Love of Death as are Will and Allison,nhe is the proper person to give themninstructions. Thus, the final word onnWill:nHis heart leapt with a secret joy. Whatnis it I want from her and Him, henwondered, not only want but mustnhave.’ Is she a gift and therefore a signnof a giver.’ Could it be that the Lordnis here, masquerading behind thisnsimple silly holy face? Am I crazy tonwant both, her and Him.’ No, notnwant, must have. And will have.nThere is no living novelist who hasndone as well as Perq^ in delineating thencomplex failures of the doctrines ofnliberalism. His brilliant satire has desiccatednthe sorry beliefs in individualismndeified, knowledge as superior to wisdom,nand person grouped into irresponsibility.nHe has been courageous enough,nas well, to assert that the good life mustnbe our present task while we await thenend (purpose). “How good life must benonce you get the hang of it.” Gettingnthe hang of it means doing what isnexpected of one, taking care of peoplenwho need it, not standing for it, throwingna gun away without looking back,nbeing kind. The rest will follow.nWhat I have written so far is aimednat readers who have not read The LastnGentleman; it is my attempt to dealnwith The Second Coming on its ownnterms. Nevertheless, it is a sequel, and,nas such, I have a major problem thatnmust in fairness be given space. ThenJjist Gentleman is Percy’s finest novelnbecause of the brilliant way in whichnWill’s crucial discovery is presented.nThroughout it. Will Barrett is seldomnreferred to by name because he hasnfound no real identity, the perfect examplenof the bewildered, dislocated person.nHis fugue states are a metaphornfor his alienation from the only sourcesnof value he knows. It is his state ofnmind and heart that makes the novel’snradical ending the most thrilling episodenPercy has yet written. “I,” he says,npointing to himself so that there cann8 ^BI^^^B^iiEnChronicles of Culturenbe no mistake, “Will Barrett,” namingnhimself and celebrating the discoverynof true identity. The phrase also saysnto the reader, “I will bear it,” an evennmore important discovery and the pointnof greatest significance in the novel.nHe will bear life, the slings and arrowsnof outrageous fortune (our Hamlet),nnot choose suicide because he has discoveredn”the prime importance of thenreligious dimension of life.” He willnnot only bear but rejoice in the ordinarinessnwhich the Christian must discovernas the only way of re-entry into reality,nthe means of reaching the transcendent.nBecause of the incarnation, we find Godnin the quotidian. It is better to do somethingnthan nothing; it is good to have anfamily; it is better to love and be loved,nto cultivate whatever talent one has, tonmake a contribution. Will recitesna whole litany of these consequencesnin his remarkable exchange with Sutter:n”For the first time I think I really mightnlive like other men—rejoin the humannrace.” He takes full responsibility fornreality. The final moment, when he preventsnSutter from committing suicide,nis even better than the glorious endingnof Love in the Ruins. “Strength flowednlike oil into his muscles and he ran withngreat joyous ten-foot antelope bounds.”nWhat then happened to Will betweennhis twenties and his forties? His firstndiscovery of the meaning of existencenis so carefully crafted, so joyous, sonexuberant, so complete that it is unimaginablenfor him to marry the MarionnPeabody of The Second Coming andnwaste all those years. Yet the same situationnthat opened The Last Gentlemannopens The Second Coming, and he mustngo through the same process again, makingnexactly the same discovery that turnsnhim into the wonderful, euphoric activistnin the real world that he already experiencednin full in The Last Gentleman.nI do not know what to make of this puzzle,nexcept to grumble that it is unfair.nPercy asks in the later novel, “Is it possiblenfor people to miss their lives innthe same way one misses a plane.-*” Yetnall the evidence in the earlier one indi­nnncates that Will did not miss the plane.nSurely, Jamie’s agonizing and gloriousndeath is not a nonevent in Will’s life asnThe Second Coming suggests. That kindnof bitter irony would be possible to considernonly if Will, in the later novel, actuallyncommitted suicide finally. Is Percynfooling with the notion that we have alternatendestinies.’ Can the road not takennbe taken at a later date.’ Can it be, and ifnso, how, that the earlier novel does notnapply to the later one.’ However, if itndoes, the reader rightly wishes to knownwhat happened to the richest cast ofncharacters Percy has yet assembled, andnhe wants Will to be a true extension ofnthe wonderful, awkward, sincere, lovablenWill who could leap like an antelope.nWhy the second coming of WillnBarrett.’ I put this question to WalkernPercy and hope for an answer. DnWalker Percy Replies:nDr. Schwartz objects mainly to WillnBarrett’s “second conversion” as being gratuitousnor worse in view of his “conversion”nin The Last Gentleman. I would point outnthat at the end of TLG, Will did not reallynknow what was going on with Jamie’s baptismnand death. He has to ask Sutter: “Whatnwas going on back there.'” Thus, while itnwas clear that Jamie asked for baptism. Willngives no indication of an overt understandingnof what Father Boomer was talkingnabout, let alone accepting it. It was my intentionnto leave him somewhat up in the air,ncapable of returning to marry Kitty andngoing to work for Confederate Chevrolet.nThe only positive element in his experiencenis his fastening on Sutter as knowing somethingnhe. Will, does not know. But even ifnWill’s “conversion” in TLG had been bonanfide, who is to say it “takes” and “takes”nfor good—except a born-again Baptist whonbelieves one is saved once and for all. I’mnsure Dr. Schwartz has heard of GabrielnMarcel’s “second conversion,” a kind of belatedncoming to oneself—anyhow this isnwhat I had in mind, and if it didn’t work fornDr. Schwartz, then it didn’t work and thennovelist has failed.n— Walker Percyn