Descent into Hell

by Charles Williams

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Peter Stanhope, the Christian hero of the novel, creates a play in which the villagers are cast. He is written to exhibit essential Christian values such as wisdom, benevolence, good-nature, and charitable. His charitable nature leads him to take it upon himself to bear the burden of Pauline's own fears in what he calls 'The Doctrine of Substituted Love'. Peter helps Pauline face her true self.

Pauline Anstruther, the 26 year old heroine of the novel, lives in ultimate fear of meeting her own doppelganger. Her twin appears at unpredictable moments throughout her life. Her characters shows immaturity but decent and good-hearted traits. After Peter helps her face her true self in his doctrine of 'substituted love', she accepts her role in a greater cosmic plan by bearing the burden of others who are overcoming their fears. Pauline comes to the ultimate understanding that going to the City of God will unravel life's perfection.

Lawrence Wentworth, a local historian in his fifties, is the character with internal conflict. His vanity leaves him in constant despair over his attractiveness and his scholarly opinions. He isolates himself and dreams of descending a silver rope into a dark pit, thus his descent into hell. This strange spiritual journey is sparked by his hatred of a scholar rival and his desire for Adela Hunt. His betrayal to himself as a lover and scholar sends him into a madness. The descent into madness is marked by his un-Christian behavior of self-indulgence and egotistical obsessions. His journey ends with suicide.

Margaret Anstruther is the grandmother of Pauline. Margaret is the saintly character who displays a devotion to her religion through prayers of salvation for others. She is written to portray the most realistic version of a good Christian disciple. Her Christian values are displayed in her patience, thoughtfulness, and confidence.

Adela Hunt is the egoistic leading lady of Peter's play and admired by two other characters. She is a source of conflict for Hugh Prescott and Lawrence. Her names is to suggest that she is a 'predatory idol' as she tempts Lawrence into damnation.

Hugh Prescott is the leading man of Peter's play and suitor to Adela. He recognizes that Adela is unworthy in his desire and 'see's life clearer'. Therefore leading him into salvation.

Lily Sammile is the evil figure who tries to manipulate the grandmother. She is written as an ineffective disciple of Satan who is unable to fool any other enlightened Christian characters and represents false love.

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