It is why Sir Thomas Malory called his very long book the Death
of Arthur. . . . It is the tragedy … of sin coming home to roost.
. . . [W]e have to take note of the parentage of Arthur’s son Mordred,
and to remember … that the king had slept with his own sister. He
did not know he was doing so … but it seems, in tragedy, that innocence
is not enough.
This passage, from Book II, Chapter 14,
closes the second book of the novel and introduces a dark tone that
carries over into Book III. Immediately before these lines, White
presents Mordred’s family tree and reveals that Morgause, the woman
Arthur has just slept with, is in fact his half-sister. White locates
the downfall of Arthur’s reign in this one unwitting sin. White
suggests that it is this evil deed that begins Arthur’s downfall
and tragedy. Arthur’s sins come “home to roost” in the vengeful
Mordred, who is the result of the incestuous union between Arthur
and Morgause. This passage suggests the evil within Mordred’s character
and foreshadows his role in precipitating the fall of Camelot and
Arthur. This quote is important because it offers White’s personal
analysis of the Arthur saga and exemplifies White’s frequent allusions
to Malory as the definitive teller of the Arthurian legend.