Science Fiction Studies

# 15 = Volume 5, Part 2 = July 1978

Elizabeth Cummins Cogell

The Middle-Landscape Myth in Science Fiction

In a recent article in Parabola, Ursula K. Le Guin has identified myth as "an expression of one of the several ways the human being, body/psyche perceives, understands, and relates to the world."1 Mircea Eliade, Northrop Frye, and others have noted that the archetypal images of myth attempt to explain the universal; and that the viability of a myth depends on its ability to forge a " the social and intellectual life of the culture itself."2 Le Guin summarizes these various functions when she states that myth "may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry, and artistic renewal."3

The central myth or controlling images of a particular period of American literature have been the focus of such authors as R.W.B. Lewis in The American Adam, Raymond Olderman in Beyond the Wasteland, John R. May in Toward A New Earth, and Leo Marx in The Machine in the Garden. Believing that a developing culture is its own lively debate over the ideals that effervesce within it, they argue that the creative imagination is frequently better able to give a more comprehensive view of the debate than the rational argument can. Its imagery and narrative partake of old myths, change them, create new ones, thus dramatizing the culture's paradoxes and unresolved value conflicts.

It is the thesis of this paper that the myths of the apocalypse and the middle landscape, in combination, express current cultural tensions, a combination heretofore unrecognized.

Man's ability to imagine a planetary catastrophe is nothing new, but his ability to do it is a recent accomplishment. Science fiction has long reflected this concern, as evidenced by C.S. Lewis's and James Gunn's discussions of the eschatological as a major category of science fiction.4 David Ketterer is even more to the point when he asserts that all science fiction is apocalyptic because it "is destroying old assumptions and suggesting a new, and often visionary, reality."5 An apocalyptic novel, according to May's 1972 study, must contain the first two of the three apocalyptic elements — catastrophe, judgment, and renewal.6

The potential for change, although not necessarily apocalyptic, has always been associated with the literary middle landscape. Tracing its origin back to the pastoral, Leo Marx asserts that its "vital element" is "the ordering of meaning and value around the contrast between two styles of life, one identified with a rural and the other with an urban setting."7 The middle landscape, Marx argues, has lost its significance in the culture of an advanced urban environment of concrete, glass, steel, and — above all (or under and through all) — machinery. But when it is combined with the apocalypse, it regains some of its old strength. What if the advanced civilization ceases to exist? What if man alters his evaluation of technological progress? Some contemporary authors are offering the middle landscape as a place of renewal.

What is particularly surprising is that both May and Marx have ignored science fiction in their studies of these myths. Yet the genre abounds with examples of both and, what is significant for this paper, with examples of them in combination. The novels I have selected for this cursory study illustrate the three most distinctive varieties charted by May: the primitive apocalypse, represented here by George Stewart's Earth Abides, the Judeo-Christian by Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins, and the secular by Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. Percy's novel is especially significant as it criticizes the false middle landscape and depicts the potential physical, ethical, and psychological meaning of this myth.

In Stewart's Earth Abides (1949), the catastrophe is a fast-spreading, world-wide disease for which no treatment could be found. May has demonstrated that in the primitive apocalypse, the catastrophe is caused by human error or the natural process of decay. Stewart suggests both. The near demise of the human race is either caused by an "escape, possibly even a vindictive release, from some laboratory of bacteriological warfare"8 or the "biological law of flux and reflux," that is, "the number of individuals in a species never remains constant but always rises and falls."9

In ferreting out the causes for the catastrophe, we are really discussing the judgment which, in the primitive apocalypse, is more than simply a condemnation of man for his sins. It is a recognition that man must periodically go through chaos to renew his life, to make contact with his being, i.e., the cosmos, the reality which was conceived as being the original time of the gods before man's existence. The novel rejects the Judeo-Christian tradition of a God directing the universe, of man occupying a special place in the universe, and of man progressing through linear time to a spiritual renewal in the kingdom of Heaven. The primitive metaphysics is thus anti-historical and Platonic. Stewart's cyclic view of civilization is as anti-historical as these primitive myths, or the American Adam, or the garden of the world myth where the yeoman of the West stands free of his European past.10

The middle landscape setting suggests a return to primitivism, a momentary regaining of innocence only to have it always and forever lost again. The surviving colony, led by Ish (whose Adamic name means man), lives in the ruins of a city relying, on the one hand, on the existing homes and stores for shelter, clothing, and material needs but, on the other hand, on nature for game and fish for food. The tension between city and wilderness thus makes the novel a compelling account of the daily struggle to survive planetary destruction and ultimately results in "an affirmation of man's creative capacity to start anew."11 This leads us to the third aspect of the apocalyptic novel — the renewal.

The controlling force directing man's renewal is consistent and operates under the laws of causality: Nature. Man is one unit among many constituting the living species of the universe. He is not the measure of all things. Man must realize that he lives in nature — this is the meaning of life which Ish discovers, especially through the death of Joey. The middle landscape which the colony lives in is effectively meeting the challenge of the counterforce, both physically and socially. The post-apocalyptic counterforce in this novel is wilderness, chaos. Physically, the landscape, the natural hazards of fire and flood, of inundations of ants or rats, of prowling lions or coiled rattlesnakes is a reality of hardship equivalent to the realities of civilized man's chaos, i.e., biological warfare. The human species will be totally overwhelmed if it does not recognize its place as a unit in the fluctuations and cycles of nature. Man's failure to recognize the inevitability of an accident in germ warfare suggests that man had assumed the role of controller to which he was not entitled. The senselessness of man's achievements is epitomized by the utter uselessness of New York City after the catastrophe.

On the other hand, Earth Abides also recognizes that the human species will be totally overwhelmed if individuals do not form a society to protect it from the wilderness of nature (which can easily overwhelm an individual) or correspondingly, this chaos or evil of other humans, as represented by Charlie. The social values in the colony are clearly those of the traditional middle landscape — simplicity in economics and politics, decency of behavior, freedom of action yet enough law and order to maintain the communal unit.

In combining the middle landscape and apocalypse myths, Earth Abides shows that in the closed cycle of time, the high level of civilization, technology, and intellectual inquiry cannot be maintained after the catastrophe. Yet the resolution of the judgment hopefully suggests that these levels may be attempted again in the future. Renewal, in this novel, entails a return to basic human values at the expense of civilization. The power of the novel is the recognition of the paradoxes in a return to Edenic innocence; it is fallen man making the best of a bad situation. The ambiguous ending of the novel, then, is really a bittersweet recognition of the unresolved paradoxes in man's relationship with nature, with society, with time, and with evil — the paradoxes, that is, which vitalize the middle landscape-apocalypse myths.

Even more dystopic is Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven (1971), included here as an example of the secular apocalypse. In the secular form, the sign of the end, of the collapse of moral values, is the appearance of what May calls "the super-promiser whose protean face reflects the evil of the society he woos."12 This is the behaviorist, Dr. Haber. Like the psychology he espouses, Haber adapts his behavior to fit the patient or the circumstances of the moment. He flaunts his confidence and vitality, but his patient senses its instability:

There was a warmth to the man, an outgoingness, which was real; but it had got plasticoated with professional mannerisms, distorted by the doctor's unspontaneous use of himself. Orr felt in him a wish to be liked and a desire to be helpful; the doctor was not, he thought, really sure that anyone else existed, and wanted to prove they did by helping them. He boomed "Good afternoon!" so loud because he was never sure he would get an answer.13

In this novel of multiple realities in which the reader is never permitted that comfortable perspective of being able to discriminate between the real and the unreal, the middle landscape has been transformed into a middle way between the forces of natural chaos (Mt. Hood threatening to erupt) and the forces of manmade chaos (overpopulation and pollution). No longer the agricultural abode of the yeoman, it is an urbanized area, equipped with machinery in which people make their living in all ways but plowing and planting. The middle landscape is threatened by external and internal catastrophe. The major external catastrophe appears to have been the threat of nuclear war in April 1998, brought on by world-wide overpopulation and overindustrialization. Orr averted the world's destruction through his ability to dream a new reality into existence. The major internal catastrophe is Dr. Haber. Manipulating Orr's dreams, ostensibly to improve the world but in fact to increase his own power and status, Haber increases the power of the government, kills six billion people by plague, and alters reality at will.

May asserts that the apocalyptic mood of modern secular literature is a "reaction against the ineffectual gradualism of social change, the faceless horror of technological society, and the myths perpetrated to distract us from the reality of impending universal cataclysm."14 Haber offers himself as the new myth — the behaviorist who can solve all problems based on the false assumptions that all things are quantifiable, thus all things can be known and controlled. A mystery, Haber asserts, is simply a problem to which no solution has been found, yet. Presiding over his wonderful Augmentor or dream machine, he fulfills Eliade's assertion that "every ritual has a divine model, an archetype."15 Thus the full humor of his character emerges. He acts as if he represents something larger than himself but he has never seen what that "something" is. Reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, Haber ultimately lacks the core of being of the Wizard. The very existence of the Aliens is a marvelous commentary on Haber's view. The distinguishing characteristic of them is their unexplained connection with dream time and with the supernormal powers such as Orr exhibits. Their presence proves Haber's viewpoint is wrong.

The Judgment made against Haber is the Judgment against the world-gone-wrong, and it is made from the perspective of Taoist humanism. Haber's principles can be reduced to three mottoes: the greatest good for the greatest number, the proper study of mankind is man, and the end justifies the means. Against these principles which deny the significance of the individual and of the rest of the universe, are Orr's principles: if the single individual is not significant, nothing is; man is not the measure of all things; and the means are the ends.

Opposed to the view of mankind en masse, Orr returns again and again to searching for the sense of wholeness and being which he has lost. In contrast, Haber is condemned as a man without being. Orr's image of him is striking: "But the big man was like an onion, slip off layer after layer of personality, belief, response, infinite layers, no end to them, no center to him."16 In the end, Haber's approach has failed in two significant ways. First, his means being faulty, his goal (the greatest good for the greatest number) is never achieved quite the way he imagined it. He set out with a rational purpose but tapped the aid of the irrational and treated it as if it were rational. Second, when Haber is finally able to hook himself into the Augmentor and trigger his first effective dream, he destroys himself and nearly destroys the world with him. So Haber's goal has been deflected and the end result is his own vacuity and insanity, a gruesome condemnation of the ends justifying the means.

Catastrophes have occurred, have been warded off, but will not occur in the future, at least not as directed by Haber. The judgments have been made against him and his quantified approach. Is a renewal possible? As is typical of the secular apocalypse outlined by May, the novel offers hope; but the new life is not detailed. The hope is that Orr will continue to experience wholeness of being and participation in the flux of the universe, while maintaining an attitude of stillness and receptivity — he is a Taoist sage. The hope is that his natural self will continue unviolated by the demands and pressures of society. And what of society in this renewal? In spite of the horror and trauma of that evening when Orr stopped the world from melting in the middle of Haber's dream, individuals survive and begin to achieve some semblance of order. Nature participates in that the trees leaf out and roses bloom abundantly. The general conditions of Portland reflect some order. The Aliens have been integrated into the economy and the wheels of complex society are gearing up to create the Gross National Product. Individuals, then, keep going, and that is hopeful; the Aliens are an integral unit and that is hopeful. George Orr is happy in his work, designing kitchen equipment; Heather Lelache appears in Orr's shop, "the fierce, recalcitrant, and fragile stranger, forever to be won again."17 The last words in the novel are spoken by the Alien, "To go is to return," a reflection not of the cyclic time of the primitive apocalypse, but of the spiral time of Taoism.

The Judeo-Christian apocalypse is the framework for Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins (1971). John R. May rejects the traditional interpretation of the apocalypse in Revelation which is that Christians must persevere to reach eternity. The function of the writing, May argues, is "to deny the immanence of easy victory, to force Jews and Christians alike to accept the agony of history, the birth-pangs of creation."18 Time is not cyclic or spiral but linear; God has acted in history before and will do so again. Eventual renewal will occur; but, in the meantime, evil plagues the Church, the "terror of existence" must be faced, man must discover which historical events have religious significance. I would argue that this is the milieu of Percy's novel. Let us examine the process of catastrophe, judgment, and renewal in the middle landscape which structures this narrative.

The moment we turn to the catastrophe in Love in the Ruins, the reader familiar with this novel begins to grin sceptically — a catastrophe? Oh, really? The supposed catastrophe is an attack on Fedville and Paradise Estates by the black Bantus from the swamp with a counterattack on Fedville by the Conservatives from town, all of which took place on July 4. Not only do we have an unreliable narrator (an alcoholic and former mental patient), but the arrangement of the chapters suggests Tom More's account is all a dream. He falls asleep on page 58 and wakens on page 353 — fifteen minutes later. In fact, all scenes in which Art Immelman appears and the lapsometer is seen in operation are in dream sequences.

Percy is purposefully not telling us whether this is or is not a dream, whether this is or is not an accurate account of what really happened in order to reject the burden of the traditional "objective-empirical" perspective19 and to emphasize that for each individual, it is the internal psyche dealing with the perceived events which is important and unique. Thus, he allows a most zany individual to write out his most bizarre series of events in which he came to terms with himself. Percy has written that his solution for telling his readership about Christianity and warning them of disaster is through exaggeration — "violence, shock, comedy, insult, the bizarre."20

The catastrophe takes place among the still visible ruins of a similar riot which occurred five years ago. The ruins, reflected in the novel's title, suggest the wasteland milieu of the 60's novel, analyzed by Olderman — the meaninglessness, the chaos, the absurdity of the modern world which has resulted from the blurring of fact and fiction. Love in the Ruins, however, is not simply another 60's novel because it offers more than just fragments to shore up the ruins. Turning to the judgment within this apocalypse enables us to see the nature of what is offered.

Percy's norm of judgment is Christian humanism and judgments are rendered against the psyche of Western man, the false middle landscape he has created, and the substitute ideology he has offered, i.e., scientism. Tom More asserts that the "soul of Western man is in the very act of flying apart"21 because he has polarized the self, creating "chronic angelism-bestialism that rives soul from body and sets it orbiting the great world as the spirit of abstraction."22 Angelism is an excessive admiration for the ability to be objective; bestialism is an excessive regard for one's physical needs and desires. This "postmodern consciousness," as Percy calls it, results in a particular type of postmodern hero: "a man who has forgotten his bad memories and conquered his present ills and who finds himself in the victorious secular city. His only problem now is to keep from blowing his brains out."23 Cutting himself off from the past and its knowledge of good and evil, achieving physical security and comfort, the hero has lost sight of the imaginative self and finds his new, urban world meaningless.

Reflecting this false dualism is the equally false middle landscape setting, i.e., Paradise Estates, "an oasis of concord in a troubled land."24 This is not the cultivated green fields of the yeoman but a country club of beautiful homes and an enormous golf course for the leisured, wealthy folk. The fame (and fortune) of the area results, not from its yield per acre, but from its Moonlight Golf Tournament, the first in the country, necessitating a new 36-hole golf course with extensive night lighting and Tifton 451 grass which needs no care and so relieves the yeomen (blacks) of their jobs. If this ironic contrast is not enough, Percy clarifies the paradoxes of Paradise with such details as the security guard at the entrance, the fake hill on which the wealthiest home was built, and the recurrent image of vines encroaching on the residences, particularly a bottle of Southern Comfort in the clubhouse bar. Ironically, the residents are surprised to learn that their black domestics prefer not to live in the renovated slave quarters.

Not only is the physical middle landscape a mockery, but the two counterforces provide no viable solution. The black Bantus and the white love communities who have returned to the primitive life in the swamp have all left it by the end of the novel. The Bantus discovered oil and bought out Paradise Estates; the love community was convicted of atrocities in town. The townspeople, on the other hand, have factionalized into conservatives and liberals and their shoot-outs destroy their power.

Fedville, the third of the three centers of habitation, represents, more than the town does, the alternative choice, i.e., the high level of civilization — Marx's machine in the garden. It is a pivotal landscape in the novel because it threatens the middle, it embodies the worst cases of angelism and — worse yet — it teaches angelism to its patients. Fedville consists of the Love Clinic where machinery such as the vaginal console measures physical responses in copulating couples or masturbating women and calls it love research; Gerry Rehab where Skinner boxes are filled with oldsters expelled from retirement centers as unhappy misfits; and the Hospital whose psychiatric ward contains the honest mad. It is the epitome of scientism, the ideology which Percy believes has unfortunately replaced humanism. Scientism is not the scientific method nor its findings, per se, it is the obsession with the objective-empirical perspective, to the exclusion of any other type of knowledge. It makes man, Percy asserts, simply "an organism in an environment."25 Science, then, emphasizes knowledge by category, extracting only the common elements from each group of individuals. The novelist, on the other hand — and in this case the Christian humanist — focuses on the individual and "upon the mystery, the paradox, the openness of an individual human existence."26 Significantly, Percy then argues that the modern man "stands both in danger of catastrophe and somehow in need of it,"27 a statement right out of the apocalyptic tradition.

The polarizations of Western man, caused by scientism, erupt into the crises preceding the end. Preferring reason, fact, intellect, and power, Western man rejects imagination, feeling, myth, and freedom. The ineffective gradualism of social change makes the blacks unhappy, the belief in empirical fact makes Buddy Brown misjudge Mr. Ives; the planned, senseless recreation for the old causes the very despair the doctors are trying to cure. The doctors are treating people as objects, unwilling to admit there is a mystery within the human psyche.

Larger than scientism, then, is man's overweening pride. As May reported, "Genuine apocalypse had always functioned as a warning against the presumption of man."28 Pride is More's flaw and the flaw of the town, Paradise Estates, and Fedville. Once he has invented the lapsometer, a diagnostic instrument to measure the activity of brain centers, More's pride compels him to seek funding, his pride creates Art Immelman who offers him an attachment which will treat the individual brain. The judgment is against man; the catastrophes (real, dreamt, or threatened) are a result of man's actions, not the interference of God. May believes, as does Percy, that people need the faith of the Christian apocalypse to "bridge the cultural chasm with hope."29 What is the nature of More's renewal?

When we see him five years after the infamous real or imagined Fourth of July weekend events, we discover Tom is living in the traditional American middle landscape following the traditional yeoman's values. He has moved from Paradise Estates down to the old Slave Quarters, the direction suggesting a return to basics physically, economically, and socially, as well as down to decisions based on emotion, sensation, and intuition. He farms and he fishes, has few material wants (outside of a kingsize bed for Ellen) and is keeping the vines out of the landscape. Another indication that the wilderness counterforce is being kept out of this garden is that he has not been left in the wasteland. Not trapped in wilderness, meaninglessness, and sterile relationships, More is married and the father of two children. "Poor as I am," he says, "I feel like God's spoiled child. I am Robinson Crusoe set down on the best possible island with a library, a laboratory, a lusty Presbyterian wife, a cozy tree house, an idea, and all the time in the world."30 Suggestive of utopia, Percy makes it quite clear this is not Eden. There has been no return to the innocence of Adam. More is still representing fallen man, consistent with Percy's view of linear time, as evidenced by the fact that More still hopes to heal Western man's split psyche with a machine. More is a post-Edenic Adam who has come a long way but who has sinned and is still sinning. The middle landscape demands of man both abstract thought and physical labor; it is the perfect setting for the whole man.

Aware of the need for man's return to wholeness and having made his choices for family and church, More is closer to being the whole man, the man he describes as the "sovereign wanderer, lordly exile, worker and writer and watcher."31 Drawing on the existentialist tradition, Percy's model also lies within the middle landscape — the yeoman. From Virgil's Eclogues to The Tempest to the dream of America as the embodiment of Eden, there is an exile quality in the middle landscape. The yeoman chooses it in preference to wilderness or the city where other humans live. Exiled by choice from his society, the yeoman is strengthened by his choice. Again, it is not utopia; fallen man lives here with his machine, dependent on the nearby civilization, now controlled by blacks, for his livelihood. His sense of well being could be called religious, i.e., as Percy defines it, "a passionate conviction about man's nature, the world, and man's obligation in the world."32 His own family unit can be viewed as the beginning of a new type of community. Nearby in the chapel is a religious community of Catholics, Jews, and Protestants of which More is a faithful member. And, third, there is his agreement to be Victor's campaign manager, a commitment to the political community.

The acceptance and commitment is explained in one of the final scenes of the novel. When More confesses his sins to Father Smith, he is not immediately able to feel sorry for them. More, as he converses with the priest, imagines that the priest is "drifting off into smoke and brushfires," a reference which recalls the whole dream sequence of the novel and the character of Art Immelman. The priest, however, is able to cut through More's "middle-aged daydreams" by reminding him of the more important things, i.e. humane commitments to individuals and society. More, "scalded," feels instantly sorry for his sins and willingly dons the sackcloth and ashes.33

This event has two ramifications in the Judeo-Christian apocalypse and middle landscape myths. First, although More's awareness of his sins testifies to his acceptance of the past and present, it is not until he accepts the guilt that he acknowledges his role in the future. Finally, then, More wholly enters into the linear time of the Judeo-Christian apocalypse. Second, it signifies that he is also beyond the black humor of the modern novel where man's sole consolation is that life is better than death. More accepts again the hope which comes from the Christian "good news."

Has the end of the world really come, is it still expected, or is it not coming? More believes the Troubles were just one of several calamities preceding the end of the world. The American states have split, he reports, and they must pray for reunion at Church. Also, "the monks are beginning to collect books again."34 Western man is still split apart and More is half-heartedly working on his lapsometer to repair man's fall. In the end, More answers Yeats' poem, will the center hold? Yes, for him personally, and he is grateful to God for the variegations of life, celebrated in the Hopkins poem which More quotes.

In the middle landscape, all the paradoxes of man's existence can be accepted as part of the human condition. More has followed the Christian apocalypse in accepting "the agony of living," thus enabling him to "face the terror of history and accept the frighteningly slow process of growth into the future. Anyone with genuine hope can face the gloom of man's potential for destruction and yet work for the final city of man."35

Thus the middle landscape myth, in conjunction with the apocalypse, still resonates with ethical, intellectual, and aesthetic meaning. Man's relationship with nature is still debatable. The juxtaposition and resolution offer an aesthetically pleasing form for the novel; the variety of middle landscape settings enlarges the range of value decisions, and the paradoxes of these decisions challenges the most astute reader.


1. Ursula K. Le Guin, "Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction," Parabola, 1 (Fall 1976),42.

2. Gary K. Wolfe, "Mythic Structures in Cordwainer Smith's 'The Game of Rat and Dragon,'" Science-Fiction Studies, 4 (July 1977), 145.

3. Le Guin, "Myth and Archetype," 45.

4. C.S. Lewis, "On Science Fiction," in Of Other Worlds (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966), pp. 59-73. James Gunn, "Introduction," The End of the Dreams (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975), pp. ix-xiv.

5. David Ketterer, New Worlds For Old (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1974), p. 18.

6. John R. May, Toward a New Earth: Apocalypse in the American Novel (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1972), p. 88.

7. Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 94.

8. George Stewart, Earth Abides (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1949), p. 18.

9. Ibid., pp. 13, 12.

10. Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (New York: Vintage Books, 1957), p. 217.

11. May, p. 76.

12. Ibid., p. 34.

13. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (New York: Avon, 1971), p. 32.

14. May, p. 202.

15. Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harper, 1959), p. 21.

16. Le Guin, Lathe, p. 82.

17. Ibid., p. 175.

18. May, pp. 17-18.

19. Walker Percy, "The Man on the Train," in The Message in the Bottle (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1975), pp. 83ff.

20. Walker Percy, "Notes for a Novel About the End of the World," in The Message in the Bottle, p. 118.

21. Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins: the adventures of a bad Catholic at a time near the end of the world (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1971), p. 115.

22. Ibid., p. 383.

23. Percy, "Notes," pp. 111-12.

24. Percy, Love, p. 17.

25. Percy, "Notes," p. 111.

26. Ibid., p. 108.

27. Ibid., p. 109.

28. May, p. 32.

29. Ibid., p. 20.

30. Percy, Love, p. 383.

31. Ibid.

32. Percy, "Notes," p. 103.

33. Percy, Love, pp. 398-99. I am indebted to Dr. Larry Vonalt (Humanities Dept., Univ. of Mo.—Rolla), a persistent and sensitive reader of Walker Percy, for this interpretation.

34. Percy, Love, p. 383.

35. May, p. 227.



An apocalyptic novel, according to John R. May's Toward a New Earth (1972), must contain catastrophe and judgment; it may also dramatize renewal. The issue of change, although not necessarily apocalyptic, has always been associated with the literary middle landscape. Tracing its origin back to the pastoral, Leo Marx asserts that the "vital element" in the middle landscape is "the ordering of meaning and value around the contrast between two styles of life, one identified with a rural and the other with an urban setting." The middle landscape, Marx argues, has lost its significance in our contemporary culture of concrete, glass, steel, and machinery. But what if the advanced technology, the machine, ceases to exist? What if apocalypse shatters the pattern of technological progress? Neither May nor Marx consider science fiction in their studies of apocalypse and the literary middle-landscape myth, although the genre abounds with examples of both. The novels in this study illustrate three varieties of apocalypse described by May: the primitive, represented by George Stewart's Earth Abides, the Judeo-Christian, represented by Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins, and the secular, represented by Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. Percy's novel is especially significant, for it critiques the false middle landscape and depicts the physical, ethical, and psychological meaning of this myth.

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