Mervyn Peake’s novel Mr Pye is a wonderful fable on the perils of do-goodery. Bringing boundless wisdom and benevolence to the island of Sark he ends up, much to his own disgust, turning into a winged angel.
What is at the root of his strange fall is his own pride, his determination to not just be good – but to look good.
Several symptoms of his prideful benevolence shine though the pages of the novel:
Unlike Christ, Mr Pye never asks the person he is about to help whether he really wants his assistance.
Power is never questioned. Confident in his own benevolence and greater wisdom he treats people as puppets – at times quite literally.
God becomes the “Great Pal” – always smiling, always present. Only in his final reconciliation with God does he experience any fear and trembling.
Do-goodery is not good. Goodness follows the path of justice: it is always respectful, humble and mindful that any good that is done never really came from the self anyway.