Elizabeth is in more than one sense the only character of substance in the novel. There are minor characters who play a part in the real-world portion of Elizabeth’s years of suffering, and these characters help her on her way back to sanity, but the vast majority of the novel’s drama is played out in a world of hallucination and symbolism.
The characters of Elizabeth’s fantasy world represent good and evil. At times, they seem to represent pure forms of these two polar opposites, but Elizabeth realizes that good and evil do not exist in pure form.
Sello seems to represent the good and also to offer Elizabeth a haven from the terrifying world of her dreams. He warns her, however, not to become too complacent in her belief in his goodness:What was presented to Elizabeth as goodness remained consistently so, to the extent that she too rapidly accepted Sello as a comfortable prop against which to lean. He turned to her once and warned her to retain her own mental independence: ‘You have an analytical mind. You must analyze everything you see.’ She failed to heed the warning, and the day he abruptly pulled away the prop of goodness she floundered badly in stormy and dangerous seas.
Sello cannot free himself from the evil power of a woman—the Medusa. Elizabeth’s prop fails because she realizes that, even in the case of the god-like Sello, there is both a good side to human nature and an evil side. Each nation has its gods and its myths to explain the existence of good and evil.
Elizabeth does not die a death of the soul, but she is tested, like Job, so severely that she loses her sanity in the face of the evil that the Medusa and Dan represent. In the statement from which the title of the novel comes, Sello tells her, “If the things of the souls are really a question of power, then anyone in possession of the power of the spirit could be Lucifer.” Once Dan saw his power, Sello continues, “he wanted to be God on the strength of his power irrespective of the fact that his heart is filth.... I gave him a free hand because I wanted to study, completely, his image. And 1 thought you needed the insight into absolute evil. I’m sorry it was so painful.”