More Thoughts and Spoilers
In perusing some of the study materials, I learned that Percy focuses on two primary themes: marriage and faith. He certainly does, but from an outside-in perspective. He is searching for essential truths.
Bernice is absolutely correct when she says: “Walker Percy is so good at having his characters describe a world they want no part of.” Percy offers a rather melancholy view of marriage, doesn’t he? Certainly the unions of the Vaughts and the Barretts seemed emotionally barren. Will didn’t even attend his own daughter’s wedding. But Percy is slowly digging deeper – far past the daily realities/trials of married life.
Percy offers a rather jaundiced view of religious expression as well. Jack Curl, Will’s daughter and his deceased wife are portrayed as ostensibly spiritual yet, somehow, spiritless. Will summarizes the state of affairs this way: “…there are only two classes of people, the believers and the unbelievers. The only difficulty is deciding which is the more feckless.” So…what does Will do? He descends into the cave (darkness) to find proof of God. What happens? He crashes into the greenhouse (Eden), and into the arms of Allie. Will finds love.
Percy ends his novel with this:
“Will Barrett thought about Allie…His heart leapt with a secret joy. What is it I want from her…not only want but must have? Is she a gift and therefore a sign of a giver? Could it be that the Lord is here, masquerading behind this simple silly holy face? Am I crazy to want both, her and Him? No, not want, must have. And will have.”
I think what Walker Percy is saying (and he may, in fact, be correct) is that love truly IS a gift from God. That it is only through love that we may come to experience and know sublime divinity. God may not necessarily be present in our institutions, credos, mores, ceremonies and rituals despite, even, our good intentions or noble efforts. God is experienced only through love…however one may find it.