Allison outwit the collective forces ofna decaying society to undertake the makingnof a new world by “leading the mostnordinary life imaginable.” There arenmany unexpected turns in the plot andnenough surprises to engage one’s interestnat the narrative level alone in whatnis basically, as Percy described it, a boymeets-girl,nboy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girlnstructure.nJrercy’s greatest appeal for me is hisndiagnosis of the sickness of this poor,nwhipped century, and the way he managesnto convey that in the novel formnwith aesthetic grace. This is the Centurynof the Love of Death, as Will says.n”We’re all from California now.” Thenprospect of death is the force strongnenough to compel him to think seriouslynabout the world and life, “which seemednto grow more senseless and farcical withneach passing day.” Death is the enemy’snname, “Not the death of dying but thenliving death,” a state that is neither lifennor death, but death in life. “There is nonword for it … I wonder if it ever happenednin history before?” There arenonly two classes: believers (intolerable)nand unbelievers (insane), people whonbelieve everything or nothing. “Is thisnan age of belief … a great renaissancenof faith after a period of crass materialism,natheism, agnosticism, liberalism,nscientism.? Or is it an age of madnessnin which everyone believes everything.'”nCharging that his father, an apparentlyncourageous unbeliever, never looked forna tertium quid, Will determines tonsearch, keeping his ear (slightly deaf)ncocked for rumors of the transcendent.nHe will act because only the violent bearnit away; “short of violence all is in thenend impotence.” He becomes a truthnseeker. Like Banquo’s ghost, he hauntsnthe groaning Thanksgiving table ofnmodernism, asking the eternal questions:nWhere is it? What is missing?nWhere did it go? . . . God? Find him!nD’Lo’s insight at the time of the suicidenis prophetic. “You all alone in the worldnand you gon’ be alone a long time butnthe good Lawd got something special innmind for you.” Suicide may be betternthan life which is a living death, but “Inchoose life.”nHaving chosen, what now? There isnstill the problem of his (our) solipsism,nwhich he defines as being so suckedndown into himself that it takes a gunshotnto knock him out of it. Three crucialnhappenings in the novel are related tonthis deification of self, the chief characteristicnof the Century of the Love ofnDeath. Will descends into the cave;nhe falls in love with Allison; he meetsnFr. Weatherbee.nHe goes into the cave from a monumentalnsense of pride. He believes henwill be the first man to test God in suchna way that he will get a personal Yesn-or-No answer without any evasions.nThe comic result humbles him. However,nthe language used to describe thenactual descent is directive. “He had tonturn his head sideways like a baby gettingnthrough a pelvis.” We are remindednimmediately of Nicodemus’s perplexednreply to Christ when he was told henmust be born again. Can a man go backninto his mother’s womb and be bornnagain? The cave incident uses the imagerynof birth to describe the beginningnof Will’s spiritual rebirth. The imagerynalso recalls St. John of the Cross: thendeepest descent into darkness is requirednto empty ourselves of the selfnin order to ascend into the light.nNext, Allison: his relationship withnher constantly resonates with the ideanof coming again, being reborn, startingnanew, conquering self. After escapingnfrom the mental institution, “Shenhad felt like Rip Van Winkle comingndown into town after a twenty-year nap.”nBeing reborn, she must now learnnspeech, and she must learn literallynhow to live from one moment to thennext. Allison is one of Percy’s finestncharacters, the most successful femalenhe has yet created. While Will remembersneverything, she remembers nothing.nWill learns from her how to becomenguileless, to be bpen to whatever messagenthese two desert island inhabitantsnmay find in the bottle. She has had fromnnnthe beginning of her rebirth a formalnstatement of the great question perplexingnWill. Are you lonely? Do you wantnto make a new start? Have you ever hadna personal encounter with our Lord andnSavior? They contrive to save eachnother even though the representativesnof the Love of Death do their utmost tonthwart them.nFinally, Fr. Weatherbee, who believesnin the Apostolic Succession. He appearsnin various guises in other novels, Val,nFr. Boomer, Fr. Smith, not so much^ asna character but rather as a sign of grace.nHe appears to be a deus ex machina ifnone is not familiar with Percy’s method.nThe person who is to get the messagen(grace) must be fully open to it, a sortnof wanting it without knowing what itnis one wants. This person, when askingnhow he knows he is being told the truth,nmust understand and accept the answer,n”That is why I am here, to tell you.”nThe deliverer makes no arguments,neschewing theological explanations, butnsimply asserts either by his words ornby his being. Such figures are almostnunattractive, as if Percy is deliberatelyntesting the validity of their message.nThey can never be confused with anyonenwho tries to sell anybody anything.nFr. Weatherbee, living in retirement,nis most reluctant to take on the likesnof Will. But Will has an intuition, relatednto the unique historical phenomenonnof the Jews, that there may bensomething to the Apostolic Succession,nand, further, that Weatherbee may benthe authority to tell him something hendoes not know. “You’re my man. Inperceive that you seem to know something.”nWill is like the natives of thentiny village near Mindanao where Weatherbeenspent his priestly career as anmissionary.nThey believe me! They believe thenGospel whole and entire, and thenteachings of the church. They saidnthat if I told them, then it must bentrue or I would not have gone to sonmuch trouble.nBeing as alien from the Century of thenIVovcmber/Dcccmber 1980n