Here's something the kiddies might be able to use for their next book report...
In “The Bat”, we see an ongoing debate between Christianity and existentialism throughout the novel. In the opening chapter, the omniscient narrative indicates that New York City has been heavily impacted by a Great Recession, a rise in gang activity and an increase in illegal drug use. In Chapter Two we find Dr. Coulter addressing his therapy group at the Harbor VA, criticizing the vigilantes who have emerged in taking the law into their own hands. We next see how existentialism has become a resurging philosophical trend throughout the City. Different existentialist theories are presented by the protagonists, yet none prove as contradictory as Richard Garrison’s return to the evangelical church. It proves symbolic as Garrison and Coulter, who have exhibited a subtle rivalry, now become representative of a struggle between Christian theory and secular humanism. Only both characters prove lacking in conviction as their solutions to their difficulties seem to contradict their professed values.
Through its depiction of a failed bureaucratic society, the novel contemplates the solutions available to a population when the government proves weak and inefficient. It reflects the Kubler-Ross model as the City experiences a series of emotional stages in coping with its grief. We see the state of denial as Central Park is filled with activities and celebrations by day, only to give place to the marauding street gangs at night. Anger is expressed in the media and the civil protests at City Hall and throughout the City over the skyrocketing crime statistics. There is bargaining between the City officials and gang leaders in trying to avert a mandatory curfew and other ‘extreme’ measures. A general feeling of depression descends over the populace as the vigilante backlash leads to a shocking string of serial killings and mass murders of gangsters. Finally the citizens band together in mutual support reflecting the Christian spirit of acceptance that has stabilized Richard and Darla Mc Carthy’s lives.
Yet we see how both Coulter and Garrison fail to practice what they preach. As Coulter proceeds with his social experiments, he becomes manipulative and unconcerned with the safety or well-being of his subjects. It contradicts the existentialist principles of every person’s right to forge their own destiny in their own world. Coulter’s colleague in the military DMX Project, Jesse Jeffers, acts as an extension of Coulter’s will by enslaving people with his ‘super drug’. Garrison, alternately, becomes more deeply immersed in the Christian faith until the suicide of Holly Westlake causes him to lose his resolve. He turns to the Bat in learning the details of both Holly and her husband’s deaths, then uses the information to eradicate a key member of a Mafia crew as well as the Sudoku Gang. It can be argued that the final outcome symbolized a victory of Christian values over those of secular humanism. Yet it could be interpreted as the failure of value systems when tested under extreme conditions.
The moral of the story after the climactic confrontation between Garrison and Coulter appears to be the victory of good vs. evil. Only the weaknesses exhibited by the major characters suggest that in deviating from their belief system, they not only suffer increased personal loss but create a negative reflection on the core values they appear to represent.