As the novel’s prime focus of attention, Doc Hunter’s clearheaded opinions, advice, and interior soliloquies considerably offset Upward’s often imperfect understanding of his motives. His language is precise and unrhetorical, sometimes in dramatic contrast to some less polished or slightly affected voices about him—such as those of Harry Hubbs, Caroline Gillespie, or Nellie Furby, the coeditor of the Upward Chronicle. Doc’s qualities emerge as well in the guests’ discussions and anecdotes, forming a composite portrait. Altogether, he appears as practical, sympathetic to the unfortunate, a reputed ladies’ man, dryly ironic, an admirer of Upward’s pioneers and of those who have survived, a critic of self-righteousness and small-mindedness, tolerant of human error, self-sacrificing, inspiring, paternal, and a man who recognizes the frightening consequences of decisions. His voice and wit do not betray the physical decline that some guests remark. He cautions Benny Fox against a morbid, masochistic tie to his and his mother’s past, advising him of his right to his own life—and that not necessarily in Upward. He “can’t see the point of making life miserable trying to play safe.” His acceptance speech vigorously criticizes the town’s only temporary deviation from bitterness and spite as he pleads for trust, understanding, and working together.
One nexus of Doc’s personal beliefs is shown in his discussion of creation with the Reverend Mr. Grimble—who has also identified to himself Upward’s lack of spiritual dedication, its observances of only the formalities of municipal generosity....
(The entire section is 667 words.)