While in pursuit of the truth about how the Anthropophagi got to New Jerusalem, Dr. Warthrop has Will Henry dig up an old steamer trunk that has been sitting in the basement gathering dust. Inside they find a collection of bizarre flotsam and jetsam, a mummified shrunken head, a few letters that Dr. Warthrop wrote to his father during his school years in England, and some of Alistair Warthrop's journals that escaped any previous purge attempts.
The contents of the crate that we are particularly interested in are the unopened letters that a young Pellinore wrote to his father, physical evidence of his emotional neglect and utter loneliness:
The envelope bore the original wax seal, unbroken, as did the others I examined, a total of fifteen in all, each with the same return address. Having traveled vast distances, these letters from a son to his father had been tossed unread into an old trunk and stored in a dank and dusty corner. Ah, Warthrop! Ah, humanity! Did he know? He had read the diary, had remembered it well enough to find the entry referencing Captain Varner; had he ever noticed, while inventorying this old box, that these letters had never been opened, and would he notice if one should now be? (5.42)
The letters were sealed with wax, a common practice of the times, but these seals can also be interpreted as a symbol of Pellinore's relationship with his father—sealed off, a relationship untested but preserved.
Outside of the useful objects that they find in the trunk, the crate itself has a purpose as well. It symbolizes Pellinore Warthrop's feelings for his father. Both are buried deep in the dark recesses of someplace cold and dark, where they can be safely stored but also momentarily forgotten. The memory of his painful yearning for paternal approval can be tucked away to gather dust until it is absolutely necessary to pry open.
No wonder Dr. Warthrop's such a sorry excuse for a father figure, right? Not sure what we're talking about? Hop on over to the "Characters" section to read up on the guy and his epic daddy issues.