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Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Paul Douglass


American Civil War, Camp Jackson Affair, Historical Fiction, September 11, Social Psychology, Steampunk

Subject Areas

Literature; American Literature; American History


The Pillars is a novel using an omniscient third-person narrator who conveys the personal journey of high school senior Dan Bivins. Dan has been overwhelmed with grief since his mother was killed in the 9/11 attacks. The terrorist act has put the whole world in mourning and fear. Dan himself feels lost, unsure of what he wants to do in a life full of regrets and disappointment. Nearing adulthood and feeling unready for the challenges ahead of him, he fears growing up in a seemingly dark future. He concludes that he needs to escape through suicide. With a dying breath, Dan believes that he's now free from all responsibilities and worries. Instead, he finds himself in an afterlife of forgotten history.

The souls of an 1868 Wild West Frontier town hold onto their fears and prejudices as they rebuild civilization after a mass tragedy. The town is filled with gadgetry and technological wonders, as the people believe they live in the last city on Earth. Dan struggles to survive their cruel treatment of him as an outsider and becomes scapegoated for their troubles. During his psychological and spiritual adventure in the lawless desert land, he tries to redeem himself from a life of regret and actions never taken. Meanwhile in the physical world, his father races to locate and rescue Dan. This novel touches on universal themes that human beings deal with in their everyday lives, including dilemmas and emotional limbos that prevent us from living in a happier place.