centuries people have come to the New World seeking to start a new
life. Many have seen this as an attempt to return to Eden, to a life
unburdened by guilt and sin. People could leave their past behind,
whether it was the drudgery of work, poverty, fear of religious persecution
or the crimes that earned them their unwished for journey.
Paul Herlihy, an American Catholic who has recently left the Dominican
seminary, attempts to start a new life in Central America, emulating,
in a way, the pilgrims of the past. Upon arrival he attempts to start
a new life as a teacher of English. He also considers starting a new
outlook on life, maybe even a new morality.
He quickly discovers that there is no garden of innocence, though
Honduras is green and fresh, with a population only recently urbanized.
Paul sinks into a quagmire of his own making, unable to distinguish
good from bad, unable to determine what is sin and what is not. He
has an affair with another man's wife, and begins to come dangerously
close to a student who is far too young.
On a trip into the mountains with a friend, he attends mass almost
by accident and vows to change his ways. Once back in the city, though,
he is helpless to stop the descent into an abyss of sex and violence.