The foundational Christian theme of The Twilight of Courage is the ongoing necessity to resist evil in order to allow good to survive and triumph. The novel juxtaposes this struggle at two levels—personal and national—as both characters and nations are torn by their desire for “peace at any price” and the need to identify and confront evil for what it is.
At the personal level, Horst von Brockman and André Chardon illustrate this internal moral battleground, played out on a physical battleground. Von Brockman, a Nazi officer, and Chardon, a French officer, are beset by their respective moral cataclysms as they simultaneously function as players in the wartime drama of their homelands. Appalled by the utter brutality and depravity of the Gestapo forces during the invasion of Poland, von Brockman is shaken to his core as he tries to find honorable footing on which to continue as a professional warrior. Chardon, an officer in the French army, which is standing against the Nazis’ abominable treatment of the Jews, has fallen in love with a Jewish woman whom he refuses to marry and fathers a child he is reluctant to claim as his own in the face of his family’s anti-Semitism. This story brings these men face-to-face with the truth of their real characters as they decide how they will conduct their lives.
On the field of nations, a similar moral dichotomy unfolds at the beginning of the war. Germany, rising out of a period of economic recession and poverty to regional prominence, has become aggressive toward its neighbors, embracing a totalitarian form of government that is heavily invested in military might. As Germany flexes its military muscles in Europe, the traditional standardbearers of freedom and democracy, England and France, take a weak, conciliatory approach to German foreign policy. The French and English find, to their consternation, that the more they placate Hitler, the more aggressive he becomes. Finally turning from appeasement to resistance, the Allies engage evil in a just war.