Quote 5

“I mind how I said to you once that there is a price for being good the same as for being bad; a cost to pay. And it’s the good men that cant deny the bill when it comes around. . . . The bad men can deny it; that’s why dont anybody expect them to pay on sight or any other time. . . . Maybe it takes longer to pay for being good than for being bad.”

Byron speaks these words at the end of Chapter 16, after he has brought the Hineses to see Reverend Hightower and is about to ask the minister to lie and claim that Joe Christmas was at Hightower’s house on the night of the murder. This quotation complements Byron’s notion that one of life’s major preoccupations is the attempt to sidestep trouble and entanglement. Byron, however, has finally come to realize that his strategy of denial and avoidance, that has served him in good stead for most of his thirty years, is no longer an acceptable means of ordering his life. He believes that there is no escaping accountability, no matter how detached or aloof one is, and that suffering and emotional duress are a harsh reality, if not a curse, that few fail to encounter.

Byron’s words bear heavily religious undertones. He has spent his days on the fringes, thinking that by living a disengaged, morally lazy existence, he has postponed any need to repent or account for his transgressions at the end of his life. About to commit himself to the safety and livelihood of Lena and her child, Byron realizes finally that suffering and hardship are unavoidable. By keeping them so stringently at bay up to this point, he has also foolishly excluded himself from love and companionship as well.