Author’s Note: The following essay is a fictional analysis of the recent Walker Percy novel Lancelot. Its aim is to present, in the first and second person, Percy’s thematic thrust by picking up where the novel ends: with the word “Yes,” the first spoken by Percy’s analog in the work.
Yes. Yes, I certainly do have something to tell you. For the past five days, I have patiently heard you, withstood your derision towards my faith, suffered your rationalizations of your crimes and sins, listened to your hopeless solution to this sad sphere’s plight—No! Do not interrupt me; you claimed two days ago that I was the only one with whom you could talk, and that my silence is the only conversation you can listen to. Well, Lance, your monologue, broken only by my infrequent prodding to keep your crippled discourse directed, was not conversation. No; now you will listen to me, you will receive my words and your silence is the only conversation I will tolerate.
Oh, now! Now who is pacing the room, staring out of the window? You would mock my “watered down” faith, you expect my vestment to be ceremony for my surrender. But I am not ‘acting’ today, Lance, and you know it. Christ may have lain down His sword, but He has not bound His hands. There is still a sense of human significance in Christianity; it needs nothing concrete and terrific to prove its importance—unlike yourself. Transcendence is the one distinguishing mark of human existence, and unfortunately you are incapable of such belief.
Silence! Do not dare to deny your triviality, you who would denigrate the human ideal to sweaty copulations; you have no sense of humanity’s magnitude! If you but knew how you fail your own standards of power and monochrome distinctions, you would kill—or should I say rape—and damn yourself. Silly man. To confuse orgasmic iterations of The Lord’s name with the transcendent and then turn around and reduce sexual intercourse to a mere rubbing of nerves defeats your own premise. Your illogic robs you of your own “rational” faith.
But what of that thin faith, that prayer to the holy orifice? Is that really all that is important to you, my child? What of the intellect, which you pretend to engage in yourself with your petty historical essays about a dead Southern ideal, which you attempt to marshal to make reasonable murder and rape? You would use your mind to explicate your base, physical profundity yet you do not see its necessary supervenience to the body to be able to reason so. You are a slave to the aesthetic who ignores the very faculty which delineates it: the mind, the ethical, rational, human mind. Yet, even more than this you fail. You also live your desperate life with no sense of the spiritual. You think you have found the answer with you perverse creed of rape as human purpose, but you fail to see that, by merely stating such an ethic, you need its cause, its fundament. These answers are only sought in despair—I should know—and are only attained through a blind leap of faith. But you have no legs to leap with, child; you are still crawling on your knees.
Yes, Lance, in your simple world, ruled by the almighty fuck, you drive yourself from moment to moment of forced allure, preaching a destitute profundity twisted by your obsession with evil. Look at me! Look here, in my eyes, not at my robes or the body they drape. This deification of sex and obsession with extrinsic evil has twisted your purpose of life to a destructive physical analogy: rape. Good God, Lance, even Anna knows better! You tried to elevate her as the New Woman simply because her mortal body was raped by villains such as yourself. But your Unholy Grail is not in this crass act; it is in the heart which cannot care enough about another human being to simply let them live. Anna’s rapists’ hearts, not their acts, are sin’s throne, just as your murdering, ignored heart is.
Oh. Oh, I forgot that you can do no evil because you are working for the New World. Yes, the ultimate justification for heinous deeds committed by a hopeless, shallow man: some ludicrous ideal framed by his base fundaments. This jihad you propose, it will have as victims of its righteous violence those of this world who plod through everyday life wasting their power, their gifts, on the trivial? Why do you have to think about it, Lance? Ah, you nod; you line these sheep up for slaughter by your sword. Well, then, join their ranks, mouse! Your whole New World Order hinges on simplicity, getting back to Man’s immature, wrathful basics, living for the moment you can ask your pretty beau if she needs a wrap… or a rape. Your ubermenschen must become kamikazes. You yourself have wasted time in this cell, destroyed your heritage, trodden every root of your being all because your wife—whom you professed to love, although now I know how thin this word’s definition is in your mind—all because your wife diddled some director! I’ve heard of triviality in action before, but you define it with what you have done or, more accurately, why you did it. You believe some apocalypse is pending, probably because of a suggestion in your mind which you acquired from those ridiculous movie people. Well, you are right; an impending doom does loom… over your own head.
You think that you will be leaving here today. I have something else to tell you, Lance. As the reviewing psychiatrist in your case, I have no choice but to deny your release from this facility.
What!? Oh, surely you are not that surprised, surely your humanity is not so buried in your delusions that you cannot see why they are detrimental to the rest of society!? You are unscrupulous, Lance. The void where your heart should be is not a pitiable excuse for your crime; it is your crime. You expect me to let you out into a society which you loathe and feel justified in slaughtering? Without even a significant guide in your being? You think I am going to let you pursue your dark lucidity without you even being lucid yourself? You believe I can let you wreck all the purposive work of Man to replace it with some Virginian ideal you plucked from a presumptuous porn film? You want me to proclaim you healthy when you cannot see past your own irises, feel beyond your own skin; when you think spreading pain and rape is the auspicious end of Humanity?
Forget it, boy.
Oh, don’t rail about, Lance. You may think my restriction of you wrong, my views and ideals slavish; just remember that my word has the power, now, and trust that I, too, have seen the Grail. Not a cracked, drained one: a mere shaped clod of earthenware; but one whole, and full enough to quench all men’s thirst. To be free in society requires responsibility. Look out there at your sign around the corner. “Free &…” responsible. Until you know that sign’s other half, you will never leave this cramped confessional.
November 20, 1991