The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The title War in Heaven is symbolic of the earthly battle between the opposing forces of good and evil as they attempt to gain possession of the Holy Graal, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. The Graal is the focus of the power struggle between Gregory Persimmons, Manasseh, and Dmitri on the side of hell and the archdeacon of Fardles, the duke of North Ridings, and Kenneth Mornington on the side of heaven. The Graal is finally won through the sacrifice and faith of the archdeacon and his companions. Prester John, a representative of heaven, eventually claims and is entrusted with the chalice.

The battle for the Graal begins when Gregory Persimmons—a publisher who is involved in a black magic cult—and the archdeacon of Fardles each read a manuscript that suggests that the Holy Graal is located in the archdeacon’s parish church at Fardles. Gregory realizes that the Graal is an object of power that he can use in the service of Satan. He steals the Graal three times.

During the first attack, he assaults the archdeacon, takes the Graal by force, and transports the relic to his house in Cully. The archdeacon and his friends, Mornington and the duke of North Ridings, visit Gregory and retrieve the Graal by trickery. They flee with the cup to the duke’s house in London. While they are staying at the duke’s house, Gregory and his conspirators, Dmitri and Manasseh, make a second attempt on the Graal. They attempt to destroy it...

(The entire section is 494 words.)


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Sources for Further Study

Hadfield, Alice Mary. Charles Williams: An Explanation of His Life and Work. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Expanded, revised version of a 1959 work by Williams’s coworker at Oxford University Press, the book is a commentary on his novels, plays, poetry, and theology, woven into the context of his life. Index.

Horne, Brian, ed. Charles Williams: A Celebration. Herefordshire, England: Gracewing, 1995. Eighteen essays by colleagues, former students, and critics on various aspects of Williams’s life, theology, and writing. Index.

Howard, Thomas. The Novels of Charles Williams. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Plot summaries with running commentary on Williams’s seven novels; very helpful clarifications of some of his more difficult passages, symbols, and theological concepts.

Huttar, Charles A., and Peter J. Schakel, eds. The Rhetoric of Vision: Essays on Charles Williams. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1996. Essays by British, American, and Canadian critics focused primarily on literary analysis of Williams’s fiction, poetry, and critical works; very detailed index.