Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writer
by Joan G. Kotker, English Faculty, Bellevue Community College
Published by Greenwood Publishing
Copyright © 1996 by Joan G. Kotker.
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The earliest novel, Night Chills, has a straightforward story line. A powerful and wealthy CEO, a corrupt Pentagon general, and an amoral scientist have joined together to test a new drug developed by the scientist that, when taken, makes its subjects highly sensitive to messages delivered through subliminal perception. They are now field-testing it in the small Maine town of Black River, by introducing the drug into the town's water system and sending subliminal messages via the cable television system that serves the town (the system is conveniently owned by the CEO). The effects of the drug are permanent, and it has only one side effect: when subjects are first given it, they have nightmares and wake up sweating heavily, and hence the title, Night Chills. If the field test is successful, the three villains or antagonists plan to use the drug to gain great power through mind control and eventually take over the world. Complications arise when a veterinarian and his two children come to Black River for their annual summer vacation, and they learn that almost everyone in town has just had the flu, complete with night sweats and bad dreams, with the exception of the owner of the general store and his daughter.
Readers familiar with science fiction already know that the veterinarian and the general store owner will figure out what is going on in the town and somehow foil the antagonists. Suspense in the novel is based on when the protagonists or heroes will discover what is happening, how they will stop it, and how much damage will be done before they stop it. There is never any doubt in the minds of readers that they will succeed, since doing so is a convention of this genre and Koontz's readers know that he will fulfill their expectations. The novel as a whole is plot-driven rather than character-driven, holding the reader's attention by making the reader want to know what will happen next, rather than by engrossing the reader in particular characters and their development. However, one small role that is intriguing and stays with a reader long after the book is finished is that of Buddy Pellineri, an assistant night watchman at the mill in Black River. He is mildly retarded, perceives the world around him through images rather than words, and has a phobia about cats. In him Koontz has created a prototype for Thomas in The Bad Place, a beautifully drawn character who has Down's syndrome.
Besides drawing on Night Chills, The Bad Place makes use of an element first introduced in Whispers, a novel of identical-twin villains who are the result of an incestuous relationship forced on a young girl by her father. The father dies during the girl's pregnancy, and she goes away to have her baby, telling everyone in the community that she is staying with a friend who is about to have a baby and that she will be adopting the friend's baby and bringing it home with her. When the one baby turns out to be two, she clings to her first story and throughout their childhood treats the twins, both named Bruno, as one person, convincing them that they are aspects of one personality. Koontz's skill as a writer is such that he makes this believable to the reader. At least for the duration of the book, we accept the concept that two children could be raised as one, and that the community could be kept unaware of the fact that the one child was actually twins.
The mother also convinces the children that they are children of Satan and that the demon's sign marks their genitals. Because of this, they can never have sex (they interpret this to mean that when they do have sex, they must afterward kill the woman involved). Her technique for controlling the children is a behaviorist one, in which punishment is used to ensure a particular pattern of behavior. In the case of the young boys, this punishment consists of locking them in an underground root cellar full of giant cockroaches whenever they make any move to act as separate individuals. The title of the book comes from the whispery sound of all the roaches moving in the cellar. The mother tells the children that she will watch over them all of their lives, even after she has died, and that she will have the power to punish them even then, should they disobey her. She convinces them that she will return from the dead by assuming the bodies of living women. As a result, the adult twins (still acting as one and still one person to the world) seek out and kill young women who look like their mother, believing that she has taken over the women's bodies.
As a whole, Whispers is one of Koontz's weaker books. The reader figures out long before the characters in the novel do that the villain must be identical twins, and one of these obtuse characters is a trained police detective, who should be much better at deduction than any amateur reader. But again the novel introduces elements that will be explored in more detail in The Bad Place-children who are victims of incest; mothers who are convinced that their children are agents of God or Satan and have in turn convinced the children of this; pairs of identical twins; cats as symbols of evil; and even the effect of rustling insects on those who are terrified of them.
Meanwhile, the second subplot opens in Chapter 2. Julie and Bobby Dakota are the happily married owners of Dakota & Dakota Investigations, a firm that specializes in industrial espionage. They are on a stakeout at a computer software firm, where a supposed security guard who is actually a brilliant hacker is in the process of stealing a brand-new, unreleased software program. The firm has discovered who the guard really is, and Julie and Bobby are there to catch him in the act of stealing. However, the guard is also aware that the firm knows about him, and has arranged to have hit men kill the Watchers as soon as he has completed copying the program. Since the guard has spotted only Bobby, the hit men go just for his van. Julie, who is parked in a different area, is able to rescue Bobby by killing the hit men, driving into one with her car and spraying the other with automatic fire from her Uzi. She and Bobby call in the police who arrest the hacker, and another case is successfully concluded for Dakota & Dakota. Julie and Bobby go home to get some sleep before taking on their next case.
The events in plot one, focusing on Frank Pollard, alternate with the events in plot two, focusing on Julie and Bobby's stakeout of Decodyne, for the first twelve chapters of the book. Then Chapter 13 introduces the third subplot with the scene of a man named Candy prowling silently in a house with a sleeping woman and her two teenage children. Candy attacks them one by one, taking them by surprise as they sleep in their beds, and kills them by first knocking them unconscious and then draining the blood from their necks with deep bites into their carotid and jugular veins. It is evident that Candy has been killing people in this way for years, and we learn that he was taught to do so by his beloved mother.
The initial complication in the Frank Pollard subplot is that once he has escaped and hidden out in a motel where he can at last get some sleep, he wakes to find clear evidence that he has been somewhere and done something in his sleep-his face is scratched and his hands and shirt are covered with blood-but he has no recollection of where he has gone or of what has happened. In despair, he decides to consult a private detective because he is afraid to go to the police for fear of what he might find out about himself and also for fear that they just won't believe him. He goes to Dakota & Dakota and, in doing so, links the subplots. After some hesitation, Julie and Bobby take on Frank's case and set out to discover who he is.
They begin the search by putting him in a hospital for a series of tests to be certain that the amnesia is not the result of illness. Frank passes all the tests and then, in his bed in a private room with one of the Dakota & Dakota operatives guarding him, he disappears while the operative is watching. He then reappears and disappears in rapid succession. Subsequently the reader learns that Frank has the ability to telaport, although he has no control over the act; it is something his subconscious does when his survival is threatened. Again, Frank has no idea of where he goes or what he does when he telaports, but he always returns exhausted. This situation is getting progressively worse, and he is afraid that if it continues, he may not be able to return from wherever it is he goes.
At this point Julie and Bobby call in a friend of theirs, the hypnotist Jackie Jaxx, to see if he can put Frank in a trance and find out who he is and what it is that so badly frightens him. Jaxx succeeds, but Frank is so terrified that he telaports even while in the trance. Since Bobby is holding on to him at the time, Bobby telaports along with him. Through Bobby, we see where Frank goes and who it is that is following him. At this point, the third subplot is integrated into the main plot, since Frank's nemesis is Candy, who is Frank's brother. Frank killed their evil mother seven years earlier and Candy, who adored her, is seeking vengeance. When Bobby finally returns to Dakota & Dakota, he brings with him enough information so that Candy can be traced and matters brought to some sort of conclusion. However, just as Bobby has seen Candy, so has Candy seen him, and he now hunts Bobby in order to find Frank.
Another element of the plot adds to the complications in the person of Thomas, Julie's twenty-year-old brother, who has Down's syndrome. Thomas adores Julie and is very sensitive to anything concerning her. He senses that she is in danger and sends his mind out to search for it, at which point he locates Candy, The Bad Thing. Thomas understands that Candy means death for Julie, and so he continues to mentally track him, although he is afraid to do so. He does not know that Candy can sense the mental presence of Thomas and is just waiting until Thomas feels safe so that Candy can trap him in a mental web and find Julie (and subsequently, Frank) through him.
In trying to learn more about Frank's background, and so protect him from Candy, Julie and Bobby track down Dr. Fogarty, the doctor who delivered the brothers. They learn from him that Frank and Candy and their identical twin sisters are the product of incest and inbreeding. Their mother was the child of a brother and sister pair, and was born a hermaphrodite. She had a very rare form of hermaphroditism, in which she had fully functioning male and female reproductive organs, and she had inseminated herself in order to conceive the four children, whom she thinks of as pure and innocent babies because they are the result of immaculate conception. The psychic abilities of the children are caused by genetic mutations, shifts, and flaws owing to inbreeding. The situation is compounded by the fact that the children's grandfather (who is also their great uncle) was a heavy drug user who may have done genetic damage to himself in that way too, and passed it on to the children through his daughter, their mother. Bobby and Julie find that Frank is also at Dr. Fogarty's, where he has sought refuge.
Complications now intensify as Candy, sensing that he is nearer to Frank, kills everyone in his way: two employees of Dakota & Dakota along with one of their wives, Julie's brother Thomas, and Thomas's roommate. With the help of his sister, Candy finds Frank, Julie, and Bobby at Dr. Fogarty's and kidnaps Julie with the threat that he will kill her unless Frank surrenders to him. He takes Julie to the family home where he holds her, waiting for Frank.
Bobby works out a plan to save Julie (neatly patterning her saving of him in the book's opening), and in the climax he and Frank return to Frank's home. Frank realizes that his mother's presence is still in the home and asks where she is. It turns out that the twin sisters have, along with their pack of symbiotic cats, eaten the mother's corpse so as to make her forever a part of them. Candy, in a rage, kills both of the girls. At this point Frank takes Candy by surprise by reaching out to him and holding his hand. Before Candy can react, Frank telaports with him, composing and decomposing their atoms with such rapidity that they become inextricably mixed. When Frank degenerates, so does Candy. Thus, Julie is rescued because Frank has sacrificed himself for her.
Finally, in the denouement, the reader learns that the police assume that Candy has killed his brother and sister and is on the run, and Bobby and Julie are thus free to carry on with their lives. They sell Dakota & Dakota, and with the money from that plus money that they found in the Pollard house, they buy a beach house on the California coast. At the novel's end Julie has just learned that she is pregnant, and she and Bobby are at peace.
His composing process is fascinating: he sits alone in his room, thinking about making a picture poem that would have the feeling of eating ice cream and strawberries, not the taste but the good feeling, so some day when you didn't have any ice cream or strawberries, you could just look at the poem and get that same good feeling even without eating anything. Of course, you couldn't use pictures of ice cream or strawberries in the poem, because that wouldn't be a poem, that would be only saying how good ice cream and strawberries made you feel. A poem didn't just say, it showed you and made you feel. (250)
Buddy is also entranced with pictures, but he uses them passively, looking at them because he cannot understand the words that accompany them. Thomas uses these same pictures actively to make statements without words.
Thomas is a static character, but ultimately he is the catalyst for change in Julie and Bobby, and when he dies there is meaning to his death: he uses it to send the message that they need not fear death and, by not fearing it, they need not fear life, either. In this way, he embodies the theme of the novel.
The novel's other major characters are Julie Dakota, Bobby Dakota, Frank Pollard, and Candy Pollard. Julie and Bobby are the novel's protagonists, or heroes. Each is a well-developed character and each is dynamic: their backgrounds are sketched in, there is much information on their relationship with each other, and their different attitudes toward the work they do are credible and serve to individualize them. By the end of the novel, each has learned something significant about himself or herself. Bobby has come to see that he is not the easy-going, laid-back person he thought he was, that underneath he is a person who craves order and cannot tolerate the chaos of disorder. Julie has come to see that she and Bobby are complex people, driven by greed as much as by good intentions, and that in this they are only human. She has also come to learn that to live for her dream of the future is to overlook the dreams that have come true for her in the present. At the end of the novel she is more like the old Bobby in her outlook on life, and he is more like the old Julie. In this way, they are good examples of characters influencing one another in realistic ways. They have been married for seven years, and in seven years we might well expect that partners would undergo changes as a result of sharing one another's lives.
Frank Pollard, the character who opens the novel and tantalizes the reader with his amnesia, is too passive to be either a protagonist or an antagonist; instead, he is best seen as the novel's victim. He is another well-rounded character, and despite the fact that he has paranormal abilities, he is a realistic character. Koontz draws a believable picture of Frank as the outsider, the only normal-seeming person in his family, but someone who, with respect to the rest of the world, will always be different and "other." He is a lonely person who has spent the last seven years of his life on the run from his brother Candy, a situation that totally dominates his thoughts and actions. When, in the climax, he sacrifices himself to save Julie, his character remains static: the sacrifice is his ultimate escape from Candy, who dies along with Frank.
The antagonist or villain is, of course, Candy, a character who is both flat and static. We know why Candy has a blood lust, but this is all we know about him-everything else about Candy is secondary to this, his defining characteristic. And he remains the same throughout the novel, beginning and ending the story devoted to the memory of his mother and convinced that in his murders of innocent people he is carrying out God's will.
Finally, The Bad Place has a number of characters who have small roles but who are fleshed out by being given some unique characteristic that intrigues the reader and gives dimension. The hypnotist Jackie Jaxx, who appears in only one scene of the novel, is a good example of such a person. He sees himself as carrying on the tradition of the great magicians and hypnotists. Even as a child his dream of success was to make it in Las Vegas as a big-time mentalist, something he has succeeded in doing. When he hypnotizes Frank and regresses him in the Dakota & Dakota offices, so that Julie and Bobby might learn who Frank is and what he is running from, the then-terrified Frank telaports. The equally terrified Jackie keeps assuring everyone that Jaxx really does not have the ability to make people disappear, while Jaxx agonizes over whether he can be sued for what has happened. The threat of malpractice suits hangs over everyone these days and such a small detail as this makes Jackie believable and endearing to the reader.
One of the most intriguing natural settings is the description of the alien planet on which Bobby and Frank land in Frank's journeyings. Bobby finds himself in a place of fine gray sand covered with red diamonds, and he realizes that it is a quarry. He is surrounded by beetlelike insects as big as a person's hand-creatures programmed for mining the diamonds. The air around him is thick and sulfurous, difficult to breathe. The moon hanging in the sky is "a mottled gray-yellow sphere six times normal size, looming ominously over the land" (282). This description emphasizes the strangeness and other-worldliness of Frank's teleporting abilities, and it highlights the fear and wonder that they induce in Bobby.
Another very effective use of natural setting is the world of animals. Frank and Candy's identical twin sisters, Violet and Verbena, are always seen with their swarm of twenty-six cats, whose mental sensations they share and whose actions they can direct. Through these animals Koontz makes it believable that the sisters live in a world composed almost entirely of sensation-of sleep, grooming, hunting, and feeding. This world is made particularly vivid by the fact that until the age of six, Violet was autistic, so overwhelmed by the rush of sensation from the world around her that she could not sort out the messages coming to her. Her sister Verbena never learns to perform such sorting, and remains autistic for all her life. This identification with cats and wild creatures emphasizes how incredibly "other" the Pollard sisters are; they are as genetically maimed as their brothers, although all of the Pollard children are maimed in different ways.
An especially vivid use of setting combines both the natural and the unnatural worlds. Bobby takes one of the mining beetles from the alien planet to an entomologist, the den of whose home is filled with trays of pinned specimens of various bugs and insects, characterized by Bobby as "many-legged, carapaced, antenna-bristled, mandibled, and thoroughly repulsive" (240). Bobby imagines the dead bugs moving in their glass-covered cases, trying to get at him. From all the shallow drawers in the entomologist's study he hears things moving about, and even though he knows it's only his imagination, "the whispery sounds from the specimen drawers. . .grew louder and more frenzied by the minute" (247). These sounds are reminiscent of the use of insects in Koontz's novel Whispers, with the difference that here they are clearly imaginary and in Whispers they are meant to be real.
Both novels make good use of insects, but it is the imaginary insects that are the most convincing. There's no good reason for the mother in Whispers to have left all the cockroaches in the root cellar-who wants a cellar full of cockroaches?-except pure sadism toward her children. She could just as effectively control the children by shutting them in an insect-free cellar, since isolation and darkness are terrifying to any child; the only function of the insects is to emphasize the horror of what was done to the children. The insects really are horrifying, though, and when Koontz uses the same image of whispering insects on the verge of swarming over a person in The Bad Place, it is very effective: both humorous because it isn't real-it's just in Bobby's imagination-and scary because the thought of swarming insects is creepy and disgusting in and of itself. This mix of humor and terror is far more effective than terror alone, since the mind can take only so much fear and then, out of self-protection, shuts down its responses. But when fear alternates with humor, readers are pulled down into horror and then released, pulled down and then released again. They never feel in control of their own reactions. In making use of these similar insect images in his two novels, Koontz demonstrates his growth as a writer: the second time around the image is both more realistic and more frightening.
The use of artificial setting in the form of people's homes and apartments is particularly varied and effective in The Bad Place. The home Julie and Bobby live in is basically a place for transients, a tract house in Orange, California, that they bought for its investment potential. They have furnished only what had to be furnished in order for them to temporarily live in the house. Other than the kitchen, family room, and bedroom, the house stands empty. This setting will, at the end of the novel, help underline the theme that Julie and Bobby have overlooked what life has to offer them in the present in pursuit of their fantasies of future offerings.
Another example of a home that shelters no one is the abandoned apartment house, waiting to be demolished, that Frank hides out in at the beginning of the novel. And the strange Pollard children live in an equally strange house. Isolated, decrepit, and decaying, it could be straight out of Psycho; along with death, it is The Bad Place of the title. The only person who lives in a normal home is Dr. Fogarty, and his quaint, homey place is used to contrast with the doctor himself, who turns out to be another of the many psychopaths who make up the Koontz world. The discrepancy between the doctor's home and his character creates a sense that nothing may be what it seems to be in this novel.
In Chapter 22 the focus shifts again, this time to Julie's brother Thomas, and here Koontz switches to a new point of view, third-person limited, in which Thomas tells the story and the reader sees everything through the mind of Thomas. Koontz then returns to the use of third-person omniscient, adding yet a new character as focal point in Chapter 26-Candy and Frank's sister Violet-and the novel now alternates between six characters-Frank, Bobby, Julie, Candy, Thomas, and Violet-until Chapter 29, which centers on Dakota & Dakota operative Clint Karaghiosis and his colleague, Hal Yamataka. Chapter 42 adds another operative, computer expert Lee Chen. In Chapter 49 the focus shifts yet again, this time to Felina Karaghiosis, the wife of Clint, and the final chapter concentrates on Julie and Bobby. Overall, then, two different kinds of third-person point of view are used in this novel-third-person limited and third-person omniscient-and the story focuses on the subplots of ten separate characters.
This shifting of point of view and focus may seem confusing, but in practice it is an effective technique for allowing the reader to experience what Candy experiences when he kills; to enter the strange, sensation-based, shared mind of his identical twin sisters; and to be filled with awe at the rich inner world of Thomas, a world we would otherwise have no access to since Thomas lacks the language ability to describe it to the reader in words. The switch to third-person limited is also effective in its suggestion that Thomas's world is so special only Thomas is capable of showing it to us. Seeing the novel from so many different angles creates a rich, multilayered narrative voice that in its complexity mirrors the complexity of the novel's three subplots. It is an effective tool for illustrating one of the novel's underlying messages: the real world is one of chaos, but nonetheless we manage to create order out of it and make sense of it.
An allegory is a story that works on more than one level. In addition to the literal meaning of the story itself, it has a second meaning in which characters, events, and setting represent ideas and concepts beyond themselves. The most famous allegory in English literature is Bunyon's Pilgrim's Progress (1678). In this story the protagonist, Christian, achieves salvation by fleeing the City of Destruction and journeying with much travail to the Celestial City. On his journey he must pass through such places as the Slough of Despond, the Valley of Humiliation, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Vanity Fair, and the Doubting Castle. He meets many people on the way, among them Mr. Wordly Wiseman, Faithful, Hopeful, Giant Despair, and Greatheart. J. A. Cuddon sums up Pilgrim's Progress when he says, "The whole work is a simplified representation. . .of the average man's journey through the trials and tribulations of life on his way to heaven" (1991, 23). As with all true allegory, the tale is effective as a tale-that is, as a record of what happens to Christian. It is also effective as a story that teaches every human being how to achieve salvation. Cuddon further notes of allegory as a literary form that its origins are very ancient and that "it appears to be a mode of expression (a way of feeling and thinking about things and seeing them) so natural to the human mind that it is universal" (1991, 23).
In addition to religious allegories such as Pilgrim's Progress there are political allegories, in which each character represents a political figure, movement, or concern. (George Orwell's Animal Farm is a classic example of this type of allegory.) In moral allegories each character represents a particular moral virtue; one could create a moral allegory about professional sports, in which one character represents greed, another unbridled competition, and a third, sportsmanship and fair play. Satirical allegories set up stories that make a sharp critical point about society, such as Robert Coover's The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. (1968), in which baseball is used to satirize attitudes toward religion in America. It is possible to construct an allegory about virtually anything, so long as there are two levels of story-one the literal, event-by-event narrative and one the concepts or ideas that the events represent.
In Dean Koontz's The Bad Place the literal story is the narrative of Frank Pollard waking up in an alley, hiring Dakota & Dakota to help him find out who he is, and so on. There are also a number of elements in the story that are not essential to this first level, but that are essential to a second level of meaning, the allegorical level. Among these elements is the persistent reference to The Dream, a term that changes meaning throughout the book and is only defined in the denouement. Initially, The Dream is envisioned as money: Julie and Bobby spend no money on their home or themselves so that they can reinvest everything in Dakota & Dakota, not because that is an end in itself but, rather, because it will enable them to build it into a major firm that can be sold at a large profit. Next The Dream is defined as a place: they will use the money to buy a simple house by the sea. And, The Dream is defined as people: Julie and Bobby will live in the house with Thomas, Julie's institutionalized brother. Besides this, Julie and Bobby also conceive of The Dream as their recognition of the inevitability of death and the uncertainty of what may or may not follow. Given that there is no guarantee of any life beyond this one-that death may be the ultimate end-The Dream represents paradise for the Dakotas, since they believe that such an earthly paradise is the only one that humans can be certain of.
In addition to these meanings, there is a literal dream, a nightmare, that takes place in Chapter 23 and is also introduced as The Dream. In this version, The Dream foreshadows the coming of Candy and actual death for Julie and Bobby. In this guise it represents not only the inevitability of death for all creatures but also the specific deaths of the Dakotas. Then, in Chapter 51, The Dream comes to stand for compulsion when Julie recognizes that she and Bobby are pursuing the Pollard case not out of concern for Frank but because it is "a once-in-a-lifetime shot at really big bucks, the Main Chance for which every hustler in the world was looking and which most of them would never find" (334). Thus, The Dream also represents moral ambiguity, and Julie wonders if achieving The Dream in this way might not spoil it, have it be less than it might have been. Nevertheless, she cannot turn away from the case because she will not relinquish The Dream. For Bobby, The Dream has yet another meaning, that of order and peace, to be achieved by leaving the chaos of everyday life. In this context, The Dream represents illusion, since it is set in juxtaposition to the real world.
Characters other than Julie and Bobby have dreams in the novel as well. Clint Karaghiosis, an operative for Dakota & Dakota, says of California, "Everyone's got a dream, and the one more people have than any other is the California dream, so they never stop coming, even though so many have come now that the dream isn't really quite attainable any more" (230). So here, too, a dream represents both place and illusion-the state of California and a life there that is no longer attainable. Clint also has a dream: his wife is deaf, and he dreams that one day there will be advances in medical science that will enable her to hear. Since he and his wife are both killed by Candy, this dream proves to be an illusion.
Two other elements to the allegory that turn out to be closely connected are the Bad Thing and The Bad Place. In Bobby's nightmare about Julie dying, a voice keeps shouting to him, "BADTHINGBADTHINGBADTHINGBADTHING!" (100). It is the voice of Thomas, warning Bobby so that he can protect Julie. Thomas can telepathically reach out to Candy Pollard's mind and see that he intends harm for Julie. For Thomas, Candy is conceptualized as the Bad Thing, "A man but not a man. Something very bad. Ugly-nasty." Thomas fears that Candy will take Julie to The Bad Place and he specifically says that The Bad Place is death: "Hell was a bad place, but Death was The Bad Place." He goes on to imagine it as being like the night, "all that big empty" (140-41). Here, Thomas is reiterating Julie and Bobby's belief that after death there is nothing. Frank also identifies Candy with death, saying, "He's death walking, he's death living" (260), and of the house where Frank grew up and Candy still lives Frank says, "Look at it, my God, what a place, what a dark place, what a bad place" (259). Thus, the Bad Thing is Candy, an agent of death who will take Julie to The Bad Place, to her death, to the big empty.
The allegory now consists of The Dream, a concept of Eden as a specific earthly place wherein Bobby and Julie can escape the chaos of life and the certainty of nothingness after death. It also consists of the Bad Thing, a death bringer who assures escape from chaos, since death is conceived as a nothingness and not even chaos can exist in nothingness. And the allegory consists of The Bad Place, the place of death. This is a desperately bleak picture of human life and its possibilities for happiness. In this model, the best that Julie and Bobby can hope for is to escape into illusion, into the world of The Dream. But there is one more element to this allegory, the character of Thomas. It is through Thomas that the reader sees both the Bad Thing and The Bad Place and, finally, it is because Thomas has the courage to confront both of these entities that the true nature of The Bad Place can be seen. At the moment of dying, Thomas calls out to Bobby and through him to Julie that death is not the great empty-that instead it is a place of light and of love. Thomas's final message to his beloved sister is that only by accepting death can one embrace life. In this sense, Thomas's role in the allegory is to be The Messenger who brings the Word, explaining that there is a life hereafter and, therefore, we can bear to live in this world and be happy here. We are not doomed to live here in terror and dread, hiding from our inevitable fates. Julie and Bobby receive and accept the message, living in their house by the sea with both chaos and order, and "dreaming the biggest dream of all-that people never really die" (417). Finally, then, The Dream is immortality, and in this allegorical reading, The Messenger meets with the Bad Thing in The Bad Place and sends back the message that The Dream is not an illusion after all. It exists and it is available to all of us. In this sense, The Messenger is also a Christ figure, bringing to human beings the promise of life everlasting.