Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Madness! Madness! Madness!

Because of the Mobile Passion Play that I am indentured - er, happy to participate in, this blog will be kept brief. I would merely like to mention the influence of Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Second Coming. We have discussed in previous classes how Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov leaked into Percy's fiction. Lancelot, in particular, featured strong allusions between the lead character and Ivan Karamazov, and distinct echoes of The Grand Inquisitor scene were made clear through the narrative style. The biggest similarity that I've noticed between The Second Coming and Karamazov is the fallacy of the insanity argument. Dostoevsky was very suspicious of the notion of insanity, suggesting in his writings that most cases of insanity are spiritual in nature, not mental. Ivan, for example is driven mad in the end of the novel not because of some genetic neurosis but because his own spiritual vacuity finally collapses in on itself and he can no longer bear his divided consciousness. Will is a little better off in that he recognizes the vacuity in himself and in everyone else, yet his actions make him look like a madman to everyone else. His questions, his erratic behavior, his ultimate decision to seek God and find the apocalypse - all of these appear to be the actions of a madman, yet his determination to absolve the tension in his soul may be the first rational set of decisions in his life. Through it all, whether he succeeds at his ultimate objective or fails, he may just free himself of the madness of complacency that has seemingly gripped everyone else in his life.

Perhaps it could be said that all madness is relative, but some breeds of madness are worse than others. Which is better: to recognize the vacuity of one's life and take drastic, even violent measures to change it, or to continue in one's own rut and refuse to recognize the sickness for what it is? Think of it this way: If Christ is indeed the wounded surgeon, how can He heal you if you can't begin to tell Him what ails you? Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard understood this, Percy does as well.

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