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Themes

The themes embodied in the novel encompass not only cultural and political values but also social and personal values. To what extent do our social and personal values shape our nation's cultural and political values?

 

 

THREAT OF COMMUNISM  

Let us not be deceived—we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be

found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system; it is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us... —Bernard M. Baruch (52)

 

It was horrifying enough if, like Alger Hiss, they [Communist spies] had infiltrated our State Department and were helping to create our foreign policy. (70)

 

The Red Scare fueled "witch hunts" and blackballing during the late 1940s and the 1950s. Was the threat of Communism against American ideals real or exaggerated? What does Patrick's perspective reveal about the effectiveness of the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations' responses to a pervasive attack on our nation's ideals and security?

 

 

PATRIOTISM

Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;

but our country right or wrong. —Stephen Decatur (148)

 

I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety

and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side. —President Abraham Lincoln (128)

 

To what extent should evidence of patriotism determine our choice of leaders? Does American culture still value patriotism as an ideal of character? To what extent did the Vietnam War call into question American patriotism?

 

 

IDEAL GOVERNMENT

. . . in times of war, the truth is so precious that it must at all times be accompanied

by a bodyguard of lies. —Winston Churchill (86)

 

Remember this above all else! When you commit the flag, you commit it to win!

--President Eisenhower (163)

 

Is the United States government justified in initiating subversive and unlawful actions to counter an enemy? Can a democratic government be both powerful and truthful?

 

 

DECEPTION

The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were

realities, and are often even more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are. —Machiavelli (52)

 

He who controls the past controls the future; and he who controls the present,

controls the past. —George Orwell" (559)

 

To what extent is the influence of government over the populace based on deception? Which characters in the novel were caught up or defeated by self-deception?

 

 

FATE VS. SELF DETERMINISM

The events which we see, and which look like freaks of chance, are only the last

steps in long lines of causations. —Alfred North Whitehead (389)

 

All events are secretly interrelated . . . the sweep of all we are doing reaches

beyond the horizon of our comprehension. —Abraham Joshua Heschel (389)

 

Can individuals change the course of history? At what point did Patrick's fate become inevitable?

 

 

ENDURING LOVE

Without a solid foundation in morality, that leader cannot lead! America cannot

elect, nor can it follow an immoral man as president. —J. Edgar Hoover (82)

 

Maybe all of this would be over one day, and I could safely see her again.

Wouldn't that be wonderful? (602)

 

Is an enduring intimate relationship important for our leaders? To what extent does an enduring intimate relationship contribute to an individual's moral choices and quality of life? To what extent must that relationship be sacrificed in order to make difficult choices or to be a leader of men?