The Second Coming is a seriocomic tale in which a wealthy, middle-aged man who is contemplating suicide and a young woman who has recently escaped from a mental hospital save each other from depression and psychosis and win their freedom from conniving relatives. It is not the usual kind of love story, in which the primary conflict is some obstacle in a romantic pursuit. Each is engrossed in a very private struggle with the crippling emotions peculiar to his or her own past. Their encounter is a happy accident—or perhaps the grace of God extended to two social misfits who cannot make it alone.
Will Barrett seems to have everything: money, social position, friends, early retirement, and a good golf game. In abstract, metaphysical terms, his main adversary is the meaninglessness of his life, even though he and his late wife had been much involved in “good works.” The more immediate antagonist, however, is his skeptical father, who shot himself when Will was a boy and intimated that someday his son would follow his example. Much of Will’s mental life is spent recapturing in minute detail the reality of his relationship to his father and his legacy of death. Therefore, much of the action, though comical in itself and infused with satiric observations about American, especially Southern, society, still has a somber undertone of self-analysis.
Allison Huger’s problem is also psychological, though its sources in the past are not so clear. While Will suffers from obsessive memories, Allie struggles from extreme withdrawal and forgetfulness, the latter exacerbated by repeated electroshock treatments. She manages, nevertheless, to escape the sanatorium and take possession of an abandoned greenhouse, which she inherited from an aunt. Her intention is to prove that she can survive in the world without the help of the...
(The entire section is 755 words.)