machina, a projected "factual" basis for the legend of the Wandering Jew (complicated by Enoch's apparent friendship with Solomon) or the conscious injection of the Reader as a character into the book.

Other clues to Enoch Root's identity and role in The Baroque Cycle might be found in references to the Biblical figure Enoch. The's Bible Enoch is only a few generations removed from Adam, the son of Seth and so the grand-grandfather of Noah.The text reads—uniquely in the Generations — that Enoch "walked with God: and he was not; for God took him," avoiding the mortal death ascribed to Adam's other descendants. So the biblial Enoch is immortal - so is "Enoch the Root." Although the flood story in Genesis speaks of only Noah and his family surviving the flood - rendering Noah the "root" of mankind - Enoch is immortal also Enoch can be considered as Root and may be of an identity with Noah. Three apocryphal books are attributed to the biblical Enoch; in one book Enoch was also seen as the inventor of writing, and teacher of astronomy and arithmetics, all three reflecting the interpretation of his name as meaning initiated. Similarly, "Enoch the Root" plays the role of teacher or mentor in The Baroque Cycle.
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