Themes and Meanings
The Good Thing was lost, said the Swamp Woman, when man no longer was content with the “modes” of the Good Thing but wanted its essence. Angered, the gods hid the Good Thing and darkened the world. The mission of humanity is clear to the Swamp Woman: Man should quest, not carp.
Before she sets off for Chicago, Faith Cross has already met two versions of the Good Thing: the conventional Christian notion of salvation, which she briefly accepted, and the carpe diem philosophy of her dead father, who unfortunately could not bring Lavidia into his magic world. Yet even Lavidia, who died criticizing, knew that Faith should set off on a quest; thus, though no quester herself, Lavidia somehow recognized the Swamp Woman’s view of life.
On her quest, Faith meets four men, each of whom represents a different definition of the Good Thing. Arnold T. Tippis believes that he will eventually find an object (a prostitute) which will satisfy him. Tippis, however, poisons the present by always dragging in his past miseries; nor can he live in a pleasant moment, which is always followed by feelings of dissatisfaction. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Mephistopheles would have no hope of capturing Tippis’s soul. Not only is his method faulty, but also Tippis’s object is inadequate.
Fleabitten, sickly, and old, Dr. Richard M. Barrett has dedicated his life to the search for the Good Thing. In hot pursuit of philosophical truth, he has...
(The entire section is 561 words.)