Thursday, July 3, 2003

John Updike: America's most theological novelist

Hawthorne's protagonists seem fallen from a great height. They are tragic figures. Updike's characters seem merely stumble-prone, tangled up in their own feet, aimless and bored. They are quietly, subtly, pathetic.If we stop believing in God, are we free or ensnared? Do we become more courageous, or more anxious and timid? Do we become rulers of our own destiny, or victims of our own boredom and wantonness? Do we slip the burden of guilt, or become consumed by it, unrelieved by grace?Updike, like Hawthorne, is ambivalent about all this—he is no more nostalgic for Puritanism than Hawthorne was. But he is clear that in losing our sense of being a people under God—even if that God was the stern and meddlesome deity of Hawthorne's Puritans—we have lost something vital to our souls.