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The catholic ethos in the novels of John Buell Ashworth, John Francis Raymond 1998

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The Catholic Ethos i n the Novels of John Buell by John Francis Raymond Ashworth B.A.(Hons.), The University of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1 THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of English \We\accept th i s thesis as conforming \ to the^, required s/tang^d THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA December 1998 © John Ashworth, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT A paradigm of transcendence pervades Buell's novels, imaginatively conceived from within a Catholic consciousness of God's grace i n effecting redemption. Safeguarding the Real Presence from invidious sacrilege, Elizabeth Lucy i n The Pyx achieves heroic sanctity, losing her l i f e to gain glory as a martyr to her f a i t h . The Eucharist also has c e n t r a l i t y i n the l i v e s of Stan Hagen and Martin Lacey i n A Lot To Make Up For as they share i n the s a c r i f i c i a l oblation at mass. In Four Days, sacred love suffuses profane love, the sanctity of human love being yet another manifestation of God's presence i n the world, only to be t r a g i c a l l y subverted by deception and s e l f - i n t e r e s t . Buell's Catholic consciousness i s also noticeably present i n his thematic development of redemptive suffering. In Playground, the narrative reveals that suffering i s i t s e l f the path to healing. The novel d e t a i l s Spence Morisons's suffering toward what he trusts w i l l be his deliverance, his redemption taking the form of his conversion to a new s e l f - r e a l i z a t i o n about the nature of his humanity. In The Shrewsdale Exit, on the other hand, the need for conversion becomes apparent when Joe Hagen surrenders to a desire for murderous vengeance. A resolution i s effected when Joe forsakes revenge, finding deliverance i n the assurance that justice w i l l p r e v a i l . i i TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract i i Preface i v Acknowledgements v The Catholic Writer 1 The Early Novels: The Pyx 36 Four Days 57 The Later Novels: The Shrewsdale Exit 78 Playground 119 A Lot To Make Up For 149 The Catholic Ethos 177 Works Cited 202 Works Consulted 209 i i i PREFACE Examining the relationship between f a i t h and f i c t i o n can be as problematic as determining whether c u l t u r a l formation occurs by nature or nurture. If explaining why f a i t h contextualized i n f i c t i o n i s a question for the psychologist, d e t a i l i n g how f a i t h functions i n f i c t i o n i s the proper purview of l i t e r a r y c r i t i c i s m . This study seeks to establish how i d e n t i f i a b l e features of Buell's Catholic f a i t h are manifested i n his novels. Overall, Buell's f i c t i o n demonstrates a preferential option for the poor i n s p i r i t , for the outcast, and for those r e l a t i v e l y marginalized, such as the apostate, prostitute, alcoholic, o c c u l t i s t , homosexual, drug addict, renegade fug i t i v e and even the compulsively e f f i c i e n t technocrat. For each, some form of redemption i s accessible, either being saved through s e l f -r e a l i z a t i o n i n order to achieve some p e r f e c t i b i l i t y as a person or, i n a d i s t i n c t i v e l y Catholic manner, through the effic a c y of regenerating sanctifying grace leading to re c o n c i l i a t i o n with others and with God. Buell's focus i n his novels i s upon the restoration of broken humanity. How thi s i s represented i n f i c t i o n from within the perspective of a Catholic consciousness i s the subject of t h i s paper. In order to minimize c l u t t e r when documenting sources, the t i t l e s of Buell's novels have been shortened: The Pyx •= Pyx, Four Days = FD, The Shrewsdale Exit = SE, Playground = Plgd, and A Lot To Make Up For = Lot. i v ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Throughout the preparation of t h i s thesis, Dr. Ross Labrie showed the way, illuminating distant prospects while encouraging me to focus more c l e a r l y on what they r e a l l y were. To thi s end, I was able to probe and explore the many features of Buell's Catholic s e n s i b i l i t y , always with Dr. Labrie's guiding l i g h t before me. The attention and direction that Dr. Labrie has given to my progress over an extended period of time i s especially appreciated. I am indebted as well to Professor Andrew Busza, who also served on my thesis committee, for his examination of this paper and the contribution he has made towards i t s completion. In the past two years, Dr. Laurel Brinton of the English Department's Graduate Committee has attended to the regulation of my graduate program, thereby ensuring that a l l academic requirements for completion were f u l f i l l e d . I am grateful to Dr. Brinton for the continued assistance she has provided and for her personal interest i n my program. v The Catholic Ethos i n the Novels of John Buell The Catholic Writer In John Buell's novels, a Catholic perspective permeates the f i c t i o n , functioning as an ambient v i s i o n for the exercise of the writer's imagination. A l i f e l o n g Catholic, f u l l y aware of and committed to the f a i t h and t r a d i t i o n of the Church, Buell incorporates within his f i c t i o n a focus upon both the so c i a l and s p i r i t u a l dimensions of Catholic thought and b e l i e f , within the t o t a l i t y of th i s perspective, Buell's f i c t i o n directs attention to an examination of the moral crises affecting those who do not ord i n a r i l y l i v e i n conformity with the law nor necessarily within conventional codes of s o c i a l propriety. Buell empathizes with those apparent losers i n l i f e who must struggle towards redemption while contending with the vicissitudes of a seemingly hostile world, employing a narrative perspective which permits the restoration of human dignity and a state of grace to those troubled, marginalized characters who are the pr i n c i p a l figures i n his f i c t i o n , an outlook which i s at the same time at the core of the s o c i a l gospel of his Church For Buell's f i c t i o n a l addicts, whores, delinquents, and other so c i a l outcasts, there i s indeed much suffering. However, i n his novels the operation of grace, frequently mediated through the Church, brings l i b e r a t i o n to those who are receptive to i t s restorative power. This supernatural g i f t 1 results i n growth i n moral and s p i r i t u a l perfection, exceeding even the degree to which a character grows by suffering or denying himself. Such suffering and self-renunciation are consistent themes i n Buell's novels. But i t i s the revelation of eventual or ultimate freedom from personal or from s o c i a l e v i l s that imbues his novels with hope. Buell's achievement, then, has been to create an imaginative context i n which the human struggle i s portrayed i n a context i n which the c o n t r o l l i n g influence of the incarnational promise of redemption i s paramount. At those points i n his f i c t i o n when the fractured l i v e s of his p r i n c i p a l characters experience a mediating resolution to t h e i r suffering by means of sacramental grace, Buell's f i c t i o n becomes d i s t i n c t i v e l y Catholic. Buell's Catholic background has provided him with a s p i r i t u a l locus that he has u t i l i z e d as an integral part of his narratives. His personal experience within the Church has been wide-ranging, not only i n his religious practice but also i n his professional, c u l t u r a l , and s o c i a l l i f e . Buell's upbringing i n Montreal, where he was born July 31,1927, provided both the c u l t u r a l environment and the opportunities for Catholic formation which would continue to influence the values and attitudes of his maturity. Raised i n a Catholic home, the son of an Anglophone father, Thomas Buell, and a Francophone mother, Antonia Durocher, Buell became fluently b i l i n g u a l i n English and French, within the family household, he acquired the rudiments of his Catholic f a i t h ; on the other hand, he gained his f i r s t 2 insights into s o c i a l and economic r e a l i t y on the streets of East End Montreal. In his youth he absorbed the habits and attitudes of his working class d i s t r i c t where he grew up. While Buell disavows that his f i c t i o n incorporates any particular events of his childhood and youth, the so c i a l and economic milieu of his own childhood was l a t e r to provide him with a body of memorable impressions upon which he would l a t e r draw as a writer: My own experience as a boy was i n the East End of Montreal, the French Sector, which was not quite as economically depressed as St. Henri but quite similar. So that i t was second nature for me to describe the atmosphere and places and people and the type of r i p -off outlook that some of those kids would have. This was because I grew up i n the East End and thi s was second nature with me....I was trying to describe the experience of thi s kind i n Four Days... (Drolet, "Conversation" 64). At times, he has said, he knew well enough the rough-and-tumble escapades of a venturesome youth. Yet even i n these exploits he would fi n d a redeeming quality i n someone such as the neighborhood policeman. Years l a t e r , Buell recalled that I must confess that, as a teenager on the verge of a l l kinds of trouble, one of the people with whom I made contact was a cop. This was very i r o n i c because this particular friend of mine and I were planning to do 3 certain things that this cop would not have approved of. He kind of sensed that we were heading that way....and we'd t a l k with him and he'd talk to us, the way people imagine fathers t a l k to sons. (Drolet, "Conversation" 65). The interest and care demonstrated by the police constable l e f t a permanent impression upon Buell, so much so that the "friendly l o c a l cop" becomes a consistent figure i n Buell's l a t e r f i c t i o n . Gilbert Drolet, for example, had occasion to point out to Buell that There's Henderson i n The Pyx, and the guys i n Four Days and Sparrs i n Shrewsdale. These people are very sympathetic, very understanding, perhaps too much so. You seem to have a soft spot i n your heart for these people ("Conversation" 65). If adverse s o c i a l conditions have the ef f e c t of s t u l t i f y i n g human growth i n goodness, there are always those i n the world, as Buell would l a t e r show i n his f i c t i o n , whose compassion for the plight of others would exhibit goodness and be seen to a s s i s t i n the p o s s i b i l i t y of redemption after sin and suffering. As a Catholic raised i n Montreal's East End, Buell was able both consciously and unconsciously to absorb throughout his formative years the d i s t i n c t i v e practice of the Catholic f a i t h as i t was exercised i n Quebec throughout the t h i r t i e s and f o r t i e s . The fact of Buell's upbringing i n a predominantly Catholic milieu i n Quebec never placed him i n an adversarial 4 position where he had to be a defender of the f a i t h . Unlike Flannery O'Connor, whose Catholicism i n America's Bible Belt was anomalous, Buell came by his Catholic f a i t h and t r a d i t i o n unimpeded by sectarian attacks on the f a i t h . Moreover, unlike a number of English Catholic writers, of whom several brought writing by Catholics into the fore i n the twentieth century, Buell never had to experience the c r i t i c a l decision of becoming a Catholic convert. For Buell a Catholic environment was normative i n a l l aspects of l i f e : r e l i gious catechesis, education, p o l i t i c a l values, justice, health care, and even one's vocation i n l i f e . Such a r e a l i z a t i o n of the Catholic experience as very ordinary and usual appears to be a s i g n i f i c a n t t r a i t i n Buell's religious formation, for an accustomed r e l i g i o s i t y w i l l l a t e r characterize the unabashed Catholicism of several of the central characters i n his novels, his f i c t i o n presenting a Catholicism with which characters, s i n f u l as they may be, are perfectly at ease. The Catholic environment that was a part of Buell's experience i n Montreal's East End gained an added dimension when he began his post-secondary schooling i n the late 1940s at Loyola College, then operated by the Jesuits, and l a t e r to be merged with S i r George Williams College as a part of Concordia University. Buell's writing career began at the same time, not however as a novelist but as a writer for Sunday night radio ...turning out a dozen minor radio dramas that were performed on l o c a l radio station CJAD. Buell, who was 5 not paid for his radio work, ca l l e d the writing of the radio plays "my apprenticeship" (Dunn 110). He soon developed what was to become an abiding interest i n the theatre, i n i t i a l l y , as he has explained, as a writer and performer: ... i n those radio days I did the odd one-act t h e a t r i c a l play largely under college auspices. Two of them won f e s t i v a l s . . .but I f e l t I didn't want to go into the business of being a f u l l - s c a l e playwright. I'd done summer stock theatre...but I realized that theatre [in the 50s] was slowly becoming a dead end (Garebian, "Religion" 70). Upon his graduation from Loyola with a B.A. i n 1950, he was immediately hired as an instructor i n Loyola's English department. With th i s assurance of some f i n a n c i a l s t a b i l i t y , Buell married Audrey Smith i n 1952. In the ensuing years, t h e i r four children would be born i n Montreal. But at the time of his marriage, when any future prospects i n writing for the theatre appeared unpromising, Buell was enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Montreal where he received his M.A. i n 1954, having completed a graduate thesis on Eugene O'Neill as an A r t i s t . His interest i n drama becoming more academic, Buell increasingly considered the novel as a more promising form for contemporary creative expression: "This just happened. There was r e a l l y no choice involved," Buell commented i n 1980. "The theater was 6 getting less pertinent. Radio had disappeared. So my writing was simply another way of t e l l i n g s t o r i e s " (Dunn 110). He returned to the University of Montreal, completing the requirements for the Ph.D. degree i n 1961, his research having been focused upon his doctoral thesis on Form and Craft in Shakespeare. One i n f l u e n t i a l member of Buell's thesis advisory committee was Gerald MacGuigan, S.J., chairman of the English department at Loyola College, whom Buell acknowledged i n his thesis preface for a " s p i r i t of inquiry I hope to have modestly imitated i n these pages" ( i i i ) . MacGuigan remained a l i f e l o n g friend and mentor to Buell, a friendship recognized i n the dedication of his second novel, Four Days. At t h i s time Buell was also involved with an a c t i v i s t Catholic group working out of Benedict Labre House i n Montreal's skid row. Under the patronage of the nineteenth-century beggar-pilgrim, St. Benedict Labre, t h i s mission for the poor, the marginalized, and the dispossessed had been formed i n the early 1950s, following the vi s i o n and guidance of Tony Walsh. Inspired by what he knew of Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker movement i n New York, Walsh dedicated himself to a l i f e of ra d i c a l volunteer poverty, a c a l l i n g to poverty, as Buell has remarked, that was not just being poor; i t meant renouncing a l l possessions and making oneself t o t a l l y dependent on God's providence. It wasn't argument or preachment. It 7 was an action, a deed, which had i t s own c l a r i t y and sim p l i c i t y . . . . [One] faced genuine hardship, poor food, poor housing, the Montreal winter, i l l n e s s . . . c r i t i c i s m and h o s t i l i t y (Buell, "Walsh" 16). Walsh's Labre House soon involved up to 500 people working with Montreal's poor. But the community a c t i v i t y at Labre House was more than just an outreach program: What i t was i s d i f f i c u l t to state; i t can only be pointed at l i k e something oh the move or f e l t as known. To c a l l i t s p i r i t u a l i t y would be misleading...though i t was that. Devotion, yes, but that sounds too pious...It was never stated. It was simply centred on Christ and on what followed from that. It was something to do and meditate on, not talk about. Once...Tony said, "A community should be b u i l t around the Eucharist." I t was simply a given (Buell, "Walsh" 17). The work at Labre House was another important component i n the development of Buell's Catholic experience, his particular contribution i n t h i s Catholic apostolate being his work on the community's tabloid-size a c t i v i s t monthly paper, Unity, which he edited from 1955 to 1965. F i r s t hand experience with the Catholic community at Labre House and with Walsh's l i f e of voluntary poverty evidently created a l a s t i n g impression upon Buell, Walsh being a model of s e l f l e s s Christian commitment: 8 A quiet, sane and soft-spoken man...[he] had chosen to own nothing and l i v e i n the slums and help the poor. He ate donated food and wore donated clothing. And he was doing i t as a Christian, as a Catholic, to l i v e i n accord with what Christ said his followers should do.. .And no one who knew him considered him a crackpot: there was something r e a l there (Buell, "Walsh" 16-17). Being a witness to this manifestation of basic Christian values i n action enriched Buell's own Catholic experience to an extent that what he sensed and f e l t finds expression throughout his f i c t i o n . Many features that flowed from Tony Walsh's l i f e of self-deprivation emerged i n Buell's novel, Playground, where Spence Morison, unlike Walsh, i s forced into a sudden state of involuntary poverty, an experience wherein he learns that a reliance on the things of the w o r l d — i t s money, i t s systems, i t s regimentation of time—detracts from a clear perception of the true nature of a person. Like Walsh, Buell's f i c t i o n a l Morison experienced the t o t a l i t y of impoverishment, having to endure without the necessities of l i f e being made readily available to him. It i s through this forced experience that Morison eventually realizes that i t i s i n the fulness of humanity i t s e l f , rather than i n things and systems, that meaningful r e a l i t y i s found. When Morison's life-threatening adventure i s resolved, he possesses a heightened awareness of the same conviction that Walsh himself had gleaned from the gospel: one 9 saves oneself i n recognizing and identifying with the humanity of others. The s o c i a l and s p i r i t u a l activism that Buell knew as a participant i n the Labre House community becomes transformed i n his f i c t i o n into his depiction of characters who are redeemed by by t h e i r s e l f l e s s actions on behalf of others. The moral imperative that one must be one's brother's keeper and support another person i n his suffering finds repeated expression i n Buell's novels. In The Pyx, for example, Elizabeth Lucy demonstrates this moral coonsciousness i n her supportive care of Sandra and Jim. Moreover, i t i s this kind of solicitude that i n i t i a t e s Stan Hagan's search for Adele Symons i n A Lot To Make Up For. i n Playground as well, a comparable focus on human goodness i s reiterated as well i n the Indian rescuer's reply to Morisons's expression of appreciation: "I want to thank you for everything." "That's a l l right, i t could've been anybody.' "Maybe. But i t was you. I owe you my l i f e . " "0-o-oh," he said doubtfully, "doesn't everybody owe somebody that." Spence had to think i t over. And he laughed (Playground 241-42). For John Sweetree who finds Spence in extremis three weeks after his north country airplane crash, l i f e has meaning insofar as one shares i n the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for the well-being of another. Buell's f i c t i o n , then, has a clear moral emphasis, not i n 10 obtrusive sermonizing or didactic imperatives, but i n i t s evocation of compassion for those who suffer and are a f f l i c t e d . The very human crises of those who are sexually and emotionally exploited, as well as of those victimized by the effects of addiction, are subject to detailed examination i n several novels. But Buell's narratives do not focus merely upon the so c i a l image of a prostitute, sexual deviant, recovering alcoholic, workaholic, or drug addict. His narratives are developed to lead to an appreciation of the dynamics of simply being human even though he perceives this from a Catholic point of view. For Buell, "the fact that a story i s good... has everything to do with the humanity of i t " (Drolet, "Conversation" 69). Buell has been f u l l y sensitive to the problematic expectations made upon the practising Catholic who writes novels. Actively engaged i n the Church, Buell was well acquainted with the moral r e s p o n s i b i l i t y incumbent upon a Catholic a r t i s t . While the Church has rarely formulated anything approaching an o f f i c i a l view on the arts, the Fathers at Vatican Council II did r e f l e c t upon the v a l i d i t y of the arts as a part of Catholic experience: Literature and the arts are...of great importance to the l i f e of the Church. For they s t r i v e to probe the unique nature of man, his problems, and his experiences as he struggles to know and perfect both himself and the world. They are preoccupied with 11 revealing man's place i n history and i n the world, with i l l u s t r a t i n g his miseries and joys, his needs and strengths, and with foreshadowing a better l i f e for him. Thus they are able to elevate human l i f e as i t i s expressed i n manifold forms, depending on time and place (Abbott 269). For the Catholic writer, the act of creation, insofar as i t i s a manifestation of the s p i r i t of God, i s imbued with moral significance both for the creator and for his creation. To be a Catholic writer i s to be l i k e no other. Personally, he i s morally accountable for what he creates; moreover, the work that he produces i s open to the judgment of the Church i t s e l f . Certainly, consideration of the role and re s p o n s i b i l i t y of the Catholic writer has engaged Buell's attention, just as i t has e l i c i t e d detailed analyses from other Catholic writers. While Buell observes that "I didn't want to be known as a 'Catholic' writer" (Drolet, "Conversation" 63), his statement i s not a disclaimer against the r e l i g i o n to which he i s committed but a defence against any suggestion of l i t e r a r y parochialism. In defining his sense of being a Catholic writer to Gilbert Drolet i n the mid-1970s, Buell indicated that he was not p a r t i a l to what th i s l a b e l l i n g implied (Drolet 63). From his perspective his f i c t i o n i s inclusive not exclusive, his audience comprising a l l readers not simply Catholics. His writing focuses upon the human condition, rather than upon s p e c i f i c a l l y Catholic dilemmas, and he would expect his work to be valued primarily on 12 the basis of i t s l i t e r a r y merit rather than on i t s subject matter or ideological content. Nevertheless, when Buell as a Catholic writer privileges the humanity of the characters i n his f i c t i o n , he does so out of the conviction that, i n addition to the physical dimension of the characters he has created, there exists a s p i r i t u a l nature possessing the potential to be receptive to divine grace. This i s what i s apparent i n Buell's novels when he provides his pr i n c i p a l characters with s i g n i f i c a n t moments of s p i r i t u a l resolution to human problems. In this respect his writing finds a context which he has appropriately c a l l e d "a Christian t r a d i t i o n i n a c u l t u r a l sense" (Garebian, "Religion" 81), a l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n which maintains that human f u l f i l l m e n t i s attainable, i f not always physically, then at least s p i r i t u a l l y . For the novelist, Buell believes, the r e a l i t y of human fu l f i l l m e n t w i l l be most e f f e c t i v e l y envisaged through the exercise of the imagination. As Buell has remarked: . . . a l l art proceeds from the imagination....the whole purpose of imagining things i s to introduce one to r e a l i t y . Which i s quite true. Someone reading Shakespeare...wil l somehow get closer to r e a l i t y . So that i s to me...the purpose of the imagination. One must dream of r e a l i t y (Garebian, "Religion" 78). The creative process commences i n an act of w i l l as the writer conceives his narrative and determines to bring i t into being. The creative act, says Buell, requires that 13 you bring yourself to the p o s s i b i l i t y of writing t h i s whole story out....And you're going to stay with i t . That's will....what you are doing by w i l l i s allowing a certain something to grow which cannot grow by anybody's w i l l (Garebian, "Religion" 77). This moment of invention, as sudden and surprising as i t may be, activates the imagination as contextual narrative p o s s i b i l i t i e s suggest themselves: Once having created that context of stay-with-it-ness.., within that you are responding to story needs and making decisions about this dialogue, how long, what pacing, etc. (Garebian, "Religion" 77). In this context, narrative gestation occurs as the imaginative faculty governs the development of the several components of the f i c t i o n . The imagination gives form to the a r t i s t ' s v i s i o n . In Buell's case, i t finds i t s source i n a Catholic mind from which i t emerges to give his f i c t i o n a Catholic moral orientation. The purpose of the imagination i n l i t e r a t u r e , Buell argues, i s to bring one closer to r e a l i t y by holding a mirror up to nature: ... I think i t i s humanly important to have that imaginational exercise that A r i s t o t l e c a l l e d mimesis, and I think where our a r t i s t s i n any genre or art provide us with that highly refined, genuinely done set of mimetics, then we are more and more i n touch with r e a l i t y . . . . It i s the artist...who indeed senses these things and has the a r t i c u l a t e g i f t of mimesis. 14 It i s important for him to structure that mimesis, important for himself and important for other people....this whole business of being able to create....is extremely important. It does...bring us to r e a l i t y (Garebian, "Religion" 81-2). The r e a l i t y that Buell presents, defined by the principles of his Catholic f a i t h , i s predisposed to goodness. This was his conviction when he had occasion to explain the difference between his view of r e a l i t y as opposed to Graham Greene's Jansenistic Catholicism: I would subscribe to a much more basic Christian view that a l l r e a l i t y i s good except for the exceptions created by the wille d e v i l on the part of human beings (Drolet, "Conversation" 67). This, then, i s the Catholic dimension of Buell's f i c t i o n . Reality i s more than a temporal perception of things, more than a psychological sense of actuality. Buell's depiction of r e a l i t y , as demonstrated i n his f i c t i o n , i s predicated on the t o t a l r e a l i t y of God, an incarnational r e a l i t y which enlarges l i f e and, i n the long view, achieves the eschatological summation of ultimate goodness. Buell's f i c t i o n incorporates s p i r i t u a l insights that he has found i n the t r a d i t i o n of the Church. He encountered such philosophic foundations as those presented i n the works of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, insights that have been an enduring legacy of the Church. Buell was especially impressed by 15 Their sense of human limitations—which limitations can undo r e a l i t y or deflect us from r e a l i t y — a n d , of course, t h e i r ultimate d e f i n i t i o n of r e a l i t y i s that whole t o t a l i t y which t r a d i t i o n a l l y we c a l l God (Garebian, "Religion" 75). He acknowledges that i t i s the nature of humanity to f a l l short of perfection by permitting i t s e l f to be governed by i t s limitations. Chief among these limitations are those deflections from r e a l i t y which are portrayed as wholly i l l u s o r y , such as a personal decision to commit oneself to e v i l or an absolute certitude i n human knowledge. Each of these i l l u s o r y paths receives detailed examination i n Buell's f i c t i o n . Philosophically, Buell has found within the Catholic t r a d i t i o n ample resources for the basis of his understanding of the philosophical and even experiential unreality of e v i l . There, he came to r e a l i z e , . . . e v i l i s regarded as purely negative....It's regarded as an unfulfillment. where people, for instance, consciously or mistakenly pursue something e v i l , what they're pursuing i s something that has no r e a l i t y to i t . It ultimately exhausts i t s e l f . In my mind, although i t could be devastating, e v i l i s a r e l a t i v e l y minor human enterprise. Although i t i s very engulfing, i t passes because i t leads nowhere (Garebian, "Religion" 76). 16 From Aquinas, Buell learned that " e v i l i s a negation of the perfection due to a nature or to a being" (Jolivet, 665). This p r i n c i p l e of negativity, operating to diminish or lessen the int e g r i t y or perfection of i t s subject, underlies Buell's sense of the existence of e v i l . Drawing upon the t r a d i t i o n of Catholic thought, systematized by Aquinas, Buell's i m p l i c i t expression of moral values i n his novels follows from the argument that . . . e v i l does not consist i n simple negation; otherwise, for example, i t would be e v i l for an animal to be without reason. Rather i t consists i n a privation, i . e . , i n the fact that a certain being lacks a good i t requires to enjoy the i n t e g r i t y of i t s nature. While t h i s implies that e v i l i s non-being, i t does not si g n i f y that e v i l i s nonexistent. Far from being i l l u s o r y , e v i l i s overwhelmingly r e a l . Yet when we say that e v i l " i s " or "exists," the predicate does not s i g n i f y being: i t means simply the r e a l i t y of a lack or a defect. To say that "Peter i s blind" i s not to attribute blindness to him as a thing possessed, but rather as the absence (by privation) of v i s i o n . It follows, then, that e v i l can exist only i n a subject or i n a being that, as such, i s good. E v i l presupposes good, both i n the subject that i t affects and as the perfection that i t negates. From thi s point of view, e v i l can never be t o t a l or absolute (Jolivet 665). 17 How these attribues of e v i l are integrated into the philosophical underpinning of Buell's f i c t i o n becomes dramatically clear, for example, i n the climactic scene i n The Pyx when the Satanic Keerson i s shot and k i l l e d by detective Henderson. In his f i n a l moments Keerson, who has allowed the power of e v i l under the guise of demonic influence to possess him, i s inexplicably grateful to Henderson for r e l i e v i n g him from the vacuous meaninglessness of his i l l u s o r y obsession. Gratitude of any kind i s foreign to Keerson's nature, but i n one f i n a l , f l e e t i n g moment his expression of thankfulness to Henderson reveals a moral consciousness, indeed even an inherent goodness within, long diminished by his p r o c l i v i t y for e v i l . With the death of Keerson, the recognition of a loss, not of innocence but of goodness, registers i n Henderson as he "knelt beside him, trembling; and as his tension subsided, he realized he had been weeping" (Pyx 172). In a l l of Buell's f i c t i o n there i s a dark side to r e a l i t y , but no matter how devious or even satanic the operation of e v i l may be i n the novels, Buell affirms a countervailing balance of goodness that i s also e f f i c a c i o u s l y present: [P]eople who ultimately grow are people who grow because of a r e a l i t y they have discovered, and e v i l i s an unreality i n that philosophical sense. It does nobody any good to pursue something that's going to wind up as a nothing, as a purely negative thing (Garebian, "Religion" 76). 18 E v i l i n Buell's f i c t i o n i s ultimately an u n f u l f i l l i n g and passing epistemological i l l u s i o n . A comparable i l l u s o r y obstruction to the perception of r e a l i t y i s the subjective sense, as Buell has said, that "we fee l we control everything and yet underneath us, the ground i s shaking" (Garebian 76). As opposed to the conviction of the secular humanist that humanity can save i t s e l f on the basis of the resources of i t s own i n t e l l e c t and physical prowess, Buell has argued that anyone ...who today assumes that our technological c i v i l i z a t i o n i s the acme of the evolutionary development and that people should be happy with t h i s , i s making a serious mistake. There the i l l u s i o n of knowledge i s almost absolute.... That kind of knowledge i s i l l u s i o n . That kind Of certitude i s treachery....We do have a way of assuming that our knowledge i s absolute, and t h i s i s not to be. There one cuts o f f r e a l i t y (Garebian, "Religion" 76). Such self-deception, engendered by pride i n a s a l v i f i c reliance on human knowledge, precludes that human f u l f i l l m e n t which can be achieved i n what Buell defines as the "whole t o t a l i t y . . . we c a l l God." From a s t r i c t l y human point of view, the tragedies i n Buell's novels involve certain characters who are i n situations where they become victims of t h e i r own self-contained i l l u s i o n s . But Buell's narratives take on f u l l meaning as he presents his victimized characters a r r i v i n g at a c r i s i s of r e a l i z a t i o n when i l l u s i o n s disappear: 19 To me, either one perceives r e a l i t y or one perceives a self-created r e a l i t y . And the self-perceived r e a l i t y w i l l eventually break down. When people think then that a l l r e a l i t y i s gone, that i s the moment of truth, the moment of discovery (Garebian, "Religion" 77). The perception of the t o t a l i t y of r e a l i t y , experienced i n Buell's narratives, reveals a s p i r i t u a l dimension of some significance. The human condition must not be without hope, for the p o s s i b i l i t y of finding l i b e r a t i o n beyond i l l u s o r y limitations i s always an available option. For Buell, freedom from misleading i l l u s i o n s that lead to a s p i r i t u a l void can be e f f e c t i v e l y realized through the recognition that humanity possesses an essential predilection for goodness. In this sense, Buell's Catholicism, he f e l t , would lead the reader to a f u l l e r sense of r e a l i t y than might otherwise come about: What i s the t o t a l r e a l i t y involved i n being a human being?...on the postulate of God...a whole long-range f u l f i l l m e n t i s , indeed, possible. You make a few extra postulates...that goodness exists and i s worthwhile; that truth exists and can be discovered; that the human mind—however weak—is nonetheless a v a l i d instrument; that the human heart i s a v a l i d , perceiving t o t a l i t y (Garebian, "Religion" 75). Both the states of f u l f i l l m e n t and unfulfillment respectively r e f l e c t the outcomes of human moral choices, whether for virtue 20 or vice, good or e v i l , redemption or loss, r e a l i t y or i l l u s i o n . S p i r i t u a l perfection i s attainable and ultimately that which i s good w i l l p r e v a i l , just as that imperfection to be found i n a state of unfulfillment w i l l implode of i t s own accord into nothingness. TO be f u l l y human i s to cooperate with the presence of goodness and thus to be a l l i e d with the r e a l i t y of God: One thing I learned out of this whole t r a d i t i o n i s that one must remain, i n a sense, lo y a l to these basic goodnesses, these basic r e a l i t i e s . . . . t h i s i s true i n human relationships, this i s true i n whatever s o c i a l accomplishments, as communities, people t r y to do. It's true i n education, i t ' s true i n art....the greatest art over the centuries has always presumed that background of goodness (Garebian, "Religion" 75). A l l creative acts, i n l i f e and i n art, take on meaning i n t h e i r commitment to "these basic goodnesses, these basic r e a l i t i e s " which are found not only i n the r e a l i t y of God but also i n humanity i t s e l f . For an a r t i s t who conceives of human crises i n temporal terms, the conviction that good w i l l prevail i n God's grand design would appear to subvert the a r t i s t i c p o s s i b i l i t y of any t o t a l l y tragic action i n l i t e r a t u r e . Asked whether a writer can indeed possess a t r u l y t r a g i c v i s i o n , Buell replied: Yes, you can from a human point of view. From a r e a l i t y point of view, I would imagine no, i n the sense that no amount of human tragedy w i l l undo the 21 ultimate goodness of things (Garebian, "Religion" 75). Then, considering the implications i n l i t e r a t u r e , Buell noted that [ i ] n t r a d i t i o n a l drama, the mere fact of dying has come to be t r a g i c . . .which i s certainly not the point of Shakespeare....[F]rom an obvious Christian t r a d i t i o n , could Shakespeare's plays be considered ultimately as tragedies? Well, i t seems to me that that i s asking whether one can turn r e a l i t y inside out and have an a l l bad r e a l i t y . Admittedly, there are pessimistic philosophers who would say yes. But I say no (Garebian, "Religion" 75). This outlook becomes important when responding to Buell's novels. Understanding the ramifications of Elizabeth Lucy's death i n The Pyx, for example, requires an appreciation not only of why she was murdered but also of her p a r t i c u l a r victory. A similar positive attitude towards death, an outlook which indicates that dying i s a beginning as well as an end, appears i n several other novels. The death of the boy c a l l e d Tom i n Four Days as well as that of the homosexual Ritch who befriends him have meanings beyond what the world o r d i n a r i l y perceives, as the Catholic p r i e s t indicates i n his r e f l e c t i o n i n the epilogue. And Stan Hagan knows that he has become the heir to a s p i r i t u a l heritage of b e l i e f when his friend and surrogate father, Martin Lacey, dies i n A Lot to Make Up For. This incorporation of the action of the s p i r i t u a l l i f e within the human r e f l e c t s Buell's 22 sense of the r e a l i t y of the unseen i n the world. In Buell's f i c t i o n , the good person i s under siege, for moral goodness i s not secure i n i t s e l f . Goodness, says Buell, attracts e v i l . This concept takes narrative form, of course, when the consciously good quality of a character serves as a lure to attract the e v i l designs of another. Of thi s tendency, Buell has observed that ... i f you really look at your own human experience and you come across a good person, and I mean t h i s i n the most l i t e r a l , basic way, you w i l l also come across someone who wants to destroy that goodness....[I]n the WASP ethic, one assumes that i f a person i s good, then a person i s untouchable but...the truth of the matter i s that i f a person i s good, he i s good by decision. He w i l l attract e v i l . He w i l l attract enemies (Drolet, "Conversation" 6 6 ) . What Buell regards as a fact of l i f e serves as a dynamic tension i n the relationship of his protagonists to others with whom they are engaged. Goodness w i l l and must be maintained as an act of free w i l l . Buell's characters may be found i n a state of moral siege, but by consciously and repeatedly making a choice for virtue and enduring with forbearance the presence of e v i l , they w i l l retain the int e g r i t y , i f not of a state of grace, at least of a decided orientation towards goodness. Conceptually, the good character, even an innocent character, confronted by e v i l , must respond. The manner of the 23 response has been of some interest to Buell, especially insofar as he has sought to define the moral centre of his own f i c t i o n r e l a t i v e to the moral ambience i n the Catholic novels of Graham Greene. For Buell, a postulate of a Greene novel i s the existence of "a sort of menacing atmosphere of e v i l that nobody can avoid and that people who are i n that atmosphere are simply bad people..." (Drolet, "Conversation" 6 6 ) . The consequence of the general pervasiveness of e v i l that Buell sees i n Greene's novels i s that Greene's "characters f e e l g u i l t y about the i l l that might b e f a l l them" (Drolet 6 6 ) . Buell's response to Greene's depiction of character i s simply that ...there i s much more to that human being than his circumstances, atmosphere, etc.... I wouldn't be as generalist as Greene i n saying that the man's atmosphere of sleazy e v i l i s therefore universal. I wouldn't say that. I'd say i t doesn't mean anything just because the guy's sleazy. It means he's sleazy and i t ends there (Drolet, "Conversation" 6 6 - 7 ) . In considering his own f i c t i o n , Buell i n s i s t s that no encompassing e v i l lessens the goodness of his characters; nor may i t result i n a sense of personal g u i l t . On the contrary, Buell i s convinced that " i t ' s perfectly possible for someone who i s innocent to be i n tragic circumstances and not f e e l g u i l t y and s t i l l suffer out these tragic circumstances" (Drolet 6 6 ) . In the confrontation with e v i l , individual choice and decision are imperative, not simply a general sense of being victimized by an 2 4 invasive e v i l or a bad atmosphere which i s more powerful than one can forebear: ...such atmospheres, i f they exist, exist because there are bad persons and bad people exist because they have made decisions toward th e i r own e v i l and one can combat this only up to a certain point and the way to combat i t i s not to murder them. One must suffer out the e v i l that other people impose on us without feeling g u i l t y (Drolet, "Conversation" 66). Forbearance here i s an act of Christian fortitude. Moreover, inherent goodness, though blighted by i n t e r i o r sin or oppressed by external e v i l , can be activated to human f u l f i l l m e n t at a l l levels of one's being. The potential for human f u l f i l l m e n t i n Buell's f i c t i o n i s always greater than the circumstances i n which a character finds himself. The fact of s i n i s just that: a fact about being human. But s i n does not immobilize Buell's protagonists into a state of moral paralysis. Unlike the powers and presences with which they must contend, they can choose virtue. While Buell differentiates the s p i r i t u a l i t y i n his f i c t i o n from that found i n Greene's novels, he readily acknowledges that Greene's craftsmanship as a writer has been instructive, finding that "Greene, as an a r t i s t , i s lovely. You can read t h i s from star t to f i n i s h and i t s good s t u f f " (Drolet 66). The quality of Greene's well-crafted novels, had served as a model of narrative excellence. As a writer who holds to the truism that the novel 25 i s "a medium of l i t e r a r y e f f e c t s " (Drolet 62), Buell's essential interest i n the novel as a form of expression has been i n how he, too, can most e f f e c t i v e l y master what he prefers to c a l l his c r a f t . In this respect, many writers who had impressed him with t h e i r work were those whose d i s t i n c t i v e writing techniques demonstrated t h e i r own propensity for producing compelling f i c t i o n . These were writers from very d i f f e r e n t orientations, each of whom l e f t a la s t i n g impact upon him, p a r t i c u l a r l y writers Such as Graham Greene, and Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and Barnett and James M. Cain and a lo t of other people. And of course a l l the people who were writing i n the pulp magazines when I was a teen-ager. These things stay with you. If you are r e a l l y impressed as a young man, th i s becomes your goal. You want to write something as strong as Dashiel Hammett or Raymond Chandler wrote. So that by the time I turned to the print medium I must have absorbed a great deal of what I'd been reading (Drolet, "Conversation" 62). This e c l e c t i c mix of masters of detective f i c t i o n and psychological intrigue, i n addition to the mainstays of contemporary American f i c t i o n such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, comprised Buell's teachers i n the art of f i c t i o n . For Buell, such eminently successful writers were for a young writer "the models...against whom he measures his s k i l l s , his desires" 26 (Drolet, "Conversation" 70). What interested Buell i n the work of these writers whom he admired was not the particular form of t h e i r f i c t i o n but the mastery of t h e i r technique. Appreciating t h e i r workmanship i n t h e i r respective narrative tr a d i t i o n s , he developed an understanding of the c r a f t of writing that aided him i n setting new f i c t i o n a l goals for himself. From the time he had stopped writing plays and turned to f i c t i o n , his essential focus was upon the story i t s e l f , the narrative rooted i n the imagination that he f e l t confident he could invent. The story i t s e l f , expressing the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of human experience, became the narrative matrix within which he would s t r i v e to perfect his craftsmanship i n developing his story and i n attaining the effect he wished to achieve. For Buell, a writer's s k i l l i s not dependent upon influences emanating from a national culture or region: ...you don't learn an art by belonging to a province, or a country or a continent. You learn i t by studying the a r t i s t s i n that c r a f t and that's i t . Now I studied the writings of B r i t i s h , American,...Canadian people, as a matter of fact, just to learn the c r a f t (Drolet, "Conversation" 70). But as a student of f i c t i o n , Buell was not a slavish imitator of the techniques of other contemporary writers. A cursory reading of Buell, p a r t i c u l a r l y of The Pyx and Four Days, might create the impression that his early novels generally conform to the 27 conventions of detective or crime f i c t i o n . On the surface, there are certain s i m i l a r i t i e s : police o f f i c e r s and detectives function with e f f i c i e n c y , violent action i s central to the narrative, and the development of the story contains elements of suspense. The operation of these features i n the novels, which i s to say the purposes served and the effects achieved by these staples of popular crime f i c t i o n , had a compelling attraction for Buell. He came to re a l i z e that In the t r a d i t i o n a l and good detective s t o r y — a la Chandler, etc.—you have a crime committed, you have an investigator investigating, etc. The problem became—because of the genre of the whodunit—...that at the end the investigator.. .must give about f i v e , six, ten pages of explanation (Garebian, "Religion" 7 9 ) . The explanation at the end of the story directs attention back to some past action. But Buell was interested i n expressing present action, looking into the rea l l i v e s and current experiences of his characters. In some of Chandler's detective f i c t i o n , Buell recognized that the acknowledged master of the genre had t r i e d to obviate the requisite explanation at the end of the story by d i r e c t l y involving his investigator i n the action. Moreover, the problem for the writer, as Buell saw i t , was to keep the participating investigating agent from becoming removed from r e a l i t y i t s e l f , especially insofar as he might acquire an authoritative persona of mythic proportions. To 28 create a sense of actuality and to move detective or crime f i c t i o n closer to psychological realism, Buell was convinced that crime f i c t i o n should be realigned to engage the investigating agent i n the present action of the story rather than providing a solution to a tragic occurrence that happened i n the past. In reworking the strategy of detective f i c t i o n Buell wanted to create a sense of dramatic immediacy: You w i l l notice i n The Pyx that both past and present narratives proceed i n the story's present time. No explanations are needed [at the end]. Four Days i s i n the story's present time; Shrewsdale i s i n the story's present time; and Playground i s i n the story's present time....Now this i s something that Shakespeare does...not something the Greeks do. The Greeks investigate the past....So that business of having a story take place i n the active present i s [a] c r a f t achievement... [and] because of that I see, on an a r t i s t i c l e v e l or a c r a f t l e v e l , no difference between the suspensefulness of The Pyx or Four Days or Shrewsdale or Playground (Garebian, "Religion" 79). Buell's interest was i n taking the p r i n c i p a l element of puzzlement out of detective f i c t i o n , that i s , of removing the formulaic exposition by a super sleuth, thereby resolving a mystery that had i t s o r i g i n i n the past. Instead, Buell strove to move the focus of action from external to internal c r i s i s : I f e l t that i f there were any way of using the 29 detective story form to write a novel that was not r e a l l y a detective story, then one would have to probe into the causes and events that were indeed tragic i n the l i v e s of the people involved. In other words, you can't present the reader with a corpse, you've got to present him with someone l i v i n g who becomes a corpse because of tragic circumstances (Drolet, "Convers ation" 62). This insight, i n conjunction with the flashback technique which created a strategy for narrative action i n the present time, was implemented i n Buell's f i r s t novel The Pyx. The effect of creating a sense of immediacy i n the novel results from the coalescing of two actions and thereby integrating both cause and eff e c t into the present time. The role of the sympathetic investigator i s to focus upon why an action occurred and no longer, as i n conventional detective f i c t i o n , upon how i t happened. At the same time, the victim i s now presented not simply as a corpse whose past death appears inexplicable and puzzling but as an active protagonist seeking a resolution for c o n f l i c t i n g inner values. In order to create t h i s sense of present r e a l i t y , Buell has explained that i n the process of determining the method by which he would create a sense of immediacy i n The Pyx he realized that ...I could be t e l l i n g two stories at once: the police investigation and then flashing backward t e l l i n g , as though i t were here and now, the story of the victim. 30 The reader would be i n the present time a l l along and i t would not be a straight whodunit. Then one could look at the meaning of the l i v e s of these people and this i s what I attempted to do... .So I wrote that story that way. I t meant a great deal to me because i t was not a straight detective story. It had a deeper meaning....I was trying to get away from the detective story (Drolet, "Conversation" 62-3). In structuring and developing the components of his narrative to reveal the meaning to found within the t o t a l i t y of the physical and s p i r i t u a l dimensions of the human condition, Buell wrote novels that took on a d i s t i n c t i v e feature of Catholic f i c t i o n . He found much to admire i n conventional crime f i c t i o n , especially the c r a f t and ingenuity of some of the master writers of the genre, but his own work i s imbued with a Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y that exceeds by far the intention of crime f i c t i o n , thereby bringing to the reader that "behavorial, emotional, moral and s p i r i t u a l information that people couldn't obtain elsewhere" (Gilman 7). Craft and the meaning that follows from exacting standards of c r e a t i v i t y are essential attributes of a Buell novel, the a r t i s t r y of the novel being defined by Buell as the "right way of doing something" (Garebian, "Religion" 73). What t h i s means i s that consciously you know what you're doing within your own l i m i t s , that things are done at least 31 deliberately....So c r a f t i n that sense [means] that f i r s t of a l l you are cont r o l l i n g the story....It goes a l l the way down to choice of word, sentence structure, pacing, when to have dialogue, what kind of dialogue, the whole business. That i s what I mean by c r a f t : that nothing i s done sloppily, nothing i s done, say, without having been thought out ar t i s t i c a l l y . . . . A n d yet a l l on the l e v e l of feel i n g . It's not a question of having theory. It's a question of working a t h i n g . . . t i l l . . . i t ' s done. Craft i n that sense (Garebian, "Religion" 73-4). But one should not i n f e r from t h i s p r i n c i p l e of creative r e s p o n s i b i l i t y that meaning i s consciously injected by the writer into his narrative. The end of f i c t i o n should not be confused, Buell i n s i s t s , with the l i t e r a t u r e of ideas i n which on overriding central meaning i s apparent. The novel, by the nature of i t s multi-faceted composition, i s the source of any number of meanings, many of which are unknown to the writer himself: You see, one of the things I go by i s i f a story i s a good story, i s a v a l i d l y good story by which I would understand something that takes place on the l e v e l of human action, that you are not philosophizing, you are not writing an essay. If that story i s any good and you as a craftsman are doing that story well, there w i l l be many, many meanings accruing to i t that you 32 are not at present seeing though you may be seeing them vaguely. And reader A may get meaning A, reader B may get meaning B, etc. Which would indicate to me a certain symbolic wealth there but not injected into i t and not consciously put i n (Garebian, "Religion" 7 3 ) . This a r t i s t i c credo also determines to some extent the function of c r i t i c i s m : ...one of the roles of c r i t i c i s m [being] to bring out a l l of these meanings that the author cannot possibly be conscious of. But because he i s true to his c r a f t , the meanings can be there (Garebian, "Religion" 7 3 ) . Such a t r a d i t i o n a l interpretive role of c r i t i c i s m also accords well with an appreciation of Buell's novels as Catholic f i c t i o n , replete with s p i r i t u a l meaning that appropriately places his work among the ranks of modern religious novelists. To some, the s p i r i t u a l i t y peculiar to the Catholicism inherent i n his novels might present an ideological obstacle. Nevertheless, i t i s requisite that . . . c r i t i c i s m of the works of Catholic novelists (and of a l l novelists for that matter) should be based on how they use th e i r a r t i s t i c v i s i o n . . . . A l l novelists imbue t h e i r works with a moral vis i o n from which we can discern some value statements on the human condition... .Hence the work of the c r i t i c i s not to attack ideology but to assess the manner i n which i t has been a r t f u l l y presented (Fraser x i v ) . 33 Buell's a r t i s t i c v i s i o n i s Catholic but not doctrinaire. As Elizabeth Zimmer noted: "Buell does not moralize, he observes" (92). Probing the interaction of nature and grace, he shows that to be f u l l y human i s not to be alone and self-dependent. Those characters i n Buell's f i c t i o n with whom the reader can identif y are not s e l f - s u f f i c i e n t masters of t h e i r own destiny. What does pervade Buell's work i s a redemptive metaphysic of incarnational grace e x i s i t i n g as a countervailing balance to the eff e c t of e v i l i n the world. It has been observed that before the late 1950s, when Buell began writing novels, two approaches had dominated the contemporary novel: the naturalist [tradition,] writing so-called objective accounts of material facts, and the expressionist [tradition,] presenting actuality, as modified by [the writer's] own personality plus an i n t e l l e c t u a l conception, i n a stream of consciousness. These two seemingly antagonistic tendencies—the extroversion of realism and the introversion of expressionism—are two sides of the same coin, inasmuch as one focuses upon the material universe, the macrocosm, and the other upon man, the microcosm (Antush 276). What Buell perceived i n the late 1950s was what one essayist of the time sensed as ...the f a i n t s t i r r i n g s of a new revolution i n l i t e r a r y 34 thinking....[involving a] search for deeper, more serious, and more l a s t i n g values...toward a Christian complexity and fullness, rather than toward an unchristian s i m p l i f i c a t i o n and attenuation (Antush 276-7). Herein lay an alternative, both to the objective realism of naturalist f i c t i o n and to the subjectivity of expressionism. In the 1950s, Buell was aware that the Catholic novel—that "novel with a metaphysic"—presented old ideas i n a new form, being set . . . i n a secular t r a d i t i o n which, generally speaking, [had] not yet come to grips with the basic human problems of si n , e v i l and suffering (Antush 277). Publication of The Pyx i n 1959 was Buell's f i r s t contribution to the Catholic novel, which had established a place for i t s e l f i n the twentieth century i n writers l i k e Greene, Waugh, Flannery O'Connor, and Frangois Mauriac. 35 The Early Novels The Pyx In The Pyx, Buell envisions a self-contained, urban underworld dominated by the controlling presence of systemic e v i l . This i s the world of ...the specialty houses, the private-movie making, the breaking i n of newly hooked kids whose value was high for a b r i e f time only: a world where the turnover was as fast as the arrests, the breakdowns, the suicides (Pyx 119). Here, vice i n a l l of i t s manifold forms of depravity and perversion victimizes and ultimately destroys any whom i t t o t a l l y controls. To convey a sense of the inherently destructive and d e b i l i t a t i n g e f f e c t of the e v i l that i s present i n this sub-stratum of society, Buell integrates into his narrative a pattern of physical breakdown and collapse. At the beginning of the novel when Elizabeth Lucy i s f i r s t introduced into the narrative, she i s on her way to a psychiatric hospital to v i s i t Sandra, the young prostitute targeted by Keerson for e r o t i c exploitation during a Black Mass. She i s now broken i n s p i r i t and her treatment for heavy drug addiction has resulted i n a regression to i n f a n t i l e helplessness. Later, Elizabeth befriends Jim Rande, the college homosexual who explains that he had experienced a nervous breakdown after he had " d r i f t e d into that strange netherworld where types l i k e me go" (Pyx 95). 36 Having just been demeaned i n "some fancy place" as an object of derision by a man with whom he has been sexually involved, Jim, again on the verge of another breakdown, explains to Elizabeth that he "ran out of the place. It was l i k e running out of h e l l " (Pyx 95). Elizabeth, too, i s f u l l y aware that the disordered thoughts that "stay i n the mind l i k e a frenzied cosmos" may inevitably lead to her own t o t a l collapse and breakdown (Pyx 56). F i n a l l y , at the end of the novel, Keerson's desire to share i n the exercise of satanic power inevitably results i n his own complete physical and mental disintegration. Buell's oppressive netherworld, as Jim c a l l s i t , i s a vicious parody of every semblance of a world animated by goodness. As Linda Hutcheon has observed, such urban novels as The Pyx function on two levels as "both r e a l i s t i c accounts of the corroding violence and alienation of the modern c i t y and symbolic representations of the infernal "Unreal City" of T.S. E l i o t ' s "The Waste Land"(1538). This sense of an e v i l unreality characterizes Elizabeth Lucy's nightmare images when she dreams of "a vast wasteland that seemed to heave with the heat of the setting sun" i n which she cries desperately for help but "couldn't hear herself c a l l i n g any more as the dark rocky wasteland grew into the sounds of f r i g h t f u l combat and the agonizing screams of perpetual defeat" (Pyx 126). In this "semi-c i v i l i z e d and part-psychotic fringe underworld" of moral depravity (Pyx 108), the negativity of e v i l i s absolute. Paradoxically, here i n the urban core of Montreal, the 37 s u p e r f i c i a l a l l u r e of bright l i g h t s and luxury which suggests the presence of an "accessible paradise" (Pyx 23) belies the hidden r e a l i t y of treachery and violence. For the cruising t a x i driver Jack Trudel the r i c h a l l u r e of expensive apartments and the beguiling bright l i g h t s offers a seductive attraction as he fantasizes about the hidden sa t i s f a c t i o n associated with the affluence and luxury along a fashionable Montreal Street. For him, they are " f u l l of massive pleasures" (Pyx 3), offering "something rea l about which to dream" (Pyx 4). But a sudden shock of r e a l i t y grips him the moment he witnesses a young woman's deadly f a l l to the street d i r e c t l y i n front of his vehicle. Roused from his reverie, Trudel's "dream had vanished forever" (Pyx 5). As he l a t e r examines the s i t e of the victim's death, he i s seized by the r e a l i t y of the situation: the image he had of ease and pleasant power had now acquired a background of horror....Real violence was too much for him;.. .Already he was beginning to dismiss i t as outside the real course of l i f e (Pyx 13-4). The event i s a r e a l i t y check for Trudel as i t reveals subversive violence functioning within a society that he otherwise finds desirable and attactive. While he i s ignorant of the underlying cause of this eruption of violence, he does know that Elizabeth Lucy's death i s a sudden and inexplicable manifestation of a certain e v i l i n the world. 38 Trudel's sudden r e a l i z a t i o n of the very present r e a l i t y of imperfection i n paradise i s paralleled by that of Ce r i n i , an investigative policeman dispatched to the scene of the woman's deadly f a l l from an adjacent building. In the c i t y , C e r i n i notices how the lights...preened themselves i n gay patterns, they blinked on and off,...they flared i n bright obvious colors announcing either business or pleasure (Pyx 23). But, after surveying the investigative s i t e , C e r i n i finds that Now, the l i g h t s were just l i g h t s , a l i t t l e out of place, l i k e a lonely waiter announcing a l a s t c a l l for dinner on an empty moving t r a i n (Pyx 23). Beguiling fantasy i s a sham, Ce r i n i r e a l i z e s . The tragedy i n human l i f e demands a recognition of a r e a l i t y too often obscured by i l l u s i o n . From past experience, both C e r i n i and his investigative partner Henderson ... knew the meaning of the night' s events. They were used to the swirl of the c i t y i n a way, a desperate way, l i k e a man would get used to drowning i f he could repeat the process. They knew the pattern; they had only to wait to see i t emerge, to watch for the rarely o r i g i n a l features of e v i l (Pyx 23). Like Jack Trudel, Cerini and Henderson are aware that violent events are signs. They know that the presence of Elizabeth Lucy's body, veiled i n a white dress and with her once radiant 39 beauty diminished i n death, i s another da i l y manifestation of e v i l i n the world. In t h i s instance, the death of Elizabeth Lucy i s the signal event from which Buell develops his perspective on human l i v e s ensnared by e v i l , a maliciously violent presence given dramatic intensity through Buell's portrayal of the demonic possession of Keerson, the obdurate physical nemesis of Elizabeth Lucy. Giving f i c t i o n a l c r e d i b i l i t y to the embodiment of e v i l adds considerable complexity to the process of a writer's invention. At the outset, one might question i f the transformation of i n v i s i b l e agents into the v i s i b l e world i s even appropriate i n r e a l i s t i c f i c t i o n . Aside from sensationalized fantasy, there are few representations of embodied e v i l i n the English l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n . In a r a d i c a l l y different context, Milton had created a demonology i n which a charismatic Satan created a r t i s t i c problems which are not e a s i l y resolved. But a far greater problem than demonic portrayal i s the extent of suspended di s b e l i e f that the novelist can expect from his readers. For some of these readers, demonic possession i s f u l l y explicable i n terms of psychic disorder; for others, Satan exists as an ever present metaphysical r e a l i t y whose i l l u s o r y deceptions dislodge the moral equilibrium of the human w i l l . For Buell, the writer's a r t i s t i c i n t u i t i o n must permit a credible representation of e v i l which maximizes the meaning of the novel according to the respective s e n s i b i l i t i e s of his readers. It i s understandable, then, that some readers w i l l find the novel accessible as a work 40 of f a n c i f u l myth or fantasy; others w i l l have a sense of Keerson's disordered psyche; and readers possessing some f a m i l i a r i t y with Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y should be able to appreciate the f u l l dimensions of Buell's representation of e v i l i n the world. Buell's f i c t i o n a l evocation of e v i l and of demonic possession conforms to a t r a d i t i o n a l Catholic b e l i e f i n which Satan and his minions are i d e n t i f i e d as e v i l s p i r i t s which ...tempt men to s i n , sometimes injure them i n body, and even inf e s t t h e m . . . . [ P ] o s s e s s i o n takes place when the e v i l s p i r i t assumes control of the body from within, using i t as his own; and obsession i s the attacking or infesting of men from without (Religion I I I , 392-3). As pure s p i r i t , the e v i l being, commonly referred to as Satan or the d e v i l , i s a real and powerful agent of external subterfuge and internal control. What Buell represents i n The Pyx i s the sense of the c o n f l i c t i n which the E v i l One intends to bring about a demonic victory over the person of God who i s present i n the consecrated host. Conceptually, the metaphysical dimension of Buell's novel encompasses the cosmic c o n f l i c t of the power of E v i l i n opposition to the grace of God. I t i s within the t o t a l i t y of thi s metaphysical r e a l i t y that the crises i n the respective s p i r i t u a l destinies of Elizabeth Lucy and of Keerson are presented. Buell's narrative represents these s p i r i t u a l r e a l i t i e s i n 41 demonstrably human terms, the decisions and actions of his characters having moral as well as so c i a l significance. This modus operandi, as the Catholic theologian Charles Curran has stated, i s a central conviction of Catholic b e l i e f i n which ...the divine [is] mediated through the human....[T]he natural law well i l l u s t r a t e s t h i s mediation. How do we discern and know what God wants us to do? Do we go immediately to God to find out? No. Human reason r e f l e c t i n g on human nature t e l l s us what God asks of us or what has been c a l l e d the eternal law. The eternal law i s the plan for a l l creation i n the mind of God. The natural law i s the parti c i p a t i o n of the eternal law i n the rational creature.... In Catholic understanding, the church i s a v i s i b l e human community with human leaders and members. God does not come immediately and i n v i s i b l y to the individual person. Rather the saving g i f t of God i s present and mediated i n and through the v i s i b l e human community with i t s human-divine structure c a l l e d the church (14). Consequently, Buell's depiction of s i n , suffering, and salvation has i t s subjective basis i n human l i f e i t s e l f , not i n an objective orchestration of the human condition wherein "as f l i e s to wanton boys are we to the gods" (Lear 4.1.38-9). In the Catholic consciousness, the grace of God, or the lack thereof, i s manifested i n every human thought, word, and deed. More importantly, the presence of God i n the world i s enabled through 42 human beings, whether i t be the incarnational presence i n i t i a t e d by Mary's cooperation, the sacramental incarnation through sacerdotal mediation i n the Eucharist, or the operation of the Holy S p i r i t i n and among the f a i t h f u l . To a Catholic, God i s manifested through the sacraments and i s present among people through the operation of s p i r i t u a l l y empowering grace. The normative Catholic perception i s that God i s continuously breaking through into the world, preeminently through the sacraments but also within the l i v e s of the people of God. This commonplace Catholic conviction i s very much at the centre of Buell's f i c t i o n and i s d i r e c t l y apparent i n his e a r l i e s t novels. God i s present wherever human goodness and love ex i s t . This manifestation of God's saving grace i s apparent not only i n the l i v e s of the f a i t h f u l but also among the f a i t h l e s s , for i t i s among those who have f a l l e n victims to s i n and the e v i l s of the world that regenerative grace operates not to restore a l o s t innocence but to subvert s i n through goodness. Promptings of love and acts of goodness are possible and do function from within the context of the most s i n f u l orientation. From a Catholic perspective, the potential for a s p i r i t u a l l y activating infusion of grace which enables good works i s always, and sometimes surprisingly, present. Elizabeth Lucy's l o s t innocence does not deprive her of the capacity for goodness as she reaches out compassionately to Sandra and Jim Rande and affectionately to her father. What her good actions demonstrate, though they arise from within the context of a l i f e of s i n , i s 43 that Elizabeth possesses within herself a predisposition for goodness which has not been displaced by a l i f e of s i n but which has the potential, i f need be, to be realized more f u l l y and completely i n a decisive act of supererogation. Throughout The Pyx, Buell's p r i n c i p a l focus i s upon nascent goodness. For Elizabeth, the love of God ultimately conquers a l l ; for Henderson, the redeeming quality of Elizabeth's l i f e i s found i n actions that reveal a residual goodness i n her character. Recognizing that there i s no place i n a mundane investigative report for an account of Elizabeth's meritorious victory through her death, he can r e f l e c t upon the positive message of hope that he w i l l forward to Elizabeth's father: "He grimaced with irony as the thought that the news he had to t e l l the Colonel was, after a l l , good" (Pyx 174). While the e v i l which i s so graphically represented and which e f f e c t i v e l y arrests the reader's attention has a compelling and affective appeal, Buell's intention i n the novel i s to develop a narrative i n which there i s an even more dramatic transformation from physical, moral, and metaphysical e v i l to goodness. To that end, Buell's framework for his story r e f l e c t s a fundamental p r i n c i p l e of divine Providence; namely, that "God would not permit an e v i l i f he did not cause a good to come from that very e v i l . . . " (Catechism 84). God's mandate, therefore, necessitates that goodness should be the proper condition and ultimate end of a l l humanity who desire i t . On his own i n i t i a t i v e , there i s nothing that mankind can do to achieve t h i s end. However, through 44 receptivity to the transforming s p i r i t u a l power of God's free g i f t of grace, moral goodness can be attained. In Buell's Catholic t r a d i t i o n , Augustine of Hippo had long ago formulated a rationale for t h i s process of transformation, reasoning that ...grace i s necessary to heal and liberate the freedom (Lat., libertas) that i s at the core of the human person. Grace i s the internal assistance of the Holy S p i r i t that releases one from the bondage of s i n , illuminates the mind, and provides a new delight i n the good (Encyclopedia of Catholicism 578). This indwelling of the Holy S p i r i t permits believers actually to become "participants i n the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) so that the essential r e a l i t y of l i f e e n tails s p i r i t u a l incorporation into the mystical Body of Christ. Within t h i s context of the div i n i z a t i o n of man, sacramental support, preeminently through the Eucharist, sustains and augments personal s a n c t i f i c a t i o n . Nowhere i n Buell's f i c t i o n i s the r e a l i t y of the saving action of t h i s sanctifying grace more s i g n i f i c a n t l y represented then when Elizabeth Lucy, i n a s e l f l e s s act of love, receives the Body of Christ i n the consecrated host. This redemptive moment i n Elizabeth's l i f e i s a certain revelation of God's power over s i n . For Elizabeth, the c r i t i c a l decision of her l i f e rests i n the free exercise of her w i l l . The means by which she can determine her human and s p i r i t u a l destiny and divest herself of the e v i l which a f f l i c t s her entire being becomes the deciding moment which defines the effic a c y of her 45 tragic death. Had she died without an activating infusion of divine grace, she would be l i t t l e more than a p i t i f u l loser i n l i f e , without any redeeming quality. That she chose to act decisively and irrevocably for an i n f i n i t e l y greater cause than any other, imbues her character with the mark of personal heroism and imbues her soul with sanctity. What Buell presents f i c t i o n a l l y i s patterned on the motif of the f a l l e n woman who i s redeemed; indeed, Elizabeth Lucy i s also "the woman...who was a sinner" whom Jesus forgave for she had "shown great love" (Luke 7:37-48). Elizabeth i s as accustomed to sin as to her regular injection of heroin. As a heroin addict who serves her addiction by working i n a high class prostitution ring, she i s e n t i r e l y under the control of the self-serving "old-time operator" Meg Latimer, who works the sex trade and keeps her supplied with narcotics. Elizabeth has no i l l u s i o n s about Meg. She i s an agent of human degradation whose role i s seared into her consciousness: ...the image of Meg Latimer arose, a smile, fixed at f i r s t then growing, the false teeth grew grey l i k e s t e e l but a l i v e l i k e t i r e d r e p t i l e s , and became a wriggling trap l i k e r i c h , damp, s i c k l y swamp vegetation, i n the center of which was whiteness, a whiteness that shattered into fine powder, dissolved i n the dampness and was about to give her peace but a monstrous needle replaced i t a l l and changed into a 46 black i c i c l e held i n a frozen hand...(Pyx 43). It has been f i v e years since Elizabeth f i r s t chose to work for Meg and her experience has led to an increased r e a l i z a t i o n not only of the meaninglessness of her existence but also of her own helplessness. From the quality of her l i f e , she would appear to be completely resistant to the operation of grace. She i s i n every sense a l o s t soul whose depravity i n serving the ends of Meg Latimer has l e f t her without peace or hope: I have nothing now, I'm empty. I can't even choose, I'm caught, I can't be anything but what I am now, right now. There's no choosing, there's no doing. A l l that's l e f t i s knowing. I know. I know that damnation i s a part of me (Pyx 45). Another "part" of Elizabeth, of course, i s receptive to grace, for while she i s f u l l y aware of the e v i l i n her soul, she s t i l l possesses a capacity for goodness. Herein l i e s the positive orientation of grace that St. Paul recognized when he observed that "where s i n increased, grace abounded a l l the more" (Romans 5:20). Yet so invasive i s the operation of the effects of s i n that even the s e l f - r e a l i z a t i o n of goodness can be obscured. Elizabeth can find no good i n or for herself. For the most part, she feels s p i r i t u a l l y deadened by a sense of hopeless despair and considerable foreboding about the future. However, what she cannot r e a l i z e i n herself she does effect i n the l i v e s of others. If Elizabeth, as she says, finds both her l i f e and herself 47 intolerable (Pyx 54), the self-hate that she directs inwards i s replaced by exemplary manifestations of love for others who suffer. In t h i s regard, the e f f o r t to restore Sandra's well-being i s p a r t i c u l a r l y s i g n i f i c a n t . While Elizabeth can hope for no escape for herself from the encompassing e v i l around her, she secretly provides the means by which Sandra can be liberated from the cycle of prostitution and drug addiction i n which they are both engaged. What Elizabeth believes she cannot be, Sandra w i l l become. In undertaking th i s act of s e l f l e s s charity, Elizabeth places herself i n a situation of extreme danger. Elizabeth herself i s controlled by Meg Latimer and Meg serves as an accomplice to Keerson. From Keerson's criminal syndicate, no one gets out a l i v e , as both Meg Latimer and Herby Lefram were to discover when each was found to be ineffective as agents of Keerson's satanic schemes. Keerson's control i s absolute, with a network of informants employed to follow and report about the a c t i v i t y of anyone deviating from the authorized routine. So Elizabeth's i n i t i a t i v e i n rescuing Sandra i s more than an act of friendly assistance since by this act she i s r i s k i n g her l i f e for another. The result of Elizabeth's particular saving action i s presented at the beginning of the novel when she v i s i t s Sandra who i s undergoing drug withdrawal therapy i n the psychiatric hospital. Later, a comparable saving action, but of i n f i n i t e l y more significance, occurs at the end of the novel when Elizabeth f i r s t meets Keerson at his penthouse and learns about his intended sacrilege. While she succeeds i n safeguarding 48 the consecrated host on that occasion, the fact of her murder that evening underscores the tragic irony of Elizabeth's l i f e : she who gives protection cannot provide i t for herself. At t h i s point i n the novel, as Harold Gardiner has noted, an even greater irony exists thematically when "the One whom she i s f i n a l l y c a l l e d on to protect i s the One who comes to suffering humanity i n a pyx" (Gardiner 772-3). Throughout the novel, Elizabeth's actions are notably unrelated to her avowed involvement with prostitution or drug addiction. Consequently, the narrative focus on Elizabeth's a c t i v i t i e s brings to the foreground a sequence of very positive events that occur during the l a s t days of her l i f e : she v i s i t s Sandra, rests for a few moments during mass at the cathedral, drives past her former home i n the country where her father l i v e s , places a l l of her assets i n a trust fund for Sandra, meets momentarily with a compassionate priest who blesses her, and f i n a l l y confronts Keerson as he prepares his sacrilegious r i t e s . What Buell shows here i s that the orientation of these actions i s a positive outgrowth of Elizabeth's developing moral consciousness as i t contends with an oppressively s i n f u l nature. By developing a characterization based upon such a sequence of positive actions, Buell shows quite c l e a r l y that, despite the s i n f u l context of her l i f e , Elizabeth i s engaged i n actions revealing the promptings of grace working from within. By attributing to Elizabeth a residual action of grace, which manifests i t s e l f i n the practice of good works, Buell 49 again draws upon Catholic theology to support these actions i n his narrative. Unlike others who hold that "we are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not from our own works or deservings" (Common Prayer 702-3), Catholicism maintains that good works are meritorious and, given the appropriate nature of the actions, necessary for salvation (C a t h . D i e t . 2 5 2 - 3 ) . S p e c i f i c a l l y , i t i s not the operation of the actual works themselves that are efficacious; rather, i n Catholic b e l i e f s a l v i f i c merit i s derived from the empowering divine grace operative i n the manifestations of the theological virtues of f a i t h , hope, and charity. In Elizabeth's case, however, any s a l v i f i c merit accruing from her actions would appear to be precluded by her sense of s p i r i t u a l despair, her acknowledged state of s i n , and her hesitancy at opportune moments to be sacramentally reconciled with God. Nevertheless, what Buell does indicate through her characterization i s that the good that she performs arises not from any personal worth of her own but from her receptivity to a freely operating g i f t of divine grace that i s always available to her. Such a s t i r r i n g of grace can lead, as i t c l e a r l y does i n Buell's narrative, to effecting those good works which are caused by grace and are not simply manifestations of i t s presence. Elizabeth i s indeed an instrument of love to ease the a f f l i c t i o n s of Sandra and Jim Rande. Even Meg Latimer, the devious arbiter of the trade i n sex and drugs, could be accounted as a friend had t h e i r respective 50 roles i n l i f e been d i f f e r e n t . Elizabeth's show of love and the consequent results that follow from i t reveal not simply the traces of goodness i n a s i n f u l nature but, more s i g n i f i c a n t l y , God's action within the sinner that w i l l move her towards redemption. When Elizabeth chooses to safeguard the eucharistic sacrament from Keerson's e v i l plan, she does so, not as a chance happening, but as the result of s p i r i t u a l growth which can be observed i n the several good works of her past l i f e . There should be l i t t l e surprise when she receives the host rather than permit Keerson's intended act of desecration, for t h i s f i n a l act of love i s not so much climactic as i t i s cumulative, the end result of the S p i r i t continuing to break through to bring Elizabeth to salvation. In The Pyx, Buell has not l e f t the reader unprepared for the s p i r i t u a l e f f i c a c y of the f i n a l act of Elizabeth Lucy's l i f e . Despite the depravity of her past and the encompassing e v i l presently around her, Buell shows that she possesses the capacity to know goodness and to act upon i t . That r e a l i z a t i o n of goodness i s not negated by the oppressive immorality of a l i f e of s i n . Rather, i n i t l i e s the operation of the grace of God which w i l l not be suppressed. Implicit i n goodness, at least from a Catholic perspective, i s the nature of goodness i t s e l f . Where there i s goodness, there i s the presence of God, t h i s being the thrust of Father Superior's pidgin sermon i n Greene's A Burnt-Out Case: ...because Yazu made you, he i s i n you. When you love 51 i t i s Yazu who loves, when you are merciful i t i s Yazu who i s merciful... .Yazu made love, he made mercy.... Only remember that the love you f e e l and the mercy you show were made i n you by God (85-6). God i s with Elizabeth Lucy. However, the irony of her situation i s that she i s not personally conscious of the extent to which the love of God i s present i n her l i f e , giving her both an active and passive moral orientation. Actively, she i s impelled to good works of charity. Passively, she i s given the grace to know the r e a l i t y of her s i n f u l separation from the God who loves her. Preeminently a r e a l i s t , Elizabeth harbours no i l l u s i o n s . Her father, for example, remembers that "she could always face things" (Pyx 134) and Jim Rande affirms that "she knew exactly where she stood with life....She faced i t " (Pyx 98). The absence of any semblance of denial i n her l i f e as well as being devoid of any attempt at r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n of her sinfulness l a t e r signals to the p r i e s t who i s dispatched to her by Sister Hildebrand that her helplessness and pain were not irremediable but that she must activate grace into action on her own v o l i t i o n : "You've heard the others... j u s t i f y themselves... about a phoney innocence....You're not doing it....You can look right at i t . Some people don't even get that far. Don't you think that kind of c l a r i t y could be a grace?" (Pyx 122) But Elizabeth, caught i n a c r i s i s of uncertainty, cannot at that 52 moment ide n t i f y the means to bring about a transformation i n her l i f e . The priest dissuades her of any notion that simply going off drugs w i l l lead to a change i n her l i f e . What she needs, he suggests somewhat obliquely, i s to be controlled by her inmost being, the dictate of her soul, the rule of her conscience, a decisive act of w i l l . It i s she and she alone who matters, he i n s i s t s , and i t i s she who i n the end w i l l make a difference i n her l i f e . She w i l l be able to determine the value of her l i f e and w i l l not be subject to external control. What w i l l make the difference i n her l i f e , he t e l l s her, i s "You....It's your l i f e : y o u ' l l know at one point" (Pyx 122). Elizabeth's response i s simply that at that moment she i s s t i l l incapable of exercising the w i l l to determine her destiny. "I'm not there yet," she explains, indicating that she w i l l find the inner resources or the grace for resolution at some future point i n time. Her indication of what i s yet to come, a moment when she w i l l f i n d f u l f i l l m e n t i n her l i f e , holds some promise for the priest who, as he departs, "raised his hand i n benediction after her as though blessing the night" ( P y x 122). By the grace of t h i s blessing, Buell suggests, the remaining darkness i n Elizabeth's soul may be dispelled. Elizabeth's moment of truth occurs the next evening. From the f i r s t moment i n which she had learned that Keerson had id e n t i f i e d her as a participant i n his undefined but ominous "party," Elizabeth has been f i l l e d with foreboding:"Fear t r i e d to define the future, to put a shape on the huge nothingness of 53 e v i l confronting her" (Pyx 59). She i s ignorant of the details of the event to take place and Meg Latimer, who has some fa m i l i a r i t y with Keerson's world, w i l l not give her any information. Likewise, Herby Lefram, who must be assured that Elizabeth i s even more highly narcoticized, gives her no information. She must encounter the night's dark deeds of Keerson's invention alone and unsupported, knowing that there was no alternative and yet wishing i t were otherwise: She f e l t the longing and the fear of action that comes with great pain; a l l the power possible to a human, concentrated into one screamingly desired wish, the wish to be something else, the need, a l l t h i s she knew to be the measure of her impotence: the great longing and the great impossibility (Pyx 106). Compelled to surrender her w i l l to that of Keerson, Elizabeth arrives at the Cross, for there i s , indeed, the suggestion of a Christological dimension i n Buell's narrative of the Good Friday death and Easter l i f e underlying the experience leading to her s a c r i f i c e at Keerson's penthouse wherein her Cross i n the darkness does not portend the hope of an easy Easter. Betrayed by Meg, Elizabeth moves inexorably towards an event not of her choosing and from which there i s no turning back. With her w i l l and power of determination for herself t o t a l l y suspended, she can only face the unknown: She was past the point where caring can do any good. Her fear had l o s t i t s edge and become d u l l l i k e a sort 54 of peace: i t stayed on as an unfeeling preoccupation, empty of real content, and ready for a greater void (Pyx 150-1). It i s only when Keerson leaves her alone with the pyx, bearing the Body of Christ, that Elizabeth can respond freely to God who now comes to her sacramental l y . In a soft whisper, she says:"I...didn't think...You...,"(Pyx 158) thereby reciprocating the i n v i t a t i o n to Love manifested to her. In the r e a l i z a t i o n of the mystical love of God for suffering humanity, Elizabeth receives the Real Presence i n an act of s e l f l e s s love. Redeemed from the world's e v i l and her s a n c t i f i c a t i o n assured through a sacramental infusion of grace, Elizabeth, i n keeping with the practice of heroic virtue, becomes a martyr to Divine Love when Keerson, discovering that she has received the host, throws her to her death from the penthouse balcony. Elizabeth's victory over death i s the culminating act i n the drama of her redemption. It i s the desirable outcome of a soul that had longed for the peace of death but of one, said Jim Rande, who "thought she couldn't die well" (Pyx 93). However, i n meeting Christ sacramentally and giving herself as His protector from sacrilege, she has indeed died well and found l a s t i n g peace i n new l i f e . Elizabeth's redemption i s enabled preeminently through the grace of the sacrament. But, i n presenting the dying moments of Keerson on the other hand, Buell indicates that the mercy and grace of God extend not only to those who have sought Him but to those who have hated Him as well. 55 There i s l i t t l e doubt that Keerson i s e v i l incarnate, that he i s obsessed i n seeking demonic power i n his l i f e to increase the control which extends through his syndicate:"I thought I had the power," he t e l l s Henderson,"it f e l t as i f I was r u l i n g " (Pyx 169). But Elizabeth's action i n preserving the host from the desecration of his sacrilegious intentions has made him the impotent victim of his own e v i l machinations. She who was powerless has by her saving action revealed the power of goodness:"She," says Keerson,"she was the one who was stronger" (Pyx 170). Frustrated i n the s a c r i f i c e he intended to o f f e r , he has become the victim of the e v i l power he sought. For many readers, his agony would appear to be just punishment for his e v i l i n f i d e l i t y : he should suffer everlasting torment for the e v i l he brought into the world. He who has no mercy towards others should receive none i n return. But t h i s i s not Buell's resolution. Immediately after Henderson has had to shoot and k i l l Keerson i n s e l f defence, Buell's l a s t word about Keerson reveals a nascent presence dwelling within: When Henderson reached him f i n a l l y , Keerson's mouth was forming words that he never spoke, and his eyes had a look, perhaps of gratitude, that seemed to come from the depths of his personality. Henderson knelt beside him, trembling; and as his tension subsided, he realized he had been weeping (Pyx 171-2). For Buell, the grace of God, operating with redemptive power within the most abject sinner, knows no l i m i t s . 56 Four Days The t r a d i t i o n a l Catholic view of the interdependence of nature and grace, which Buell implied throughout The Pyx, i s made e x p l i c i t i n Four Days, for a l l humanity the source and end of love i s God. To frustrate this love from attaining i t s proper end i s the utmost s p i r i t u a l tragedy, the operation of grace then being short-circuited, resulting i n the deprivation of the knowledge of God i n and through humanity. The exploitation of the grace of God, insofar as i t i s expressed i n the love of one person for another, epitomizes the ir o n i c tragedy depicted i n the l i f e of the Tom, Buell's protagonist i n Four Days. Instead of finding acceptance through his love, Tom i s unwittingly manipulated and deceived, f i r s t by his self-absorbed brother M i l t and l a t e r by the sexual predator Ritch who has befriended him. Loving but unloved, Tom's u n f u l f i l l e d quest for meaning through human love i s the central irony i n a novel i n which, as F.w. Watt observed, [t]here are submerged fragments of an admirable theme: a young boy i s denied his rights to childhood innocence by a degenerate background, and at every turn when he looks for love he meets forms of the same denial. His criminal older brother whom he worships uses him i n a bank-robbery; Ritch, the homosexual older man who might even then have saved the fugitive boy, meets his love only with an attempt at seduction; 57 the old priest i s too l a t e , or too in e f f e c t u a l , though his l o v e — c h a r i t y — i s true enough (398). The twelve year old Tom longs to find security i n the peace of a loving relationship. However, he i s under no i l l u s i o n s about the primary object of his affection: M i l t i s no idealized older brother. Tom knows, for example, that Milt wanted money and women, but that was the ugly Mi l t , the Mil t something happened to when he was near these things. He faced the painful images: the assertive egoist, the man transformed with sexual desire—and the calm worker who managed a home and his job well (Four Days 45). Regardless of the p r i o r i t y of his brother's needs, Tom unreservedly accepts and loves the human presence of M i l t with a l l his perceived f a u l t s : "But they a l l formed one man nevertheless, and the boy accepted him f u l l y " ( F D 45). It i s t h i s dedicated act of f a i t h and trust i n the person of M i l t and l a t e r i n the perpetuation of Milt's memory that gives purpose and meaning to Tom's l i f e . It i s this love which sustains Tom even after the one whom he has loved no longer l i v e s . For Tom, M i l t must l i v e i n order that his love can l i v e . His own l i f e derives i t s meaning from and i s sustained by the power of t h i s love. The s e l f l e s s love of Tom for his brother gives meaning to his entire l i f e , being presented as an abiding expression of Tom's sense of security and s t a b i l i t y , p r i n c i p a l l y realized i n c r i t i c a l moments of 58 c r i s i s and fear. Fearful, for example, that M i l t might be discovered as an accomplice i n certain r e s i d e n t i a l thefts along his paper route, Tom's immediate consciousness of his physical surroundings with t h e i r "well-kept lawns, c a r e f u l l y primmed houses, a clean unbroken pavement, trees that looked washed, the general play of color that seemed to him l i k e a minor paradise" (FD 5), i s displaced by the greater r e a l i t y of a brother whose "importance and authority... j u s t i f i e d anything" (FD 6). Unsettled by the thought that M i l t might somehow be apprehended for criminal involvement, Tom "forgot to notice his paradise" (FD 9) and searched within his mind for a more pacifying image that engendered greater peace and sa t i s f a c t i o n : he stared as i f he were trying to see r e a l i t y somewhere. And beyond the trance of vague fear was the well-known and loved r e a l i t y c a l l e d M i l t , a warm area at the heart of things that gave substance to existence (FD 9-10). Later, suspecting imminent dislocation implied i n Milt's plans for the way he was "gonna change a l l this (FD 24)," a newly aroused fear i n Tom again threatens to upset the equilibrium of his l i f e : He f e l t a generalized fear for M i l t , and t h i s threatened to disturb his whole world: M i l t was these rooms, the food, the habits of home, the person i n whose l i f e he could l i v e ; he was so aware of a l l t h i s that a fear for M i l t was a fear for himself (FD 25). 59 With his own sense of well-being anchored i n Milt's existence, Tom finds purpose and meaning i n the t o t a l i t y of his love for his brother. The dreary tediousness of his everyday existence gives l i t t l e s a t i s f a c t i o n to Tom. Likewise, the violent and disordered actuality of Milt's l i f e f a i l s to dislodge his overriding love for his brother. His eventual waiting i n Val Laurent for Milt's a r r i v a l as a f u l f i l l m e n t of t h e i r plan i s a v a l i d expectation which gives purpose to his existence. Anything that detracts from the promise to which he i s committed, such as newspaper coverage of Milt's death, must be denied and rationalized since i t endangers the trust and f a i t h he has invested i n his love for M i l t . That this trust has been misplaced and that the loved one, as he has known him, w i l l no longer be physically present i n his l i f e would be a refutation of "that well-known and loved r e a l i t y . . . a t the heart of things that gave substance to existence" to which he had completely given himself. For Tom, any p o s s i b i l i t y that his f a i t h and love centered i n Milt i s a l i e and that the loved one w i l l not come to him as planned i s a potentially soul-destroying s p i r i t u a l agony that threatens l i f e i t s e l f : Somewhere i n the unfaced depths of his soul he realized quite c l e a r l y that he was trying to a l t e r a fact that would be a fact no matter what he wille d or how strongly. But his whole person screamed with the e f f o r t to do i t , i t was his only hold on existence; and when the plan ran out and erased a l l traces of 60 M i l t , his hold would go with i t (FD 124). To be so t o t a l l y accepting of M i l t does not come without considerable inner c o n f l i c t for Tom since his own expectation of acceptance does not happen to coincide with Milt's casual i n s e n s i t i v i t y towards him. As M i l t focuses upon the strategies involved i n his plans for a bank robbery, Tom i n i t i a l l y despairs at his own lack of inclusion i n Milt's planning, feeling himself increasingly isolated from his brother's attention: Things were slipping away from him, especially M i l t , despite his feelings: a l l Milt's arrangements were for tomorrow, not for after tomorrow....(FD 47). That M i l t expects to survive the planned bank robbery gives Tom some certainty that the object of his affection w i l l remain as a l i v i n g presence i n his l i f e . But the p o s s i b i l i t y that t h i s presence w i l l prove unresponsive to his love devastates him. M i l t may indeed survive the bank robbery but, Tom believes, Milt's future l i f e may be one ...that so e a s i l y excluded him. The boy f e l t r e a l i t y getting out of control, i t was tumbling into some unknown destructiveness, something bigger than even M i l t . A l l he could do was d r i f t with i t and c l i n g b l i n d l y u n t i l i t stopped somewhere (FD 47-8). For Tom, the corollary of love i s a double edged fear. He i s conscious that he may not be worthy enough to gain Milt's love; moreover, the only physical r e a l i t y he knows w i l l cease to exist i f he loses M i l t . These fears and the tension they induce are 61 considerably lessened when Milt presents Tom with the plan of action to be played out after the robbery, for i t i s towards the fu l f i l l m e n t of t h i s plan, which i s e f f e c t i v e l y an imaginative extension of Mi l t himself, that Tom can t o t a l l y commit himself: Reality was now t h i s plan; he didn't question i t s source or judge i t or choose; i t was there, and i t offered a continued existence with M i l t , an alternative to nothingness, l i k e finding a l i g h t switch i n the dark (FD 52). The love that Tom bears his brother w i l l not be withheld. Its expression i s inclusive and substitutive, whether i t enjoins the physical r e a l i t y of Milt or survives conceptually i n Milt's plan for a future reunion. It incorporates the f i c t i t i o u s uncle for whom Tom pretends to be waiting and then transfers Milt's r e a l i t y to Ritch as he i s momentarily perceived as a surrogate brother. Ultimately, the s p i r i t of the beloved Mil t continues to preva i l as Tom swims along the lake at Val Laurent on the f i r s t stage of his f i n a l journey back to the home he had l e f t . His goal i s clear and the Milt of his dreams i s lovingly envisioned as Tom swims "reaching out i n strokes... far into the comforting wetness, back into something as familiar as an ancient dream...[in which] they were laughing together" (FD 224). From the perspective of Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y , there i s no ambiguity i n Buell's representation of Tom's love for his brother, the s p i r i t u a l dimension of Tom's love having i t s objective correlative i n the words of the parish p r i e s t while 62 addressing a congregation of nuns on retreat at Ste. Marie. Here the priest's reflections on divine love, overheard but scarcely comprehended by Tom, counterpoint the narrative i n which Tom's unconditional love of his brother M i l t i s the raison d'etre of the central action i n the narrative. Standing at the rear of the church, Tom hears fragments of the priest's conference and, while they are consciously meaningless to Tom, the priest's words give a s p i r i t u a l dimension to that love which i s the con t r o l l i n g influence i n Tom's l i f e . In his exposition, the p r i e s t considers the operation of both love and hate within the encompassing framework of good and e v i l (FD 151). E v i l , says the p r i e s t , i s a mystery: no one "knows the purpose of e v i l , what role i t plays i n the development of mankind, what role i t played i n Christ's l i f e . . . . " But the purpose and end of goodness i s apparent to a l l : "Anyone can know the purpose of goodness: simply to love." Some, he says, are made virtuously strong by strongly hating e v i l : "Hate seems to carry our strength." However, he continues, "there i n no hate with Christ, there i s anger, yes, and hurt, and disappointment, even a sort of despair, but no hate. A l l his emotion seems compatible with love, especially his painful emotions...." The negation i n hating e v i l i s narrow, r e s t r i c t i v e , and exclusive. But the positive love given to God by loving those He loves attains i t s proper end. Here the true end and means of love i s established: "—what does God want with our petty hatreds? He wants our love, petty as that i s , but our love given to Him 63 through the people we love, not an exclusive love of Him through the persons and things we hate i n His name. And our weakness? To love i s to love with Christ " (FD 151) This love, within a secular context, might simply be considered psychologically obsessive, perhaps even dysfunctional. To Mr. Haroldson, the s o c i a l worker, Tom's relationship to Milt i s viewed i n c l i n i c a l terms: "The boy was very attached, neurotically so," probably rendering him "psychotic" (FD 107-8). But i n Four Days Buell works with a concept of love that reveals the divine presence i n human love. The priest's conference on love that Tom overheard at the nun' s retreat as well as the priest's epilogue which concludes the novel portray human love within a s p i r i t u a l context which i s recognizably Catholic i n the sense that i t i s not a manifestation of eros, implying sexual love, or philos, suggesting friendship, but of caritas, the love of God and of one person for another i n imitation of the love of Christ. When the priest t e l l s the congregation of nuns, as Tom looks on uncomprehendingly from the rear of the church, that "God... wants our love...given to Him through the people we love (FD 151)," he i s reminding them that caritas i s "the highest form of Christian love, whose originating source and ultimate end i s God" (Wojda 300). This i s the most t o t a l l y encompassing love, involving God and man: Although charity i n i t s p r i n c i p a l sense i s the love we 64 direct towards God—a whole-hearted love awakened, sustained, and f o r t i f i e d by God's own prevenient love for u s — i t stands as well for the love of neighbour as ourselves, continuously informed and nourished by that love (Wojda 300). Caritas, then, as the priest had ins i s t e d i n his tal k to the nuns, i s wholly inclusive, subsuming a l l human actions within i t s moral compass: ... i t comprises i n i t s most fundamental sense the love of God bestowed through Christ and the Holy S p i r i t upon humankind, as well as the love required of human beings for both God and one another (Wojda 301). The conviction that i n loving others one i s loving God has a long t r a d i t i o n i n Catholic thought and practice, receiving a succinct summation i n Thomas Aquinas' observation that caritas meant that [t]hough i t s formal object and f i n a l end i s God, charity reaches out to the neighbour as well, including even the enemy and the sinner who are loved for God's sake (Wojda 301). It i s i n the nature of Tom's love not to be deflected by appearance but r e a l i s t i c a l l y to accept the loved one as a person who happens to be a sinner. While Tom acknowledges the weaknesses i n Milt's character, his love for his brother remains steadfast despite any of Milt's f a i l i n g s whether they be moral, s o c i a l , psychological, or even r e l i g i o u s . Unwavering constancy 65 characterizes Tom's love. Prefigured by the love of Christ, i t i s unimpeded by conventional attitudes. This i s uppermost i n Tom's mind when, immediately after receiving the Eucharist while serving at Sunday mass, he r e f l e c t s upon the singular nature of his love, which he knows others may neither appreciate nor understand: He had always wondered about the other people, the good people, who looked so at home at the communion r a i l : cleaned, composed, untroubled by what was c a l l e d s i n . He didn't f e e l l i k e one of them, they were lucky enough to be that way, and he was content to l e t them be. He simply knew that none of them would l i k e to know what he knew, th e i r goodness would regard his goodness as bad: they wouldn't love M i l t , or him even, no, they couldn't even t r y (FD 46). Tom j u s t i f i e s his particular goodness i n his love of a flawed brother. In t h i s , as he r e a l i z e s , there exists a high r i s k potential r e f l e c t i n g more the love of Christ than that envisioned by modern Pharisees or s o c i a l workers. At no time has th i s c h i l d of a prostitute mother who was raised i n foster homes known the love of family or friends. The s e l f - g i v i n g love that M i l t receives has i t s o r i g i n i n no acquired human experience. The r e a l i t y of his love, as he knows i t , i s not defined by s o c i a l mores or c l i n i c a l psychology; rather, i t arises from "a depth somewhere i n his soul" (FD 67) which gives him certainty "at some high peak i n his soul" (FD 224) even i n the hour of his 66 death. The love that the nameless protagonist c a l l e d Tom manifests i s extraordinary, especially within the depersonalized context of mid-twentieth century east-end Montreal where he i s known to everyone simply as "the kid." This i s a love i n which one l i v e s for the other, finding s e l f - f u l f i l l m e n t outside of oneself. It i s a dependent love i n which peace and security come not from one's own ef f o r t s but are reciprocated by the so l i c i t o u s response of the loved one. Moreover, the corollary of t h i s love involves suffering derived from a perception of one's own inadequacy as well as from a sense of the loved one's absence. Four Days i s ess e n t i a l l y a radic a l love story with i t s f i c t i o n a l basis suffused with Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y . The kid-called-Tom i s no modern mystic, but i n Buell's presentation of the power of love he draws upon those features of a Catholic s p i r i t u a l t r a d i t i o n i n which the writer, as John Wyllie has noted, "makes his reader see behind the print to the many subtle inferences he injects into his work; inferences which add an exciting t h i r d dimension" (6). As a writer well-versed i n Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y , Buell imaginatively represents images and motifs evoking t h i s "third dimension" i n his work. In certain respects, these are comparable to dream-like emanations from the c o l l e c t i v i t y of unconscious s p i r i t u a l experience. To this end, the rather singular love story at the narrative centre of Buell's novel exemplifies the experience of mystical love. Jungian dream 67 theory maintains that unconscious psychic experience can be variously symbolized i n images representing a psychic denotative r e a l i t y (Hall 19). A Jungian theorist might well i d e n t i f y Buell's M i l t as a transformed God image to Tom, an imaginative representation which i s r a t i o n a l l y absurd but a f f e c t i v e l y meaningful insofar as M i l t , who creates order i n Tom's experience, becomes the object of a type of transcendent love. To the extent that order, transcendence, and meaning comprise God's g i f t to humanity, these q u a l i t i e s also define M i l t to Tom. The suggestion of aspects of mystical love underlying the d i s t i n c t i v e and enduring love of Tom for his brother Mil t i s indicative of the dual operation of the Catholic imagination. The writer may unconsciously evoke a familiar pattern of s p i r i t u a l experience which he incorporates or represents i n his f i c t i o n . At the same time, the characters that the writer creates act i n a manner that i s consistent with the informing s p i r i t u a l i t y . In Four Days Buell draws upon the familiar Catholic r e a l i z a t i o n of the experience of transcendental love, that love f i r s t epitomized by the love of Christ for the Father and imitated i n the s p i r i t u a l aspirations of many of the Church's saints and visionaries. This i s the deep structure of the novel or, as Wyllie has indicated, "an exciting t h i r d dimension," the evocation of thi s s p i r i t u a l i t y being represented i n the particular sustaining love of Tom for M i l t . While this love can be appreciated from various perspectives, i t s s p i r i t u a l nature suggests an a f f i n i t y with 68 that particular s p i r i t u a l analogue, not unknown i n Catholic devotion, experienced i n the Dark Night of the Soul. Tom's anguish about M i l t , Buell repeatedly points out, i s centered i n his soul. In his disordered dreams his "soul pressed the question" of Milt's death (FD 137), just as e a r l i e r he had known "from a depth somewhere i n his soul what i t a l l meant" (FD 67). Later, as Tom languishes i n the water of the lake i n his dying moments, Buell presents the dissipation of the physical darkness of the night as a correlative to Tom's newly realized certainty that he w i l l l i v e again with the loved one i n the home he has always longed for: Things were so swift and simple, a l l the barriers were disappearing, inside, and even the night was less dark. At some high peak i n his soul, he giggled: he was sure he was going to make i t ; he' d be back home soon... (FD 224). As the water closes over him, Tom asks the envisioned loved one only "can I stay, stay, now t h a t — , " his truncated plea for an enduring and stable peace uttered prayerfully for that which i n a s p i r i t u a l context would be tantamount to beatitude. Before Buell presents Tom's f i n a l moments of heightened consciousness, described i n terms of a "far" return "back" to the reaches of a dream within (FD 224), he evokes certain elements of the Catholic mystical t r a d i t i o n which enhance the f i c t i o n a l representation of Tom's love. Within t h i s s p i r i t u a l experience which i s both "the central experience of the journey 69 of f a i t h and the journey of love" (Doohan 228), a deeper union with God i s found through stages of seeking, s a t i s f a c t i o n , disorientation, and readjustment. Drawn into a type of mystical union, Tom longs for the s a t i s f a c t i o n to be found i n the surrogate divine presence, a r r i v i n g at a "very r e l i g i o u s l y s a t i s f y i n g period that believers often resent leaving behind" (Doohan 228). Paradoxically, i t i s within t h i s stage of contentment that "the believer discovers that God i s not the God one thought God was and that God does not act i n the way we expect God to act" (Doohan 228). Seeking a resolution to t h i s impasse, the lover undergoes "an experience of God based on knowledge but permeated by love [which] leads to a transformation of one's way of experiencing God" (Doohan 228). But this r e a l i z a t i o n does not come without a certain anguish, a pain resulting "from lack of understanding of what i s happening to oneself i n the contemplative experience, resentment of the loss of the former s a t i s f y i n g religious experience, and a feeling that friends and even God have abandoned one" (Doohan 228). In Four Days, these features of Catholic devotional practice i n the mystical t r a d i t i o n with which Buell i s familiar comprise an eff e c t i v e imitative paradigm of s p i r i t u a l love. Whether consciously or unconsciously, Buell informs the novel with evocative features characteristic of this Dark Night of the Soul experience. The love story of Tom i s not a systematic point-by-point representation of t h i s devotional experience; nevertheless, the analogical pattern of a tortuous 70 s p i r i t u a l quest suggests i t s e l f throughout the rather singular love story i n Four Days. Buell situates Tom i n infancy and early childhood i n a context without love or s t a b i l i t y . He i s the c h i l d of a prostitute who abandoned him, passed on from one loveless foster home to another, seeking the s t a b i l i t y of the home of which he has been deprived and a love that he has never known. His love does not develop from any external s o c i a l or f a m i l i a l experience. He does not learn to love. Rather, Tom's love i s a soulful s e l f - g i v i n g i n which he seeks to l i v e i n and for his brother M i l t , the one preeminent r e a l i t y of his l i f e . M i l t i s the quintessential being of his existence, the one person who sustains him, enabling him to experience moments of heightened awareness i n which "the excitement of being a l i v e " i s l i k e being "on a high-wire, looking up. But the high wire had a base: home. And home was M i l t " (FD 11). To l i v e and to be with M i l t had been his determined goal i n recent years and for a short period of time the attainment of that goal has been t o t a l l y s a t i s f y i n g . In the midst of his contentment, however, his i n t e r i o r v i s i o n of Milt as exemplar and protector challenges the external s o c i a l r e a l i t y of a brother who i s distant i n his affections and basi c a l l y preoccupied with f u l f i l l i n g his own plans for the future. Tom "wished M i l t had been r e a l l y what he seemed. But r e a l i t y was elsewhere" (FD 61). In r e a l i t y , M i l t i s not quite the person Tom had envisioned. As this r e a l i z a t i o n develops, Tom transposes his love for Milt from the actual person to the image or s p i r i t of M i l t , and i t i s t h i s single-71 minded devotion, emanating from the soul, that sustains Tom i n his new l i f e i n Val Laurent, l i v e d according to Milt's plan, after he has experienced the inconsolable abandonment and loss of the loved one. Undeterred by the physical loss of M i l t , Tom "couldn't l e t the idea take hold" (FD 68). Resolute i n his f a i t h , Tom knows even after the police had shot Mil t during the bank robbery, that ...he had orders to obey, a purpose, a plan, Milt's going to make things turn out a l r i g h t . . . .he' 11 f i n d me, b u t — He heard the shooting again and saw M i l t on the pavement.... He f e l t as though his sense of fact were pu l l i n g at him physically to force him to acknowledge what he r e a l l y knew, but he fought i t by...clinging resolutely to the plan. The plan was something that had to be done i f at the end of four days he were to meet M i l t (FD 69). M i l t has been removed as a physical r e a l i t y i n Tom's l i f e , but Milt's plan becomes the envisioned r e a l i t y tantamount to a leap of f a i t h by which the attainment of union with the loved one can be achieved. The dramatic irony of Tom's l i f e i s that he i s not as f u l l y aware, as the reader i s , that his God-given love makes him vulnerable to exploitation. Culturally, Tom i s a street-wise kid, naively manipulated as an accessory i n a succession of Milt's criminal exploits. His service for M i l t i s not sustained by the f u l l consent of his w i l l . He does not understand the 72 moral, l e t alone the criminal, dimensions of leading boys to pornographic sexual degradation (FD 28) any more than he understands his role i n the r e s i d e n t i a l theft scheme or the heist at the bank. From a s o c i a l perspective, Buell places Tom i n a milieu which has a l l the potential for stunting his s o c i a l development. Marginalized economically as well as victimized s o c i a l l y , the sub-culture that Tom knows may well subvert his legitimate growth and development as a person of good character. That one's attitude and behavior can be undermined by the effects of false s o c i a l values and economic inequity i s a threat that Tom, on the threshold of maturity, i s only beginning to comprehend. Culturally and s o c i a l l y , Tom i s a person at r i s k . While Tom's attitudes and behavior are subject to Milt's manipulation, he does possess a moral i n t e g r i t y which i s sustained sacramentally and which finds expression i n his loving t r u s t f i r s t of M i l t and eventually of Ritch, the M i l t a l t e r ego he meets i n Val Laurent. Tom prays, serves as a l t a r boy at mass, receives the Eucharist, and finds r e c o n c i l i a t i o n through sacramental forgiveness during confession just p r i o r to his death. In spite of a l l the disruption that unsettles his l i f e , he i s s p i r i t u a l l y i n a state of grace, i r o n i c a l l y thanks i n no small measure to Milt's use of the practice of r e l i g i o n as a s o c i a l l y acceptable front or cover to enhance his own reputation. The g i f t of grace i s central to Tom's character. He can love M i l t as a person yet question his values and practices. Similarly, he trusts Ritch as a person with the nascent love of 73 a brother yet t o t a l l y rejects to the death a s i n f u l assault not only upon his person but also upon his soul. In the hands of Ritch, Tom i s not only physically but s p i r i t u a l l y at r i s k . What Buell differentiates i n Four Days i s the nature of love from i t s aberrations. Tom's love for M i l t i s unconditional, revealing the graced presence of God i n humanity. Moreover, Tom's developing love for Ritch incorporates the same s p i r i t of openness and trust. In Milt's case, however, love i s displaced by greed which i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y exploitive insofar as i t takes, but i t does not give. Within the moral compass of Four Days, centered i n Tom's goodness, M i l t dies as a victim of the violence he has i n i t i a t e d . A comparable fate also awaits Ritch who assumes the role of a surrogate brother to Tom. A former teacher, he befriends Tom, proffers considerable generosity and kindness towards him, and even takes the i n i t i a t i v e i n making arrangements to avenge those who are plotting against Tom at Val Laurent. To Tom, Ritch's companionship and h o s p i t a l i t y merit trust and confidence. But Ritch's hidden agenda perverts his display of warmth and affection, revealing a pedophile's intrusive and exploitive sexuality. Conscious of the moral degradation of the intended assault upon him, Tom realizes that he has been betrayed ... by someone he had needed so deeply he had begun to love him as he had loved M i l t , someone who could have held him while he looked at Milt's death: i t was worse than Milt's dying, i t was as i f he had been knowingly 74 abandoned. He looked at his facts anyway now; he had moved past his old pain. Milt's dead, you know, the fact choked i t s way to his eyes, yeah, I know, and he f e l t the man's l i p s pressuring to remove his l a s t strand of self-possession (FD 197-8). Tom would have wished that his relationship with Ritch might have been di f f e r e n t . In his friendship and affection, Ritch f u l f i l l e d the expectation of sharing and trust Tom had longed to find i n M i l t . Ritch's intrusive assault, however, necessitated an immoral submission which negated the meaning of love. Once again, as Tom la t e r explains to the parish p r i e s t at Val Laurent, he feels as abandoned by Ritch, the surrogate brother, as he was by the death of M i l t himself on the street i n Montreal: There was nobody, and he was gonna be l i k e somebody, I was counting o n — then a l l he wanted to do was screw me (FD 213). For Tom, thi s was the ultimate debasement of the purity of love. The Catholic priest i n whom Tom confides at Ste. Marie provides a s p i r i t u a l centre i n Four Days. Removed from the central narrative action of the novel, his i s the c l a s s i c a l prophetic voice which proclaims the truth about what things are. During his f i r s t appearance i n the novel, he presents an objective correlative to Tom's love for M i l t , thereby establishing a s p i r i t u a l context for love while maintaining that the quintessential nature of God i s love and that God exists i n 75 and through a l l human love. Quite simply, where love exists, there w i l l be found the presence of God. The same prophetic voice returns i n Buell's epilogue to the novel when the pri e s t r e f l e c t s upon the morality of Ritch's sexual orientation. To Tom, of course, Ritch's homogential act i s a perversion of sexuality which i s to be t o t a l l y resisted. From the s p i r i t u a l perspective of the prie s t , the action of the pedophile, as Tom knew perfectly well, i s morally defective i n i t s exploitation. Nevertheless, what the pri e s t does recognize i s that the nature of this grave s i n l i e s i n the human perversion of divine grace. In retrospect, the priest r e c a l l s : "You were close to the boy...You were the only one who could be" (FD 231 ). In Ritch's very human, sel f - g i v i n g to another person, there i s a fundamental goodness, as Tom had overheard when the pri e s t was t e l l i n g the nuns on retreat that "...anyone can know the purpose of goodness: simply to love. Yet sometimes even love c a n — " The boy moved to the back of the l a s t pew and stood s t i l l . " — f o r our love carries with i t our own weaknesses...." (FD 151) What i s understood after the e l i s i o n following "sometimes even love can--" i s that t h i s same love can be obstructed, turned aside, or negated, especially insofar as "our love carries with i t our own weaknesses." Despite t h i s human tendency to obstruct a graced g i f t to humanity, what God r e a l l y wants i s "our love given to him through the people we love" (FD 151). Ritch's s i n was to pervert God's g i f t i n order to serve his own ends. 76 Nevertheless, God's love for Ritch i s not extinguished. While Ritch suffers the grievous temporal loss of his l i f e , God's mercy f a c i l i t a t e s redemption, as the pri e s t observes to himself when praying for Ritch's departed soul: "requiem aeternam dona e i — " ....he has paid for his love, Lord, have mercy on him, You know the worst about him, and that's a circumstance for forgiveness, i t was that way when You were on e a r t h — (FD 231). Like Tom, Ritch has also been a person at r i s k . Whatever may be the "worst" that occasioned Ritch's death, a "worst" that i s known only to God, there i s s a l v i f i c merit i n the degree to which the love he shared with Tom approximated the love of God. This i s the redemptive hope of the prie s t , acknowledging that Ritch, "the only one who could be...close to the boy," was also an instrument or channel of God's love. To that end, the pri e s t prays, l i e s Ritch's salvation: "whatever sort of love you had, may i t help save you, even i f i t did destroy you" (FD 231). 77 The Later Novels The Shrewsdale Exit The s p i r i t u a l malaise that pervades The Pyx and Four Days recurs with dramatic intensity i n The Shrewsdale Exit. Joe Grant's response to the e v i l which has beset both him and his family activates the focused narrative of Buell's t h i r d novel i n which the plight of an individual, reduced to impotence i n a seemingly hostile world, demands resolution. Subverted by an act of sudden brute violence, the equanimity of Joe's family l i f e i s destroyed. Like Job, he experiences the abrupt reversal of good fortune of which the proximate cause—the rape and murder of his wife and daughter by bikers during a roadside ambush—leaves him ravaged i n mind and s p i r i t . Unlike Job, however, Joe determines to become the master of his own destiny: ...his l i f e has no purpose without his family, and the only meaningful course l e f t open to him, the only way of asserting his very existence, seems to be to punish those who were g u i l t y of the crime. But Mr. Buell does not allow us to be blinded by emotional lo g i c ; for he shows how i n pursuing the k i l l e r s , Joe becomes as brutal, calculating and inhuman as they are (Rosengarten 9 3 ) . The alienation of Joe Grant from the conventional values of middle class conformity marginalizes him just as e f f e c t i v e l y as i t does the bikers, each l i v i n g beyond the law as so c i a l and 78 moral outcasts. What distinguishes the one from the other, however, i s the p o s s i b i l i t y of redemption. Buell's bikers are irrevocably degenerate, representing a brutish and depraved commitment to e v i l . To some degree, Joe i s drawn into t h e i r moral dysfunction: his need to k i l l the bikers consciously evolves as a determined plan of action after the loss of his family. However, as purposeful as he i s i n his determination to be avenged, Joe's impulse to k i l l i s momentarily inhibited a few days after the bikers' highway assault upon him and his family when, during a nightime ambush, he seeks to be revenged upon the same bikers who had i n i t i a l l y attacked him and murdered his wife and daughter: ...he could see figures dashing for cover....He shot steadily at the moving forms....one tough was trying to get back to his bike, and Grant held on the moving target, seeing him c l e a r l y , and somehow unable to p u l l the trigger (Shrewsdale Exit 144). In t h i s moment of truth, Joe's restraint reveals that the potential exists within him for lo s t goodness to be regained. Unlike the bikers whose actions are unrestrainedly e v i l , Joe shows at least i n one moment of hesitation that he possesses a fundamental moral sense. Herein l i e s the potential capacity for his conversion. That "somehow" which renders Joe Grant incapable of pu l l i n g the trigger to k i l l his murderous adversary r e f l e c t s latent values and a human response which cannot be ent i r e l y 79 rationalized or suppressed. Joe can shoot out the li g h t s on the bikers' motorcycles, he can shoot at the indistinguishable "moving forms" of his assailants, but he cannot shoot a c l e a r l y discernible human target. In thi s instance, to spare the l i f e of a human being i s a particular act of grace. From a Catholic perspective, the "somehow" i s indicative of a moral consciousness which, at c r i t i c a l moments of human experience, i s derived from the presence of divine grace i n one's l i f e . Although the context of The Shrewsdale Exit i s not demonstrably Catholic, one cannot f a i l to appreciate that the s p i r i t u a l values with which Buell himself i s familiar suggest themselves throughout his f i c t i o n , whether represented i n a novel with many Catholic associations or i n the demonstrably secular context of The Shrewsdale Exit. Behind Joe Grant's decision to k i l l the bikers had been a deep-seated sense that he had f a i l e d to withstand e f f e c t i v e l y the bikers' onslaught which had resulted i n the deaths of his wife and daughter, the loss of the i r l i v e s being the foundation of his own g u i l t a r i s i n g from what he believes was his i n a b i l i t y to protect them. F i l l e d with feelings of self-recrimination, he determines, after having spoken to the sympathetic investigating detective, Captain Sparrs, to k i l l the bikers himself i n retribution for the loss of f a m i l i a l love they have destroyed. Joe w i l l act on his own, having become frustrated by what appears to be the ineffectual investigative procedures of the police. If the legal system cannot prevail against a s e l f -80 evident e v i l , he w i l l confront i t himself: "Maybe that's the answer.... They're there, Captain, right there, and the law can't touch them, and you can't touch them. But I can touch them. Let 'em gang up. Maybe you'l l get them for k i l l i n g me." Grant spoke with animal ferocity, emotions that took s e l f - s a c r i f i c e for granted, deeper than s e l f , raw with basic love, dangerous....It was an answer, a l l right, i t answered Grant's feelings. No argument could reach i t (SE 120). Joe arrives at his "answer" after a week of anguish i n which he has increasingly f e l t more gu i l t y . He had already moved out of the family home, feeling a " g u i l t engulfing him as though he were abandoning them, collaborating with the hated event" (SE 84-5). Now, after speaking to Sparrs, he finds that The exchange... had cleared his mind, c l a r i f i e d his feelings... .The day was taking on a meaning for him. It was showing him his own remorse, a g u i l t that was the other side of love, w i t h b i t t e r c l a r i t y , he was saying inside himself, I was the only one who could have saved them, and I didn't, no one else, me. i t seemed l i k e an immense truth, and i t was strangely calming (SE 121). Overwhelmed by his acute sense of g u i l t , Joe compensates for his own powerlessness i n having been unable to bring the bikers to justice by determining to hunt them down and k i l l them himself. 81 To accomplish this mission, he buys a gun and spends a day perfecting his shooting s k i l l s . Like other tragic figures with whom one can sympathize i n the intensity of t h e i r suffering, Joe makes a decision which i s fundamentally flawed insofar as the very e v i l which he seeks to vanquish subverts the otherwise balanced moral equilibrium of his l i f e . Joe's determination to undertake a revenge k i l l i n g may be an attempt to resolve the anguish and unresolved g u i l t of his loss. However, his "answer," which comprises the central narrative action of the novel, i s a portrayal of how not to deal with suffering. There i s no doubt that the e v i l which has deprived Joe of the love and s t a b i l i t y of his family also leaves him floundering i n a state of moral dissociation as he seeks to assuage his pain. Buell evokes the nature of his encompassing grief as a "buffeting" (SE 78 f f . ) i n which each of the "images and ideas that necessarily came to mind" affirms Joe's r e a l i z a t i o n that suffering i s an inherent part of one's humanity: "no one i s too old not to suffer a l i t t l e more, or too young to begin" (SE 78). What one seeks i n t h i s situation i s , as Joe conceives i t , a "shelter" from the emotional "buffeting" and from the "winds" that can leave one "helplessly tossed about by the circumstances" (SE 88). As Joe navigates through the emotional upheaval of the t o t a l i t y of his loss, he seeks a safe haven which eludes him as he unsuccessfully continues to resolve the tension between what he knows and how he f e e l s : A l l of i t was s t i l l with him, a fixed conscious 82 knowing, always present, and charged with feeling l i k e an obsession....The facts were there, the feelings were there, both r e a l , i t a l l f i t together i n a tight bind, one giving strength to the other (SE 90). Increasingly, Joe grows disenchanted i n his expectation of justice from within a legal system which appears to serve subjective human needs rather than the o b j e c t i v i t y of the law. For Joe, s a t i s f a c t i o n and compensation for the loss which he has suffered can only be achieved by his own violent means, this decision revealing the tragic flaw i n Joe's character insofar as i t perpetuates the loss he has already experienced. He believes that k i l l i n g the bikers, a l b e i t as an act of v i g i l a n t e j u s t i c e , w i l l free him from the sense of g u i l t which sustains his suffering. In r e a l i t y , he w i l l become the greater victim, losing freedom rather than gaining i t . Revenge, which ultimately victimizes the victim, i s a morally inappropriate answer to human suffering. This i s Buell's theme as he develops the narrative to that moment of transformation and resolution at the end of the novel when Joe knew that "everything was d i f f e r e n t " and that the "cold readiness for k i l l i n g was being replaced by human r e a l i t i e s , and by another kind of struggle to keep them existing" (SE 278-9). At the end of the novel, Joe i s on the threshold of a new l i f e , having been saved through the mediation of Sparrs from the corrosive struggle to seek revenge, a struggle which can now be more po s i t i v e l y transformed into the maintenance of those "human 83 r e a l i t i e s " newly found i n the f a m i l i a l love for E l l e n Shefford, her daughter Henrietta and her boys Tim and Bert, the surrogate family epitomizing the family he had l o s t i n the bikers' attack. U n t i l Sparrs provides the assurance at the end of the novel that justice does and w i l l prevail over any self-indulgent exercise of revenge, Joe's l i f e had been blighted by the intensity of his personal agony. Suffering has mastered him, but as the "cold readiness for k i l l i n g " ceases to be the determining motive i n his l i f e Joe finds salvation i n mastering suffering. Assuredly, the long hours of laborious but purposeful farm work i n which he becomes engaged after his escape from prison give Joe a sense that forbearance and endurance of the sort of pain of everyday suffering resulting from hard work i s as much a part of the work experience as the work i t s e l f . As he grows i n the r e a l i z a t i o n that suffering and hardship are integral to human experience and must be borne with a certain dignity and fortitude, he develops a more intimate relationship with E l l e n Shefford who has herself suffered and agonized over her own reversals of fortune—the death of her young husband, crop f a i l u r e , f i n a n c i a l setbacks— but always i n the expectation that future prospects w i l l be better and that ultimately a l l w i l l work out for the best. Joe's transformation, d i s t i l l e d i n large measure from his laborious and sometimes frustrating work experience i n the country as well as from his increasingly intimate relationship with E l l e n Shefford, delivers him from his alienation as a fugitive, releasing him from the s e l f - r e l i a n t disposition which 84 supported the need for the vengeful action which he believed was the sole means by which he could be s a t i s f i e d for the loss of his family. That conviction, that he would be his own arbiter of justice, led to his confinement i n prison. Later, as a f u g i t i v e having escaped from prison, he experienced a new found freedom on the land and among the people i n the community near Wareby off the Shrewsdale e x i t , l i b e r a t i n g him from the perverse mental set and marginalized physical i s o l a t i o n of his r e l a t i v e l y s o l i t a r y l i f e . Here Joe finds solace i n unrestrained r e f l e c t i o n while working at harvesting Ellen's crop of wheat: He gave himself to the present and the long perimeters became shorter and shorter. His s k i l l grew with every go-around and he didn't have to watch the paths so closely, his eyes did the seeing for him, and he allowed himself to think unguardedly and dwell on things freely, daydreaming l i k e a man without a care (SE 255). Even the intrusion into t h i s reverie of the thought of his determined and continuing plan eventually to k i l l the bikers no longer governs his thinking as i t had done i n the past: Then his plans came back to him and he became grim for a while, but that was soon l o s t i n the e f f o r t of work and his awareness of the l i v i n g f i e l d s (SE 255). To be able "to think unguardedly and dwell on things freely" without any prolonged and obsessive dwelling on his "plans" which "the e f f o r t of work" has displaced i s indicative of the 85 salutary effect experienced beyond the Shrewsdale e x i t of a new r e a l i t y found i n working the land as well as i n E l l e n Shefford's own l i f e of quiet desperation. Buell's central narrative motif i s focused upon Joe Grant's suffering and redemption, unmerited suffering, occasioned by the kind of sudden and traumatic event over which he has no control, does not accord with the otherwise sa t i s f y i n g middle class l i f e s t yle and experience of a young engineer. The challenge for Joe i s to know how to suffer, but for this he i s i l l prepared. Se l f -serving revenge provides him with an i n s t i n c t i v e impetus to do what i n s t i t u t i o n a l justice would appear to be incapable of achieving. Buell's narrative makes clear, however, that individual i n i t i a t i v e which attempts to confront one e v i l with another presupposes a personal moral authority, as Joe's action indicates, which does not r e a l l y e x i s t . The moral imperative i n Buell's narrative requires deliverance from the presumption that one can save himself from whatever personal a f f l i c t i o n besets him. In the most si m p l i s t i c terms, Joe does not recognize the truism of the axiom that man proposes and God disposes. Joe Grant needs others i n the same way that one possessed of s p i r i t u a l convictions needs God. Ultimately, Buell indicates, i t i s through others that one can i n i t i a t e and bring about a change of purpose i n l i f e and regain the principled morality which has been l o s t . To th i s end, Joe needs Sparrs who has worked e f f e c t i v e l y within the law and who mediates the promise of compensatory justice to Joe when urging him to give himself up 86 and conform to the law. He also needs E l l e n Shefford and her family who become a substitutive compensation for the family he had l o s t to the assault of the bikers. Underlying t h i s pattern of dependencies, a c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y Catholic perspective on the nature of human suffering and what i t means informs the narrative. While Joe Grant has an arm's length association with Catholicism—his late wife and her family are Catholics—he manifests no overt expression of Catholic s e n s i b i l i t y or s p i r i t u a l i t y himself, other than at the funeral mass for his wife and daughter when ...the r i t u a l spoke of them, boldly presuming God, as i f they were s t i l l i n existence and somehow happy, and for the moment thi s met Grant's feelings and his aching desires. He wasn't getting r e l i g i o n , he was acknowledging a gesture that was more than just nice and that was also seriously intended (SE 79). Despite Joe's non-religious bent, Buell does inform the narrative of Joe's destiny through suffering to redemption with a pattern of experience r e f l e c t i n g a Catholic perspective of the s p i r i t u a l dimension of human suffering. Suffering i n i t s e l f i s an e v i l which i s the common experience of a l l humanity but viewed from the context of Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y suffering ultimately becomes paradoxically efficacious insofar as i t reveals the nexus between the humanity of Christ and a l l human experience. In Catholic consciousness, the f a i t h f u l believer accepts, both i n the s a c r i f i c e of the mass 87 as well as i n other forms of s p i r i t u a l expression, that the redemptive and s a l v i f i c Easter event exists only through the Good Friday agony. The c r u c i f i x i s not only emblematic of Catholic identity; i t also emphasizes that the suffering Christ a l l i e s one most intimately with God, not at a point of greatest strength but of weakness: The c r u c i f i x i s , indeed, a sign of contradiction. It captures, we profess, the most perfectly f u l f i l l e d human being who ever l i v e d at the moment of his greatest triumph, conquering through his impotence (O'Malley 1 0 2 ) . Herein l i e s the central paradox of Christian experience, as Pope John Paul II recently observed i n his ency c l i c a l Salvifici Doloriss Those who share i n Christ's sufferings have before t h e i r eyes the Paschal Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, i n which Christ descends, i n a f i r s t phase, to the ultimate l i m i t s of human weakness and impotence: indeed, he dies nailed to the Cross. But i f at the same time i n this weakness there i s accomplished his l i f t i n g up, confirmed by the power of the Resurrection, then t h i s means that the weaknesses of a l l human sufferings are capable of being infused with the same power of God manifested i n Christ's Cross. In such a concept, to suffer means to become pa r t i c u l a r l y susceptible, p a r t i c u l a r l y open to the 88 working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity i n Christ. In Him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering, which i s man's weakness and emptying of s e l f , and he wishes to make his power known precisely i n t h i s weakness and emptying of s e l f (46-7). Suffering not only has meaning but i s a means of redemption. From the Catholic point of view th i s applies to a l l humanity which shares i n the divine nature by participating i n ...the greatness of the Redemption, accomplished through the suffering of Christ. The Redeemer suffered i n place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one i s also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He i s ca l l e d to share i n that suffering through which a l l human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of Redemption. Thus each man, i n his suffering, can also become a sharer i n the redemptive suffering of Christ (Salvifici Doloris 39). Suffering i s not a s o l i t a r y experience i n Catholic theology. Nor i s one l e f t on one's own to find justice i n taking an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. To be i d e n t i f i e d with and share i n the suffering of others i s to suffer with Christ himself i n his mystical body. S p i r i t u a l l y , incorporated into the Body of 89 Christ, Catholics and non-Catholics al i k e , such as Joe Grant as well as his wife and daughter, share c o l l e c t i v e l y i n a l l human suffering: In t h i s Body, Christ wishes to be united with every individual, and i n a special way he i s united with those who suffer....In so far as man becomes a sharer i n Christ's s u f f e r i n g s — i n any part of the world and at any time i n h i s t o r y — t o that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world....the Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to a l l love expressed in human suffering. In th i s dimension—the dimension of l o v e — the Redemption which has already been completely accomplished i s , i n a certain sense, constantly being accomplished (Salvifici Doloris 49-50). In t h i s d i s t i n c t i v e l y Catholic view, suffering humanity shares intimately at a l l times, i n a l l places, and with a l l persons i n the suffering of Christ who was prompted by love to s a t i s f y divine j u s t i c e . This conviction, not at a l l unknown to Buell, provides the informing impetus to the transformation of Joe Grant at the end of the novel. At the same time that Joe has been s p i r i t u a l l y and morally ravaged, the means of redemption has also been available to him, only to be f u l l y realized i n the new found love he finds i n the "human r e a l i t i e s " which E l l e n Shefford and her family represent. What Buell wants us to see i s 90 that redeeming love i s the other side of revenge. A l l the f a m i l i a l love that Joe had formerly known with Sue and Patty, a love which i s at the basis of those "human r e a l i t i e s " which he wants to recapture, i s replicated on the farm i n the household of E l l e n Shefford. In t h i s l i e s Joe's salvation as a human being and, i f one wishes to view th i s from a Catholic perspective, his victory over suffering. The suffering of Christ remains the model for Buell, showing ... i n an undeniably dramatic way how to face unmerited suffering, an example of dignity, trust, and l o v e — even i n the face of despair. He endured His passion simply to show us that's the way things are. Suffering i s inevitable i n human life....What Calvary i s saying i s that there i s no way to enrichment of the human soul other than through surmounting unwelcome challenges (O'Malley 118). Joe Grant may not be consciously aware of his way of the Cross that has brought him to new l i f e on E l l e n Shefford's farm. Nevertheless, the analogue to Joe's deliverance and transformation derives from a Catholic view of redemptive suffering, this being a part of Catholic experience which Buell brings to his f i c t i o n t o provide a philosophical foundation giving a meaningful s p i r i t u a l frame of reference to the narrative. The Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y which permeates and f o r t i f i e s Buell's f i c t i o n i s further enhanced by the incorporation within 91 the text of consistent patterns of evocative images which, i n turn, owe much of th e i r form to the Catholic consciousness behind Buell's writing. Joe Grant's narrative quest i s to fin d an ef f e c t i v e resolution to the consequent suffering he experiences after the loss of his family to the ravaging bikers. To t h i s end the remembrance of the night of the highway ambush motivates his ensuing actions a r i s i n g out of his grief and pain: The white bodies under his f l a s h l i g h t , the discovered horror, untouchable by police or law, a l l this was central, everything derived from i t , his feelings, his actions, the desire—perhaps impossible—to set i t right . I t a l l came together i n him, and only him. It was part of his person. So much l i v i n g r e a l i t y , so much good had been destroyed, he had to keep something of i t i n existence, i n himself, he couldn't l e t i t s l i p , unfought for, into a f i n a l nothingness (SE 156). However, Joe's determination to r e c t i f y a wrong i n order to preserve something of l o s t goodness i s subverted—or, on a moral plane, perverted—when he w i l l f u l l y decides to k i l l the bikers himself. This misdirected exercise of his w i l l to seek revenge for the deaths of his wife and daughter by k i l l i n g t h e i r k i l l e r s i s tantamount to a f a l l from grace. While Buell does not e x p l i c i t l y characterize Joe's malaise i n s p i r i t u a l terms, the im p l i c i t sense of Joe's k i l l e r response to the e v i l which has beset him i s that he i s very much s p i r i t u a l l y at r i s k . Like any Catholic who obdurately perseveres i n a state of unrepentant 92 mortal s i n , Joe's obsessive w i l l to be revenged renders him implacable to the operation of sanctifying grace. This does not mean, however, that Joe i s forever l o s t to redemption. On the contrary, Joe can find (and ultimately does find) regeneration i n a new l i f e of r e c o n c i l i a t i o n when he becomes responsive to the operation of divine grace i n himself and i n the world around him. Indeed, while planning to ambush the k i l l e r s , as well as during the weeks during his incarceration and his l a t e r escape beyond the Shrewdale e x i t , Joe i s intermittently affected by the moral sense, emanating from within and most often from sources outside his consciousness, that his commitment to death-dealing vengeance i s wrong, even as he a l l the while rationalizes a personal j u s t i f i c a t i o n for his actions. With considerable subtlety, Buell infuses his text with seemingly non-religious stratagems that do i n e f f e c t r e c a l l a particular Catholic view of r e a l i t y . Chief among these are Buell's "presences" which enrich the imaginative effect of the f i c t i o n by evoking a s p i r i t u a l dimension of r e a l i t y which has an e f f e c t upon the moral disposition of Joe Grant. The Communion of Saints as a singularly Catholic concept of s p i r i t u a l l i f e postulates the unity and interaction of a l l creation both physical and metaphysical. From th i s venerable and pious communio sanctorum—the interaction of holy things and of holy ones—Buell develops the notion of bonding between Joe and the presence of Sue and Patty. Immediately after t h e i r murders, Joe looks with a sense of unreality upon the s i t e of the ambush 93 where a state trooper redirects the a r r i v i n g police "away from the marked-off space as i f i t were sacred and not to be entered without pr i v i l e g e or p u r i f i c a t i o n " (SE 23). This image of the murder s i t e as a sanctuary not only suggests that t h i s i s a s p i r i t u a l domain but i t also implies that the deaths of Patty and Sue represent a s a c r i f i c i a l oblation. Therefore, one can conceive of Patty and Sue as taking on a s p i r i t u a l nature even, assuming one wants to take the suggested image of a holy place to an imaginative conclusion, with the p o s s i b i l i t y of possessing a s p i r i t u a l power or influence that can be efficacious i n effecting the redemption of a s p i r i t u a l l y and physically broken and battered Joe Grant. The s i t e of the murders i s to a l l outward appearances an ordinary embankment beside the highway but when Joe r e v i s i t s t h i s location on the day following the murders, i t again has a compelling s p i r i t u a l effect upon th i s rather ordinary secular man who looks at the earthen spot seeing [j]ust what was there, and i t was a l l there was: l a t e -afternoon sunshine and countryside and t r a f f i c on the road and something l i k e the echo of a prayer i n some region of himself, a desire embracing he knew not what. They [Patty and Sue] were at a place c a l l e d Doyle's [mortuary], he knew, but they were here more than anywhere else. Presence, memory, love, a part of him, always (SE 62). As the image of the death scene as a sanctuary i s transformed 94 into that of a shrine, Joe concludes his v i s i t to t h i s one place i n the world with a sacral meaning which engages him s p i r i t u a l l y i n "something l i k e the echo of a prayer i n some region of himself." This i s the place where he could be closest to the presence of Patty and Sue: He walked a l l over the area as i f he had to bring presence to i t and slowly went back to the car and sat i n i t with the door open looking at nothing i n particular (SE 62). This same sense of Patty and Sue as l i v i n g and abiding present r e a l i t i e s i n his l i f e becomes more intensely focused when Joe makes his one l a s t v i s i t to the family home two days after the murders: They were there i n every way except actually. At every move he could hear them, at every turn he could see them, reminders at this elbow, presences just over his shoulder, the haunting patterns of the brain, the involving fullness of family that could never be undone, i t could only be l e f t t o be, l e f t i n part behind (SE 84). While Joe's sense of "presences just over his shoulder" might be thought to be only a manifestation of a heightened romantic imagination, Buell l a t e r provides a s p i r i t u a l dimension for these presences at a c r i t i c a l time for Joe near the end of the novel when his continuing w i l l to be avenged must be considered within the context of other s p i r i t u a l and psychological 95 variables which have become meaningful to him since taking the turnoff at the Shrewsdale e x i t . E l l e n Shefford and her young family engender a rebirth of love and shared f a m i l i a l t i e s which has the effect of restoring a sense of family values that Joe had known with Sue and Patty. While laboring i n the f i e l d s , the r e a l i t y of the sanctifying presence of Sue and Patty, imaged as accessible patron saints, becomes apparent to Joe, thereby enabling the love that he knew with them to be f u l f i l l e d anew i n El l e n Shefford and her family: .. .he allowed himself to think unguardedly and dwell on things freely....He was alone i n the open....And he dwelled on Sue and Patty, and spoke out loud about them, and to them, factually, without breaking, his pain undiminished, but somewhat at peace, for they too were present, a part of him always, and they were a sort of benediction to the place where he was, as though a l l he did was for them. And i n a way i t was true (SE 255). The eff i c a c y of the grace effected i n a moment of any "sort of benediction" foreshadows s p i r i t u a l deliverance i n a Buell novel. Elizabeth Lucy i n The Pyx i s sustained by such an infusion of grace when, even unbeknown to her, the pr i e s t with whom she had been meeting "raised his hand i n benediction after her as though blessing the night" (122). This r i t u a l action i s not wasted. Within hours Elizabeth i s transformed from a sinner to a saint through her heroic action i n safeguarding the Body of Christ. 96 For Joe Grant, the quest for a just resolution to the murders of his wife and daughter i s f u l f i l l e d shortly after he has experienced i n a moment of heightened devotion t h e i r "sort of benediction" which has put him "somewhat at peace" and consequently newly disposed to replace his intention of k i l l i n g the bikers by beginning a new l i f e with E l l e n Shefford and her family. A further appeal to a romantic s e n s i b i l i t y , yet one operating just as e f f e c t i v e l y as a paradigm for s p i r i t u a l enhancement of the f i c t i o n , finds expression i n Buell"s depiction of nature. The difference between the country and the c i t y i s c l a s s i c a l l y represented i n Buell's f i c t i o n as the difference between good and e v i l . The Pyx i s an urban novel seething with a pervasive e v i l . In Four Days young Tom i s redeemed from the e v i l s that encompass him i n the slums of Montreal only after he has l e f t the c i t y and begins walking i n the countryside towards Val Laurent. In one incidental scene, Buell describes Tom leaving the highway and mounting a roadside h i l l where amid the "strange noises" of a bird, the movement of branches, and the sound of bees [h]is attention expanded with the scenery and he caught more distant sounds far and away....A small breeze nudged the hot leaves....He watched the clouds puffing themselves l a z i l y on the horizon; l i t t l e by l i t t l e his surroundings l o s t t h e i r i n i t i a l strangeness but not enough to leave him at the mercy of his 97 thoughts, and he found himself less unwilling to stay and prolong a precarious moment of peace (FD 92). This interlude wherein nature i s an instrument of peace t y p i f i e s the s p i r i t u a l l y enlivening role of nature i n Buell's f i c t i o n , a function that i s indicative of "the sacramental dimension of Catholicism, the impulse that sees a l l creation as a potential revelation of God" (Allen 2 0 ) . Tom's turning aside from the highway and finding a "precarious moment of peace" at the top of a small h i l l i s a microcosm of the narrative pattern and s p i r i t u a l direction found i n The Shrewsdale Exit. Leaving the fast lanes of the highway behind him, Joe Grant becomes enveloped by a r u r a l environment, where he seeks refuge distantly removed from urban influences. Having escaped from the regimentation of mind and body i n the state prison, he experiences i n a new found country area what i s tantamount to a conversion experience and certainly a new l i f e of positive moral purpose. Buell signals that a new l i f e experience i s ahead for Joe the f i r s t morning after he has taken the Shrewsdale exit to drive Townley M i l l e r to his farm. Evoking a sense of a r i t e of passage, Buell's narrative depicts Joe i n the early morning l i g h t "which i n t e n s i f i e d the greenery" making his way ...past the barn looking at the unfolding scenery. A fenced-off cow t r a i l led downhill and stopped at a timber bridge over a noisy brook. On the other side was chewed-down pasture land spotted with animal 98 leavings and tough bushes, i t s distant ridges looked as smooth as a golf course. Inexplicably i t made him remember the c i t y with fear. But he kept looking at the fresh h i l l s and he perceived them as they were, no cars or flagpoles or people, just warming l i g h t on the greenness of the countryside ( SE 228). In t h i s bucolic setting, suffused with greenness, a l i f e of new hope begins with an ablution, washing away, as i t were, yesterday's blemishes i n preparation for a new day i n a fresh environment: On impulse he knelt down and drank from his cupped hands. Morning sun and clear water and cold on his face, s h i r t wet, knees hurting on the rock, he was no place , he knew, and yet i t was not a l i e n . Something reached within him, something welcome. A moment of sheer forgetfulness....he stripped to the waist and washed and soaked his face and went through a smarting routine of shaving an unsoftened beard by feel....He rinsed and splashed....It was a l l s i l l y . And good (SE 228). This cleansing experience i n the midst of "the warming l i g h t of the greenness of the countryside," evoking the grace of baptism, does not signal instant conversion from the hatred and revenge which compensates for his suffering, just as baptism i t s e l f i s not instrumental i n perpetuating a l i f e of continued virtue. While redemption i n Buell's f i c t i o n might be dramatically 99 realized i n a particular moment or through a s i g n i f i c a n t event, i t i s preceded by a process of renewal i n which one becomes incrementally responsive to the operation of grace which i s mediated through a l l creation. Consequently, the action i n a Buell novel tends to develop gradually, thereby allowing a central character to be affected and influenced by people and places around him. The l i v i n g nature that Joe discovers beyond the Shrewdale e x i t i s i t s e l f a particular influence, healing and gradually assuaging those defects of character which i n h i b i t growth and development i n the highest and best morality. S t i l l determined to exact his own justice upon the bikers, Joe i n i t i a l l y views "the countryside from another aspect. It was l i k e being on vacation, the idleness, the scenery... (SE 234). For Joe, the landscape remains an environment that lacks r e a l i t y : "For him i t was only an i l l u s i o n , strong enough to be enjoyable, and i t soon passed" (SE 234). Nature i s not dead and distant. Rather, i t i s , as Buell repeatedly mentions, "alive" (SE 238) i n the " l i v i n g f i e l d s " (SE 255) where i t was "good to be" (SE 274). It i s not long, however, before he realizes while working on Charles Fraser's farm that those, l i k e old Charles himself, who are close to nature as they work and contend with i t s l i f e - g i v i n g and productive presence are also formed by i t : The outdoors wasn't merely scenery, i t meant b l i s t e r i n g work. It was a l i v e , i t changed da i l y , and i t grew constantly...and would grow wild i n one season i f l e f t untouched. But the old man tended i t , and made 100 i t tame, as i t had him, and i t delivered for him (SE 239). As i f to expunge whatever demons are within, Joe devotes himself to long days of laborious work, driven by his work i n the f i e l d s seemingly to fight suffering with suffering. The reciprocal experience of taming and being tamed by nature increasingly affects Joe as his exhausting work and closeness to the land tempers his outlook and draws him to E l l e n Shefford. In the early morning, as he approaches Ellen's farm, he begins to see, i n a Wordsworthian sense, into the heart of things: The roads weren't yet dusty and the clear a i r l e t him see the surrounding h i l l s , he watched them as he drove. They were always an unfolding discovery, they had l o s t t h e i r vacation look and he regarded them with hard-earned respect (SE 250). What nature induces i n Joe's l i f e i s a degree of order and regularity that he had l o s t when he decided to be a law unto himself with a l l of the disruption that had ensued i n the chase, the t r i a l , imprisonment and i n his unsettled l i f e as an escaped convict. It i s not necessary, Buell indicates, to contend with nature but to harmonize one's engagement with i t to accord with i t s benefits and demands. The taming process for Joe, developed during the time spent working on the farms, r e c a l l s at least one other p r i n c i p l e derived from Wordsworth's pantheism: Let Nature be your teacher. Joe i s no pantheist but he does experience 101 nature as a mediator of moral development. What Joe eventually experiences, then, i s a "sense of inner being that had come to him i n the l a s t weeks" (SE 269). For Joe Grant th i s means growth c h i e f l y i n conforming to the cardinal virtue of fortitude when confronted by suffering. Near the end of Buell's narrative, Joe meets momentarily with his former father-in-law at a rest area alongside the state highway. Returning once again to the natural surroundings off the Shrewdale e x i t which have increasingly become his natural habitat, Joe experiences the pervasive e f f e c t that the environment has had upon him. From the narrator's point of view, the promptings from Joe' s soul w i l l be enlivened as he becomes responsive to the s p i r i t within: At l a s t he got started and drove hurriedly to the Shrewsdale e x i t . Once into the countryside he f e l t easier and freer, time and place once more within him, as i f his soul were his own. There were messages from t h i s , but he wasn't l i s t e n i n g (SE 272). Restoration of Joe's soul i s not going to be effected simply through his conscious r e a l i z a t i o n . Rather, at the appropriate moment of s p i r i t u a l readiness, the v i t a l i t y of nature w i l l be absorbed and internalized i n his soul where "messages" can influence his moral being. The influence of the messages from nature, the presences and special benediction of Sue and Patty, the exemplary fortitude of E l l e n Shefford who bears her losses with quiet 102 dignity and forbearance, and the mediation of Sparrs which enables Joe to look forward to a new l i f e : each of these works e f f e c t i v e l y upon Joe to save him from the e v i l which he had sought to destroy. Indeed, at the end of the novel, Buell develops a positive resolution to Joe's moral c r i s i s , enabling him to embark upon the transformation which C l a i r e M i l l e r anticipates when she f i r s t meets Joe after he has arrived with her husband Townley at the M i l l e r farm near the Shrewsdale e x i t : "Towny t e l l s me your wife died." "Yes, she did." "That's too bad. You're young though, got plenty of time for a new l i f e " ( S E 230). That new l i f e , however, w i l l be r a d i c a l l y different from the lone wolf renegade fugitive existence that Joe has l i v e d since his wife's death. Having arrived at the M i l l e r farm, Joe sleeps outside i n Townley's truck overnight and, having readied himself for the day while s t i l l outside next morning, he t e l l s C l a i r e : "I didn't want to bother anybody" to which she observes:"A-ah! That's no attitude. L i v i n ' i s bothering somebody, generally everybody" (SE 229), a truism which reiterates the remark of the escaping convict the previous night that "A loner i s a loser, ain't you heard" (SE 216)? In Joe's new l i f e , he w i l l indeed be assisted by Sparrs into r e a l i z i n g that he cannot deliver himself from the moral quagmire effected by his intention to k i l l the bikers. Joe i s not going to be his own saviour. He w i l l need Sparrs' help just as he w i l l need E l l e n Shefford to bring him 103 into a l i f e of new found "human r e a l i t i e s . " Throughout the novel, however, Buell e l i c i t s considerable empathy for a loner who i s very much a loser. Indeed, were i t not that Joe Grant only experiences his reformation i n the l a s t lines of the novel, one might otherwise expect that Buell's protagonist i s somehow j u s t i f i e d i n becoming a law unto himself: the k i l l e r s who remain at large are pathological sadists, the loss of his family i s devastating, and the legal system i s ine f f e c t u a l . While Joe must endure the innuendo of the coroner implicating him i n the deaths of Sue and Patty as well as submit to his lawyer's recommendation that he plead g u i l t y to his attack upon his attackers, the bikers remain free, indulging themselves i n the psychotic pleasure of a job well done. Victimized by the restraint and seeming permissiveness of the law as well as by the pain of his loss and the necessity to reconstitute the elements of his l i f e , Joe's g r i e f evokes a sympathetic reader response which Buell maintains throughout the narrative. This empathetic i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with Joe's s u f f e r i n g — we can f e e l his pain—seems acceptable and j u s t i f i a b l e according to the c u l t u r a l mores of our time. What Buell's a r t i s t r y accomplishes i n this narrative i s the alignment of the reader's sympathy with the smouldering angst of the protagonist i n t h i s revenge drama so that the reader may also v i c a r i o u s l y experience the intensity of what conventional wisdom, found i n the art and so c i a l r e a l i t y of popular secular culture, i n s i s t s i s the right way to act. Reflecting t h i s widely held opinion, one 104 contemporary journalist observes at the beginning of his interpretive report: Like millions of parents, I have always known t h i s : If any man deliberately hurt any of my children, I'd go after him. I'd get him eventually. And I'd hurt him badly. I don't know whether I would act coldly or i n a rage but i t would be clear afterward that I did i t with much planning and premeditation. H e l l , I would announce beforehand that I was coming for him so that he couldn't have a single moment free of the fear of me, just as I would never be free of the anguish he had caused (Province A14). If this i s not Joe's voice, i t i s an approximation of his attitude and his personal sense of moral outrage. Like the populist journalist, he w i l l be s a t i s f i e d . Violence w i l l exacerbate his hurt. However, as the development and conclusion of Buell's narrative shows, such an approach to the presence of e v i l i s self-defeating. When Joe's moral s e n s i b i l i t y i s more pos i t i v e l y affected after he takes the Shrewdale exit into a new l i f e , he as well as the reader who has i d e n t i f i e d with him both arrive at a new understanding exemplified i n the passion of Christ that the e v i l that i s suffering can lead to a greater good. Buell's protagonists are ultimately shown to be affected not only by t h e i r physical but also by t h e i r s p i r i t u a l natures. 105 More than simply experiencing personal and psychological development, the l i v e s of Buell's characters have meaning to the extent that they are s p i r i t u a l l y r e v i t a l i z e d by the incursion of grace, sometimes mediated sacramentally, sometimes activated through love. This s p i r i t u a l presence or intervention does not exist i n the f i c t i o n because Buell's characters are always Catholic or even demonstrably r e l i g i o u s . Rather, i t forms a s p i r i t u a l paradigm within the novel, analogously extending the sense of the f i c t i o n by means of s p i r i t u a l r e a l i t i e s peculiar to Catholic doctrine, theology, or c u l t u r a l t r a d i t i o n . As such, the Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y i n a Buell novel i s not merely a contrived or s u p e r f i c i a l overlay but exists as an integral part of character development and ultimately determines the moral sense of the novel i t s e l f . Central to any Buell novel i s the symbiotic causal relationship between the externalization expressed i n a character's actions which are occasioned by internal s p i r i t u a l promptings found i n Catholic f a i t h and practice. In his e a r l i e s t novels, Buell had shown i n The Pyx, for example, how Elizabeth Lucy, whose l i f e was blighted by e v i l , attained sudden and unanticipated heroic sanctity as she was impelled to safeguard the sacramental Body of Christ. In Four Days as well, the kid-called-Tom, prompted to confess to the priest his defensive k i l l i n g of Ritch, experiences the grace of penitential s a t i s f a c t i o n before continuing his tragic quest for a l i f e of f u l f i l l e d love. Joe Grant's characterization s i m i l a r l y r e f l e c t s a narrative pattern of development from buffeting to blessing. 106 The turmoil of Joe's post traumatic dysfunction has destroyed him much more than i t has led to the destruction of the bikers whom he seeks to k i l l . What Buell establishes i n Joe's characterization as an obsessed renegade fugitive i s that he i s as much a victim of the bikers' e v i l as were his wife and daughter. His renunciation of his determination to k i l l the bikers w i l l , as the conclusion to the novel indicates, enable him to recover some part of what he had lo s t to the bikers. Insofar as Joe "somehow...had managed not to choose for death" (SE 279), he has achieved new l i f e i n which, having gained some insight into human suffering, he w i l l cease to be victimized by the bikers' gratuitous e v i l as he forsakes death dealing vengeance for the love and f u l f i l l m e n t to be found i n the "human r e a l i t i e s " of E l l e n Shefford and her family. In order to convey the d i f f e r i n g attitudes of Joe Grant and Detective Sparrs as they confront the unconscionable e v i l wrought by the bikers upon Joe's family, Buell juxtaposes Joe's i n t u i t i v e , affective response to the violence as a countervailing balance to Sparrs' more reasoned d e t a i l i n g of the case which w i l l establish legal c u l p a b i l i t y predicated on principles of justic e . From the outset, Joe focuses upon the bikers themselves as perpetrators of an arbitrary e v i l which has deprived him of the love and s t a b i l i t y of a family. Joe reacts immediately and subjectively, directing his demand for retrib u t i v e justice against the bikers who are responsible for the murders. The fact that they have no charges l a i d against 107 them and that they are free from any accountability for th e i r actions only exacerbates Joe's sense of moral outrage. He wants justice, he wants i t immediately, and therefore commits himself to a course of revenge which he believes w i l l r e c t i f y the imbalance he has experienced of the power of e v i l over good. For Joe, justice can best be served by the elimination of the perpetrators of e v i l i n order to eradicate the presence of e v i l i t s e l f . Of course Joe i s not alone i n his quest for justice . Sparrs i s equally concerned that the bikers be held responsible for th e i r e v i l actions which they have unleashed i n the community but his strategy i n confronting t h i s e v i l and his ensuing response to i t are r a d i c a l l y different from Joe's subjective reaction. Sparrs' outlook, by the nature of his position, i s determined by his role as an o f f i c e r of the law. He needs facts and evidence which w i l l objectively define the e v i l assault that has taken place. His i s a long range plan for confronting e v i l , making i t requisite that any action i n opposition to e v i l be gauged i n rel a t i o n to the authority of the law. For Joe, authority rests within the individual, thus j u s t i f y i n g personal r e t a l i a t o r y revenge without being held accountable to any moral code other than his own. Consequently, he i s frustrated by legal strategies, "feeling that somehow the human couldn't count, i t was outside the law" (SE 151). Although Joe Grant has been suddenly and savagely engulfed by the ravaging presence of e v i l , Sparrs' everyday existence i s pervaded by e v i l , even extending 108 to the precincts of his l o c a l police station, which he remembers, used to be the "safest place i n the world, some people think." In fact, Sparrs t e l l s Joe, "It never was...not i n th i s country" (SE 93). The ever present r e a l i t y of e v i l which i s commonplace for Sparrs i s far removed from "the secure casual l i f e of less than a week ago" (SE 119) that Joe had enjoyed. Only after his encounter with the bikers while anticipating a happy family vacation does Joe sense the new r e a l i t y of "a vaguely hostil e universe" (SE 119), long familiar to Sparrs but a traumatic revelation to Joe. In confronting t h i s h o s t i l e universe, Sparrs counsels forbearance, urging Joe to restrain, i f not forsake, his determination to personally confront the perpetrators of e v i l simply on a human l e v e l and without recourse to the law: "I shouldn't be t e l l i n g you t h i s , " s a i d Sparrs."Why not l e t i t rest?" "No. It happened. I want the whole picture." "Why bother? There's no point to i t . " "Leave i t behind, Joe. Go back to your job." "I'm on vacation." Sparrs sighed and sat back as i f there was nothing more to say (SE 95). The irreconcilable difference i n principles and outlook between Joe and Captain Sparrs becomes the narrative crux from which Joe w i l l pursue his human response to confront and eliminate those bikers whose e v i l presence victimizes him just as i t victimized 109 his wife and daughter. Sparrs meanwhile regards the present e v i l from a moral perspective predicated on the expectation that good w i l l prevail after the ever present r e a l i t y of e v i l , which confronts both himself as well as Joe, self-destructs of i t s own accord. This strategy of forbearance, as Buell develops i t , ultimately proves to be the right course of action. As a f o i l to Joe Grant, Sparrs i s a p a r t i c u l a r l y s i g n i f i c a n t figure i n the novel exemplifying a positive moral stance i n r e l a t i o n to the presence of e v i l . If there i s any doubt that Joe' s determination to eradicate the e v i l i n t h e i r midst through an act of retributive revenge i s wrong headed and i l l advised, l e t alone morally reprehensible, Sparrs provides a countervailing balance by upholding principles of justice and by working within the legal system. At the same time, there i s an ambivalence i n Sparrs' approach. While he upholds the rule of law, he also understands the f r a i l t y of human nature. He knows why Joe undertakes his plan of action against the bikers. Nevertheless, Sparrs himself maintains a commitment to a just course of conduct: he can sympathize with Joe's actions but he cannot condone them. He t e l l s Joe:"You never can t e l l . We keep working on i t , and waiting, that's basic to police work" (SE 101). Working and waiting define endurance. However, i n recognizing the human p r o c l i v i t y to find s a t i s f a c t i o n i n immediate retribution, such a principled approach to the containment of e v i l i n the world that Sparrs advocates presents a challenge to one's firm purpose of commitment t o the highest 110 and best morality. As the narrator explains after Sparrs has detailed his investigation into the bikers' actions: "He spoke l i k e a man trying to keep a f a i t h " (SE 101). This tension between maintaining order and due process while humanly sympathizing with Joe's moral frustration i s reflected as well i n the narrator's interpretation of the ambivalent nature of the conduct of Sparrs and his fellow agents: "On the record they were professionals, off the record they were themselves" (SE 151). More than just a character f o i l to Joe Grant, Sparrs s i g n i f i e s a presence i n the novel of a steadfastness a r i s i n g from a s o l i d moral foundation. His values are not only the best but also, as the end of the novel indicates, the most e f f e c t i v e . Sparrs' v i s i t to Joe on Ellen's farm, a l b e i t somewhat i n the manner of a deus ex machina, i s the proximate cause of Joe's redemption. While Joe's restoration has been prepared for by a new found r e a l i t y of persons and places beyond the Shrewsdale exi t , the controlling impetus i n his l i f e , right up to the moment of Sparrs' v i s i t , continues to be his plan to k i l l the bikers. In his l a s t but climactic encounter with Joe, Sparrs detai l s how the bikers' e v i l has redounded upon them, the i r own violence being the means of t h e i r own defeat. This has been Sparrs' v i s i o n throughout the trajectory of his role i n the narrative: e v i l i s self-destructive; justice and goodness w i l l ultimately p r e v a i l . The moral effi c a c y of his conviction has meaning not only i n reference to the demise of the bikers but 111 also for the destiny of Joe Grant who i s immediately rehabilitated: Joe watched him as he went down the slope. Diminishing figure, dust, the s e t t l i n g of i t , and nothing, as i f he had not come. But everything was different (SE 278). In making " e v e r y t h i n g — d i f f e r e n t " for Joe, Sparrs maintains the int e g r i t y of his principles while at the same time following a strategy which has subverted the p r i n c i p a l reason for Joe's revenge. Long-suffering but v i g i l a n t forbearance has over the long term proved efficacious; justice has been served; and the death-dealing bikers have become victims of th e i r own violence. Being solely responsible for this resolution of the problem of confronting e v i l , Sparrs represents a conflation of several attributes of justice and mercy. He upholds justice, he works within the context of the law, and, as the conclusion of the novel reveals, he was consistently right i n his approach to f o r e s t a l l i n g e v i l . Yet on a human l e v e l he understands why Joe would abrogate the moral as well as c i v i l law i n his violent quest for vengeance. Sparrs' outlook may r e f l e c t the ideals of justice but he i s understanding and compassionate enough on a human l e v e l to know that a good cause such as the love of one's family may also serve a bad end such as death-dealing revenge. If Joe forsakes Sparrs, Sparrs does not give up on him. Rather, he continues working on the case against the bikers to Joe's eventual advantage. In his f i n a l meeting with Joe he 112 vindicates the way i n which he has dealt with the e v i l which has affected t h e i r l i v e s . At the same time, he can envision a freedom for Joe which w i l l enable him to replace "the cold readiness for k i l l i n g " with the p o s s i b i l i t y of r e a l i z i n g those future "human r e a l i t i e s " which w i l l require "another kind of struggle to keep them existing" (SE 279). E f f e c t i v e i n his role as one who f a c i l i t a t e s a new l i f e for the fugitive Joe Grant, Sparrs takes on a representational dimension incorporating both compassion and moral rectitude. Buell's colleague, Gilbert Drolet, once mentioned to him that the policemen i n his novels were "very sympathetic, very understanding, perhaps too much so....you seem to stress the compassion of these people" (Conversation 65). Certainly a good part of t h i s affection has been transferred into the character of Sparrs which represents as much the priest as the policeman, ef f e c t i v e i n his role as one who loves the sinner but hates the s i n . Dismayed by Joe's acts of revenge, Sparrs remains consistently s o l i c i t o u s for Joe in his adversity as he struggles morally and psychologically with the sudden and unexpected incursion of e v i l into his l i f e . Sparrs' insight into the nature of moral d e b i l i t y takes on the quality of mercy i n the closing moments of his o f f the record v i s i t to Joe at E l l e n Shefford's farm. Forgiveness, Sparrs t e l l s Joe, i s a real probability i f Joe w i l l a v a i l himself of the means to attain i t . The wheels of justice may grind exceedingly slowly but i t i s only because Sparrs has persevered i n his quest for justice that Joe can anticipate a future i n which so much 113 goodness that has been lo s t can be restored i f not regained. From being a prisoner and fu g i t i v e , Joe can look forward to freedom; what he has l o s t to the e v i l which has deprived him of Sue and Patty he can hope to regain i n the goodness of E l l e n Shefford, Henrietta and her brothers; i n place of the corrosive angst of revenge, he can be assured that the bikers have themselves become victims of the e v i l they bore to others. Sparrs' role ensures that such justice and goodness w i l l p r e v a i l . While he epitomizes a l l that i s best i n one who seeks for justice, he also represents a position of moral persuasiveness and leadership o f f s e t t i n g a l l manner of vice by upholding virtue. Indications of adherence to i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d r e l i g i o n are of minor significance i n the novel, but the i n s t i t u t i o n of law, order, and justice which Sparrs serves evokes a sense of personal r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and accountability i n i t s secular context analogously approximating the role of the s p i r i t u a l mission of the Church i t s e l f . Both exist as corporate e n t i t i e s , the one upholding the laws of man, the other the laws of God; each i s empowered by the exercise of justice and mercy; and both work to ensure that ultimately good w i l l prevail over e v i l . As the instrument of Joe's redemption, Sparrs himself i s the compassionate yet principled mediator who bears a compelling message to Joe of the prospects for forgiveness with the ensuing promise of new l i f e . Set against a world s t i l l subject to the deprivation occasioned by e v i l , Sparrs, i n the manner of Christ himself, had urged Joe Grant to conform to virtue and avoid 114 vice. While Joe f a l l s from grace, forgiveness and redemption become accessible to him only through the mediation of Sparrs. Having created a moral c r i s i s i n the narrative by setting a misguided Joe Grant i n opposition to the law as well as to the perpetrators of unconscionable e v i l , Buell's narrative engages the reader imaginatively i n the experience of Joe's struggle against e v i l . If The Shrewsdale Exit were simply another f i c t i o n adhering to standard conventions of the t h r i l l e r genre, the vengeful act and the murderous intent epitomized i n Joe' s actions might s a t i s f y a taste for mere sensation. However, while exploiting the sensation of vengeance, Buell has an i m p l i c i t moral end i n view towards which he leads the reader who has throughout the narrative imaginatively i d e n t i f i e d himself with the compelling but nevertheless morally misdirected actions of Joe Grant. Having been sympathetically p a r t i a l to the apparent justice of Joe's moral dislocation, the reader, l i k e the f i c t i o n a l protagonist himself, should r e a l i z e , as Sparrs does, that the p o s s i b i l i t y exists for the conversion of anyone who i s well disposed, no matter how grievous the f a u l t . Through th i s r e a l i z a t i o n , Buell's novel, as Rosengarten has observed, works ...at the l e v e l of moral fable as well as of action and suspense. The author's intention i s to take us beyond the external manifestations of violence to the effects of such violence upon an ordinary, "decent" member of society who becomes tainted by the very e v i l he wishes to destroy.... (94 ) 115 It had been Joe's conviction that an act of personal vengeance would mitigate suffering and that a l l he needed to do to be s a t i s f i e d according to his own sense of justice would be to k i l l the k i l l e r s . However, i n the l a s t few words of the novel after Joe has been assured by Sparrs that the surviving bikers are under surveillance and that there i s a strong p o s s i b i l i t y that Joe w i l l be exculpated, Buell presents an e x p l i c i t l y d i f f e r e n t response to the conventional need to find s a t i s f a c t i o n through revenge. Here, Joe r e f l e c t s upon the vacuity of his l i f e since the bikers' onslaught on the highway. His desire for revenge has been self-defeating, resulting i n his own victimization. Joe has been imprisoned not only externally by the law but also int e r n a l l y by his misguided obsessive compulsion to seek his own kind of justic e . He i s aware that his vengeful attempts to eradicate the e v i l that has adversely affected so much of his l i f e may eventually defeat him as well, assuredly as much i n body as i t has already done i n s p i r i t . Restored to the same f a m i l i a l love which he seemingly l o s t with Patty and Sue on the highway and which at the end of the novel i s reactivated through his engagement within the surrogate family of E l l e n Shefford and her three young children, Joe forsakes his dehumanizing determination to seek out and k i l l the bikers: Grief and danger and f l i g h t were over as things past, the gri e f never to go f u l l y , and the s t r a i n , though s t i l l present, had lo s t i t s roots. The cold readiness for k i l l i n g was being replaced by human r e a l i t i e s , and 116 by another kind of struggle to keep them existing... .Somehow he had managed not to choose for death (SE 278-9). As t h i s resolution at the end of the novel indicates, Joe made the wrong decision i n his attempt to seek retr i b u t i v e justice to s a t i s f y the suffering and loss he had experienced after the bikers had k i l l e d Patty and Sue. Revenge, Buell makes clear, i s a morally bankrupt response, the corollary being that a moral corrective exists of a more ennobling and s p i r i t u a l l y f u l f i l l i n g nature. Such a moral touchstone against which Joe's deviant decision and consequent actions can be measured forms an integral part of a Catholic perception of the s p i r i t u a l meaning of human suffering. It i s by drawing upon th i s Catholic consciousness of the role of suffering i n human l i f e that Buell can portray a Joe Grant who i s saved from himself to share once again i n those "human r e a l i t i e s " of shared suffering and love that had been destroyed by the bikers. The assurance given by Captain Sparrs at the conclusion of the novel that the courts w i l l prosecute the surviving bikers for th e i r crimes and that Joe himself w i l l most probably be exonerated promises legal and s o c i a l redemption. Prior to t h i s , however, Joe had already begun to experience "the sense of inner being that had come to him i n the l a s t weeks" (SE 269) and i t i s t h i s i n t e r i o r restoration, the apparent r e a l i z a t i o n that l i f e not death, love not hate, l i v i n g for others and not to oneself, that produces the new man who, i n the l a s t l i n e of the novel, with the determination to 117 reveal to E l l e n Shefford the "discovery of who he was" (SE 279), has regained that hope for the future that had been l o s t i n violence one dark night beside the highway. 118 Playground Survival i s not the only game i n Playground. As a means to an end, Spence Morison's determined w i l l to l i v e after his f l o a t plane had crash landed i n a wilderness lake i n northern Quebec i n i t i a l l y sustains him i n his expectation of an anticipated rescue by his friends whom he had preceded into the area to prepare for a vacation f i s h i n g holiday i n this "sportsman's paradise" (Playground 14). However, while he might survive i n the wilderness outside the catchment area of a rescue station, he has l i t t l e hope of being rescued unless he i n i t i a t e s a strategy that w i l l work towards his deliverance. Salvation, then, i s what Morison r e a l l y needs. He i s l o s t , faces imminent death, and everything he has done to a s s i s t i n any rescue attempt appears f u t i l e . The c r i s i s i n Morison's l i f e requires more than survival i n order to e f f e c t a resolution, the crash of his plane into the wind swept depths of a woodland lake epitomizing the disintegration i n mid-life of long held principles and practices which had given meaning and purpose to his l i f e : The plane had carried a l l his immediate needs and more. It summarized his resources and s k i l l s and plans, his status, the capacity to be and do, as though i t were his very s e l f . And i n a way i t was (Plgd 45). Lost i n the Quebec wilderness, Morison must be saved not only 119 from a paradise l o s t but also from himself. As a stereotype of the organization man, Morison has a determined sense of purpose. An event or a c t i v i t y has had meaning for him only according to i t s effectiveness i n attaining a predetermined end. For example, while driving i n the "white-c o l l a r t r a f f i c " to Quebec City, he thinks that " [ i ] f he'd been on a business t r i p he would have stayed i n the t r a f f i c , or, having pulled out, would have wanted to get back i n . But now [on vacation] he was regarding i t as something to get out of, something he shouldn't have been i n at a l l " (Plgd 8-9). What he now perceives as a depersonalized "stampede of horsepower" makes him f e e l "uncomfortable, i t was sudden and new, so i t seemed, and there was something wrong. I once l i k e d t h i s . Whatever made me think that I li k e d i t ? " ( P l g d 9). A true believer i n a culture predicated on ef f i c i e n c y , Morison i s committed to the prin c i p l e that "[t]hings are done consciously and e f f i c i e n t l y . He t r i e d to run his l i f e , l i f e , that way" (Plgd 7). He i s equally insistent on the e f f i c i e n t use of time "as i f time were a thing and had an ideal use" (Plgd 10). While driving to the north country, he opted out of his prearranged driving schedule for about two hours and "chose to see the sights of Quebec City. It was a small private, subjective re b e l l i o n , nothing dramatic, a mild assertion of freedom, a willfulness perhaps, an in s i g n i f i c a n t shuffling of plans, his own plans at that" (Plgd 10). But the w i l l f u l nonconformity of the c i t y tour, much as he desired i t , does not s a t i s f y : "he thought of i t as having l o s t 120 time, deliberately, and by choice, yes, but l o s t . . . " (Plgd 10). The same sense of obligation to s a t i s f y a commitment to his professional career as an engineer undermines what would otherwise be a r e s t f u l stopover for a night i n St. F e l i c i e n : "It didn't f e e l right not having to phone somebody, or read reports, or go to a meeting, or see people over lunch.... He was i n a vacuum of unoccupied time.... He regretted stopping. And having stopped on the way. There had been no reason for i t , no purpose. It didn't accomplish anything, he hadn't r e a l l y enjoyed i t , and i t l e f t him i n a motel with nothing to do" (Plgd 11). Morison i s aware that his own "scheduling had been a way of avoiding t h i s . Avoiding what?—he ducked from the inquiry by getting up and going out" (Plgd 11-2). What Morison seeks to avoid i s any conscious r e a l i z a t i o n that he has suppressed the better part of his human values beneath an acquired, rigorously d i s c i p l i n e d and ordered persona of the market place. Left to his own in c l i n a t i o n s , such as a non-scheduled tour or an unplanned overnight stay i n a motel, Morison becomes d i s s a t i s f i e d and bored, guilt-ridden at the loss of time which could have been used without any alt e r a t i o n or deviation i n more e f f e c t i v e l y achieving the objective r e a l i z a t i o n of his goals and plans. Morison i s no hollow man. However, he i s at a juncture i n his l i f e where his i n t u i t i v e self-knowledge of what i t means to be unabashedly human and not a technocrat i s beginning to subvert the order and e f f i c i e n c y of a very regulated existence. 121 What Morison seeks to avoid i n his commitment to contr o l l i n g demands of time and place i s what he w i l l eventually r e a l i z e more f u l l y through his ordeal i n the Quebec wilderness: the primacy of the subjective r e a l i t y of his inner l i f e , not the objective c u l t u r a l facade of power and control. Even before his f l i g h t into the wilderness, Morison i s conscious of a c u l t u r a l detachment which isolates him from others. The central irony of his l i f e i s that he knows that another and better r e a l i t y exists but that i t i s the one goal that he i s incapable of attaining. Having arrived i n Chibougamau, he i s received with accustomed deference by the guide and outdoorsman Henri T^trault: He had t r i e d to get Henri to c a l l him Spence, but the relationship stayed at Henri-and-Mister-Morison. They were i n different worlds, as they both knew, not bridgeable merely by an interest i n f i s h i n g . Henri's way of l i f e was Morison's recreation, one man's work was the other man's sport, a pastime that took as much cap i t a l as a small business. No resentment, just the difference. And Henri had no way of knowing how much Morison admired the enterprise and achievement of these men (Plgd 15). In Henri, Morison admires the "real person" that Henri f a i l s to perceive behind Morison's c u l t u r a l demeanor, just as Morison himself cannot i d e n t i f y with any f a m i l i a r i t y the "real person" i n any of the business executives with whom he works: He could drink with them, they a l l drank, but with 122 t h e i r s o c i a l faces on, always i n work roles even at play, using t h e i r personalities as instruments i n getting and keeping position or authority or power, always a l e r t for advantage, constantly simulating genuiness the way people once had to feign moral goodness, the real persons submerged perhaps forever under a way of l i f e that dictated everything they did, as r i g i d as an ancient p r i e s t l y caste (Plgd 17). In the company of his executive associates, Morison recognizes his own dilemma: he would be a "real person" l i k e Henri T^trault but his own so c i a l pretense, l i k e that of his fellow executives, i n h i b i t s the attainment of this r e a l i t y . Pretense and s o c i a l hypocrisy i n others as well as i n himself precludes the fu l f i l l m e n t of the unrealized desire for a new l i f e of human responsiveness and engagement which would replace the a r t i f i c e of s o c i a l posturing. Such a hope of attaining an alternate r e a l i t y dominates Morison's thinking as he prepares for a late evening meal after his a r r i v a l i n Chibougamau: He ordered the steak dinner and two draft beers, something he wouldn't do i n Montreal, at least not i n a working man's tavern.... He sipped then drank from one of the glasses, placed i t on the table with a defi n i t e a i r of contentment... and t o l d himself that he was here i n real country at last....yeah, t h i s i s i t . But his mind wouldn't l e t go, i t seemed to i n s i s t on 123 things. He f e l t i t forming a query, a doubt, what i s this i t ? — a sort of gentle pressure from r e a l i t y , as i f desire stood b r i e f l y s t i l l and could be seen, a frozen frame i n an already familiar replay... He looked around again to reaffirm his contentment. Yes, he said to himself with emphatically clear meaning, I want t h i s (Plgd 16-7). Morison can c l e a r l y envisage the hidden r e a l i t y of his desire. From within his technologically conditioned consciousness t h i s i s "the frozen frame i n an already familiar replay." What he needs i s deliverance from the same technocratic a r t i f i c e of his present l i f e , a moribund and desensitized realty of pretense and simulation. F a i l i n g to achieve this i n t e g r i t y i n his own person, he must s u f f e r inwardly and i n silence l i k e the old sweeper at the Chibougamau tavern who also endures, working and drinking his way through each day: You drink too much, old man, maybe I should t e l l you that, as i f you didn't know i t , maybe we could have a s e n s i b i l i t y session. Yeah, maybe. It's a sophisticated way of faking genuiness, you t e l l the other guy what you r e a l l y think of him, always bad, and he t e l l s you, and the ensuing hatred passes off as honesty. But the guys i n this room are simple, they'd spot the hatred, and i t ' d come to f i s t s , not venom choked back, and swallowed and d i s t i l l e d into a special kind of smile. If I t o l d you anything, old man, I'd t e l l you that I 124 l i k e you, I l i k e the way you suffer, yes, suffer, and yes, l i k e , that's something you don't know, and i t would be something good to know (Plgd 18). In the old sweeper Morison finds the flawed but simple character of a worker who suffers with quiet dignity, a foreshadowing of that grace under pressure which Morison l a t e r emulates when he i s l o s t i n the woods. To Morison, there i s a human dimension i n the sweeper's suffering, not the hypocrisy of the c l i n i c a l a r t i f i c e experienced by those engaged i n his extrapolated scenario of a s e n s i t i v i t y session. It i s not the controlled deception of such popularized psychology that i s good for suffering humanity. Real goodness derives from the knowledge that one i s loved regardless of one's helplessness and imperfection. The old sweeper i s i r r e t r i e v a b l y and e x i s t e n t i a l l y l o s t i n a cycle of mindless work and an alcoholic stupor. In him Morison c l e a r l y recognizes much of himself for he, too, not only knows the dehumanizing ef f e c t of his own dai l y s t r i v i n g for technical e f f i c i e n c y but also finds a s o c i a l anodyne i n the case of Bell's Scotch whiskey which was to be his most highly prized and privileged companionable possession on his vacation but which i n fact betrays him by contributing to his very l i t e r a l downfall when he crashes the fl o a t plane he has rented into the submerged rocks of a wilderness lake. Given his own p r o c l i v i t y for indulging himself i n heavy drinking as well as his s o c i a l and psychological malaise, there i s much i n his personal l i f e from 125 which Spence Morison would be saved. Even at home his domestic l i f e i s characterized by a comfortable banality. As he prepares to depart for his holiday, he avoids disturbing his wife who sleeps i n a diff e r e n t bed, proceeds through "the constant domestic debris" (Plgd 3) i n the living-room, and succeeds i n avoiding any of the "domestic barbed wire" (Plgd 6) that might r e s t r i c t his scheduled departure from the house. He had hoped that his son Tom would accompany him but resigns himself to Tom's lack of interest: "There had been no quarrel, just his expectation and his son's apparent indifference, a subtle pain. But he was used to i t , he thought" (Plgd 5). From within the context of f a m i l i a l "debris," "barbed wire," and "subtle pain," Morison finds some deliverance i n his long-planned dream of a "playground" holiday. Buell's narrative motif takes i t s pattern from the progress towards rescue and deliverance of a secular technocrat who after enduring a time of t r i a l comes to know a r e a l i t y predicated upon human needs rather than upon those of concepts and systems. Morison's dream has been to f u l f i l l himself, as least so far as his summer vacation i s concerned, with a l l the goods that an affluent l i f e s tyle can provide. The woodland "playground" of northern Quebec forest and lakes holds the promise of indulgent recreational pleasure. However, instead of certain joy, Morison's best l a i d plans change dramatically into a quest for rescue after he survives the crash of his plane. He then i n i t i a t e s a course of action that he hopes w i l l lead to his 126 rescue p r i n c i p a l l y by walking seventy miles southwards to what he believes w i l l be the search area. Despite t h i s , a l l of his planning does not culminate i n his being rescued by the friends who he believes are searching for him. At the point of death, his fortuitous rescue i s effected by a group of native people who revive him and transport him to a forest outpost where he can recuperate before returning to Montreal, a l b e i t with a r a d i c a l l y changed perception of r e a l i t y . Essentially, the narrative pattern i n Playground focuses upon the inner l i f e and conversion of an organization man. The desire for change i s evident throughout Morison's i n t e r i o r dialogue as he r e f l e c t s upon an e a r l i e r r e a l i t y than that which presently exists for him. After the crash of his plane, he i s immersed i n the water of the lake but rises to experience the t r i b u l a t i o n of his quest for deliverance which ends when he i s saved by those who l i v e most intimately i n harmony with nature. Whether consciously or not, Buell has structured a narrative which envisions the s p i r i t u a l analogue of a l o s t soul seeking salvation. As a secular man of the world who manages his l i f e with ef f i c i e n c y , Spence Morison's l i f e i s largely a pretense. Certainly after the crash he i s very l o s t indeed, both physically and s p i r i t u a l l y . While he ri s e s from the water of the lake to a new l i f e , i t i s a l i f e l i v e d i n the wilderness where he hopes to be saved as he prepares himself for deliverance. Eventually salvation comes to Morison from a most unexpected yet compassionate source and i t i s only then that he can a r t i c u l a t e 127 to his wife who has come to meet him some expression of what his experience has meant: "It's a good thing they came.... There were moments of... I can't quite say i t yet. I'm s t i l l out there.... I've...come to know...things. I'11 t e l l you about i t when I'm ready. If I ever can." "What sort of things?" She sounded worried for him. "Not now. Things She looked at him, knowing a depth, and didn't ask for a meaning....Reentry was beginning (Plgd 246). Within the context of the narrative, these unidentified "things" constitute the insights of Morison's new l i f e after his near death experience. As Bauer has observed: It seems f a i r to say...that some of those things have to do with what has been reported to us t e l l i n g l y — t h e play of mind for a l l the chips i n t h i s wilderness playground—that the pithy philosophic insights uttered i n t e r n a l l y under the duress of primal danger have application and value to those of us who have never quite been derailed from our delusory sure routes and routines (78). On the narrative l e v e l , Morison i s rescued i n order that he may l i v e again. More than that, however, his wilderness experience suggests a s p i r i t u a l transformation wherein he symbolically dies to himself and i s born again i n order to r e a l i z e a more abundant new l i f e . From t h i s s p i r i t u a l perspective, the quest of Spence 128 Morison i s more than an adventure story of a l o s t technocrat who i s fortuitously rescued. Insofar as the s p i r i t u a l analogue evoked by the novel embodies many of the p r i n c i p a l characteristics of Catholic j u s t i f i c a t i o n and redemption, Morison's assertion that he has "come to know...things" resonates i n several ways: Morison himself experiences a profound change within himself; his wife perceives the depth of t h i s transformation but does not know what i t s i g n i f i e s ; and the responsive reader can discern a s p i r i t u a l analogy a r i s i n g from the patterned structure of the narrative which suggests a transcendental meaning. Arising out of the narrative motif of a cleansing baptism followed by a period of purgative suffering and transforming salvation, the p a r a l l e l of Spence Morison's wilderness quest approximates the fundamental progress towards salvation i n t r i n s i c to Catholic f a i t h . Morison may be unaware after his rescue of any s p i r i t u a l dimension i n his heightened consciousness as well as i n his newly realized insight into things. Nevertheless, after observing Morison's progress throughout the narrative one senses that whatever he has come to know i s comparable to the effi c a c y of a religious experience, approximating as i t does a demonstrably Catholic pattern of j u s t i f i c a t i o n , suffering, and redemption. From a Catholic perspective, j u s t i f i c a t i o n i s a s p i r i t u a l continuum to which a l l the features of a l i f e of f a i t h are related. In general terms, j u s t i f i c a t i o n i s "the act by which a person i s accepted by God or made worthy of salvation" (Nevins 129 317). More s p e c i f i c a l l y , i n a Catholic context i t i s the s p i r i t u a l experience generated by f a i t h , sacramentally f u l f i l l e d i n baptism and reactivated throughout one's l i f e by sacramental re c o n c i l i a t i o n . For the Catholic believer, j u s t i f i c a t i o n begins i n baptism by means of the infusion of divine grace which sanctifies the soul and makes i t holy and pleasing to God. After the reception of the saving grace of baptism, s a n c t i f i c a t i o n can be perpetuated i n two ways: through meritorious engagement i n works of virtue and charity and, whenever required, through contrite restoration by means of the sacrament of penance. This Catholic view of the place of j u s t i f i c a t i o n i n the economy of salvation envisions the s p i r i t u a l progress of the soul by means of growth i n perfection, growth which can be halted by diminishing the e f f e c t of sanctifying grace through s i n . Nevertheless, the divine grace which j u s t i f i e s also remains freel y available i n order to f i n d a restoration to holiness within the Church which i s the Body of Christ. Implicit i n t h i s process of a Catholic progress to s p i r i t u a l perfection i s the absence of any presumption upon the mercy of God. Ultimately, salvation i s attained i n the trust that the soul may become wholly pleasing to God. The path of s p i r i t u a l perfection, determined before death, may assure a salvation such as that which the Church recognizes i n i t s saints. In the Catholic view, the salvation of souls i s not a f a i t accompli of assurance during one's l i f e t i m e on earth. Quite simply, i t i s not a known certainty. Given the s p i r i t u a l l i f e 130 enlivened by grace mediated sacramentally, the Catholic believer desires salvation, anticipates salvation, and has f a i t h that he i s j u s t i f i e d i n his salvation, a deliverance which cannot be achieved on his own accord but only through the merciful love of God who w i l l s that a l l can be saved. Such an overview of the quest for s p i r i t u a l perfection following upon the grace of j u s t i f i c a t i o n and leading to salvation i s the foundation of Catholic f a i t h , informing the Catholic consciousness and providing the basis of meaning i n Catholic s p i r i t u a l l i f e . This pattern of s p i r i t u a l r e birth through baptism, growth i n perfection and deliverance into a new l i f e i s not only at the core of Catholic f a i t h ; i t i s also an enduring source of patterns of creative expression. I t i s within t h i s context that Buell can be seen infusing his narrative with the motif of the loss and recovery of a mid-twentieth century Everyman i n a s p i r i t u a l evocation which both shapes the narrative and gives c r e d i b i l i t y to Spence Morison's having "come to know...things" at the end of the novel. As similitudes, a l l analogies leak. Nowhere i s this more apparent than i n stories where the l i t e r a l narrative i s symbolically enriched or augmented by more abstract correspondences of a philosophical or s p i r i t u a l nature, either by implication or evocative suggestion. A point by point analogy would result i n allegory and that i s not what Buell achieves i n Playground. What i s perceived i n the novel by the evocation of a s p i r i t u a l dimension analogous to Spence Morison's experience i s 131 the r e a l i z a t i o n that his quest i s more than a s u p e r f i c i a l outdoors saga. The structure of Buell's narrative enables one to sense that s i g n i f i c a n t moments i n Morison's experience have a dimension which evoke at least certain aspects of Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y , especially those r e l a t i n g to progress towards salvation. At the outset, Morison*s entry into his experiential playground occurs after a period of soul searching. His l i f e i s generally blighted by the l i e of pretense, the false face which masks and i n h i b i t s the truth both about himself and his relationship with others. He has some latent expectation and f a i t h i n a newer and better r e a l i t y , as revealed i n his inner dialogue, but his thoughts have not been externalized i n action. His l i f e s t y l e i s predicated upon a resolute commitment to a mechanistic e f f i c i e n c y which gives order to his l i f e , the preparation for his vacation on Lac des Grises being a l o g i s t i c a l operation undertaken with a view to r e p l i c a t i n g familiar urban comfort and s t a b i l i t y i n a wilderness setting. While he possesses the capacity to escape from th i s pattern of predetermined regularity as i n his side t r i p around Quebec c i t y or i n his digression to view Lake Mistassini from the preordained f l i g h t path, his decisions result either i n g u i l t for having wasted time or i n a disastrous consequence. He knows there are alternatives to his r e s t r i c t i v e outlook: he would extract himself from the dehumanized dai l y stampede of horsepower during his working day, forsake the a r t i f i c e of pretense, be more openly responsive to people, regain the love 132 that used to exist within his family, and release himself from the d i s c i p l i n e of a managed l i f e . As his intermittent attempts at nonconformity indicate, he i s prepared to be open to other p o s s i b i l i t i e s for f u l f i l l m e n t i n l i f e . At the juncture i n his l i f e when he enters upon his annual vacation, Spence Morison i s disposed towards a change i n his l i f e , a conversion from the way things are towards a realignment of thought and action which i s comparable to s p i r i t u a l renewal. As he p i l o t s his airplane over the Quebec wilderness, Morison \s sense of personal freedom expands within him just as the vast area of the land below him becomes more expansive: He f e l t more and more l e t out, almost completely released. He sensed that i t was a s l i g h t l y negative feeling, and for an instant almost dwelt on what he was being released from. Free i s better. Free then. And the feeling was made more positive by the horizon expanding on a l l sides, a thing of his own doing, ri d i n g the apex of a huge and growing cone of v i s i o n and awareness (Plgd 25). He has confidence i n himself and trust i n others, such as Henri T^trault and the workers at Chibougamau who have assisted him with his f l i g h t plans. Aside from the immediate sense of psychological openness and release, Morison has grown into what i s tantamount to a f a i t h experience. He increasingly believes i n other people including the old sweeper, his l o c a l guide Gus Benoit, as well as Henri T^trault: " a l l of them good men" (Plgd 133 26). Moreover, he can affirm a value system r a d i c a l l y d i f f e r e n t from that which has informed so much of his past l i f e . The s p i r i t u a l analogue to this state of preparedness suggests that intimation or grasp of f a i t h which leads to baptism and prompts the soul to undertake a quest for s p i r i t u a l perfection and sa n c t i f i c a t i o n leading to redemption. As Buell's narrative develops, the story and i t s implied religious meaning counterpoint one another with the events i n Morison's l i f e , incrementally taking on greater significance as he grows i n insight towards that transformation i n which he w i l l "come to know...things" (Plgd 246). Unbeknown to himself, Morison's experience i s ess e n t i a l l y s p i r i t u a l . He i s d i s s a t i s f i e d with his past, finds increasing s a t i s f a c t i o n i n his present, and w i l l undergo a wilderness experience that w i l l enable him to see into the heart of things. By drawing upon the schema of j u s t i f i c a t i o n which i s at the core of Catholic consciousness, Buell broadens the imaginative sense of the narrative to include a plausible and notably Catholic s p i r i t u a l rationale underlying Morison's insight into himself, an inner realignment of consciousness which i s i n t e n s i f i e d after his crash into the wilderness lake. Following upon th i s symbolic baptism, Morison enters upon his wilderness experience, a challenge of a type not unknown to Jesus himself after being led into his wilderness after his own baptism. As a r i t e of i n i t i a t i o n , baptism generates new l i f e i n the soul. For Morison, from the moment he floats to the shore of the 134 lake from the s i t e of the plane crash, his l i f e w i l l never again be the same. Such an epochal event, l i t e r a l l y to r i s e from the water of the lake i n order to l i v e again, i s portrayed not as an end i n i t s e l f but a beginning. Just as baptism i s a Catholic point of departure for growth and p e r f e c t i b i l i t y i n s p i r i t u a l sanctity, so Morison's r i s i n g from the waters of a Quebec wilderness lake becomes the f i r s t stage i n the l i f e of a new man who develops a new consciousness through his philosophic insights into himself and his place i n the world. In Catholicism, a fundamental tenet of be l i e f holds that the s p i r i t u a l l i f e after baptism i s a pilgrimage of f a i t h . Having been j u s t i f i e d through the incursion of grace at baptism, the soul becomes engaged i n the process of s p i r i t u a l perfection throughout one's l i f e . This i s not a complacent time of security i n the absolute certainty a r i s i n g from imputed j u s t i f i c a t i o n assuring salvation. Rather, the path to s p i r i t u a l perfection i s beset by a l l the t r i a l s and tribulations of human l i f e which are manifestations of the suffering that defines the human condition, a theme that pervades a l l of Buell's f i c t i o n . In addition to knowing that type of suffering which Spence Morison had recognized e a r l i e r i n the old sweeper, s p i r i t u a l development that enables one to "come to know...things" i s predicated upon keeping the f a i t h , discerning the w i l l of God and endeavoring to conform to i t . In Buell's narrative, God i s not manifestly present to Morison. However, by drawing upon the Catholic view of the process of redemption which involves suffering towards a 135 greater good, Buell suggests a s p i r i t u a l matrix within which Spence Morison's ordeal can be understood. Ultimately, Morison's deliverance i s hard won, the portrayal of his wilderness experience registering on several levels of associative meaning. The survival story relates Morison's i s o l a t i o n i n the wilderness where he i s l o s t and incapable of being rescued by a search team. Psychologically, Morison responds to the challenge of his environment as he develops a plan whereby he can be rescued. His only comfort i s the inner voice of his a l t e r ego which serves as a r e a l i t y check on his thoughts, feelings, and actions. In addition to behavioral insights into Morison's adventure, the structure of the narrative evokes a mystical quest. After being washed clean and l e f t naked at the side of the lake, his search i n the wilderness i s as much for meaning as i t i s for survival and discovery insofar as what he undergoes i n the wilderness i s a s p i r i t u a l exercise which produces a new man whose consciousness has been raised to a new l e v e l of perception. It i s not his survival from being i n the lake which was his salvation. Rather, he must work out the means which can lead to deliverance, a motif which suggests comparison with the Catholic process leading to redemption. Baptism j u s t i f i e s but i n addition to t h i s grace Catholic b e l i e f holds firmly to the conviction that human action, fides formata not sola fides, i s meritorious i n attaining salvation. The structure of Buell's narrative, then, traces the analogous Catholic perception of a progress from 136 f a i t h enlivened conversion followed by the grace of baptism through the ensuing human drama leading to salvation, with the tension and c o n f l i c t s of the drama i t s e l f forming the pr i n c i p a l part of the novel. The wilderness experience i s the re a l ground for the play of l i f e i n which the actor i s d i s c i p l i n e d by the action of the play i t s e l f , a playground not only capable of being exploited for human pleasure but also one i n which Morison's penchant for e f f i c i e n c y focuses his mind upon the most eff e c t i v e means by which deliverance can be achieved. Throughout the narrative, this Catholic schema of salvation functions e f f e c t i v e l y insofar as i t extrapolates the si g n i f i c a n t moments i n Morison's progress, infusing them with a s p i r i t u a l dimension. This i s especially important for the f i n a l scenario i n the wilderness at the moment when Morison i s rescued by John Sweetgrass and his companions, the rescue i t s e l f not only physically saving Morison from certain death but also imaginatively suggesting an act of salvation. This conceptual salvation occurs not through Morison's own means but gratuitously through the compassionate action of one who i s native to the region where Morison lay dying. By his own means Morison cannot effect the rescue which w i l l be his salvation. This depends upon the good w i l l of John Sweetgrass just as i n Christian b e l i e f a saving action i s always i n i t i a t e d by God. Such a narrative action of deliverance, not by one's own means but through the intervention of another, r e c a l l s a similar event i n The Shrewsdale Exit when Joe Grant i s saved from his 137 misguided l i f e by the intervention of Captain Sparrs. In both novels, the climactic moment of deliverance evokes an integral tenet of Christian f a i t h : man cannot save himself, one being en t i r e l y dependent upon another for that type of rescue which s i g n i f i e s salvation. In both The Shrewsdale Exit as well as i n Playground, the protagonist depends at a c r i t i c a l moment at the very end of the novel upon another person who i s the instrument of his deliverance, a narrative technique that apparently proves problematic for some readers. For example, the Kirkus Reviews reader noted that i n Playground "[t]he fortuitous rescue i s perhaps a concession..." (21). Similar reservations have been raised about the ending of The Shrewsdale Exit which the reviewer for Publisher's Weekly judged "not altogether satisfactory" (74) and which caused Roger Baker to believe that "the golden rays of hope with which the saga ends seem contrived and, i n fact, render suspect the hitherto f a i r l y r i g i d and consistently c r i t i c a l view of society projected" (102). However, the analogous Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y that pervades both novels imaginatively infuses the climactic narrative moment of lib e r a t i o n and deliverance with a comparable s p i r i t u a l state of salvation which enhances and enriches the meaning of the narrative event i t s e l f . If the deliverance of the protagonist at the end of each of the novels was not enabled and accomplished through the ministry of a Captain Sparrs or John Sweetgrass, the evocation of s p i r i t u a l meaning would be confounded by a lack of resolution. In Playground, as i n The Shrewsdale Exit, the 138 suffering of the protagonist, which comprises a large part of the respective novels, has meaning only i f there i s something worth suffering for. Spence Morison's t r i a l i n the wilderness i s not an end i n i t s e l f . Rather, i t i s a purifying experience which leads not simply to survival but to his rescue and i t i s towards thi s rescue, as gratuitous as i t may be i n the narrative, that the protagonist s t r i v e s . Spence Morison i s victimized by an indifferent natural environment i n Playground, just as Joe Grant loses out to the seeming indifference of a bureaucratic l e g a l system i n The Shrewsdale Exit. For each of these protagonists, however, the re a l struggle involves the resolution of a c o n f l i c t between past misguided values and attitudes and the prospect of l i b e r a t i o n and deliverance i n a new l i f e . For Morison, his rescue i s a vindication of his determination a r i s i n g out of his wilderness experience to choose l i f e over death. Prior to t h i s he had been a rather ordinary figure, the "well-heeled, well-organized f o r t y i s h C i t i f i e d Everyman" that Guidry has described, whose bravado and recklessness had almost resulted i n his death after crashing into the lake. He had been, i n Drolet's terms, "a successful man, capable, e f f i c i e n t almost to the point of arrogance. The organization man ready for a l l contingencies" ("Bush" 127). The one contingency for which he was not prepared was the crash of his f l o a t plane i n a desolate northern Quebec lake while on vacation. I n i t i a l l y , Morison, the survivor on the edge of the lake, f u l f i l l s his role as the e f f i c i e n t organization man. He 139 builds a shelter for himself, searches for something to eat, finds that he can make i t edible by cooking i t , and builds a smoke signal at the right moment for any passing rescue a i r c r a f t to notice. He i s momentarily safe i n the security of his survivor's camp. Time and the wilderness experience soon make him aware, however, of the cruel paradox that a l l the cert a i n t i e s of l i f e are i l l u s o r y : the best made plans become only false expectations, hope i s wishful thinking, even the seeming permanence of l i f e i s subverted by death. As he attempts to walk out of the wilderness to a point where rescue would be a real p o s s i b i l i t y , he thinks back to his f i r s t s i x days of survival: For a moment he longed for the lake and i t s cer t a i n t i e s : water, and landmarks, and food such as i t was, and knowing where south was, and...nothing else, i t wasn't enough, i t had been a closed system, a s e l f -contained i l l u s i o n , a routine that would be deadly i n the long run. Like l i f e . "Life?" Yes, l i f e . That's what brought you here i n the f i r s t place. "Yeah, I guess i t did." He shook of f the idea and looked up at the sky. " I t ' l l come up, i t has to." There at least was a certainty, a real one (Plgd 181) The personal and professional l i f e that Morison had known before 140 his crash landing approximates the quality of l i f e i n his f i r s t shelter, i t too having been the same "closed system" and " s e l f -contained i l l u s i o n " that was equally "deadly." While he might w i s t f u l l y long for the security of the "self-contained i l l u s i o n " on the edge of the lake, he knows that " i t wasn't enough." In the wilderness, Morison has "come to know...things," p r i n c i p a l l y his r e a l i z a t i o n that l i f e has meaning through engagement with r e a l i t y , as evidenced i n his determination to hike seventy miles through the forest and along the riv e r s i n the hope that he w i l l be rescued. Without any i l l u s i o n s , he can now accept his place i n the erstwhile playground with the same realism that the old sweeper gave to his job i n Chibougamau: The s t i l l n e s s of endurance, the harsh identity of suffering, a s e l f who seemed to have no ego. He couldn't complain to the forest or the water or the sky, the playground had no manager, no fun-maker paid to s e l l l i t t e r , nature had no wastes, not even me. More than new experience. It was a new way of experiencing. He could only accept. And ask. The low point was a high point. It would get lower (Plgd 195). Ironic a l l y , Morison learns to value the "new way of experiencing" l i f e just as he i s possibly about to lose i t : the thought of dying within a few days, to rephrase Samuel Johnson's memorable dictum, concentrates the mind wonderfully. Facing the r e a l i t y of death, Morison perseveres even when a l l of his hope has been seemingly u n f u l f i l l e d and a l l of his determination to 14.1 l i v e has been subverted by the p o s s i b l i t y of the imminence of death. He accepts the death he believes to be inevitable, nevertheless agonizing at his f i n a l stopping place at the prospect of losing the l i f e that he had sought to preserve: ...he had already spent himself....He managed to move away from the f i r e and he crawled more and more into nothingness....He...drifted into vague dreams, memories he couldn't be sure of....He kept slipping i n and out of consciousness....The waking t o l d him he was s t i l l a l i v e . The other kept a r r i v i n g l i k e nothing. At any moment i t would stay. " I—won' t—know." But somewhere within himself he thought he did (Plgd 230-1) In the "new way of experiencing," Morison has had to acknowledge that on the playground of l i f e the new r e a l i t y exists of losing out to death. In what he anticipates as the hour of his death, his certainty that he has the capability to preserve his l i f e i s continually undermined as he intermittently loses consciousness. Increasingly, a l l of his self-knowledge has been reduced to nothing. "Somewhere within himself" he knows that he w i l l not know, that he w i l l have no knowledge about the effectiveness of his strategy to maintain l i f e nor w i l l he know that the seeming nothingness of death w i l l have replaced the r e a l i t y of his l i f e . A l l that he can do i s to accept the r e a l i t y of death as his destiny. However, the restoration of l i f e f a c i l i t a t e d by John 142 Sweetgrass challenges Morison's conviction that the only certainty that exists i s death. Through Sweetgrass's ministration, new l i f e i s the new r e a l i t y . In the bonding that exists between Morison and John Sweetgrass after his rescue, Morison affirms Sweetgrass's l i f e -giving r e a l i t y . Engaged on a mission directed towards the preservation of the traditions of indigenous l i f e l i v e d i n harmony and balance with nature, Sweetgrass had found and rescued Morison. The l i f e that Sweetgrass i s fostering has nothing i n common with the work of the bureaucrats at the wilderness outpost, the anthropologist who, as Sweetgrass explains, i s "studying Indians. Concepts of community land tenure. He'll get i t a l l wrong" nor with the c i v i l servant who i s "government i n some way. Grants and contracts..." (Plgd 240). While the government workers are irrelevant to Sweetgrass, such concepts and contracts on which they are working are symptomatic of the highly systematized l i f e that Morison had known i n which Things were done consciously and e f f i c i e n t l y . He t r i e d to run his l i f e , l i f e , that way. Even [his] holiday had been planned l o g i s t i c a l l y , with three friends...to remove themselves from the complex pressures of t h e i r work and li v e s (Plgd 7). However, the l o g i s t i c s of the organization man have been considerably purged during Morison's wilderness experience to the extent that he, too, quietly dissociates himself from the so c i a l s c i e n t i s t s , mentally aligning himself with Sweetgrass and 143 his companions who gauge the world about them i n terms of human values and not according to concepts and l o g i s t i c s . Humanly, Sweet grass knows that he can l i v e i n harmony with nature by means of his own capability, maintaining his human needs i n balance with his natural environment. This i s e f f i c i e n c y i n the natural order which can hardly f a i l to impress Morison, the professional man who had been a model of planning and urban ef f i c i e n c y but who would not have survived i n the wilderness without the help of Sweetgrass. Ultimately, Sweetgrass's engagement with nature incorporates human nature as well. He i s committed to the preservation of a balanced l i f e i n nature for his fellow Cree and for Morison, a stranger i n t h e i r midst, he i s the mediator of new l i f e : "Mr. Sweetree," said Spence,"...I want to thank you for everything." "That's a l l right, i t could've been anybody." "Maybe. But i t was you. I owe you my l i f e . " "0-o-oh," he said doubtfully,"doesn't everybody owe somebody that" (Plgd 241-2)? The ambiguity of "somebody" i n Sweetgrass's seemingly rhe t o r i c a l retort puzzles Morison momentarily as he "had to think i t over." The primary sense of "somebody" may well be parental. However, i f "somebody" means some other person, then Sweetgrass i s refering to the interdependence within the human family wherein each person shares r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for another. Moreover, i f "somebody" s i g n i f i e s some one person i n a more r e s t r i c t i v e 144 sense, the i m p l i c i t suggestion i s that everybody i s c o l l e c t i v e l y indebted to One who gives l i f e , a somewhat oblique reference to Christ, the quintessential man for others. The paradox of either a s o c i a l or, on the other hand, a more profound s p i r i t u a l sense to Sweetgrass's observation i s not l o s t on Morison who after a b r i e f hesitation, cannot help but laugh i n knowing recognition at the essential s o c i a l as well as possibly s p i r i t u a l truth of human indebtedness for l i f e . Among other insights, t h i s fundamental perception of the truth about indebtedness for l i f e should find i t s place among the "things" that Morison has "come to know." Buell envisions Morison's destiny and ultimate g i f t of restored l i f e from a Catholic perspective. This does not require superimposing upon the narrative a Catholic outlook. Buell's f a i t h experience i s already the r e a l i t y i n which his imagination i s rooted. What i s manifested i n the f i c t i o n mirrors, as i t were, an imagination impregnated with a Catholic world view, an awareness and consequent expression a r i s i n g from his consciousness of the way things are. In the narrative, Morison does not appear to be a Catholic nor does he manifest any particular r e l i g i o s i t y other than on one occasion to mark the day of the week two days after his crash: "He remembered i t was Sunday and wondered about God" (Plgd 150). This rather q u i z z i c a l r e f l e c t i o n passes very quickly, the presence of God no longer being a point of reference i n his i n t e r i o r dialogue i n the wilderness. Aside from th i s single mention of God i n the novel, 145 there are intermittent religious images, more or less Catholic, that appear throughout the narrative. For example, Morison considers the observance of s o c i a l propriety "as r i g i d as an ancient p r i e s t l y caste" (Plgd 17); his nighttime watchfulness i s depicted as a " v i g i l " (Plgd 146, 150); the maintenance of a beacon of f i r e becomes "a r i t u a l , no more, performed i n hope" (Plgd 211). On his way to Chibougamau, Morison drives past the Portes de L'Enfer (Plgd 10), a s i t e that would appear to be an ominous and portentous evocation of prospective loss, a suggestion that f a i l s to materialize, however, when Morison's wilderness experience becomes a purgation rather than a condemnation. So far as Catholic imagery i s concerned, Buell himself has made clear that i t was not his intention to establish a "lovely mythological l i n e " which would form a coherent pattern of imagery within the novel (Garebian, "Religion" 80). Textually, the Catholicity inherent i n Playground w i l l not be discerned from any figurative representation i n the text. Rather, i t i s from the pattern of action, either i n the expression of the protagonist's inner thoughts or i n his observable behavior, that one gleans thematic strands imbued with aspects of Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y . What one seeks to iden t i f y , then, are patterns of such Catholic evocations as stripping away, struggle, s i n , suffering, and salvation. Buell's imaginative v i s i o n consistently develops i n Playground, as i n the other novels, a certain asceticism which st r i p s or deprives 146 a character of material dependency and even, as Bauer observes (129), of the s t a b i l i t y of place or l o c a l i t y . Moreover, the direction of Morison's destiny i s determined throughout by an intensive internal struggle i n which he makes decisions, sometimes productive, sometimes disastrous, that eventually bring him to the point of rescue, a progress not at a l l unlike that which characterizes the Catholic doctrine of j u s t i f i c a t i o n i n which salvation i s progressively worked out through the decisions that one makes, sometimes for good, sometimes for i l l . One can ide n t i f y a Catholic consciousness as well i n the act of distancing oneself from God and from the presence of God i n other persons, thereby producing a s i n f u l separation. Given his single-minded adherence to technology, Morison had estranged himself s o c i a l l y and psychologically from almost every one around him. Only when he i s saved by John Sweetgrass does he f i n a l l y understand that we are our brother's keeper, t h i s central truth of the human condition presumably becoming one of the things, as he t e l l s his wife, that he has "come to know." Ultimately, according to Catholic doctrine regarding the economy of salvation, redemption i s available as the gratuitous g i f t of God, freely given to a l l who merit salvation. Thematically, t h i s becomes Morison's quest, an expectation f u l f i l l e d when he i s saved by John Sweetgrass. Incapable of saving himself, Morison needs Sweetgrass, the rescuer to whom he must forever remain indebted for his l i f e . Such an evocation of the joy of redemption does not make a Catholic out of Spence Morison, but 147 i t does indicate how i t and the other features imbued with a s p i r i t u a l basis and which are related to the survival theme i n thi s novel resonate with a s p i r i t u a l i t y originating i n Buell's Catholicism. 148 A Lot To Make Up For The hope of a broken humanity l i e s i n re c o n c i l i a t i o n , both with others and with God. Individually and communally, the need to assuage g u i l t , to make amends, and to seek forgiveness heals the ruptures that occur i n personal and interpersonal relationships. This i s Buell' s focus i n A Lot To Make Up For, p r i n c i p a l l y i n det a i l i n g Stan Hagen's quest to be reconciled with Adele Symons because of his violent and abusive actions during a period of mutual narcotic addiction two years e a r l i e r , a quest resulting from his desire to be at peace with God. However, Adele also bears the personal burden of her own g u i l t , her infant daughter being predisposed to addiction throughout her l i f e because of her mother's previous narcotic self-abuse. Even Evalynn Roussel, the unsuspecting wife of a sexual predator, also seeks to heal the injury suffered by those i n the town of Ashton, including Adele, who have been adversely affected and blackmailed by her depraved husband's exploitive strategies. S o c i a l l y , the interconnected healing process that takes place i n Ashton i s not effected i n i s o l a t i o n . As the Kirkus Reviews reader noted: "the key to recovery [from past mistakes] seems to be responsible interaction with good-hearted individuals" (446). To t h i s end, those seeking to atone for past and present i n j u r i e s i n Buell's narrative receive both communal and moral support from persons of good w i l l who ass i s t them i n the i r endeavor to make amends. 149 With the exception of the Hampton Journal editor Mr. Holling who rebuffs him contemptibly with bureaucratic indifference, Stan receives considerable small town support from several Ashton people who d i r e c t l y and i n d i r e c t l y a s s i s t him both i n his r e h a b i l i t a t i o n and i n his search for Adele Symons. The l o c a l Alcoholics Anonymous contact person he l p f u l l y directs him to a meeting centre i n town; the Ashton Elementary School p r i n c i p a l recognizes his frustration i n trying to fi n d Adele and shares privileged information with him; Mr. Lennox has contacts a l l over town whom he c a l l s upon to discretely search l o c a l records; and Kay Saunders not only remains a l e r t for information pertaining to Adele which w i l l a s s i s t Stan but also i s instrumental i n reuniting them. Each of these supportive persons contributes towards the building of communal sharing and partnership. They have nothing to gain for themselves; t h e i r s e l f l e s s assistance, as they help Stan achieve a goal about which they have l i t t l e or no knowledge, r e f l e c t s a fundamental human contribution that individuals can personally make towards a l l e v i a t i n g distress and suffering. Stan i s not alone, of course, i n receiving t h i s kind of assistance from the community. Adele i s also supported by friends and acquaintances who have made and continue to make a positive contribution to her well-being: Sister Elizabeth Stevens, after whom Adele gratefully names her daughter Betty i n a gesture of appreciation and gratitude, was the nun who had directed the program of re h a b i l i t a t i o n for Adele's drug 150 addiction; Claudia Poole takes the i n i t i a t i v e i n j u s t i f y i n g Adele's innocence after she has been blackmailed by one of her employers; and Adele's. other employers, Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Melling, are keen to have her working for them again after she had been defamed. Moreover, Martin Lacey whose immediate family has grown increasingly remote, receives companionable and friendly support after his heart attack from his neighbors P h i l and Marge Baines. This pattern of s o c i a l interdependence which Buell establishes i n the novel becomes even more focused i n the affectionate relationship which develops between Lacey and Stan Hagen, a bonding of old age and youth established on the basis of mutual assistance which soon develops into a heightened rapport which transforms t h e i r relationship from the merely s o c i a l into a profoundly s p i r i t u a l experience realized near the end of the novel through th e i r common sharing i n the Eucharist. The associative pattern of community support affecting Stan, Adele, and Martin i s important for narrative cohesion. More than that, the integral sense of community which exists i n Ashton leads to an understanding of what Martin and Stan experience within the context of sacramental communion. The vi s i o n of community as a theological construct pervades Catholic consciousness. Community i s Catholic, for unlike the focus of other theologies which pri v i l e g e the individual, Catholicism i s a c o l l e c t i v i t y i n i t s f a i t h and worship: ...the nature of the Church i s [realized] as a community rooted i n , and expressive of, the communal 151 l i f e of the triune God.... " [ C]ommunion" i s a translation from the Greek term koinonia...to indicate sharing, fellowship, or close association.... Christians, through the Holy S p i r i t , enjoy communion with the triune God and are also " i n communion" with other baptized Christians. Communion therefore has a v e r t i c a l dimension (contact with God) and a horizontal dimension (bonding with other Christians) (Fahey 3 3 7 ) . This concept of the communion found i n the Church finds i t s most complete expression and t o t a l i t y of meaning during the l i t u r g i c a l celebration of the mass i n which "[s]haring i n the body and blood of Christ i n Eucharist at the celebration of the Lord's Supper i s regarded as a special moment i n the Church's celebration of i t s l i f e " so that "the reception of the Eucharist [is] seen as a high point i n sharing the g i f t s of God" and, more broadly, sharing i n the Pauline sense of "communlo, societas, participatio, or communicatio" (Fahey 3 3 7 ) . In A Lot To Make Up For, Buell finds an effe c t i v e application of t h i s Catholic sense of communion when Martin Lacey attends the late Saturday afternoon v i g i l mass i n Ashton where he i s surprised to find Stan Hagen, t h i s Eucharistic celebration being a s i g n i f i c a n t catalyst both s o c i a l l y and s p i r i t u a l l y i n the l i v e s of Martin and Stan. Knowing of one another's sharing i n this v i g i l mass, both Martin and Stan experience an a f f i n i t y resulting i n the enrichment of t h e i r friendship and an appreciation of the s p i r i t u a l r e a l i t y of t h e i r l i f e i n Christ. 152 Stan Hagen's determination to atone for a violent and injurious past has been es s e n t i a l l y activated by a deepening understanding of his Catholic f a i t h . Stan's i s as much a s p i r i t u a l journey which w i l l ultimately bring him closer to God as i t i s a quest for psychological s a t i s f a c t i o n . In thi s novel, the cure of souls, as Buell repeatedly indicates, requires the pri e s t , not the psychiatrist. In large measure Stan's undertaking i s penit e n t i a l : he must co n t r i t e l y abjure the drugs, alcohol, and unlicensed concupiscence of the past and commit himself to the reconstruction of a new l i f e . Such a new l i f e , however, i s integrated with a s p i r i t u a l regeneration which complements and strengthens his so c i a l renewal. During his period of recovery and r e h a b i l i t a t i o n , Stan had become conscious of the need for s p i r i t u a l direction i n his l i f e which would support and sustain him as he began to reclaim his s o c i a l l i f e . Gerry Damer, a recovering alcoholic priest himself, had informally guided Stan through a s p i r i t u a l awakening. On one memorable occasion, as Stan l a t e r recalled, we got to talking about i t , trying to ta l k about i t , a higher power, God, and he said to me we can't know— and he r e a l l y came down on that word, "know"—we can't know, not the way we think knowing i s knowing, he's too different for that, we have to believe (Lot 169). In order to grasp the r e a l i t y of God, Stan asks: "What must I do to believe?" Darner's response i s a simple "Ask," a reassuring request since, as Stan re a l i z e s , "when you're asking, r e a l l y 153 asking, you're asking someone. You can take i t that he's simply there, and that asking i s always possible" (Lot 169). In t h i s "asking," as Martin Lacey l a t e r points out, l i e s the source of s p i r i t u a l restoration: "at times, not always, but at times, the prayer you're making w i l l change you as you're making i t " (Lot 170). Faith, prayer, and change i s the s p i r i t u a l l y transforming process that complements Stan's search for Adele. He has sought re c o n c i l i a t i o n with God and l i v e s i n the expectation that he w i l l be reconciled to the young woman he had abusively violated. Stan's s p i r i t u a l restoration had begun almost two years before he met Martin. Like Martin, he had been aware of his separation from the rest of humanity, becoming increasingly more f u l l y aware of his own mortality: ...he was alone. With himself. He and nothing else. He had been stripped, no, that was putting i t on somebody else, no, no, somehow he had become stripped of—everything. He had no friends, no money, no place, no work, no clothes....This, after the soaring happiness of drugs....Deeper and deeper into that desert, the ego having i t s way, a mirage of lushness, green with promise. A l l gone now, into some kind of nothing. He f e l t himself picked clean, bones drying i n the dusty wind, the glare fearsome.... He wondered i f death were l i k e that. The s e l f he thought he knew was just not there.... He was discovering, l i k e expecting bottom and finding none, 154 that he did not, could not, know himself....he...could know other things, but not the heart of his own person. That was i n existence by a different warrant. That was given. His to accept, to choose, to do, however weakly. And i f given, oh, possible, i f given, i s t h i s the desert where you meet the giver? (Lot 97-8) Recapitulating his "desert" experience l a t e r to Martin, he t e l l s him that his self-destructive l i f e s t y l e had resulted i n "having everything come to nothing. And I mean everything, a l l of i t " (Lot 151). As he and Martin r e f l e c t upon the nature of this experience, Stan explains: "There was nothing l e f t of me, Mr. Lacey, except me. And even that I can't recognize." In the quiet that followed, Martin said: "They used to c a l l i t — d y i n g to Oneself." "I've heard i t used. It's true." "Its not a matter for therapy." "No, I found that out." (Lot 151) Since t h i s period of s p i r i t u a l emptiness experienced two years e a r l i e r , Stan had committed himself to the Alcoholics Anonymous program i n which he has found both sobriety and a r e v i t a l i z e d f a i t h . The outgrowth of his s p i r i t u a l development has been the recent quest to find Adele i n order to make amends. From "nothing" Stan has found something i n his gradual s p i r i t u a l awakening which has made him aware that there i s a l o t to make 155 up for, both i n love of God as well as i n seeking to heal the rupture with Adele. Gerry Damer had provided s i g n i f i c a n t s p i r i t u a l direction. Martin Lacey becomes equally instrumental i n responding to Stan's s p i r i t u a l quest. At the juncture i n t h e i r l i v e s when Martin and Stan meet, there exists an inverse relationship between them i n the pattern of Buell's depiction of the respective stages of t h e i r s p i r i t u a l preparedness: Stan has been s t r i v i n g to repossess what he had l o s t , advancing from the time two years previously when he was reduced to "nothing"; Martin i s increasingly conscious of the gradual need to be able to dispossess himself of what he has gained throughout his l i f e . Stan's s p i r i t u a l l i f e i s one of reconstruction; Martin's, of increasing self-abnegation. In t h i s narrative construct between youth and old age, growth and decline, getting and losing, s e l f - s a c r i f i c e i s the common experience of both Stan and Martin. Each i s i n a state of c r i s i s . Each i s experiencing s p i r i t u a l growth after having acknowledged the necessity of depriving oneself of impediments to a l i f e of grace. Stan has only arrived at his present stage of character development after having made a firm determination to deny himself those addictive pleasures which were at the centre of his l i f e . F o r t i f i e d by exemplary s e l f - d i s c i p l i n e , he has forsaken the i l l u s o r y narcotic and alcohol induced pleasures of the past and has become increasingly engaged s o c i a l l y i n his search for Adele. Martin, however, has been experiencing a f a l l i n g away of the many meaningful parts of his l i f e , leaving 156 him isolated and alone: the recent death of his wife, the psychological and geographical distancing of his children, and the d e b i l i t a t i n g e f f e c t of his recent life-threatening heart attack which has l e f t hiin incapable of e f f e c t i v e l y maintaining his small farm. After a lif e t i m e of working, r a i s i n g a family, and anticipating a f u l f i l l i n g future with his wife after retirement, he i s very much alone as he accepts the gradual downsizing which has beset him and which has l e f t him more introspective as he r e f l e c t s upon his future. The gradual disappearance of so many temporal joys has increasingly distanced him from any sense of belonging. As he looks out on the property around his country house, he knows at certain e x i s t e n t i a l moments that he i s "seeing i t r e a l . And i n that moment, those moments, i t a l l ceased being his" {Lot 84). He knows, of course, that he has legal t i t l e to ownership and a l l which that e n t a i l s : ...but despite that, i n those moments of insight, he could f e e l no ownership, and, more sharply, no f a m i l i a r i t y . The lane and the trees and the land, the house, fences, a l l of i t , l i k e the sky, not h i s . . . . i t was seeing i t i n i t s own context, not his, past the mental baggage of habit and culture and use. And seen that way i t simply l e f t him. And he was there, emphasized, alone, moved to his very s e l f , feeling something close to fear, yet, strangely, not upset. It f e l t l i k e discovery. What held that held him (Lot 84). 157 Increasingly dispossessed of so many things he had valued during the past t h i r t y years, Martin i s dismayed by the brevity of one's stewardship as he thinks back over the past: "What struck home was that the very place which had represented so much human promise had now come to symbolize a rea l emptiness, a sort of human desert" (Lot 85). Increasingly more alone and deprived even of the humanizing presence of his children who are distant or indifferent, Martin accepts his diminished l i f e with resignation: No complaints, no blame to lay, no one held responsible. It was time and nature and the way we l i v e . But i t was more than a l e t t i n g go, i t was also a f a l l i n g o f f . Something that should be was not there. And that, for i t was too subtle to give voice to, had to be accepted i n silence. The beginning of the desert (Lot 85-6). Detached from relationships which had connected him to past c u l t u r a l r e a l i t i e s , Martin experiences a " f a l l i n g o f f " approximating the meaningless state of "having come to nothing" that young Stan Hagen had known two years e a r l i e r . For Martin, as for a d i s i l l u s i o n e d Macbeth, l i f e has increasingly become f u l l of sound and fury signifying nothing: A l l the experience, the work, the know-how, the loyalty, the hard-won knowledge, the human roles, the almost forced-upon-him-wisdom, a l l that went for nothing. It just didn't e x i s t — a blank and a gap so 158 huge as to remove identity from him. He was c u l t u r a l l y disreputable. Just another old guy.... Another wilderness (Lot 86). Stan, too, r e f l e c t i n g upon his own identity, believes that he would be perceived around Ashton ...not as a resident, not l i v i n g anywhere, another stranger, d r i f t i n g , with c i t y written a l l over him, no roots, no l o y a l t i e s , nobody to know, no one to know him, the ideal of the twentieth century/ alone, god-l i k e , a joke i n the universe, about as s e l f - s u f f i c i e n t as a bug without a plant to chew on (Lot 28). When Stan's quest for Adele i n d i r e c t l y brings him to Martin's country farm, both youth and old age are respectively at a point of t r a n s i t i o n from the uncertainty experienced i n the "desert" of t h e i r recent l i v e s to the certainty of God's healing presence which has made the "desert" bearable, an elusive s p i r i t u a l r e a l i t y which i s d i f f i c u l t to art i c u l a t e as Stan finds when he asks Martin: "Nobody talks much about i t , do they?" "No. We've lo s t the words. A l o t of talk, about how to fe e l good, no words." "It's a l l desert, i s n ' t i t , Mr. Lacey?" "You could say that." "And one well." "Those are very old words." "Not for me" (Lot 168) 159 Each i n his own way has known the "desert" experience. Each has been l i v i n g i n a "wilderness" of uncertainty. Each has experienced a c r i s i s of identity. Each, as Stan remembers, has been marginalized (Lot 124). In contrast to the i s o l a t i o n and solitude of the "desert" experience with which both Martin and Stan are familiar, Martin's household garden offsets the loneliness of the s p i r i t u a l desert with shared experience and mutual engagement. From the "desert," Martin and Stan are quite l i t e r a l l y united i n t h e i r engagement i n the garden, the one place, as Martin knows, where i n contrast to the "desert" the v i t a l i t y of creation and of the creator can be experienced i n nature: ...the garden...was an extra.... A convenience, not a necessity. Such i t was,, seen from the outside. But for him i t was almost a way of l i f e . It brought him close to things, and t h e i r source. His hands set his heart free.... He was discovering the beginning (Lot 109). After Martin's heart attack, his garden experience that brought him so close to the source of things becomes one more part of his l i f e that comprises the " f a l l i n g o f f , " a s a c r i f i c e to the exigencies of time and age and, rather s i g n i f i c a n t l y , to s p i r i t u a l perfection. Moreover, th i s " f a l l i n g o f f " and " l e t t i n g go" of something as good as the "earth and l i v i n g things and work that acknowledges creation" (Lot 167) can provide the efficacious means whereby one e f f e c t i v e l y serves another. In the midst of his prayer at mass, Martin i s consoled by the 160 r e a l i z a t i o n that what i s l o s t to him has been found by young Stan Hagen: And then i t was back, with a youth and energy not mine, back surely not for me, I had l e t i t go, not mine at a l l , returned, found s t i l l forgone, my l o s t luggage s e r v i n g — i s n ' t that i t ? — s e r v i n g as luggage for someone else on his way (Lot 167). Having provided the means by which Stan can develop s p i r i t u a l l y through being "brought close to things, and t h e i r source" by becoming engaged i n the garden experience that "acknowledges creation," Martin knows that for himself he must accept the dispossession even of a good thing, recognizing i t only as "something on the way" that "you have to pass...to get further, closer, free of l o s t baggage, hurt as i t may to lose" (167). The desire "to get further," uttered within the context of a prayer after receiving the Eucharist, underscores a latent Catholic predeliction for asceticism. With evocative metaphors found i n the narrative accounts of both Stan and Martin of the "desert," the "wilderness," and the reduction of identity and one's self-concept to "nothing," i t i s apparent that Buell i s drawing upon images from the Catholic t r a d i t i o n of the ascetic l i f e , thereby conveying a sense that the desire to a t t a i n s p i r i t u a l perfection becomes more i n t e n s i f i e d as one leaves the "desert" i n order to drink, as Stan Hagen knows, at the "one well." In i t s most positive sense, Catholic asceticism replicates, as Campbell notes, the essential q u a l i t i e s found i n 161 the l i f e of Christ: "This imitation of Christ generally proceeds along three main l i n e s , v i z . : mortification of the senses, unworldliness, and detachment from family t i e s . " Each of these practices has a s c r i p t u r a l basis aligning i t closely with Christ's own practice: Thus we have, as regards mortification, the words of St. Paul, who says: "I chastise my body and bring i t into subjection: l e s t perhaps when I have preached to others I myself should be east away" (1 Cor.,ix,27); while Our Lord Himself says: "He that taketh not up his cross, and followeth Me, i s not worthy of Me" (Matt.,x,38). Commending unworldliness, we have: "My kingdom i s not of t h i s world" (John, x v i i i , 3 6 ) ; approving detachment there i s the text, not to c i t e others: " i f any man come to Me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren and s i s t e r s , yea, and his own l i f e also, he cannot be My d i s c i p l e " (Luke,xiv,26)..."hate" [here] indicating a greater love for God than for a l l things together. Moreover, the reason for committing oneself to s e l f - s a c r i f i c i n g acts of mortification and detachment defines the quality of the ascetic l i f e . Here, a negative motive, prompted by the desire not to s i n , i s outweighed by the positive motive to imitate and l i v e the l i f e of Christ. Consequently, there are degrees of perfection i n asceticism, levels of perfection which St. 162 Ignatius termed "the three degrees of humility" consisting of the beginners, the prof i c i e n t , and the perfect: In the f i r s t place a man may serve God i n such a way that he i s w i l l i n g to make any s a c r i f i c e rather than commit a grievous s i n . This disposition of the soul, which i s the lowest i n the s p i r i t u a l l i f e , i s necessary for salvation. Again, he may be w i l l i n g to make such s a c r i f i c e s rather than offend God by venial s i n . Lastly he may, when thi s i s not question of s i n at a l l , be eager to do whatever w i l l make his l i f e harmonize with that of Christ. I t i s this l a s t motive which the highest kind of asceticism adopts....[these] are the three steps i n the elimination of s e l f , and consequently three great advances towards union with God, who enters the soul i n proportion as s e l f i s expelled. It i s the s p i r i t u a l state of St. Paul...when he says:"And I l i v e , now not I, but Christ l i v e t h i n me" G a l . , i i , 2 0 (Campbell). These stages comprise what have also been t r a d i t i o n a l l y termed the purgative, illuminative, and unitive states i n the s p i r i t u a l l i f e . In whole or even i n part they influence the motives and practice associated with Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y . That they f i n d expression i n Buell's narrative i s indicative of the pervasive effect that features of the ascetic and penitential l i f e have upon Catholic consciousness. To a greater or lesser degree, each of the pr i n c i p a l characters i n the narrative conforms to the t r a d i t i o n a l pattern 163 of s p i r i t u a l development. Stan and Adele are respectively engaged i n l i v e s of renunciation, attempting to make sat i s f a c t i o n for the s o c i a l and moral dysfunction of th e i r l i v e s two years e a r l i e r , Stan by searching for Adele and Adele by nurturing her infant daughter and by protecting her from any form of abuse. In t h e i r past experience, each of them had become victims of the painful pursuit of pleasure: What had once been choice was now habit and need, pleasures now joyless that they couldn't stop pursuing. The less the return, the stronger the pursuit, the greater the misery. It was always worse after, after the sex, after the days of booze, after the ecstasy of cocaine, something s t i l l hungry, and s t i l l empty, and even more demanding, the letdown that t o l d you you'd never be happy, but that you'd t r y again, and again, addicted to pleasure that now mocked you (L o t 41). Having broken out of thi s cycle, both Stan and Adele have been engaged for two years i n developing t h e i r respective defenses against t h e i r addictive past. In order to avoid the injurious e f f e c t of drugs upon her pregnancy, Adele undertook a program of withdrawal, but not soon enough to prevent the development of a future p r o c l i v i t y for addiction i n her daughter Betty. This event i n i t s e l f made Adele even more determined to protect Betty from further harm. When the opportunity to renege upon her commitment occurs, Adele remains resolute i n her determination 164 to follow her program of r e h a b i l i t a t i o n . Refusing any suggestion to pacify Betty, she rejects Mr. Roussell's o f f e r of a lump sum payment i n order to g r a t i f y his e r o t i c fantasies. In t h i s instance, Adele i s tested and she holds firm to her commitment. It i s clear not only what Adele i s against but also from what she has disengaged herself. While her progress to recovery seems assured, Adele i s primarily concerned with avoiding the drugs and depravity of the recent past. This i n i t s e l f r e f l e c t s a moral realignment and a redirection of her purpose i n l i f e . If there i s some degree of s p i r i t u a l renewal i n Adele's l i f e , i t i s suggested by her desire to make a return v i s i t to the mother house of her religious community of nuns who had helped her: "She longed to go back there, to v i s i t , to hear them singing t h e i r o f f i c e , as they c a l l i t , but she denied herself that" (Lot 43) . Aside from t h i s suggestion of the attraction of devotional l i f e , Adele remains i n a state of renunciation, continuing to abjure the past while uncertain about the future. In terms of ascetic s p i r i t u a l i t y , Adele i s s t i l l at the purgative stage. If Adele i s more disposed to avoid confrontation, the proactive pattern of Stan's coming to terms with his past i s manifested both s p i r i t u a l l y as well as s o c i a l l y . Like Martin, he knows the meaning of " l e t t i n g go," as he realizes after his f i r s t v i s i t with Adele: He knew where she was... he' d seen her and talked with her. He marvelled at i t . The months of not knowing...were nothing compared t o the fact of i t . 165 They were now the past, already being forgotten .He simply dwelt on a l l this as true, staying i n the present, l e t t i n g go (Lot 182). FUlly aware of his res p o n s i b i l i t y for his past actions, Stan's reformation had begun by renouncing his addiction to drugs and alcohol and seeking both human and divine r e c o n c i l i a t i o n . His s p i r i t u a l journey began when the police had found him naked i n a laundromat, the symbolic sense of having t r i e d to climb into a washer while i n a drunken stupor i n order to cleanse himself not being l o s t on Stan. He soon realized that he "could know other things, but not the heart of his own person" (Lot 98). That "heart," which i s the central l i f e - g i v i n g agent of his existence, was " i n existence by a different warrant. That was given." In discovering the r e a l i t y of his s p i r i t u a l nature which he acknowledges as a "given," Stan begins seeking the "giver" i n the midst of his state of loss and i s o l a t i o n : " I f given...is t h i s the desert when you meet the giver" (Lot 98)? This i s Stan's f i r s t intimation that what he possesses "in the heart of his own person" i s sanctioned or j u s t i f i e d by the "giver." The laundromat experience of intended cleansing remains with Stan throughout his ensuing r e h a b i l i t a t i o n i n the Alcoholics Anonymous program: It was there while he was detoxifying and withdrawing and staying sober, and he kept accepting i t and came to understand that he was touching something r e a l . I t was never without some twinge of fear, l i k e a c h i l d 166 swinging too high, and also never without a hint of freedom and even, at br i e f moments, of joy (Lot 98). Stan's r e h a b i l i t a t i o n not only restores his body but also his soul. What he i s able to accomplish physically through the Alcoholics Anonymous program i s complemented by his continuing s p i r i t u a l quest to know God and the v i t a l i t y of the God-given s p i r i t within himself. Within the context of thi s s p i r i t u a l regeneration, Stan realizes the need for repentance and rec o n c i l i a t i o n when i t becomes clear to him that he has "a l o t to make up for" after his d e b i l i t a t i n g relationship with Adele Symons. What impels Stan to compensate for his abusive past does not serve only s o c i a l necessity, nor does he seek out Adele for her sake alone. While renewing t h e i r relationship and recognizing his re s p o n s i b i l i t y towards his new found daughter, what he accomplishes i s more for the good of his soul. For two years Stan has been engaged i n the process of redemption i n a search for God and for divine forgiveness, a quest that i s l a t e r transmuted into the motive for his human search for Adele, s t r i v i n g i n each case to establish a more intensely meaningful relationship. The degree to which he has developed s p i r i t u a l l y i s revealed after he encounters Martin at the weekend mass just before he meets Adele. Attendance at t h i s mass, even though Stan admits that "I'm s t i l l new at i t " (Lot 167), i s a s i g n i f i c a n t moment—one might f a i r l y say a consummation—of r e v i t a l i z e d s p i r i t u a l l i f e since by his participation i n the l i t u r g y he affirms the representation made 167 i n the mass comprising "a g i f t to God that effects communion and moves one out of s i n " (Tambasco 781). In both senses—that of "'giving' or offering of s e l f i n a quest for union or reunion" as well as that of atonement "understood as expiating or removing s i n by being reconciled or becoming 'at-one' with a merciful God"(Tambasco 782)—Stan Hagen engaged himself s p i r i t u a l l y at the v i g i l mass i n his encounter with the Redeemer, the "one well" that provides l i f e - g i v i n g water for a l i f e that had been " a l l desert" (Lot 168). This i s one well that does not run dry, for the One who provides the water, Stan knows, makes more available for the asking:"when you're asking, r e a l l y asking, you're asking someone. You can take i t that he's simply there, and that asking i s always possible" (Lot 169). Ultimately, Stan believes that "with him there, and you there, asking doesn't seem as important as just knowing i t ' s so" (Lot 170). This knowing acceptance substantiates Stan *s f a i t h . He has found the source of forgiveness and expiation for s i n and i s empowered by his knowing to make amends i n this world as well. Having moved beyond the purgative state of s p i r i t u a l transformation, Stan exemplifies the seeker who has entered that illuminative stage i n s p i r i t u a l development that has brought him increasingly closer to God. Accepting that God remains present and accessible to him even after his abusive past, Stan i s resolute i n his determination to reform his l i f e and to seek to be reconciled with Adele for the past in j u r i e s he i n f l i c t e d upon her as a consequence of his misguided drug and alcohol 168 addiction. Through self-deprivation of those former pleasures which he now knows meant only i l l u s o r y s a t i s f a c t i o n , he continues to advance i n his program of r e h a b i l i t a t i o n as he matures i n his s p i r i t u a l development. While Stan i s actively forsaking past e v i l s , Martin has been experiencing an increasing deprivation of what might generally be considered the good things i n l i f e : his good health, his wife who recently died, his children who have moved away, the meaning of a home, and his a b i l i t y to work and do things. Not only i s he confronted by "the hollowness of being alone" (Lot 109) but he i s increasingly unable to find f u l f i l l m e n t even i n tending the small garden that "was almost a way of l i f e — [ t h a t ] brought him close to things" (Lot 143). Unlike Stan, Martin has no apparent need for self-deprivation. He has no wrongs for which he must atone. If he would be reconciled with anyone, i t could only be with the "not found son" with whom he has l o s t contact. Martin i s e s s e n t i a l l y a good person who has experienced profound s a t i s f a c t i o n from a l l that he has received i n l i f e . When so much i s intermittently being taken away—his health, family, physical c a p a b i l i t y — t h e n the central questions for Martin would appear to be: Why do so many seemingly bad things happen to good people? How does one respond to the vicissitudes of l a t e r l i f e ? As Martin learns, one reponds with resignation and submission to the way things are, accepting the r e a l i t y of his situation i n l i f e and continuing to go on "seeing i t r e a l " i n the expectation that whatever he endures 169 w i l l bring him closer to God. Indeed, a l l of his losses, a l l of the things i n his l i f e that have " f a l l e n o f f , " bring him closer to the one central r e a l i t y of his l i f e , namely that he i s i n physical and s p i r i t u a l communion within the Body of Christ. This he knows when, after a l l his losses, he i s conjoined with Christ i n the s a c r i f i c e of the mass: The p r i e s t . . .took bread, and wine, and words not his. Martin watched and listened. For him the actions being done and what they meant had taken on a c l a r i t y he could only look upon: too physical to be simplified any further, too factual to be altered, free of any fantasy. "Before he was given up to death, a death he freely accepted..." Seeing, hearing, presence asserted, done, now there.... I am with you. Always. "The body of Christ." "Yes." Silence, echoing with other silences, b r i e f , and gone. Let i t be, don't reach, you can be sure of him. What's conscious i s yours, and he i s more than what you're knowing. A time to be, just be, i t ' l l do (Lot 166-67). This demonstrably Catholic experience of participating physically and s p i r i t u a l l y i n Christ's redemptive s a c r i f i c e forms the s p i r i t u a l and narrative climax of the novel making even Stan's reunion with Adele a proximate result of Martin's prayer: "Oh, that young, young man, pained, paining, to make your heart break, I ask for him. I ask" (Lot 167). In t h i s 170 prayer Martin replicates the essential nature of the mass i t s e l f , namely that through s e l f - s a c r i f i c e one can effect the salvation of others. This was the redemptive action of Christ on the cross insofar as the power of Christ's own s a c r i f i c e [ i s ] made present through the Church's remembrance of the Paschal mystery. The Church's engagement, i t s e l f i n remembrance of the death and Resurrection of the Lord, i s made possible by that very mystery, which makes i t s e l f present through the Church's action and assumes that action unto i t s e l f so that the Church's offering i s ultimately Christ's offering of himself through and with the s e l f - o f f e r i n g of the members of the e c c l e s i a l body (Strynkowski 1151). The intention of Martin's Eucharistic prayer i s that the very human pain i n Stan' s l i f e w i l l find substitutive resolution within the s a c r i f i c i a l o f fering of Christ himself. As the narrative development of the novel shows, th i s prayer does not lack e f f i c a c y . Within three days after Stan and Martin have shared i n the Eucharistic presence at mass, Stan locates Adele at Mrs. Poole's house where he i s f i n a l l y able to confess that "what I did to you, was awful bad—and I had to acknowledge i t for what i t was...and t e l l you how sorry I am that i t happened. That's why, part of why, I was looking for you" (Lot 180). While Stan admits that he has a l o t to make up for, Adele explains that "sorry doesn't undo i t . . . i t just can't be undone." 171 Nevertheless, Stan does find i n his meeting with Adele "Not forgiveness, [I] didn't expect that, but peace" (Lot 181). From a human perspective, such peace i s found i n his act of healing r e c o n c i l i a t i o n . S p i r i t u a l l y , Stan's peace i s found i n that "one well" where those l o s t i n the "desert" find r e l i e f from t h e i r t h i r s t . As Stan i s focussed upon rebuilding his l i f e , Martin perseveres i n his acceptance of the increasing physical and material privations of which he has become increasingly more aware. Like his friend P h i l Barnes, Martin i s wise i n the knowledge that the pursuit of happiness w i l l not cure suffering any more than i t guarantees physical immortality (Lot 49). He acknowledges the r e a l i t y of the privations that are his l o t i n l i f e , a l l the while s t r i v i n g to conform his w i l l i n order to accept them. Acceptance of the losses which have marked his l i f e i n recent years i s a constant preoccupation that he seeks to resolve. The d e b i l i t a t i n g loss of health and consequent heightened consciousness of his own mortality, his i n a b i l i t y to maintain himself as he had done i n the past, the death of his wife, his separation from his immediate family: each of these detract from and diminish the stature of his humanity by making him less connected to others and less able to f u l f i l l himself. A sat i s f y i n g response to these apparent vicissitudes would be to ra t i o n a l i z e them, but the inherent f a l l a c y of t h i s i l l u s o r y self-deception would contravene his principled adherence to "seeing i t r e a l " (Lot 84). Martin's acceptance of the diminution 172 of so much that had given meaning to his l i f e has i t s source i n a s p i r i t u a l sense of r e a l i t y , realized i n moments of heightened perception, which discerns the concrete from the abstract, truth from fantasy and i l l u s i o n . For Martin, "seeing i t r e a l " defines a basic perception i n his s p i r i t u a l i t y . When he participates i n the Eucharistic celebration at mass, he recognizes and affirms ultimate r e a l i t y , namely the sacramental, enabling presence of God, "seeing i t r e a l , " always present and readily accessible i n the Body and Blood of Christ: He was aware of his b e l i e f , aware that i t was b e l i e f , f a i t h , as given as existence, as inexpressive as anything that l i v e s inside, real to the point of making a l l else re a l (Lot 166). This, Martin knows, i s the divine r e a l i t y , physically and s p i r i t u a l l y available to those who, l i k e Martin himself, "ask" (Lot 167). To ask i s to pray, and when Martin asks for God's s o l i c i t o u s care for the well-being of those such as the son who i s lo s t to him and for the anguished Stan Hagen, he i s asking for the i r gain out of a sense of acceptance of his own loss. In thi s p e t i t i o n l i e s the conviction that the s a c r i f i c e which i s the offering to God of his loss may be offered as an expiation for th e i r benefit. A sense of thi s s p i r i t u a l transference of the past good that he has known, thereby becoming a goodness that can benefit another person, i s the impetus for his Communion prayer for Stan that he might know the 173 goodness that has existed even i n Martin's country garden, a goodness that had ...slipped away, good as i t i s . It i s only as good as i t i s , something i n the way, you have to pass i t to get further, closer, free of l o s t baggage, hurt as i t may to lose (Lot 167). In the l i g h t of Martin's exercise of Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y , an acceptance of loss, even depriving oneself of worldly goodness, can be efficacious for others. Beyond a l l temporal losses, one may go "further" by means of such ascetic d i s c i p l i n e and get "closer" to the r e a l i t y of God and the equity of divine just i c e . The ascetic nature of t h i s s e l f - s a c r i f i c e of one's own good for the good of another i s a d i s t i n c t i v e feature i n Catholic practice, perhaps most readily apparent, aside from the piety of individual devotion, i n the t r a d i t i o n of Latin r i t e priests who deny themselves the goodness inherent i n the married state as well as of professed religious who voluntarily s a c r i f i c e affluence, sexuality, and power for poverty, chastity, and obedience. To Martin's daughter, he i s " [ l ] i v i n g l i k e a hermit i n the country" with just "enough to get by" (Lot 57-8). For his part, Stan can i d e n t i f y with Martin's "quiet way" (Lot 202). Unlike Stan who retrospectively resolved to amend his l i f e , Martin's focus i s upon the future, s p i r i t u a l l y moving "forward" and "closer" as he increasingly becomes dispossessed of what he terms the "baggage" of t h e world. In t h i s , Martin epitomizes the 174 abiding Catholic consciousness that progress towards holy dying grows out of holy l i v i n g which necessitates, as one Catholic writer has observed, downsizing for the s p i r i t u a l journey: ...what we r e a l l y become attached to and begin unhealthily to store i s not so much the material s t u f f . Almost imperceptibly...we also begin to store other baggage. This kind of baggage, much more so than the material things we accumulated, makes i t hard for us to move, especially to move gracefully into [the] f i n a l chapter of our l i v e s . . . . We a l l carry a l o t more baggage... and this makes travel d i f f i c u l t , especially the travel that i s asked of us as we grow old, namely, the journey t o . . . l e t go of l i f e . Julian of Norwich states that we a l l c l i n g to God only when we no longer c l i n g to everything else. Richard Rohr expresses i t this way: As we get older...the r e a l task of l i f e , both i n terms of human growth and God, i s to begin to shed things, to carry less and less baggage, to slim down s p i r i t u a l l y and psychologically (Rolheiser 11). With increasing focus upon how he can best serve God, Martin approaches that stage of p e r f e c t i b i l i t y of the ascetic l i f e i n which his own w i l l i s united i n acceptance to the w i l l of God. He i s alone when he dies, Stan having driven into town to resolve his own long quest i n his f i r s t meeting after two years 175 with Adele. Late i n the afternoon, Martin's heart weakens after unduly exerting himself while working i n the woods. At the f i r s t intimation that his heart i s f a i l i n g , Martin has no i l l u s i o n s about what i s happening, accepting as he has done i n the past, the r e a l i t y before him: "He got himself to the fl o o r and, quite sure now, accepting, he l o s t consciousness" (Lot 192). If Stan could not be physically with him i n the hour of his death, he i s f i t t i n g l y united with him i n s p i r i t as, after his meeting with Adele, he arrives halfway through the Saturday v i g i l mass i n Ashton: The priest was offering the bread and wine. He sat at the very back trying to heed the words at the a l t a r , but again and again he found himself looking the people over systematically. It was too late for Martin to be merely l a t e . . . . He had hoped to see him there and to s i t with him t h i s time (Lot 196-7). Separated by space, Stan and Martin nevertheless are conjoined i n time, respectively experiencing the r e a l i t y of God. 176 The Catholic Ethos Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y pervades Buell's f i c t i o n , embuing the novels with a s i g n i f i c a n t dimension of meaning. The moral and transcendental depth of his f i c t i o n received immediate c r i t i c a l attention after the publication of The Pyx i n 1959 when Catholic periodical reviewers i n particular focused upon the informing aspects of Catholicism that were inherent i n the novel. Among the f i r s t reviewers, the Paulist Fathers soon recognized Buell as "a young Catholic novelist of promise" (58). Harold C. Gardiner,S.J., the veteran l i t e r a r y editor of America, thought that "Buell's study of good and e v i l [was] oblique i n i t s Catholic statement," The Pyx being a "r e a l l y tensely written detective story" that " w i l l puzzle many readers" although i t i s "a splendid f i r s t novel from a young Canadian writer who should not be dismayed i f his choice of theme draws the carping of c r i t i c s who confuse matter and manner" (772-3). John Traynor, also reviewing The Pyx for a Catholic periodical, i d e n t i f i e d "the theme of sacrilege" i n a novel that was "more profound than you would suspect" i n i t s depiction of a "call-girl...ensnared i n demoniacal machinations...which center about the profanation of the Blessed Sacrament. A tremendous actual grace inspires her to revolt against the scheme, and thi s leads to her death, a kind of martyrdom and perhaps, also, her own salvation" (6). In the C r i t i c , Cuneo acknowledged "the Christian realism" i n a novel that dealt "with the clash between the forces of good and 177 e v i l on a serious l e v e l " (33) and i n Commonweal Donegan noted that Buell was "aware that e v i l contains, i n i t s complexities, the seeds of goodness," even though he had treated "the two subjects separately, with a tidiness inconsistent with the intertangling of human motives" (82). The review by Rev. John Grant, associate editor of The Pilot (Boston), that appeared i n Ave Maria placed Buell within the context of other writers of Catholic f i c t i o n : Some of the best-known novelists today are those who have managed to treat the theological theme of good and e v i l with s k i l l and delicacy. Mauriac, Bernanos, Waugh and Greene, to mention but a few, have demonstrated such l i t e r a r y a b i l i t y . Mr. Buell may be a newcomer to this f i e l d , but his f i r s t e f f o r t stamps him as one who can produce a t o p f l i g h t novel with s p e c i f i c and s t a r t l i n g Catholic implications (27). William H i l l , S.J., i n his review for Best Sellers s i m i l a r l y sought to position Buell among his peers based upon the central theme of The Pyx: Graham Greene and, at times, Bruce Marshall have f e l t keenly the struggle for goodness i n the hearts of men pushed into e v i l by circumstances; i n order to dramatize that struggle, they have concocted weird plots and bizarre situations. Such a method i s comparatively easy but i t never manages to achieve the profundity for which the novelist should s t r i v e . Mr. 178 Buell has talent, as he has shown i n this novel by his delineation of the world of organized vice, actually existing a l l around us i n i t s unrelieved, relentless horror. With th i s talent, he should be able to step out of the Greene-Marshall path and create r e a l i t y out of the stuff of l i f e (224). Other ostensibly non-Catholic reviewers had mixed c r i t i c a l responses to the novel. Nevertheless, they recognized that Catholicism i n The Pyx was an essential component both as a moral foundation i n the narrative and for establishing the relationships existing among the characters. The Saturday Night reviewer c l a s s i f i e d the novel as "a psychological whodunit" which was "concerned with e v i l as quality" and i n which "the morality...is clear-cut" (55). Watt, on the other hand, i n the University of Toronto Quarterly, regarded t h i s "religio-sexual t h r i l l e r " as an auspicious f i r s t novel but found i t s chief f a i l u r e . . . i n the absence of a sustained Catholic religious aura throughout the chain of events bringing murderer and victim together. The intense relevance of Catholicism to Elizabeth i s too latent or too belated to be e n t i r e l y convincing, and the clear explanation of Keerson's psychology...is anti-climactic (468-9). Regardless of the reviewer's q u a l i f i e d judgments on the c r a f t of The Pyx, the presence of Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y as an essential part of the novel received widespread recognition even though there was limited acknowledgment of the functional c e n t r a l i t y of 179 a sacramental theology i n the novel. After the publication of The Pyx, c r i t i c a l response appearing i n the periodical press continued to recognize the moral and sometimes, though infrequently, the s p i r i t u a l c o n f l i c t s and resolutions i n Buell's novels. In his review of Four Days, for example, F.W. Watt i n the University of Toronto Quarterly recalled: "As his f i r s t novel, The Pyx, amply suggested, Buell has the q u a l i t i e s of an interesting "Catholic novelist" (399). However, almost overlooked i n the general reviews of these novels i s the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of the s p e c i f i c role that Catholicism plays i n the novels, especially i t s sacramental character represented i n aspects of the sacrament of r e c o n c i l i a t i o n i n Four Days, The Shrewsdale Exit, and A Lot to Make Up For, of the Eucharist i n A Lot To Make Up For, and i n the theme of redemption which appears throughout Buell's f i c t i o n . Harris situates Buell with Greene, b r i e f l y d e t a i l i n g apparent links between these Catholic writers: As you read t h i s compelling and upsetting t h r i l l e r , echoes of Graham Greene nudge at your mind, and the resemblance i s reinforced by the occasional appearance of an actual p r i e s t . The mysteries of love and e v i l , of loyalty and treachery and the cold description of the awful things that people do to one another—in short religious questions [are] discussed i n the framework of the crime story (37). The Saturday Night reviewer of Four Days, retrospectively 180 r e c a l l i n g The Pyx, observed a developing consistency i n Buell who had e a r l i e r showed himself master of the crime story with serious overtones. He offered the same blend of suspense, v i v i d setting, sex and Catholic conscience that brought Graham Greene success. In Four Days he has done i t again. In an atmosphere of brooding e v i l . . . a boy...is not aware of what he i s doing.... No other Canadian writer, not even Brian Moore i n his pseudonymous paperbacks, has done anything quite l i k e i t . It brings to mind the work of people l i k e Duerrenmatt or Simenon (39-40). In reviewing Four Days i n America, Gardiner noted that "there i s a subtle comparison that comments s i l e n t l y on the razor edge that divides g u i l t y complicity from thoughtless co-operation" (25), a l l of which highlights the inferred attitude of the narrator but which says nothing about the nature of the love which engages Tom's cooperation, thoughtless though his blind love for M i l t may be. In Commonweal, Curley's extended review judged the novel to be "a v a l i d book, honestly imagined and boldly executed," noting the essential morality i n the f i c t i o n found i n Tom's character: "His l i f e i s not only poor i n the c u l t u r a l , s o c i a l sense; i t i s also r i c h i n innocence and loyalty to the only love he knows. If one were writing his epitaph, one might say t h i s : he l i v e d clean" (625). Like Curley, Martin Levin i n the New York Times Book Review also recognized that "[t]he 181 basic innocence of his hero...is realized by Mr. Buell with stunning effectiveness as the boy i s carried farther and farther away from his small dreams" (30). In Buell's l a t e r novels, reader response continues to acknowledge s p i r i t u a l q u a l i t i e s that, i f they are not demonstrably Catholic, are appropriate to a consciousness formed i n the Catholic t r a d i t i o n . Rudick, i n the annual f i c t i o n review i n the University of Toronto Quarterly notes a "Job-like tragedy" i n The Shrewsdale Exit when Joe Grant i s criminalized as a result of his way of seeking justice but i s ultimately recompensed as i n "that other part of Job where he got a l l the goods back double-fold" (346). In Canadian Literature, Rosengarten considers The Shrewdale Exit a "moral fable" i n which i t i s Buell's intention "to take us beyond the external manifestations of violence to the effects of such violence upon an ordinary, "decent" member of society, who becomes tainted by the very e v i l he wishes to destroy" (94). In more religious terms, Jones considered the novel as an "illumination regarding the violence of our times" i n which "Grant's redemption—the healing not only of the wounds of his loss, but of his rage as w e l l — i s the essence of the story," just as Baker also focused upon "how the insider becomes the outsider" i n a " f a i r l y sickening picture of a man u t t e r l y frustrated by the formal mechanics of an organised society" who eventually finds "re-b i r t h through an assertion of simple human values: not the highly organized structures of society, but the wholesomeness of 182 a r u r a l farming community" (102). William H i l l , a Jesuit writing i n Best Sellers, s i m i l a r l y pointed out that [t]he most important thing about th i s new John Buell book i s that i t i s a combination of deep human insights and a rare g i f t of expression. It begins with a horrible and brutal crime and goes on with a theme of vengeance; but the vengeful attitude tends to break down under a corrosive warmth of a man whose mind has received a seemingly mortal wound.... Through an objective, clear presentation of a mind confronted with deadly and unreasoning violence [Buell] has made us look at something that i s far from new but which has taken on new aspects i n our time—innocence opposed to brutal and unjust strength" (258). Despite the recognition Buell received for The Pyx i n Catholic periodicals, much of which anticipated a future writing career f i l l e d with promise, the response to his novels and to the meaningful Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y to be found i n them, became more muted, al b e i t non-existent, after the publication of Playground i n 1976. If the absence of a manifest Catholic presence i n Playground did not attract Catholic reviewers, at least the human challenge depicted i n one man's survival to find new l i f e and to l i v e for another day e l i c i t e d a thoughtful response from other sources. In the Christian Science Monitor, Guidry regarded Playground as "a tribute to human courage, ingenuity, and persistence, and i t should send a shiver of 183 gratitude through the well-sheltered, well-fed reader, cozy i n a familiar world," unfortunately not indicating to whom or to what one should express one's gratitude (27). Gary Bogart also viewed the novel as an e x i s t e n t i a l representation of one person being "forced to fight for survival equipped only with his own ingenuity.... And i f the protagonist's struggle to survive i s somewhat less than heroic, i t w i l l evoke a responsive chord i n a generation brought up with the knowledge that to persevere i s to survive" (698), presumably without anyone l i k e John Sweetgrass to e f f e c t a rescue. The e x i s t e n t i a l nature of Playground was also the basis of P h i l i p Di Febo's review i n which he positions the novel i n r e l a t i o n to the "extreme f i c t i o n " of another Catholic writer, Joseph Conrad, and his "idea of nature as an ambivalent force." During Morison's wilderness experience, nature was indifferent to his pligh t ; after his rescue, nature could be viewed i n retrospect as being purgative, having healed him of his e a r l i e r disposition: "Thus Morrison [ s i c ] , during his ordeal and after his rescue, i s forced to confront the r e a l i t i e s of his plight, to understand the changes he undergoes, and to accept the proximity of death" (Di Febo 35). Di Febo, however, i s indifferent to the notion of purgation insofar as i t has a Catholic orientation, a motif not at a l l unfamiliar i n Buell's l a t e r novels. If purgation i s very much a part of Playground, then atonement, as Lawrence Rungren has pointed out, i s the operative motive i n A Lot To Make Up For (111). For Konkel, the challenge 184 of Stan Hagen i s that "he must expunge the burdens of g u i l t and remorse he has been carrying for years i n his private h e l l " (C16); for another reviewer, "healing i s [Stan's] goal" i n his "quest to resurrect a relationship destroyed by alcohol and drugs" (104). However, the s p i r i t u a l nature of the process of atonement and healing i n the novel and p a r t i c u l a r l y the sacramental efficacy of the Eucharist i n promoting healing i s noticeably absent throughout the range of reviews. To the professional readers, Buell's Catholicism and how i t affects his f i c t i o n , which was so evident i n The Pyx, appears to have disappeared from most reviews as a characteristic feature deserving of recognition i n his more recent f i c t i o n . If there has been a tendency by reviewers and c r i t i c s a l ike to neglect or disregard the effects of Buell's Catholicism upon his f i c t i o n , this deficiency has i n part been o f f s e t by the appearance of i n c i s i v e c r i t i c a l analyses which have focused upon the significance of the underlying s p i r i t u a l i t y i n the novels. Keith Garebian's examination of The Pyx, Four Days, and The Shrewsdale Exit establishes a general metaphysical pattern i n Buell's f i c t i o n rather than one which i s d i s t i n c t i v e l y Catholic. Predicated upon the perception that "Buell's v i s i o n i s metaphysical rather than merely "escapist," much as i s the case i n Graham Greene's v i s i o n , " Garebian examines how Buell's novels demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between the real and the unreal, good and e v i l , innocence and g u i l t , deception and self-knowledge. Buell traces 185 quests for soul-satisfaction made by his main characters past a l i n e of no-return, and he i s less interested i n solving a crime than he i s i n exploring the mystery of an inexorably decaying world ("Real Course" 74). Garebian takes his cue from Jack Trudel, the t a x i driver i n The Pyx, who i s traumatized by the psychic dissociation between his f a n c i f u l imagination and the r e a l i t y of having seen Elizabeth Lucy's body f a l l from the heights of an apartment block to the sidewalk below, an external, violent physical actuality which challenged his internal conviction that ease, pleasure and happiness should be the assumed end of his sexual fantasies about beautiful women and "ease and pleasant power" (Pyx 13). The overwhelming unreality of the manifest r e a l i t y before him was too disconcerting for Trudel who found that he had "to dismiss [the actual thing] as outside the re a l course of l i f e " (Pyx 14). The real course of l i f e , Garebian believes, characterizes that duality or interplay between the outer world and the inner world which produces the kind of psychic tension that a f f l i c t s Buell's protagonists. Within the outer world or milieu i s where [g]ood and e v i l — w i t h a l l t h e i r attendant complications—grow within the "real course of l i f e " , and Buell's interest l i e s i n observing the tensions between good and e v i l within the controls of a milieu. Buell's v i s i o n i s informed with a sense that the 186 mutable decay of milieux impinges upon the inner world of man, thereby creating confusion and emphasizing human limitations ("Real Course" 75). In this interplay or c o n f l i c t between milieu and character, Garebian does not see "a conclusion...achieved through a de rigeur resolution of i n i q u i t y . " What Buell obliges the reader to do i s "to follow the protagonist's involvement with r e a l i t y u n t i l such time as a l i n e of no-return has been crossed. What survives... i s the "real course of l i f e , " that i s , a measure of self-knowledge for the protagonist trapped i n a decaying world ("Real Course" 75). There i s , then, a breakthrough for Buell's protagonists as they go beyond a l i n e of no-return into the r e a l i t y — t h e r e a l course of l i f e — o f "a measure of s e l f -knowledge" i n which the protagonist experiences "soul-s a t i s f a c t i o n . " At t h i s point, Garebian hesitates to extend the r e a l i z a t i o n of what he terms the quest after peace and soul-satisfaction ("Real Course" 82) i n order to place i t within the context of Catholic s p i r i t u a l i t y . For Garebian, Buell's novels exhibit "no leap to God, no tortuous discovery of f a i t h i n the Greene cachet. However, salvation i s sought—not i n religious terms but i n a metaphysical sense of harmony" ("Real Course" 83). Garebian gives l i t t l e indication, i f any, of the meaningful contribution of Buell's Catholicism i n his novels. For Garebian, Elizabeth Lucy's s p i r i t u a l i t y i n The Pyx i s consistently termed a " f l i r t a t i o n " with Catholicism. Nor does Elizabeth fare much 187 better i n the climactic moment of receiving the Host when "in so doing she expresses her fundamental goodness" ("Real Course" 83). If there i s more to Elizabeth's action than some "fundamental goodness," there i s considerably more to the action of divine grace i n and upon Buell's protagonists. Garebian does not quite know what to do with grace, placing the word i n quotation marks each time he uses i t , thereby suggesting that t h i s grace r e a l l y has nothing to do with actual or sanctifying grace but i s something, perhaps some inner resource, which leads to, i n Garebian's word, "soul-satisfaction" ("Real Course" 74 et seq.). Garebian's schema of Buell's v i s i o n i s predicated upon a metaphysic which lacks a sacramental dimension. As such, his perception of what the f i c t i o n ultimately means i s truncated by the absence of any s p i r i t u a l significance beyond the characters experiencing self-knowledge and some New Age soul-satisfaction. A clearer exposition, even a celebration of the Catholic presence i n Buell's f i c t i o n , appears i n Harry J . Cargas's 1968 overview of Buell's f i r s t two novels. E a r l i e r , Edmund Wilson, who had recognized Buell i n The New Yorker as "[o]ne of the most interesting younger Canadian novelists" (115), could not f a i l to notice the anomaly of Buell as a writer: He i s i n the curious position, probably possible only for a Canadian, of writing i n the English language excellent novels which he regards as ess e n t i a l l y French but which are published i n New York and Paris and l i t t l e known i n either French or B r i t i s h Canada 188 (120). Also wondering why Buell's f i c t i o n had not received more widespread c r i t i c a l attention, Cargas further points out that i n The Pyx and Four Days we come to re a l i z e that the main characters are saved because of th e i r personal innocence i n a world where innocence has no place. John Buell writes more than mysteries—he writes about human love absorbed by Divine Love. This seems unlikely, given the violence which his characters are subject, but the violence which these people suffer i s t r u l y purgative. They are pur i f i e d i n the t o t a l l y Christian sense (28). This Christian and c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y Catholic sense i s central to the action i n The Pyx: Elizabeth...who e a r l i e r had refused to go to confession, kneels before the stolen Host when she sees i t and, i n an awful moment, consumes it....Keerson murders Elizabeth, but the author w i l l have us know that this very troubled woman has at l a s t found true peace i n God's love (28). For Cargas, the s p i r i t u a l destiny of Elizabeth i s a microcosm of an eschatological truth: Elizabeth's greatness i s her abandoning herself completely and recklessly for God. Keerson's evilness i s i n his having been completely overwhelmed by Satan. In one sense, a woman did crush t h i s serpent's head 189 (30). In Four Days as well, Cargas i d e n t i f i e d what we recognize as the redemptive progress of Tom after he has k i l l e d Ritch: The twelve year old runs away and accidentally meets a p r i e s t . He pours his heart out, unwittingly under the confessional seal. Soon after, he drowns, but this act of confession, along with his own basic innocence, leads to his salvation (29). Buell, Cargas notes, " i s a man whose compassion extends to antagonists as well" (29) for after a l l the sacrilegious and murderous havoc Keerson has i n c i t e d , [e]ven t h i s e v i l man conquers e v i l " (29). Similarly, Ritch i n Four Days can be seen "in the l i g h t of ultimate charity" (29). Almost twenty years after Cargas's Catholic reading of Buell's early novels, Buell's longtime friend and onetime teacher, Gerald MacGuigan,S.J., consolidated his response to Buell's f i c t i o n , seeing i n i t , as he t o l d Barbara Black, "a progression...which has a c l e a r l y religious dimension." In Buell's f i r s t four novels, he saw a developing pattern: They're s l i g h t l y out of sequence. Take the second novel, Four Days, f i r s t . It's about a t o t a l innocent, a boy surrounded by e v i l and overcome by i t . Then there's The Pyx, i n which a sinner (the c a l l - g i r l with the heroin addiction) i s nearly done i n by the e v i l around her, but she's saved at the l a s t moment by refusing to take part i n the black mass... Then you've 190 got The Shrewsdale Exit, i n which a man seeking vengeance i s redeemed and reconciled by contact with nature. And f i n a l l y , Playground, i n which an individual finds salvation i n nature by stripping himself of everything unnecessary" (J9). Such a pattern of loss, gain, redemption, and salvation can even be extended to Buell's f i f t h novel, A Lot To Make Up For, i n which the presence of God's love i n the world, realized sacramentally i n the s a c r i f i c e of the mass, restores and heals broken humanity. In the forty years since his f i r s t novel was published, Buell has received considerable i f not primary recognition as a master of the psychological t h r i l l e r , an i d e n t i f i c a t i o n which has tended to obscure what has been apparent to some readers, namely that Buell's novels successfully manifest a number of d i s t i n c t i v e features of Catholic writing. In t h i s respect, Buell has acknowledged that upon the publication of The Pyx he had some awareness regarding who his readers were, explaining to Gilbert Drolet: "I was writing i n a f a i r l y conscious religious and Catholic context" ("Conversation" 68). However, on occasion Buell has disclaimed recognition as a "Catholic writer," at least whenever th i s designation has been q u a l i f i e d by being placed within quotation marks. One would expect, then, that i t i s from the image of some type of stereotypical Catholic writer that Buell would want to distance himself, presumably a writer i n the moralistic, didactic, i n t e l l e c t u a l l y polemical t r a d i t i o n 191 of Catholic writing, sometimes parochial i n point of view, often an instrument of evangelical outreach, that had characterized some Catholic f i c t i o n u n t i l the mid-twentieth century when Buell began writing his f i r s t novel. This t r a d i t i o n , i f i t s t i l l e xists, has no relationship to Buell's writing. On the contrary, the Catholicism of his novels i s simply a r e f l e c t i o n of a r e a l i t y which i s as accessible to those who are i n d i f f e r e n t to Catholicism as i t i s to believers. From a secular point of view, such demonstrably Catholic r e a l i t i e s as j u s t i f i c a t i o n , the operation of grace, and the concomitant transcendental breakthrough of God into the world through the sacraments remain accessible within the context of myth; to Catholics, however, the portrayal i n f i c t i o n of the c e n t r a l i t y of the Real Presence, the efficacy of the sacraments, and the s a l v i f i c operation of grace through suffering and redemption evokes a s p i r i t u a l response corresponding to what Buell has c a l l e d i n another context a "more real r e a l i t y " ("Bread and Wine" 14). Insofar as a paradigm of transcendence exists i n Buell's novels, i t i s present as a r e a l i t y which has an effect upon the dynamics within the f i c t i o n . Elizabeth Lucy's reception of the Host i n The Pyx; Tom, the a l t a r boy from Montreal, finding consolation at Val Laurent i n his confession to the l o c a l p r i e s t i n Four Days; Joe Grant's urge for vengeance offset by work, the healing of nature, and the love of E l l e n Shefford i n The Shrewsdale Exit; Spence Morison i n Playground being purged of his notion that technological e f f i c i e n c y i s the proper end of mankind; Stan 192 Hagen and Martin Lacey i n A Lot To Make Up For finding not just presence but the Real Presence as the fountain of grace: each protagonist's l i f e becomes meaningful, portrayed either as Catholics accessing the sacramental l i f e of the Church, or as non-Catholics l i k e Joe Grant i n The Shrewsdale Exit and Spence Morison i n Playground who experience the purifying e f f e c t of God's presence throughout creation. Reconciliation, redemption, and ultimately salvation can only exist, of course, i n the b e l i e f , or for some on the assumption, that God i s well-disposed towards humanity, for i t i s only on t h i s basis that there i s hope for a l l who are l o s t . God's love for a l l that he has created, which i s communicated to mankind as divine grace, heals broken humanity. In Buell's novels, s p i r i t u a l healing, sometimes expressed i n terms of an efficacious blessing or benediction, i s represented as an integral part of the process of redemption. The action of the rehabilitated messenger priest who "raised his hand i n benediction" (Pyx 122) over the departing Elizabeth Lacy i s not a meaningless or an i d l e gesture. Blessings reclaim creation for God, and i n The Pyx the effect of thi s reclamation upon Elizabeth i s realized just hours l a t e r when she safeguards the Blessed Sacrament from demonic sacrilege. At the end of Four Days, Tom and Ritch are s i m i l a r l y commended to God i n the priest's prayers for the dead. In The Shrewsdale Exit, the late wife and daughter of Joe Hagen were "a sort of benediction to the place where he was" (SE 255), out i n the f i e l d s harvesting 193 the crop for E l l e n Shefford, thereby consecrating those f i e l d s beyond the Shrewsdale e x i t to become the appropriate setting within a few days for Joe's transformation. One finds, too, that i n Playground, John Sweetgrass' ministration to Spence Morison replicates the nature of a blessing, thereby heightening Morison's consciousness of what his humanity means, i n much the same way, Martin Lacey i n A Lot To Make Up For, himself an instrument of grace, prays that God w i l l bless Stan Hagen i n his new found peace and r e c o n c i l i a t i o n . I n t r i n s i c to each of these portrayals of redemption i n Buell's novels i s the action of Divine Love which forgives and seeks to restore those marginalized by s i n . Grace abounds i n Buell's novels, a grace which i n addition to healing i s i n a p a r t i c u l a r l y Catholic way an "empowerment to l i v e humanly and enter interpersonal communion with God eternally" (Duffy 349). This i s the grace which f a c i l i t a t e s human s e l f - r e a l i z a t i o n as well as being the grace which elevates humanity to i t s r i g h t f u l destiny as heirs to the kingdom of God. It i s the grace e x p l i c i t l y available sacramentally to Elizabeth Lucy and Martin Lacey i n particular and i m p l i c i t l y to those protagonists who seek the grace of redemption of t h e i r own free w i l l . To the extent that Buell's f i c t i o n either d i r e c t l y or i n d i r e c t l y manifests the action of grace, i t becomes more meaningful Catholic f i c t i o n representing the "more real r e a l i t y " which i s the essential Catholic ethos of his novels. In t h i s , Buell i s not alone among Catholic novelists, at least on the basis of the 194 d e f i n i t i o n of an essential quality of a great Catholic novel proposed by George Weigel who has suggested that the p r i n c i p a l element which makes a Catholic novel great i s the way i n which i t represents the operation of grace: A novel i s both great and Catholic i f the author believes—and conveys with l i t e r a r y s k i l l — t h e truth at the end of George Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest: "Grace i s everywhere." A great Catholic novel i s f i l l e d with a sacramental s e n s i b i l i t y . The old Baltimore Catechism helps here. A sacrament i s an outward sign i n s t i t u t e d by God to give grace. Translate that into a worldview and you get a sacramental s e n s i b i l i t y : the extraordinary i s not located i n some alternative universe; the extraordinary i s just over there, on the other side of the ordinary. Everyday things and ordinary people become vessels of grace, not by magical transformation but by being what and who they are (9). Vessels of grace are not d i f f i c u l t to f i n d i n Buell's novels, t h e i r presence t e s t i f y i n g to his sacramental v i s i o n . Such a perspective, especially when i t i s imaginatively extrapolated i n f i c t i o n , i s conducive to the creation of protagonists about whom there i s something more, one might say, than meets the eye. A l l of Buell's protagonists experience some form of temporal or s p i r i t u a l transformation; however, i n order to make clear the nature of that transformation, one subordinate 195 character i n the novel serves as a mediator to the protagonist, his role being to give s p i r i t u a l or sometimes psychological and s o c i a l meaning to the protagonist's actions. In his early novels, Buell employs a time honored technique from the theatre, establishing one character who can j u s t i f y or explain what would otherwise be unresolved. This exposition occurs i n the epilogue to the novel, from which perspective the apologist can retrospectively t e l l "something more" about the protagonist whom he has encountered i n the central action of the narrative. This i s the role, then, of detective Henderson i n The Pyx. Only he knows who and what brought Elizabeth Lucy to her death. Only he can point to "something more" about Elizabeth when he i s r e f l e c t i n g upon how he can advise her father of her death: "He grimaced with irony as he thought that the news he had to t e l l the Colonel was, after a l l , good" (Pyx 174). Such a conclusion to the novel, charged with s p i r i t u a l truth, t y p i f i e s the functioning of an imagination informed by a sacramental s e n s i b i l i t y that looks beyond the appearance of one of l i f e ' s losers to f i n d a vessel of grace. The same expository technique also appears even more formally i n the epilogue to Four Days where the priest from Ste. Marie becomes the moral and s p i r i t u a l apologist for Tom and Ritch. To the police investigating the Montreal bank robbery as well as to the press, Tom i s just another loser, a street kid who has been an accessory to a crime. Ritch, too, i s perceived around Val Laurent as being an easy going layabout, a resident lounge l i z a r d who i s tainted and 196 teased about the nature of his sexuality even by his s e l f - s t y l e d friend i n the underworld. After the deaths of Tom and Ritch, the priest focuses not upon the corruption that affected them but upon the manifestation of human goodness that was present i n t h e i r l i v e s . Only the priest can convey t h e i r s p i r i t u a l r e a l i t y , namely that Tom and Ritch may possess God's love more f u l l y than i n any way that they experienced human love. In Buell's l a t e r novels, the role of the observant interpreter of the hidden grace within the protagonists, such as those who have died i n The Pyx and Four Days, i s replaced by the presence i n the narrative of a new found friend of the protagonist who, a l b e i t at arm's length, f a c i l i t a t e s the transforming process i n which the protagonist i s engaged. In The Shrewsdale Exit, detective Sparrs i s instrumental i n saving Joe Grant from taking the law into his own hands; i n Playground, John Sweetgrass l i t e r a l l y saves Spence Morison, thereby enabling Morison to r e a l i z e his humanity more f u l l y i n the future; and i n A Lot To Make Up For Martin Lacey provides the appropriate environment to nurture Stan Hagen as Stan distances himself from a ruinous and i l l u s o r y l i f e of drugs and alcohol i n order to deepen his f a i t h i n the r e a l i t y of God's grace made available to those, such as Stan himself, who seek i t . As subordinate characters i n the novels, detective Sparrs, John Sweetgrass and Martin Lacey are of particular importance insofar as t h e i r ministrations to the respective protagonists a s s i s t the protagonists towards t h e i r transformation. In t h i s sense, these 197 f a c i l i t a t o r s become surrogate prie s t s , l i k e those e a r l i e r priests who blessed and were a blessing to Elizabeth Lucy i n The Pyx and Tom and Ritch i n Four Days. Consequently, i n The Shrewsdale Exit, Sparrs i s a mediator of grace to Joe Grant, providing him with a viable option of r e c o n c i l i a t i o n which w i l l restore the fugitive to the community at large and i n particular to a l a s t i n g presence within the family of E l l e n Shefford. In Playground, John Sweetgrass knows how to l i v e i n balance and harmony with the same environment that presented an almost insuperable challenge to Spence Morison. Even i n his brief encounter with Sweetgrass, Morison i s imbued with a heightened sense of some of the best attributes of human nature: a disregard of pretence, an understanding of the natural world i n which one l i v e s , and the foregone conclusion that one i s always one's brother's keeper. There i s a special grace i n John Sweetgrass to which Morison responds, thereby deepening a s p i r i t u a l bond which develops between them. While Morison never reveals a l l of the things that he says he has come to know as a result of his wilderness experience, what he has experienced i n the presence of Sweetgrass apparently contributes substantially to those insights, namely those "things" that he t e l l s his wife he has come to know. The image of p r i e s t l y ministration also continues i n A Lot To Make Up For where Martin Lacey, who, l i k e Sweetgrass, i s himself a quiet presence l i v i n g close to nature i n the country, asks before the Real Presence at mass to be an instrument of grace for Stan Hagen's s p i r i t u a l restoration. 198 The incorporation of God d i r e c t l y into the narrative as a rea l and physical presence on the a l t a r at the Ashton church marks a culmination i n the exercise of Buell's sacramental imagination. In e a r l i e r novels, the narrative presence of God i s more muted. He enters rather surreptitiously into the action of The Pyx, suddenly becoming accessible to Elizabeth Lucy i n one momentous s a l v i f i c moment. In Four Days, God i s sacramentally present to Tom at mass and i n his confession but Tom i s more focused upon the nature of human love than being noticeably responsive to the love of God. God i s not a narrative r e a l i t y i n The Shrewsdale Exit and i s present only as a passing thought i n Spence Morison's mind i n Playground. In these novels, i f God i s present at a l l , He i s shown to be momentarily instrumental i n a narrative action but then recedes from dir e c t view only to be realized i n d i r e c t l y through words of blessing, the ministrations of pri e s t s , and the manifestation of grace i n nature. However, sacramentality has a dual nature. While i t i s i n the nature of a sacrament to be a sign that denotes a sacred r e a l i t y , i t i s at the same time, as Buell has said, a "more r e a l r e a l i t y " insofar as God marvelously breaks through into the time and space of our world. Ultimately, the sacramental imagination, i n addition to suggesting another r e a l i t y , seeks to portray the l i v i n g presence of God i n the world, a presence which becomes privileged for Catholics i n the Eucharist. In A Lot To Make Up For, the sacramental presence of God i s manifestly r e a l on the a l t a r at Ashton church, a presence which Lacey affirms i s "real to the 199 point of making a l l else r e a l " (Lot 218). For two years, Stan has been seeking God after abjuring his abusive youth; Martin, newly conscious of his mortality, i s preparing to be received by God. Physically, they share a common goal i n the work to be done on Martin's small farm; s p i r i t u a l l y , they seek to conform t h e i r l i v e s to t h e i r f a i t h . While they have occasion to ta l k philosophically about t h e i r experiences, each i s hesitant to acknowledge or affirm the meaning of any s p i r i t u a l influence i n his l i f e , at least u n t i l after the end of the f i r s t week of working together when Stan and Martin, unaware of each other's plans, encounter one another i n the Ashton congregation while attending mass. What Buell has envisioned i n t h i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y Catholic scenario i s the s p i r i t u a l union Stan and Martin come to r e a l i z e , not just between themselves but conjointly with the sacramental presence of God, the c e n t r a l i t y of which has a dual importance. Here i s the fountain of a l l sanctifying grace or, to use Stan Hagen's metaphor, the "one well" (Lot 168) from which those who s p i r i t u a l l y t h i r s t can draw l i f e giving water. Moreover, the Real Presence i s the eucharistic banquet available to a l l , uniting those who share i t i n the community of God's people. In this evocation of the ce n t r a l i t y of sacrament i n the l i v e s of Stan and Martin, Buell has incorporated within his narrative a fundamental tenet of Catholicism. Insofar as such Catholic practice i s appropriate to the dynamics of the f i c t i o n , the Catholicism i s not intrusive but exists as an essential component i n the narrative. Buell has 200 readily employed many perspectives derived from his Catholic background such as those r e l a t i n g to the nature of r e a l i t y , the influence of e v i l , and the role of the sacraments. 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