(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Drawn almost against his will to the Crucifixion, Barabbas tries to view it as an ordinary execution. When darkness descends, he concludes that his eyes have gone strange from prison. Afterward, he goes to a tavern run by a fat woman, who, like most of the characters, is never given a name, emphasizing Barabbas’ isolation from others.

Barabbas’ acquaintances expect him to be jubilant upon his release but find him moody and withdrawn. He lives briefly with the fat woman, while seeking the followers of the crucified rabbi. When they learn who he is, they shun him. Preoccupied with and afraid of death, Barabbas feels threatened when the rabbi’s followers tell him he died for their sins. Taken to a man raised from the dead, Barabbas is disconcerted by his corpselike appearance and manner.

Unable to maintain his leadership of the thieves, Barabbas disappears, becoming a slave in the mines, chained to Sahak, a Christian. In this subterranean hell, Barabbas wants desperately to believe and briefly converts. A new overseer, interested in Sahak’s odd religion, arranges for them to work aboveground. Finding they are Christians, the master summons them. Barabbas denies being a Christian; Sahak affirms his faith and is crucified, with Barabbas watching unseen.

Taken to Rome, Barabbas seeks the Christians but becomes lost in the tomblike catacombs. Emerging to the light of fire and hearing that the Christians are burning the city, he...

(The entire section is 532 words.)