All Hallows' Eve Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

As in his other novels, Williams is more concerned with the conflict between good and evil than with the depiction of everyday life. To establish this conflict, he uses many of the conventions of the fantasy genre.

The title, All Hallows’ Eve, suggests the ancient Celtic festival of Samain, when it was believed that the gates between the spirits of the living and the dead opened and allowed easy passage. Williams accepted the Christian transformation of this holiday. In the tradition of Saint Augustine’s The City of God (413-427), the “hallows,” the souls of the blessed dead, take on the form of “the Acts of the City” and support Lester when Simon attempts to destroy her. The world of the dead, in fact, seems more vital and alive than drab wartime London. Although Betty is Simon’s daughter, she is saved from his power both by Lester and by the “wise waters” of baptism, the christening given to her by her nurse.

Williams, who was a member of the Mystical Order of the Golden Dawn, also uses magic in the novel. Simon is both a version of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24) and the Antichrist. Williams insists that Simon is a Jew not because he is being anti-Semitic but because he is setting Simon in contrast to “that other sorcerer of his race, the son of Joseph, . . . Jesus Bar-Joseph.” The scenes of conjuring and magical creation seem authentic but avoid the melodramatic excess of much gothic fiction.

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(The entire section is 510 words.)