Last Reviewed on September 18, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 316
The overall theme of The List, the novel that arguably launched author Robert Whitlow's career, is morality—in particular, a Christian perspective on good and evil. The story begins with an inheritance. The protagonist, a struggling young lawyer, is bequeathed a fortune after his father dies. The provider of that inheritance, however, is an evil occult society.
The idea of inheriting a legacy and secret knowledge is developed throughout the novel. One could argue that the Christian subtext of the story provides another example of inheritance, in which God bequeaths his knowledge and divine power to humanity. Just as the evils of the secret society are passed down to Renny by his father, the ability to fight evil with goodness is passed down to humanity by God the father.
As a lawyer, Renny is pursuing a high-earning profession, which makes him vulnerable to temptations of wealth and power. He is trying to reach the same economic status as his partners in the firm, so he has no qualms—at least initially—about inheriting material wealth, even if it is associated with an evil cult.
This is where Whitlow dissects and explores the idea of morality. The majority of the novel is centered on discussing morality from a Christian perspective. The capitalistic nature of America—with its obsession with materialism, excess, socioeconomic status, and power—paves the way for the corruption of institutions as well as corruption of the soul. The supernatural aspect of the story adds an element of fantasy or science fiction, especially since the power of the Christian deity is taken literally in the novel.
Renny's life and the lives of his loved ones are in the hands of God, and it is up to Renny to decide which path to take. In this sense, the story is as much about an internal struggle as it is about an external struggle against evil people.
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