Study Guide

Baynes (a.k.a. Rudolf Wegener, a.k.a. Conrad Goltz) in The Man in the High Castle

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Baynes (a.k.a. Rudolf Wegener, a.k.a. Conrad Goltz)

Take James Bond, eliminate almost all the action sequences, and have Bond deliver long monologues about how crazy Nazis are, and you've got Baynes. And yes, his real name is Rudolf Wegener, but we still think of him as Baynes (or sometimes Baynes/Wegener if we have time).

Baynes is an agent for the Abwehr (the German military intelligence) whose mission is to pass secret German plans to Yatabe. Is he a traitor to Germany? Well, he's a traitor to a particular faction within the Nazi government because he doesn't want war with Japan. In fact, the first time we meet him (on a rocketship to San Francisco, with no inflight movie), Baynes outlines some of his deep problems with the Nazi approach to the world:

Their view; it is cosmic. […] the abstract is real, the actual is invisible to them. Die Gute [The Good], but not good men, this good man. It is their sense of space and time. They see through the here, the now, into the vast black deep beyond, the unchanging. And that is fatal to life. (3.120)

You might have noticed, this is a long section of thought. (You can thank us later for cutting out a few sentences in the middle there, which would make it longer.) Baynes may be the motivator of the exciting spy plot, but he's got very few actions to take: fly to San Francisco, wait, give secret plans, fly back. Most of his sections are given over to his thoughts and feelings, like this excerpt.

But we're not complaining because Baynes's sections are so rich with philosophical issues and thoughts. And he's actually acting on these thoughts. So when he thinks about what's wrong with the Nazis—that they pay more attention to the ideal than to actual life and suffering—we should also realize that this is what's motivating him to fight the Nazis.

That is, Baynes-Wegener can be considered a traitor to Dr. Goebbels and the Nazi faction that wants war with Japan. But he can also be considered as being loyal to the daily struggle of life. Much like Tagomi and Frank Frink, Baynes ends the book with a great deal of uncertainty:

I wonder what I accomplished […]
He thought, But there is no reason to be optimistic. (15.2-3)

But even if he's uncertain about the future, Baynes-Wegener feels a commitment to go on, much like Tagomi and Frank Frink. Maybe he can't solve all the world's problems at once, but he can do his little bit:

Evidently we go on, as we always have. From day to day. At this moment we work against Operation Dandelion. Later on, at another moment, we work to defeat the police. But we cannot do it all at once; it is a sequence. An unfolding process. We can only control the end by making a choice at each step. (15.22)

Baynes doesn't seem to change, unlike Childan. And he doesn't make any great discoveries, unlike Juliana Frink. But he's very helpful in doing all this thinking, explaining some of the big themes of the book: life goes on and we all have to help it, bit by bit. Doesn't this book just make you want to go out and sign a petition or something?

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