Joe Hackett is the protagonist of the novel; the point of view is limited omniscient, and everything is filtered through his consciousness. He is a man and a priest with many faults. His early attempts at spirituality come more from pride than love of God. He wears a hair shirt to show his saintliness, but it is merely an outward sign. He is closer to the Pharisees of the New Testament than to Christ. He soon discovers that he has no time to develop his spiritual side; he must spend all of his time attending to the business of the parish. When he becomes a pastor, all spiritual thoughts seem to vanish. His life as a pastor is marked by visits to the liquor store and by watching television with a drink, and his pride has been replaced by an acceptance of worldly things. His one heroic moment is ironically linked to the world; he prevents a robbery at his local liquor store. There is, however, a yearning in Joe for a fuller and truly spiritual life, which he finds at the end of the novel.
Bill Schmidt is Joe’s curate, and he begins as a typical young priest who wishes to overturn all the rules and practices of the church. His rebellion is a mirror image of the earlier stance of Joe, and he helps Joe to see himself more fully. In addition, Bill acts as a goad to challenge Joe’s life of ease. Bill’s friendship with a dropout from the seminary creates conflict between him and Joe, but Bill gradually changes as he sees the irresponsibility of his earlier...
(The entire section is 594 words.)