Lie Down in Darkness

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Novel by William Styron, published in 1951.

In Port Warwick, a ship-building city of tidewater Virginia, during the last days of World War II, Milton and Helen Loftis and their family are met to bury their daughter Peyton, who committed suicide in New York City. The parents have long been alienated, in part because Milton, an unsuccessful lawyer, has been a kind of dependent of Helen, a bitter woman, in whose family house they live, in part because of tensions created by the fact that their eldest daughter, Maudie, was a retarded cripple, dead in her twentieth year. Milton had an almost unpaternal affection for Peyton, long ago took to drink, and has long had a mistress, Dolly Bonner, who accompanies him to the funeral. Peyton was sent to the proper college, Sweet Briar, but, affected by her unhappy home life, left it to live in New York, to marry Harry Miller, a struggling artist, to separate from him, and to take lovers in a frustrated search to find her own way. Finally she threw herself from a skyscraper. Even her funeral does not go smoothly. The hearse breaks down and during the humid day the procession to the cemetery is interrupted by a traffic jam caused by a revival meeting of blacks. In it are servants of the Loftis family, ecstatic because of their redemption by Daddy Faith, in contrast to the hopeless despair of Milton and Helen Loftis.

Subjects: Literature.

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William Styron (1925—2006)

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