"St. Peter's Denial" by Rembrandt, oil on canvas, 1660. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“St. Peter’s Denial” by Rembrandt, oil on canvas, 1660. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Armand Gamache had always held unfashionable beliefs. He believed that light would banish the shadows. That kindness was more powerful than cruelty, and that goodness existed, even in the most desperate places. He believed that evil had its limits. But looking at the young men and women staring at him now, who’d seen something terrible about to happen and had done nothing, Chief Inspector Gamache wondered if he could have been wrong all this time.

Maybe the darkness sometimes won. Maybe evil had no limits.

–Louise Penny, How the Light Gets In (Minotaur Books, 2013), p. 271

Perhaps evil knows no limit. Who hasn’t come to that conclusion from time to time? Perhaps it feeds on kindness rather than succumbs to it. Perhaps the light of conscience flickers and eventually dies in the darkest recess of our collective psyche. Perhaps our fears and insecurities ultimately prevail over the impulse to goodness and compassion.

In Louise Penny’s novel, the light does get in eventually to save Chief Inspector Gamache’s unfashionable belief in the goodness of humanity and the limits of evil. “There really is a crack in everything,” he says (p. 403). Through that crack the light penetrates the darkness of the soul.

But the good inspector is no passive recipient of a last minute reprieve, a deus ex machina. He is an active agent working cleverly and persistently, against all odds and without apparent progress, to outmaneuver and finally arrest the symbolic figure of malevolence, and to release his alter ego, Inspector Beavoir, from its curse.

The characters in this melodrama of good versus evil are intertwined. They are not separate and distinct players. They are the multiple roles—the competing voices—operating within our individual psyche and the collective self.   We play each role. Each role belongs to each of us.

Denial is one option, the most common and persistent option to be sure. Recognition is less fashionable but also less prone to violence.



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