Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Around the time Son of the Morning was published, another charismatic preacher led his followers to the ultimate sacrifice in Jonestown, Guyana. The Reverend Jim Jones had amassed wealth as Nathan does in the novel and also sought to lead his followers to a safe place away from the nonbelievers of the world. Since then, many charismatic leaders have emerged and led their followers to death, including David Koresh of the Branch Davidians and Marshall Applewhite of the Heaven’s Gate cult. The significance of Son of the Morning cannot be understated in light of such occurrences. Oates provides a compelling psychological look at what can happen to a human being caught up in fervent religious belief and also shows how easily ordinary people will turn to these leaders as authority figures in their lives. Although the novel troubled reviewers in some Christian publications, its message of alienation and blind devotion are worth study.