(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell Riley Hughes - Essay

Riley Hughes

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Up to now Miss Caldwell has been in the habit of simplifying the past, of building her plot and bullying her characters around one idea…. In The Devil's Advocate she presents a simplification of recent past and proximate future both. Her scene is the slave America of the 1970's, the seeds of whose destruction were sown in the 1930's.

America's downward slide into a Communist state "had begun with a loathsome use of the word 'security.' And in the name of that fantasy, that dream-filled myth, American pride, responsibility, grandeur and strength, had been systematically murdered."… Thus by 1970 the Republic had become "The Democracy," and the President was the captive of The Military and The Farmers, and the people were everywhere in chains.

Miss Caldwell's own fantasy concerns a "Minute Man" named Durant, a Catholic (who goes to confession before a dangerous "subversive" mission which requires much butchery on his part), who takes the name of Major Curtiss to be gauleiter of the Philadelphia area. Ostensibly a loyal servant of "The Democracy," Durant-Curtiss has the secret mission of goading the people to rebellion by his outrageous cruelty. The cops and robbers stuff Miss Caldwell handles with exemplary skill, but the rest is unfunny, and quite dangerous, nonsense. (pp. 313-14)

Riley Hughes, in his review of "The Devil's Advocate," in Catholic World (copyright 1952 by The Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle in the State of New York; used by permission), Vol. CLXXV, No. 1048, July, 1952, pp. 313-14.