Study Guide

Alicia Kew in More Than Human

Alicia Kew

Break out the tissues, because Alicia Kew's story is sad, sad, sad. You see, the gestalt is a living group bonded by an organic sense of belonging, but her own family is driven apart by Mr. Kew's sadistic, anti-touching, anti-nature philosophy. That's where the sad story of Alicia starts: her childhood with him.

Let's look at her life in chronological order. That makes More Than Human less than confusing.

Devil Dad

When Alicia is four, her mother dies giving birth to Evelyn, her younger sister. That's when Mr. Kew starts telling Alicia that he's "the very best of fathers," as the novel paraphrases him (1.2.1). Sounds like someone took his "World's Best Dad" mug a little too seriously.

Mr. Kew teaches her that nakedness and sex lead to diseases and that women are angels but men are devils. In other words, nature and sex and the body are evil. Evil, we tell you. Even ordinary touching is off limits. Alicia, under his rule, must learn not to see her own naked skin, so she bathes in the darkness. Yeah, that's not crazy or anything.

Contrast Mr. Kew's philosophy to that of Homo Gestalt, where there is "happy and fearless communion, fearlessly shared [...] cross-currents of humor, of pleasure, of reciprocal thought and mutual achievement" (3.21.9). Darn hippies.

Alicia has to become a forbidding sister to Evelyn because, Mr. Kew says, Alicia has learned enough about evil from him to choose to live purely.

You know that when people try rigid philosophies like that in real life, it pretty much never works, right? That's why when the novel moves on to Evelyn alone by her pond, we get a brief line about how Alicia, on her nineteenth birthday, is alone with her father in the library where "he always had special things planned for Alicia" (1.2.6).

You know, special creepy perverted things. Frown. Mr. Kew is not as good as he likes to think. We might deduce that Alicia's father sexually abuses her in some sort of sadistic way from her strange eagerness to be whipped by him (1.6.7-9), the room Janie and the twins later discover in his mansion, with chains on the walls (1.23.10), the sex books they find, including one on masochism (1.23.3), and her adult identification of her father as a "Sadist" and "pervert" (1.14.3). Subtle, but the evidence is in the book. This is Alicia's childhood; no wonder she grows up into the high-strung, tense Miss Kew.

Not to mention her father telling her she is "evil" due to her mother's touch (1.6.3) and then shooting himself in front of her, after Lone telepathically commands him to off himself. That's got to be traumatic. Afterward she's rescued by Lawyer Jacobs and Mother Jacobs. Dr. Rothstein, presumably a psychiatrist, explains to her that her father was crazy, just rich enough to get away with it, and that sex is a regular phenomenon, not something evil.

A Newfound Nudist

Oh yeah, we can't forget the part where Mr. Kew murders Evelyn after Alicia tells him where she's hiding. Alicia finds Evelyn dying from the injuries their father gave her. The wise, dying Evelyn tells Alicia that love and touching are good things, contrary to Mr. Kew's philosophy.

Evelyn has Alicia promise to do something for her: dance naked in the woods. The younger sister dies before Alicia can respond.

After some much needed help from Lawyer and Mother Jacobs and therapy with Dr. Rothstein, Alicia dares to do it. She knows her father was wrong, but still she feels compelled to beg "her dead father's pardon" as she fulfills the promise, "with tears of terror pressing through her closed lids" (1.14.12).

She dances, and later begins doing so regularly, "dancing in the wind, in the wood, in the wild" (2.11.4). Nature is healing her.

Until Lone spies her dancing. She says his doing so robs her of her ability to dance and forces her into a prudish, strict life:

To dance alone where no one knew, that was the single thing I hid to myself when I was known as Miss Kew, that Victorian, older than her years, later than her time; correct and starched, lace and linen and lonely. Now indeed I would be all they said, through and through, forever and ever, because he had robbed me of the one thing I dared to keep secret. (2.11.6)

She can't overcome Mr. Kew's philosophy, stuck in her starched clothes and prim and proper behavior.

She reads books for Lone, following his orders to help him understand what his gestalt organism might be. She's helpful, but it's not anything that inspires Lone to show her love. Sad.

But Lone does leave her with something. He reads her mind, as she requests, and tells her she is a "mishmash" inside. She fears men, and Lone sees that she hates women for knowing something she doesn't.

That something is the knowledge of what sex is like. Soon after saying she'll likely want to do something for him someday, Lone takes her virginity, as she wants him to, showing her what sex is. That is their last interaction. Bow chicka bow wow.

Library Land

After Lone dies, Alicia takes in Gerry and the other kids of the gestalt, fulfilling his prediction that she'd do something for him someday.

When the kids first arrive, she takes Gerry into her library. Yep, the same type of room where her father abused her and killed himself. We'll guess that she probably doesn't recognize the similarity.

Gerry probes her mind in the library, witnessing the scene in her mind of Lone, his father figure, taking her virginity years back. Gerry screams. She comforts him, but the eleven-year-old boy blocks out the knowledge. Given how she denies the existence of the kids' mind-powers, she must not remember all that Lone had told her about the nature of the gestalt, though that information is stored somewhere in her mind and is available to Gerry's probe.

All in the library. It's as if Miss Alicia Kew is unable to leave that other library where her father abused her when she was younger.

Kew Philosophy 2.0?

Alicia tries to instruct the kids as her father once instructed her, only a tad less crazy. She corrects their grammar and tells them to behave like little ladies and gentlemen. Her stiff rules are the opposite of the organic, natural, even lively spirit of bleshing and the gestalt. That's why Gerry feels she's killing who he truly is. Not to mention that she literally tries to take Baby away and segregate the twins.

A new Kew family with Gerry and the kids as its members is doomed to failure. Something's got to give.

Gerry murders Miss Kew, and that's Alicia's terrible end. Another one bites the dust.