Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Link to Victoria Tolan's Senior Art Thesis
~  Victoria  Tolan ~

Spiritualism in Great Britain between the World Wars

The Conflict of Good and Evil in the Novels of Charles Williams

Charles  Williams
Charles Williams’ novels reveal the conflict between good and evil when a symbolic object or person is introduced into the story and has an effect on the other characters. Each of his novels contains some sort of good that is opposing an evil. When an object or person is brought into the situation, it can drive the individuals towards good or evil. While it is the individual’s choice of what path to take, it is the object and how the person views it that leads her down a chosen path. For example in All Hallows’ Eve, Simon wants to control the supernatural and natural worlds, but his motives are malicious. He represents an evil force which affects others. Some characters are drawn to him, like Evelyn, who becomes corrupted by his evil. Others, like Lester, stay away and by doing so, maintain their goodness. In the end good always wins. Charles Williams wrote about the conflict between good and evil, but believed that evil could never win. Evil is always a force in the world, but ultimately people’s goodness prevails.

In Charles Williams’ novel War in Heaven a priest discusses the religious situation in the interwar period. “‘I’m afraid,’ the Vicar said gloomily, ‘this interest in what they call the occult is growing. It’s a result of the lack of true religion in these days and a wrong curiosity’” (War in Heaven 23). The Vicar is expressing the economic, political, and cultural changes that occurred between the world wars, including a growing spiritualism. After World War I, England was in economic and political unease, which left many in loss and confusion. People from many social classes were drawn to spiritualism because it gave them something new and to trust. One leader was psychical researcher Harry Price, a controversial British spiritualist who conducted investigations of mediums and supernatural phenomena. He debunked some mediums and praised others. Even if some of Price’s investigations may have been shams, Price still played an important role in publicizing spiritualism. He exposed frauds, discovered authentic mediums, and led spiritualist investigations across England during the interwar period.

Major Works Consulted:

Haynes, Renee. “Price, Harry.” Mysteries of Mind, Spirit, and Time. Vol. 19. s.v. 1992.
Shultz, Harold J. History of England. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1971.
Williams, Charles. All Hallows’ Eve. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1948.
---. The Greater Trumps. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1978.
Photo Credit: Williams, Charles. The Greater Trumps. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1978.