The Devil All the Time Summary & Study Guide

Donald Ray Pollock
This Study Guide consists of approximately 44 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Devil All the Time.
This section contains 572 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Devil All the Time Summary & Study Guide Description

The Devil All the Time Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock.

This novel interweaves several narrative lines in a story that travels through some of the darkest tunnels of the human experience but at the end offers a glimpse of light. Pollock questions the validity of God and faith and portrays the corruptive power of sex and desire. The work also explores the nature and power of evil, the true nature and meaning of justice, and the nature of redemption.

In a brief prologue, protagonist Arvin learns some valuable lessons in how to confront adversity from his obsessively prayerful father Willard. These are lessons that Arvin applies throughout his life.

Following the prologue, the narrative focuses on Willard, newly returned from World War II and traumatized by his experiences on the battlefront. On his way home, he sees a beautiful waitress named Charlotte and falls in love, eventually marrying her and fathering Arvin. Over the years of his marriage and as Arvin grows up, Willard becomes increasingly devoted to prayer and when Charlotte contracts cancer, he becomes convinced that only prayer will cure her. His acts of devotion become more and more extreme, to the point that he practices animal and human sacrifices. All his efforts are in vain however as Charlotte ultimately dies and in despair, Willard kills himself. The traumatized Arvin is sent to live with his grandmother. At his grandmother's house, as he grows to maturity, Arvin becomes protectively close to Lenora, another orphan whose mother was murdered by a traveling preacher and who also lives with his grandmother. For her part, Lenora grows up quiet and shy, eventually falling under the charismatic spell of a corrupt preacher, becoming pregnant by him, and ending her life when he refuses to take responsibility for his child. Arvin, acting on one of the lessons taught to him by Willard, shoots the preacher and takes off.

Meanwhile, the narrative also explores the relationship of Carl and Sandy Henderson, husband and wife serial killers who prey on anonymous hitchhikers. The narrative explores the troubled psychology of both characters, whose lives are entwined with Sandy's brother, the corrupt Sheriff Bodecker who had investigated the death of Arvin's father. Yet another narrative thread follows the experiences of Roy, the traveling preacher who fathered Lenora and fled to Florida after the killing of Lenora's mother and who ends up appearing in a sideshow in a traveling circus with his partner, Theodore. Eventually Theodore dies and the repentant Roy decides to go in search of Lenora who has been dead for several years.

All three narrative lines - Arvin's fleeing the killing of the preacher, Carl and Sandy's killing sprees, and Roy's journey to find his daughter - converge in the novel's final section. Carl and Sandy, at the end of their latest "hunt," pick up Roy and kill him. Shortly afterwards they pick up Arvin who shoots them both in self-defense. He flees the scene of that crime as well, more determined than ever to revisit the scenes of his traumatic childhood, apparently hoping for some release from his memories and his guilt. He is pursued by Sheriff Bodecker who eventually corners him in the clearing where Willard performed his sacrifices. Arvin shoots Bodecker and after conducting his own act of devotion, walks away from his old life, experiencing a surge of hope and possibility as he makes his way out of the woods, into a clearing, and onto a stretch of highway.

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This section contains 572 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Devil All the Time Study Guide
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