Age of Iron
Vercueil's identity is sort of hard to pin down throughout the course of the novel. We only have the haziest understanding of who he is and where he's from. The role that he plays in Mrs. Curren's life is a little bit easier to figure out, at least: he is the novel's Guide figure. Sure, he's drunken, slovenly, and sometimes hard to get along with. Yet, just when we start to write Vercueil off as some kind of pest taking advantage of poor Mrs. Curren, there he is helping her through moments of severe pain; there he is again listening to her worries about her daughter. Vercueil seems to be in totally the right place at the right time. Isn't it interesting how he shows up just as Mrs. Curren finds out she's dying and plays an increasingly important role in her life as her days on Earth start to wind down? Vercueil helps her face death, but he also makes it easier for her come to terms with what's going on in her life. If there's a guide in this novel, it's undoubtedly Vercueil.