Richard K. Fenn focuses on the significance of time in modern society, and why we take it so seriously. He traces contemporary western attitudes toward time back to the doctrine and myth of Purgatory. Fenn makes a provocative case that especially for Americans the sense of the scarcity of time is a sign of social character, shaped by a ‘purgatorial complex’. He demonstrates the impact of Purgatory on Protestant preachers such as Baxter and Channing, but also argues that Locke’s views of religion, education and the nature of the state can only be understood in this context. Seriousness about time has become evidence of the good faith of the citizen. Novelists like Robbins, Mailer, Vonnegut and Brautigan portray a society that oppresses the individual through time constraints. For Dickens, America seemed a purgatorial wasteland: a place where time is always of the essence.