Black Easter/The Day After Judgment Critical Essays

James Blish


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Together with Doctor Mirabilis and A Case of Conscience, Black Easter and The Day After Judgment are often thought to be Blish’s best work. Written toward the end of his career, the books explore the dilemma of the existence of evil in a world created by a good God. The dilemma is usually stated in the form that if God is both all-powerful and all-good, how can God allow evil to exist? These novels answer the question by showing God deliberately restraining his power. By the covenant, Father Domenico, a representative of good, cannot do anything to hinder or stop Theron Ware’s summoning of demons. It is logical, then, that God is discovered to be dead at the end of Black Easter; death, after all, is the ultimate restraint. The self-restraint practiced by God allows the forces of evil nearly complete freedom of action. Ironically, when evil triumphs, Satan finds that he must unwillingly take the role of God. When Satan assumes the divine throne, he must give up the freedom he enjoyed as ruler of Hell and submit to the restraints imposed on good.

In a favorable review of Black Easter in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Joanna Russ describes Blish’s point of view as Manichean. In Manicheanism, good and evil are separate powers that have struggled with each other throughout history. In Black Easter and The Day After Judgment, however, good is absent or inactive, while evil is present and active. Thus, good and evil do not fight on equal terms. Instead of struggling with evil, good withdraws and leaves the field open for evil.

Black Easter is dedicated to the memory of C. S. Lewis. Black Easter and The Day After Judgment recall Lewis’ novel That Hideous Strength (1945), in which a limited Armageddon occurs. Lewis’ novel, however, expresses his Christian faith, with good triumphing, while Blish’s books reflect his agnosticism through the...

(The entire section is 816 words.)