Cross Damon, as his name implies, is the embodiment of a complex idea. Wright conceived of a man who has been martyred by his Christian upbringing and by the institutionalization of values based on Christian and other Western mythologies that have been rendered obsolete by industrialism, but also a man whose existentialist attempt to create a new and free identity merely frees his egoistic compulsion to replace the defunct Godhead with his own godlike exercise of power. Thus he acts demonically, in the senses both of Satan and tormented demiurge. He is both driven and inspired to obliterate the enemies of human freedom, only to find that the more he defeats them, the more like them he becomes. He is a shockingly violent murderer who yet can claim to be innocent of transcendental and therefore societal guilt. Ironically, he re-creates himself as a heroic outsider, only to find that every other thoughtful person, law-abiding or not, is also an outsider.
As characters, these outsiders differ only inasmuch as the ideas that they embody differ. For example, the Communists are as free of traditional mythology, as violent, and as self-serving as is Cross, but their idea is to enslave, not to set free. Houston, the district attorney, is an “ethical criminal” like Cross, but any violence that he commits is within the law. Although Houston stands outside society in his personal and philosophical points of view, he chooses to conform to societal imperatives,...
(The entire section is 544 words.)