Most of the characters inhabiting William Gaddis’s novel The Recognitions pretend to be intellectuals in order to attain fame and money. They do not seek the universe’s principles, God’s laws, like the novel’s few true intellectuals. These few, because they struggle to recognize the universe’s rules and to obey them, live moral lives. The impostors, on the other hand, do not.
Wyatt Gwyon is the novel’s main character and, because he seeks fame, its main dissembler. The book follows his journey from pretense to truth, illuminating the way to discover morality.
The novel begins with Wyatt’s childhood. His mother has died, so his father, the Reverend Gwyon, and his live-in relative Aunt May rear him. The two adults battle each other over whose philosophy Wyatt will follow. Gwyon tries to teach his son to think and learn. He lures him with mythology, tales of his travels, and the excitement of discovery. May tries to deaden the boy’s mind with blind, unquestioning faith in God. She berates him for being one of Adam’s descendants and therefore a sinner who will go to Hell unless he believes in Jesus.
May fears creativity more than anything else because man imitates God when he creates. He tries to become God, she reasons. Therefore, when Wyatt, still a child, shows her his first picture, that of a robin, she asks: “Don’t you love our Lord Jesus, after all?” He says that he does. “Then why do you try to take His place? Our Lord is the true creator, and only sinful people try to emulate Him.” She goes on to tell him that “to sin is to falsify something in the divine order, and that is what Lucifer did. . . . He...
(The entire section is 688 words.)