ending disjointed conversations, and sexnmeant to be nothing but educational—nand calls it “American.” In titling hisnnovel “An American Romance,” Caseynhas aimed at epic scale. One justifiablynexpects that he will reach it—and more,none should expect something evocativenof America, in a, well, a timeless sense,nexpressive of values that are familiarlynAmerican: honesty, wholeheartedness,ngenerosity, even devoutness. Such arentruly the stuff of America, as countlessnhistorians and chroniclers of Americannrituals have told us countless times. Andnan “American” novelist need not benmawkish or Rotary Club-straight; Flan-nCoimnendablesnThe Traps of Good WillnGaylin, Glasser, Marcus, and Rothman:nDoing Good: The Limits ofnBenevolence;nPantheon Books; New York.nby Nancy MohrbachernThis book is an example of thenlimitations of any one discipline tonexplain a phenomenon fully. Each ofnthe four authors—a psychiatrist, historian,nwriter and lawyer—falls short ofndealing comprehensively with the complexnproblem of society’s responsibilitynto its poor and helpless. However, thensum total of their efforts appears as anwell-balanced reflection.nWillard Gaylin, co-founder and presidentnof the Institute of Society, Ethicsnand Life Sciences, explains the functionnand development of caring in humannbeings. Drawing from psychology andnbiology, he comes to the conclusion thatn”… to be cared for is essential for thencapacity to be caring”—in that the qualitynof caring one receives in one’s early yearsngreatly determines our ability to care fornothers in the future. Dr. Gaylin extendsnMrs. Mohrbacher is on the editorial staffnof the Chronicles.nnery O’Connor was one, Thomas Wolfenwas another.nInstead, we get critics calling JohnnCasey’s Iowa soap opera “a major literarynevent.” It is high time to pause, at suchndeafening hype, and wonder if critics havengone back to writing reviews on the basisnof publishers’ press releases. For JohnnCasey’s style is not a strong suit, but it isnprobably his best. Title writing is certainlynnot his forte. Unfortunately, TheodorenDreiser preempted “An AmericannTragedy,” forcing Casey to try somethingnelse. But An American Romance beliesnitself. The American romance is still tonbe written. Dnthis need to care and be cared for tonsociety-at-large: it is necessary for thenhealthy functioning of society that itsnmembers take responsibility for the poor,naged and handicapped. In the case of thenpoor, he suggests that society “find waysnto eliminate the category.” He concludes:n”Those of you versed in the economicnand political mechanisms must come upnwith a solution.”nSteven Marcus, a specialist on nineteenth-centurynliterature, introduces thenharsh light of reality to the “technologicalnproblem” of eliminating poverty. He givesnexamples of disastrous consequencesnresulting from honest efforts to meetnthe needs of the poor. In eighteenthncentury England, a guaranteed incomenwas instituted based on the price of bread.nThe results were that, with the possibilitynof starvation gone, employers lowerednworkers’ wages below subsistence. Subsequentnmass-dependency and loss ofnself-respect lowered morale, andnproductivity declined. The antidote tonthis system, the workhouse, was inauguratednin 1834. The workhouse wasndesigned to humiliate and stigmatizenthose who entered it. Families were separated,nrigid rules were enforced whichnsevered all contact with the outside world.nnnEven in death one was relegated to thenpaupers’ graveyard. Marcus concludes:n”. . .we can degrade people by caring fornthem and we can degrade them by notncaring for them and in matters such asnthese there are neither simple answersnnor simple solutions.”nHistorian David Rothman digs intonthe motives and methods of the reformersnof the more recent past. He examinesnthe dilemma of balancing the beneficiaries’n”needs” and “rights” as he contrastsnthe Progressive reform movement of thenlast hundred years with the current fashion.nIndeed, it was not so long ago thatnthe caseworker was thought to be “practicallyna member of the family [whontaught] them lessons of cleanliness andndecency, of truth and integrity,” and thengoal of making over immigrants in thenAmerican image was taken for granted.nAlthough he never questions the Progressives’ngood intentions, he sees the unequivocalnpower the reformers were givennover their charges as corrupting. Henfinds, as Lionel Trilling once stated:n”Some paradox in our nature leads us,nonce we have made our fellow men thenobjects of our enlightened interest, tongo on to make them the objects of ournpity, then of our wisdom, ultimately ofnour coercion.”nMr. Rothman sees the turning pointnin attitudes as 1966, the year that MartinnLuther King’s empassioned pleas fornbrotherhood were being drowned out bynthe “separationists”‘ formulations ofn”black power.” Suddenly the concept ofnthe common welfare gave way to thenadversarial approach of special interestngroups and the prevalent feeling that allnaltruism is suspect. The answer, henthinks, lies somewhere between respectingnthe rights of the helpless and recognizingntheir needs, although he has littlenfaith in human nature to strike thenproper balance.nIra Glasser, executive director of thenNew York Civil Liberties Union, stronglyndisagrees with Mr. Rothman’s assessment.nHe feels that society’s dependentsn17nChronicles of Culturen