Literature Annotations

Percy, Walker
Love in the Ruins

Genre Novel (343 pp.)
KeywordsChronic Illness/Chronic Disease, Impaired Physician, Medical Advances, Medical Ethics, Physician Experience, Psychiatry, Religion, Science, Sexuality, Society, Spirituality, Technology

First published in 1971 and subtitled, The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, the novel is a satire of the limits of technology, the medicalization of the human spirit, and the trivializing tendencies of 20th century medical science. Dr. Tom More is an "impaired" psychiatrist: an alcoholic, a womanizer, and a half-hearted clinician. He develops the lapsometer, a kind of stethoscope of the human spirit with which he plans to cure humankind’s spiritual illnesses. Living daily with the contempt of his colleagues, he tries to prove himself and runs into all kinds of mischief, allowing the author to spoof the ills of medicine as it is practiced today.


Walker Percy was one of the great moral novelists of the 20th century. The spiritual malaise that he portrays so masterfully and disturbingly in all of his work is a major theme in Love in the Ruins. There are many interesting issues to examine carefully and discuss: these include how Percy portrays technology/science (uses of/limits of/ethics and); medicine (especially psychiatry, geriatrics, sexuality/sexual dysfunction); physicians; patients; 20th century American life (i.e. the malaise: causes and possible "cures"); women; and religion.

PublisherBallantine: Ivy
Place Published New York
MiscellaneousFirst published: 1971
Annotated by Wear, Delese
Date of Entry 03/07/94
Last Revised 03/22/10