Simon Called Peter: WWI Doxies and Orthodoxies

Robert Keable’s Simon Called Peter is a World War I era staging of the Gospel story of how Simon was redeemed and refitted for God’s work after denying Christ three times.

Peter Graham is a young clergyman with a promising future in the Anglican church. When England declares war on Germany, Peter insists on going to France as a chaplain, where he has a cushy berth behind the lines.

Peter finds the platitudes that sounded good in England are meaningless to both soldiers and civilians behind the lines in France.

Depressed, and desperate, Peter writes his fiancée, “I am going to eat and drink with publicans and sinners; maybe I shall find my Master still there.”

She breaks the engagement.

Peter’s depression is relieved by Julie Gamelyn, a vivacious nurse from Africa, with whom he falls in love.

Julie wants to find her passion in sexual union; Peter wants to find his in spiritual union.  Julie tells Peter, “There’s only one real rule left in life for most of us, Peter, and that’s this: ‘Be a good pal, and don’t worry.’ ”

That’s not enough for Peter, yet he’s ready to ditch his orthodoxy for an ordinary doxy.

Keable makes it appear Peter does nothing during the war but smoke, drink, and think about why he’s such a failure as a clergyman. The plot is so absurd and Keable’s characters so stereotyped that it’s hard to see to take Peter’s quest for true faith seriously.

Like others of the era,  Keable’s novel skewers “contented backboneless religion,” which it assumes but never shows.

Keable offers the love of God as an alternative to religion. I’m not sure that’s any less platitudinous than the lines Peter rejected.

Simon Called Peter
Robert Keable
1922 Bestseller #6
Project Gutenberg ebook # 14579
My grade: C+
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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