(Not So) Black and White: Jessica Dryden Prescott in A Distant Trumpet

SEPT / OCT 2017: BY JESSICA PRESCOTT

How old were you when you first realized good people do bad things?

Call me a late bloomer, but I was eighteen.

I was savoring my last summer before college; doing the thing I loved most in the whole world: reading. I was in the middle of a 600-page Western military epic called A Distant Trumpet, by Paul Horgan, and my precious, darling hero—Second Lieutenant Matthew Carlton Hazard—had just finished cheating on his fiancée by committing adultery with another officer’s wife.

Talk about a wake-up call, folks.

Not that I didn’t realize stuff like this ever happens in the real world. I wasn’t quite that naïve. Yet, somehow, I’d always imagined that such grave evil was the sole province of … well, bad people. People who spent their whole lives doing evil rather than good; people whom you could just take one glance at and “know” you shouldn’t trust. And Matthew Hazard didn’t seem to fit that description. He was kind, caring, diligent, brave—someone I admired; someone I loved, even. He’d always done the right thing … or tried to, anyway … even when it was hard … and now here he was, breaking every promise he’d ever made his girlfriend and helping another woman break her promises to her spouse. It was a little much for eighteen-year-old me to handle. I almost stopped reading, to be honest. I had never felt so betrayed by a book or an author; and, even worse, I had never felt so confused.

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At this point, another character caught my eye: the wife of Matthew’s commanding officer; who, in the midst of all this moral disarray, stepped in and began quietly working behind the scenes to put matters right. She did not choose to condemn; she did not choose to condone; she simply reached out a hand to help both the guilty parties heal the damage they’d caused. Even when I, as the reader, had lost almost all faith in Matthew’s story, she never lost her own faith. She saw good remaining in him, despite his very real flaws, and set to work to salvage that good.

Her name was Jessica Dryden Prescott; and I have never forgotten her.

I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a fictional character who’s taught me more. Jessica Prescott’s story gave me my first glimpse into the true nature of human evil—it’s not something you can hide from, and it’s not something you should hide from. Even when you surround yourself with good people, those good people are going to disappoint you. They’re going to fall short of your expectations. They’re going to break your heart, maybe. To put it bluntly, they’re going to do bad things, and they won’t be alone in that, because you might do bad things, too. None of us are perfect and none of us are immune from sin.

And yet, as Jessica Prescott taught me, we don’t have to let the power of evil overwhelm us. We don’t have to let it destroy our faith in humanity … or in God. On the contrary, when we stumble, when we fall, when we lose our way—that’s the time to take a deep breath, get back on our feet, and try again. And to help others do the same.

That takes strength.

It takes strength to look the darkness, the ugliness, of our society straight in the face and still search for the light. It takes strength to admit humans are truly evil, yet still believe humans can be truly good. It takes strength to follow God in a fallen world. It takes strength to be a woman like Jessica Dryden Prescott—which is why I dream of one day being like her. I’m not there yet; but I started when I was eighteen and I’m still trying.

I even use her name as my pseudonym … maybe that’ll help.

I can always hope.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Prescott is a former homeschool student and current graduate student, pursuing a master’s degree in American history with a focus on immigration studies.  In her (sadly limited) free time, she can usually be found listening to “Hamilton” or Celine Dion or Twenty One Pilots and dreaming up new ideas for historical fiction novels.  Which, she hopes, will someday make her famous.  Someday . . . 

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10 Replies to “(Not So) Black and White: Jessica Dryden Prescott in A Distant Trumpet”

  1. Wow, this was beautiful, Jessica. I loved hearing the story behind your pseudonym. As sad as reading that book must have been, I’m really glad to hear you were able to learn good from it. ❤ Job well done on this post!!!

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    1. Thanks so much, Hamlette!! Yeah, she was (is) really, really important to me, in terms of my mental and spiritual maturity. I learned so much from her. (Paul Horgan was a master writer. You really might like the book, since you love Westerns so much.)

      Like

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