September 1972

'The Exorcist' not just another ghost story

   Millions of people were wet-eyed after reading one of the best sellers of the year—Love Story. Others were fascinated by the superb writing and detail in Mario Puzo's The Godfather. This same public while reading the biography could hardly fight back the tears Brian's Song.
    The Exorcist, a relatively new novel by William Peter Blatty, does not rely on people's emotions in order to get a point across. Rather, it relates an incident which is so remarkable that the reader cannot help but react in fear.
    Based on a true story heard by Blatty in 1949, the novel centers around an actress's daughter who is believed to be possessed by demons. The book, in frightening detail, re- counts the events of this young girl's ordeal.
    The reader, almost entranced by the novel, encounters page after page of demonic occurrences. Distortion of the girl's physical characteristics, her sudden outbursts of obscenities, her violent tantrums and her powerful ability to destroy are described so vividly that it makes one almost want to leave a light on before going to bed.
    According to Blatty the major objective of the novel is to "persuade those who do not believe that there is a cause to be made for the supernatural and to offer the possibility that there is a supernatural force of evil at work in the universe whose game plan is to convince us that it does not exist."
    And Blatty does a good job of persuading. Through the characters of Chris MacNeil, the girl's mother, and Damien Karras, a Catholic priest, Blatty suggests that demonic pos- session is more apt to occur in individuals who are weak spiritually or who have been questioning the existence of supernatural beings.
   However, Blatty also points out that evil can be destroyed by direct confrontation with its natural rival—good. In The Exorcist, Father Merrin, a priest, who has performed several exorcisms, represents a force more powerful than the devil.
    Another underlying message can be found in The Exorcist. Indirectly Blatty criticizes the church for its stubbornness to admit that evil can become a force more powerful than organized religion. Throughout the novel, he describes the red-tape that Karras undergoes before the exorcism is finally approved by his superiors. Even then, it's almost too late.
    The Exorcist is perhaps one of the finest literary masterpieces of the year. Although its contents seem too shocking to believe, it forces the reader to take a realistic look at a topic which has been equated with fantasy in the past.
   Don't look for The Exorcist on the fiction shelf with other ghost stories, because you won't find it there. If you don't have time to read the book, at least see the movie version that will be coming out soon. You're in store for a real shocker.