“Most men in my family make widows of their wives and orphans of their children. I am the exception. My only child, Kate, was struck and killed by a car while riding her bicycle home from the beach one afternoon in September, a year ago. She was thirteen.” (Harding 1) Enon by Paul Harding is a beautifully written book that takes the reader through the story of a grieving father following the loss of his daughter. Throughout the story, he experiences intense internal struggles against depression and resolves his inner turmoil following two major events.
Charlie (the father) becomes heavily depressed after his daughter, Kate, dies. His depression was of course mainly attributed to Kate’s death, but his marriage between his wife, Susan, wasn’t particularly stable either. Their daughter was the only string that held them together, and their marriage collapsed quickly after it was severed. Broken and frustrated, he snaps and punches the wall, demolishing the plaster and breaking eight bones in his hand. “The old horsehair plaster pulverized and poured from the wall like hourglass sand but I struck a stud behind it and broke eight bones.” (Harding 16) From that point on, he is prescribed painkillers and becomes addicted to said drugs, consuming alcohol excessively in an attempt to remain unconscious. He becomes to fantasize and begins to imagine Kate in fictional scenarios, such as an “obsidian girl,” (Harding 182) the main actress of a theatre for the dead, and one of three Kates whom he imagined appearing after the car crash which claimed her life took place.
There are two major events which lead to Charlie’s recovery. The first turning point is his breaking-and-entering of Mr. Wallace’s house. Mr. Wallace recently had an operation; since Charlie was addicted to prescription drugs, he opts to steal some of his, as he doesn’t want to risk purchasing any more drugs from the hospital. Right before he sets off, he imagines Kate telling him “Mr. Wallace had an operation, Dad. He needs those pills.” (Harding 155) He ignores this at first and only apologizes meekly for his actions to follow; however, when he arrives at the house, he realizes Mr. Wallace’s condition is much worse than his own. After a moment of brief retrospection, he is ashamed for what he has done despite his new stash of pills. The next morning, he describes his feeling in detail: “Shame overwhelmed me, and a line from a poem I could not recall, about remorse being the adequate of hell, repeated itself over and over.” (Harding 163) This was one of the first times in the story after Kate’s death where Charlie seriously considers himself and begins to strive to repent of his disgraceful actions following Kate’s death.
The second turning point is Mrs. Hale’s rebuke. Mrs. Hale is a wealthy old widow who, to Charlie, has the impression of a tough, unforgiving woman. She is a person that Charlie deeply admires, and she represents all of Charlie’s greatest desires. “Mrs. Hale’s house prompted my deepest desires to provide for Kate, as well as my deepest resentments about wanting such material wealth.” (Harding 68) At one point in the story, he feels the need to break into Mrs. Hale’s house and see the orrery that he had once seen so long ago during his childhood. Upon arriving at her house, Mrs. Hale scolds Charlie harshly and shames him for the things he’s done since Kate’s death. “‘Mrs. Hale,’ I said. ‘Yes, Mr. Crosby.’ ‘I am sorry.’ ‘Well and fine, Mr. Crosby, but your sorrows are selfish. You are a maker of dismal days. You burn your daughter in strange fires when I should think you would be grateful for the blessing of having had a lovely child. Enough is enough.’” (Harding 213) He is “abashed to the point of reform,” (Harding 212) and even more so after realizing that Mrs. Hale was not going to report the break-in. He is ashamed because of her kindness, ashamed because of her dignity, ashamed because of her character, and ashamed because of her consideration towards him. For an instant, he even considered murdering Mrs. Hale: “For an instant I thought of murdering Mrs. Hale. She seemed so impossibly decent.” (Harding 214) But after Mrs. Hale’s rebuke, Charlie simply leaves her house and tries to drown himself in Enon Lake. His attempts are unsuccessful and he realizes that he cannot continue like this. “‘Enough is enough is right. Charles Washington Crosby, you have got to get your shit together.’” (Harding 220) Charlie faces himself with dismay and finally manages to gather the motivation he needs to bring himself out of depression.
Repentance is a core idea in the conflict of Enon. Other fictional stories contain elements of repentance as well. For example, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; in this book, the main character, Ender Wiggin, unknowingly commits genocide when he deliberately sacrifices an entire fleet of human ships in an attempt to earn himself expulsion from battle school. At the end of the book, Ender seeks repentance by agreeing to the bugger queen’s request to take her egg to a new planet in order to colonize. In The Giver by Lois Lowry, Jonas, the main character, lives an initially unemotional life in a society that promotes sameness in all individuals. After he meets the Giver, he is horrified to learn that terms he deemed normal in day-to-day interactions are actually ruthless and emotionless demonstrations of cruelty. Jonas breaks down after he is given this information, and seeks repentance for him and his society through self-expulsion and the returning of memories the Giver had passed to him during their time together. Repentance is an idea that is reflected in many literary works, even in religious ones such as the Bible.
In conclusion, the turning points of Enon are the breaking-and-entering of Mr. Wallace’s house and Mrs. Hale’s rebuke. These two events lead to the resolution of Charlie’s internal conflict, allowing him to repent of his shameful behavior.