(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

To Lester Furnival, standing on Westminster Bridge at twilight, the lights of the city and the drone of a friendly plane overhead are symbols of the peace, a return to the natural order of life. Lester slowly becomes conscious, however, of a silence that is unnatural. Lester realizes that she is dead.

A vital and passionate young woman killed in a plane crash, she first finds herself alone in the city with Evelyn, the friend who is killed with her. She realizes that theirs was never a true friendship. As the two dead women try to establish a genuine relationship in the afterlife, they become involved in the affairs of the living. Lester’s husband Richard has an artist friend, Jonathan, who is in love with Betty, a school friend whom Lester and Evelyn never liked. Betty is completely dominated by her mother, Lady Wallingford, who is a disciple of a mysterious faith healer who calls himself Simon the Clerk.

Lady Wallingford and Betty call to see a portrait of Father Simon commissioned from Jonathan. A Christian, Jonathan, without realizing it, reveals in the portrait the essence of evil, which Simon represents. Lady Wallingford, infuriated, calls off Betty’s engagement to Jonathan and takes Betty away. Jonathan calls on Richard for help. The conflict between mother and lover for possession of Betty becomes the conflict between the God of love and the power of darkness for the human soul.

Surrounded by a band of zealous converts, preaching to a mesmerized audience in his shabby back-street headquarters, Simon is the reembodiment of Simon the Magus, the Jew who rejected Christ. Simon is, in fact, the Antichrist. Exploiting the devotion of Lady Wallingford, he conceives Betty to be his agent and fears that his power over the daughter is threatened by her love for Jonathan. Simon...

(The entire section is 744 words.)