Surprisingly, Hightower, despite his isolation, emerges as the philosophical center of the novel—a humanist presence who rejects the rigid moral codes that confine Jefferson’s residents. Hightower’s static, abstract journey to self-knowledge and self-acceptance contrasts with the strivings of the other main characters, who either fail to attain insight or fail to act on it. Hightower, Lena, and Christmas all attempt to salvage their pride, turn from the harsh realities of the past, and infuse their lives with a newfound purpose. They all are damaged individuals whose reputations and senses of self have been compromised, both by their own actions and by social forces beyond their control. Hightower eventually makes peace with his life of internal struggle, stoically embracing his impending death, armed with the understanding that suffering is an unavoidable component of existence.