Alternatives to alienation in the novels of Walker Percy

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Each of Walter Percy's three novels and many of his philosophical essays explore the alternatives to alienation chosen by modern man. These alternatives reflect Soren Kierkegaard's three stages of existence, and hence illustrate the influence Kierkegaard had on Percy's writings. The options chosen by the central characters in Percy's novels demonstrate their attempts to suppress alienation and avoid an everyday existence. Many of the options fail because they depend on momentary pleasure, fail to provide permanent solutions, or are rooted in the past and tradition. Consequently, each protagonist, along with several important secondary characters, seeks increasingly valid alternatives that will endure through time.

This thesis examines the various options selected by Percy's major characters, their reasons for such selections and eventual rejections, as well as the gradual discovery of valid alternatives to alienation. The invalid, semi-valid, and valid options parallel Kierkegaard's aesthetic, ethical, and religious stages of existence and the precise interrelationship is the subject of this thesis.