Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil becomes so famous not for the awards that are bestowed on it (both the book and the film version) but mainly for the remarkable story that it presents on public since its premiere.

The book is written by John Berendt, a columnist from New York. His idea to work on the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil came about when he went to Savannah. George for “some capricious adventure” and found himself so hooked with a “strange news” that he heard during his stay at the place (Kovington). This inspired him to create a novel, a book.

The thesis of this paper is focused on the roles that are played by the different characters in the novel which also come from the different levels in the society. In addition, the novel gives the reader the image of how the people of and the place itself, Savannah are structured during the tragedy. Such thematic approach gives more volume and quality to it, particularly in the book version.

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As a Non-Fictional Account

As mentioned earlier, Berendt’s novel is drawn from a true story which he obtained during his stay in Savannah. The story revolves on the mystery in the murder of a local hustler named Danny Hansford and a revered antique art broker Jim Williams which happened in May 1981. The two protagonists in the novel are said to have a prior “intimate relationship before Hansford’s death (Berendt).” The murder happened at the home of William. The mystery of Hansford’s murder became the focal point of the story. While the novel develops through the court proceedings against Williams, Berendt made himself a character of the story as if he was really there when the incident took place.

The novel is about Berendt's factual encounters in his journey in Savannah, though he recognizes that several of the conversations found throughout the novel is less than valid. The novel is an anthology of narratives of different people he met. “The remoteness of Savannah implies peculiarities are on no account permitted to escape (Berendt).” In its place, they became concerted. The first part of the novel vibrantly gets the unusual character of the town.

He describes the characters that he employs in the story. Joe Odom leaps from one house to another with no intention of paying his bills, providing frenziedly bashes and offering momentous excursions. Luther Driggers seeks to devise “glow-in-the-dark goldfish” to amuse intoxicating wits, however he is dreaded for he hands a venom that is 500 times more lethal than arsenic (Berendt). The Lady Chablis, who is one of the most celebrated characters in the story (which is also portrayed in the film version), is an arrogant “drag queen” who is in no way devoid of a devious comment (Berendt). Jim Williams is the suave antique broker who lives as how true-blooded aristocrats live.

The second part of the novel entails a more definite plot account.  Williams is charged of killing Hansford. On the other hand, the latter is the conventional agitator, yearning for affection and consideration, yet with excessively callous wall to let someone recognize it. Williams argues that he shot the victim just to defend himself, however the evidence is profoundly alongside him. He uses all his money to pay for his lawyers to make out for the trials and proceedings. Nevertheless, he does not simply depend on what money can do. He also thinks that being focused on making out victoriously with the trial will bring success tom him.

Criticism and Comments on the Novel

There is just something that is obvious throughout the interpretation of the novel – that is, it is deficient in ethical rationale. This novel bears ingenious discourse, “goose-bump-inducing character” outline, and that popular talent to draw the reader feels like he or she is really there in the novel as a part of every spectacle (Kovington). The novel does somewhat which could not be done by merely visiting the town; it depicts the novel as if it is alive as how the reader progress in reading it. The town captivates the reader. To name it as appealing is to go amiss. To describe it astonishing is to exaggerate. It is purely animate.

The novel is put up freely just about the assassination of Danny Hansford by Jim Williams and the succeeding four murder court proceedings that ran for more than eight straight years. Towards the end of the novel, Williams, the alleged murdered of Hansford, was found to be not guilty. Nonetheless, the chief concern of the account for most of the readers has been “the affluence of delicately strained minor characters from every societal rank and the craftily established yarn that makes a wall-hanging of Savannah (Porter).”

Appraisals of the novel roughly commonly commended the excellence of the writing. “Even the Savannah Morning News labeled it as a forceful, morbidly captivating, marvelously written novel despite the fact that the critic found the abundance of characters and story —nonetheless masterfully provided— awe-inspiring and pathetic (Porter).” The similar critic also grieved over the inadequacy of a tough plot to push the action, and became disappointed by the ultimate uncertainty of “whether the shooting was really a murder or simply a self-defense (Kovington).”

Awards and Recognitions

The success of the publication of the novel did not only bring honor to John Berendt but also give overwhelming advantages to the setting of the story. “Tourists across the world travel to visit the historical setting of the novel (Writers & Books, 2007).” Such visits boosted the economy of the entire Savannah starting from the hotels and motels which accommodated number of tourists and visitors. Special memorabilia for the novel were also sold out thus heightening more the economy of Savannah.

Such progress paved the way for recognizing the author of the novel for employing such very significant contribution not only to the history of Savannah but also on its economy. Berendt was honored by the Savannah Economic Development Authority on April 22, 1996 and was given a special award by no less than the town’s mayor on April 26, 1996 declaring that date as the John Berendt Day.

The novel also bagged the Southern Book Award and became a finalist in the prestigious Pulitzer Prize Awards. However, the novels’ most notable achievement was when “it topped the New York Times best-seller list for over 216 weeks (Writers & Books, 2007).”


To end, Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil becomes successful. Though originally the novel’s purpose is to give an account about a true story which happened in Savannah, the prize of the novel extends more than recognitions for the author but also for the setting of the novel itself.

The novel’s success is not merely due to the fact that it conveys a mystery-like theme but more because of the appealing way of how the novel presented the different characters that Savannah has. The novel interests the reader to go through the novel by the creation of such fascinating characters. Thus it can be said that the novel leads the way for catching the attention of the people to go and see through the entire Savannah.

Works Cited

Berendt, John. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Modern Library, 2005.

Porter, Darwin. Midnight in Savannah. First ed. Georgia Literary Association, 2000.

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