Things As They Are Author:Paul Horgan From the Loyola Press website: — In Paul Horgan?s novel THINGS AS THEY ARE, life is good for Richard, a sweet, likable young boy growing up in comfort in turn-of-the-century upstate New York. His cheerful, youngish parents love him ardently. He lives in a spacious home in a pleasant neighborhood. He is liked by his teachers, neighbors, friends, a... more »nd extended family. He lacks only one thing: knowledge of the real truth about things.
THINGS AS THEY ARE recounts how Richard loses the innocence of childhood and learns the facts of life. The novel consists of ten episodes that expose him to injustice, cruelty, fear, forbidden longings, treachery, and other evils. But Richard does not encounter criminals, psychopaths, or other monsters of sin. The ugly truths are conveyed by ordinary people: schoolmates and neighbors, parents and relatives, priests and policemen, and other admired adults?all behaving badly.
Fittingly, Richard?s initiation into ?things as they are? involves ugly truths about himself. The five-year-old Richard impulsively drowns a kitten for the sheer perverse thrill of it. He is tormented by memories of what he did. He finds some relief when he finally confesses to his father, but confession does not entirely lift the burden of guilt. He wonders whether he can be faithful to his vow to sin no more.
The succeeding years bring Richard more surprises. Schoolmates behave with appalling cruelty toward a fellow student. Neighbors neglect their child. A beloved uncle is revealed as a spendthrift and a drunk. Richard?s father is betrayed by his business partner. In the last episode, Richard surprises a couple locked in a passionate embrace in the drawing room of his home. The woman is a cherished aunt who is married to someone else.
THINGS AS THEY ARE depicts the drama of original sin, though Paul Horgan carefully avoids religious language in the telling of his stories. Adults grow accustomed to sin and are made cynical by the vicious things that people do. By depicting sin through the eyes of an innocent and somewhat naive child, Horgan invites us to see how perverse it is. Why do we hurt other people? Why do we act contrary to our interests? Why do we do the things we hate? Sin is mysterious. The only sufficient explanation for its existence is a spiritual one.
Horgan explores these somber themes in prose of ?piercing beauty,? as one critic wrote in the New York Times when the book was published in 1964. The novel is exquisitely crafted and written in spare, evocative language. At the end of the book, Richard is not so innocent, but he is still likable. ?I was full of chagrin at the fall of man,? he says. He knows about evil, but evil has not mastered him.
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