to place herself. Sometimes she says hernname aloud to be sure she exists. Emptiednof meaning, each day lives her.nUnable to accept her childhood faith ornto believe in her past radical enthusiasms,nshe feels only the luxurious memorynof having had beliefs and regretnfor her lost “condition of simple faith.”nThe litanous recital of her radical credonhas no more meaning than a magicnrhyme.n”I did what I thought was right. Ifnsome people had not taken risks, allnthe war and killing would have gonenon. . . . You have to act on yournbeliefs. What good are beliefs ifnthey have no consequences? … Inwill abide by the consequences ofnmy beliefs.”nBut, and it is sad irony, she can barelynremember what those beliefs were;n”… she didn’t believe anything anynmore.”nMeeting Chuck Sweet, a figure fromnher early past, seems to hold out somenhope in the form of sex for her. As hisnname suggests, he is too good to bentrue: “A youth of heavenly beauty,”nEagle Scout, quarterback, altar boy,nclass president. He proves finally notnto be her mode of re-entry into annambiguous world from which she hasnwithdrawn. He did not wish “to listennto her just now.”nUntil tested by Theodora’s patheticallynironic death, only two things,nstrangely contradictory, remain importantnto Marybeth. First, she insists thatnshe is really not sorry for the murder.n”I’m not sorry. I’m not really sorry.nWhen I’m old like Theo, I’ll looknback and have that. I think everyonenwho made napalm should have beennblown up.”nOn the other hand, she could havenwarned the victim by phone, chose notnto, and must now pay for that momentnof knowledge with guilt that is deeplynimportant to her. “Maybe it’s evennthe best thing about me.” For her crimento mean anything, she insists that shenmust go to prison for it.nllnter Theodora. An elderly personnwho has been “lying low” psychically,nTheo comes to life and enacts, in anbungled way, what she admires in thenyoung Marybeth; but Marybeth hasnalready abandoned the cliches Theonembraces. Her discovery that Marybethnhas taken action, been a bomber, makesnher seem heroic to Theo. Marybethnobserves a curious ironic mirror imagenof herself—an old woman without thenexcuse of youth stoned on ideologies,nanti-intellectual and sanctimonious,nembracing violent solutions withoutnquestion. How the ironic contrast isnmanaged is one of the most successfulntechniques in the novel.nTheo is irreverently characterizednby Marybeth as a naive old liberal. Onenincident tells it all. Theo weeps over thendeath of a chicken since, she feels, therenis a “cosmic necessity” to cry for creaturesnwho have no one else to cry fornthem. People, however, who kill lakesnand trees or build freeways, or whatever,nshe insists, should be bombed. She isndetermined to save people from themselvesnbecause wickedness, as she denfines it, cannot be tolerated. Her unspokennsense of her own superioritynis clear. The naive old liberal, as isncustomary, cannot deal with the necessarynambiguity of reality. Believingninstead in the “richness of the innernlife,” she plans a ballet therapy programnfor prisoners, “Freedom Through Movement,”ncompletely unaware of the ironynof the name and completely unsuspectingnof the irony of action thatnawaits her when she visits the prison.nAll those charities and good works,nMarybeth reflects, but Theo doesn’tnlift a finger to help Ouida, a thirdworldnperson in her own household,npatronizingly leaving piety and thenhousework to her. Having no faithnbecause “Nobody our age believes innGod any more,” she has causes. ThenFBI should stop seeking “silly collegengirls” who blow up people and go aftern”really wicked people.” Her brotherndescribes her aptly as a person who paysnnnreality no regard. Having no philosophy,nshe values recklessness—the attractivenessnof violent solutions. No line describesnher better than this self-reflection:n”My life has had an academicncast, no temperament for performance,nnever had an abortion, never placed anbomb.” A revealing measure fornjudging one’s life.nThe climax of her “academic” lifenis the ballet therapy program. Arrivingnat the prison, she discovers herself anfront for the delivery of homemadenexplosives to assist the prisoners inntheir escape. An unintended hostage,nTheo even now casts herself in the rolenof heroine, wishing herself their leader.nJust before the tear-gas bullet detonatesnthe explosives in the escape van, shenconfirms her fatal attraction to violentnsolutions. Innocence and justicenare fairy tales; the only solution to thenworld’s ambiguity is violence. Her sillynrhetoric is turned against her, and shenis bombed, the mistaken victim of anplan aimed at a quite different end. Herninability to question her righteous sup-‘neriority is a penetrating comment onnMarybeth’s past. Because their experiencesnovercome the barrier of age, theynare joined in the righteous mentalitynwhich sanctimoniously endorses bombing—exceptnthis time Marybeth knowsnthe victim. Experience has come fullncircle, instructing those who will havenno other teacher. Whether it instructsnMarybeth is an open question. Is shenstill not sorry for her own murdering.’nIs guilt important only because it givesndignity to an otherwise thoughtlessnand irresponsible act.’* It is difficultnto say.n1 am puzzled as well concerning MissnJohnson’s attitude toward the value ofnsuch instruction. The tale is clear in thenpoint it makes; the attitude of the tellernis problematical. What is clear in thentale is the habitual failure of the liberalnmentality, which is always rigid, dogmatic,nand uncompromising in existentialnmatters. It cannot tolerate thenunavoidable ambiguity of experience.n^ H H M ^ H ^ M S SnSeptember/October 1979n