Thoughts on the Thanatos Syndrome


Walker Percy

Walker Percy

My article for Imaginative Conservative today is a report on Walker Percy’s novel The Thanatos Syndrome

In the wonderful world of Walker Percy, old fashioned Southern gentility saunters in seersucker into sub human behavior and sips bourbon while planning a congenial genocide.

Their shabby chic sophistication makes the nefarious activities of the characters in The Thanatos Syndrome even more chilling. In dozy Feliciana parish, psychiatrist Tom More observes that something strange is going on. His wife and former patients are behaving in a bizarre fashion. They seem emotionally dead, answer questions with simplistic speech patterns and engage in simian sexual behaviors. They seem strangely happy and have lost their old anxieties, phobias, neuroses and unique personality traits. They have become cheerful zombies.

Dr. More figures out that the syndrome is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and he tracks its genesis to the local water supply. The artificial happiness is caused by a high dosage of heavy sodium in the water, and the conspirators are the leading figures of the town, including two of Tom’s colleagues.

The theme is a quote Percy nicked from Flannery O’Connor -”Tenderness leads to the gas chambers”

Go here to read the whole article.