Monday, December 2, 2013

Evil in literature: Lancelot

From Lancelot, by Walker Percy:

“We've spoken of the Knights of the Holy Grail, Percival. Do you know what I was? The Knight of the Unholy Grail.

In times like these when everyone is wonderful, what is needed is a quest for evil.

You should be interested! Such a quest serves God's cause! How? Because the Good proves nothing. When everyone is wonderful, nobody bothers with God. If you had ten thousand Albert Schweitzers giving their lives for their fellow men, do you think anyone would have a second thought about God?
Or suppose the Lowell Professor of Religion at Harvard should actually find the Holy Grail, dig it up in an Israeli wadi, properly authenticate it, carbon date it, and present it to the Metropolitan Museum. Millions of visitors! I would be as curious as the next person and would stand in line for hours to see it. But what different would it make in the end? People would be interested for a while, yes. This is an age of interest. 

But suppose you could show me one "sin," one pure act of malevolence. A different cup of tea! That would bring matters to a screeching halt. But we have plenty of evil around you say. What about Hitler, the gas ovens and so forth? What about them? As everyone knows and says, Hitler was a madman. And it seems nobody else was responsible. Everyone was following orders. It is even possible that there was no such order, that it was all a bureaucratic mistake. 

Show me a single "sin."

One hundred and twenty thousand dead at Hiroshima? Where was the evil of that? Was Harry Truman evil? As for the pilot and bombardier, they were by all accounts wonderful fellows, good fathers and family men.

"Evil" is surely the clue to this age, the only quest appropriate to the age. For everything and everyone's either wonderful or sick and nothing is evil.

God may be absent, but what if one should find the devil? Do you think I wouldn't be pleased to meet the devil? Ha, ha, I'd shake his hand like a long-lost friend.

The mark of the age is that terrible things happen but there is no "evil" involved. People are either crazy, miserable, or wonderful, so where does the "evil" come in?

There I was forty-five years old and I didn't know whether there was "evil" in the world.” 


  1. People can't evade or ignore "evil." They are they are the VERY
    embodiment of "evil." "In sin did my mother concieve me."
    "All have sinned and fallen from the glory of God." "Our righteousness
    is like filthy rags."
    Words like "sociopath" and "empath" ultimately have no meaning.
    "The wages of sin are death." We all die, so what does that say about us?
    If we die at the hands of cancer, or the hands of Ted Bundy, what
    difference does it make?

  2. Oh please, Hitler was not a madman.

    1. Hitler was addicted to methamphetamine and at one point did begin to complain a lot of demons and anxieties he did not know how to cope with.

  3. To sin would be to knowingly break one of your own rules... knowing that it will cause a reaction.. this is okay if the reaction is anticipated and you know how to deal with it.

  4. Let's not forget John Cleese playing Lancelot in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and the original Red Wedding


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