Novel by Lionel Trilling, published in 1947.
John Laskell, a middle-aged man recuperating from an almost fatal sickness, still feels close to death and attracted by it. He is assisted to life by an affair with Emily Caldwell but plunged into a new crisis when her drunken husband, Duck Caldwell, accidentally kills their young daughter. The event affects Laskell not only emotionally but intellectually as he finds his friends, Professor Croom and his wife, contending that not Duck but social forces are responsible for the tragedy, while another friend, Gifford Maxim, a doctrinaire Christian, argues that Duck, being responsible for his acts, is eternally damned unless saved by God's mercy. Faced by these opposing views, Laskell finally reaches his own view that man is not entirely governed by external forces nor entirely possessed of a free will.
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Lionel Trilling (1905—1975)