Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

John Gardner was a mystic, three-quarters Welsh and proud of the skepticism that Welsh people have always had of the more literal-minded English. Chandler, a philosopher, can raise all the transcendental questions the author wants to, offering no final enlightenment about such matters, except insofar as Chandler is himself resurrected at the end of the book: Just before he dies, he makes loving contact with another person for perhaps the first time when he grasps the naked foot of the waiting Viola. She had only a short time before she told him of her love, and he had suggested they have a cup of coffee; crushed, she had run away. Yet her love for him has resurrected her, too, from a life that was apparently spiraling downward, certainly into depression and perhaps into madness.

John Horne is a brilliant man who, like Chandler, is ill, but who in counterpoint comes up only with nihilism as a response. He is unable to break from the life of the mind to enter meaningfully into the life of the world; even his work had been as a librarian of law rather than as a practicing attorney.

Because Gardner writes The Resurrection mainly from the third-person-limited perspective but tells the story from multiple points of view, readers see that most people are not really aware of what they themselves need, of how they are perceived. Nor, the book shows, do people often communicate—enter communion—with anyone else, or with themselves.