Walker Percy Writing Styles in Lancelot

This Study Guide consists of approximately 30 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Lancelot.
This section contains 1,102 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Point of View

The point of view of this novel is first person. The novel is written as though Lancelot, the main character, is having daily conversations with a priest-psychiatrist who happens to be a good friend of Lancelot's from his childhood. The conversations revolve around a crime that took place at Lancelot's home and that he is now accused of committing. Lancelot is in a mental institution in New Orleans and has up to this point refused to speak to anyone or to leave his room except when forced to attend a meeting with his psychiatrist or to go to group counseling sessions. Lancelot chooses only to speak to this one person, a friend whom upon seeing him again helped Lancelot recall the events that led to him being locked in this place.

The point of view of this novel is unique in that it is not a typical first person narration. This point of view is first person, but it is told through conversation rather than exposition and observationi The novel does include dialogue, but this is in the form of conversations that the narrator is recalling as he tells the story of how he happened to find himself locked in a mental institution. Telling the story in this way creates an unreliable narrator. The reader has no idea if what Lancelot is telling the reader is the truth or simply the truth as he sees it through his growing insanity. The reader cannot even be sure if Lancelot is his real name, or if the characters that populate his story really existed. In fact, the reader is not even sure if Harry, the priest-psychiatrist he is making this confession to is real.


The novel begins in a psychiatric hospital. The reader is never told the name of this hospital and even the main character questions whether or not this hospital is a private mental institution or perhaps a hospital for the criminally insane. The narrator often remarks about the things he can see outside his window of his cell, telling the reader that the hospital is most likely the Institute for Aberrant Behavior in New Orleans. As the narrator begins to tell his story, the setting changes to Belle Isle, an old plantation set on an island just outside New Orleans. This home is the Lamar family home and was left to Lancelot upon his father's death. The home has great historical significance and is often open to tourists. In fact, it is through this tourist trade that Lancelot met his second wife, who is the motive behind the crime that brought Lancelot to the mental hospital.

The setting of the novel is the Deep South, a place filled with chivalry and history. The reader expects a story that reflects these traditions and discovers instead a story that seems to rebel against these traditions. Lancelot compares himself to the great knight of the round table with whom he shares his name. However, instead of being the one to betray those he loves in a torrid affair, it is the woman Lancelot loves who breaks their vows of fidelity. The tables are turned on Lancelot, on the reader as well, as Lancelot begins to plot revenge. The setting of this novel is used in a unique way to not only establish characteristics of the characters but also to serve as an ironic backdrop to the slow development of insanity within the main character.

Language and Meaning

The language of this novel is simple English. The words are often those used by an educated person, lacking the slang that often marks less formal speech. The words also include some phrases of a foreign language that are not often explained in the text. However, the reader comes to understand their overall meaning through their use or the tone of the passage in which they appear. The novel also includes many words associated with the film industry because the novel's main story takes place during a time when a film crew is making a major motion picture at Belle Isle. Finally, the novel also includes many names and references to medieval folk lore, implying a connection between the time of Camelot and the setting of the novel's main plot.

The language of this novel works well with the main plot. The novel is told in the words of the main character, a highly-educated, wealthy lawyer. The language also reflects the setting of the novel, often making reference to Camelot and comparing it to the traditions of the Deep South. The novel uses language in a way in which it complements the main plot and helps in the development of the characters, as well as expressing some irony regarding the plot and its climax.


The novel is divided into nine chapters, each chapter suggesting a new day in which Lancelot tells his story to his friend, Harry, the psychiatrist-priest. Each chapter begins in Lancelot's voice as he greets his friend or takes him out of the story to discuss some other aspect of his situation, such as his deep devotion to his second wife. The novel is told as though as a conversation between two friends, often wandering from one subject to the next with little or no segue. The story that Lancelot is telling his friend is encapsulated in this wandering tale, beginning with the day Lancelot discovers Siobhan is not his daughter and ending with the deaths of everyone left in his house the day the hurricane hits.

The novel has one main plot, but several subplots that shoot off its story line. The main plot revolves around Lancelot, an intelligent, successful man who has found himself locked in a mental institute after the death of his wife and several of her friends in a fire at his home, Belle Isle. The reader is unclear, as is the narrator, whether or not Lancelot is in the hospital because he has gone insane with grief or because he is suspected of a crime. In fact, Lancelot claims not to remember the circumstances that brought him to this hospital until he sees an old friend in the hallway. The plot then shifts as Lancelot begins telling the story of how he learned his wife was cheating on him and the risks he took to learn the truth. From this plot, several subplots develop regarding Lancelot's relationship with his wife, his relationship with his first wife, as well as his relationships with his children and his wife's friends. All these plots come to a satisfying conclusion at the end of the novel.

This section contains 1,102 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Lancelot from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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