Berendt’s Portrayal of Voodoo in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”
In his novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, John Berendt portrays the city of Savannah, Georgia as a place where anything can happen. The novel tells the story of Jim Williams, a white socialite and art dealer who is on trial for the murder of Danny Hansford, a black man who Williams had been having an affair with.
The novel follows Williams’ trial, as well as the lives of the other characters who inhabit Berendt’s version of Savannah. These include Minerva, a black woman who is a practitioner of voodoo; Joe Odom, a drug-addicted man-about-town; and Lizanne Roberts, a wealthy socialite.
While the novel is fiction, Berendt based his portrayal of Savannah and its inhabitants on real people and events. This research paper will explore Berendt’s portrayal of voodoo practices through the character of Minerva. In particular, it will examine how Berendt uses Minerva to portray voodoo as a religion that is both feared and misunderstood by those who do not practice it.
2. The characters in the novel
As mentioned above, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” is based on real people and events. This is reflected in the characters who inhabit Berendt’s version of Savannah.
Williams, the novel’s protagonist, is based on a real person of the same name. Like his fictional counterpart, the real Jim Williams was an art dealer and socialite who was tried (and acquitted) for the murder of Danny Hansford.
Minerva is also based on a real person. Berendt based her character on Minerva Jones, a black woman who worked as a maid for Williams. Jones was also a practitioner of voodoo, and she taught Berendt about the religion during his time in Savannah.
Berendt also based the character of Joe Odom on a real person. Odom was a drug-addicted man-about-town who was friends with both Williams and Hansford. Like his fictional counterpart, the real Joe Odom died of a drug overdose shortly after Hansford’s murder.
Lizanne Roberts, another character in the novel, is based on a real person of the same name. Roberts was a wealthy socialite who was friends with both Williams and Hansford.
3. The plot of the novel
“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” tells the story of Jim Williams’ trial for the murder of Danny Hansford. The novel begins with an account of Hansford’s murder, which took place at Williams’ house in 1981.
After Hansford’s body is discovered, Williams is arrested and put on trial for his murder.
The trial becomes a media circus, with reporters from all over the country descend upon Savannah to cover it.
During the course of the trial, various members of Savannah’s high society take the stand to testify against Williams. This includes Lizanne Roberts, who says that she saw Williams shoot Hansford; Joe Odom, who says that he saw Williams with a gun on the night of Hansford’s murder; and Minerva, who says that she saw Williams’ ghost following her after the murder.
In the end, Williams is acquitted of Hansford’s murder. However, the trial takes a toll on him, and he dies of a heart attack shortly thereafter.
4. Berendt’s portrayal of voodoo practices
Berendt portrays voodoo as a religion that is both feared and misunderstood by those who do not practice it. This is evident in the way that he portrays Minerva, the novel’s resident voodoo practitioner.
Minerva is first introduced in the novel as a maid for Jim Williams. However, it quickly becomes apparent that she is more than just a maid; she is also a practitioner of voodoo.
This is evident in the way that she talks about Williams’ house, which she refers to as a “bad place” with “bad luck.”
Minerva is also depicted as being very secretive about her voodoo practice. This is evident in the scene where Berendt tries to asking her about it. When he does, she refuses to answer any of his questions and tells him to “mind [his] own business.”
Berendt also portrays Minerva as being very protective of her voodoo practice. This is evident in the scene where Joe Odom comes to her house looking for Williams. When Odom asks if Williams is there, Minerva lies and says that he is not.
5. Critical reception of the novel
“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” was very well-received by critics. It was praised for its portrayal of Savannah and its inhabitants. The New York Times called it “a superb evocation of time and place,” while The Washington Post described it as “a fascinating portrait of a city and its people.”
The novel was also praised for its portrayal of voodoo. Critics lauded Berendt for his depiction of the religion as something that is both feared and misunderstood by those who do not practice it.
The novel was a commercial success, and it spent 216 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. It was also made into a film in 1997, starring Kevin Spacey as Jim Williams.