LJ 2018: Haunted Soldier: Part 3 - The Hero's Return (2nd half)

Joined: January 31st, 2017, 11:53 pm

June 29th, 2018, 3:35 am #1

LORD JOHN READALONG SPOILER POLICY: Please limit discussion to the events of the Lord John books/stories up to this point (Hellfire, Private Matter, Succubus, BotB) and the novels that precede/coincide with LJ (Outlander, Dragonfly, Voyager). To discuss LJ in the context of events from later in the series, please see the spoiler thread, here.

Lord John and the Haunted Soldier by Diana Gabaldon
Part III: The Hero's Return p 278-end (hardcover edition)

Captain Jones, Captain Hanson and Lord John arrive on the brig, the Ronson, and are told by it’s captain that, as it is a naval vessel, they are not permitted to take Stoughton.  Hanson, after listening to all the arguments, agrees with the Ronson’s captain and explains it to Lord John and the irate Jones in this way: A captain’s authority on his own vessel is absolute, save a senior naval officer should come on board.  Even though Captain Hanson out ranks the captain of the Ronson, a more senior office is present who has the final authority.  That office is represented in the form of the bedraggled letter that Stoughton brought on board.  The letter gives Stoughton safe passage on any of His Majesty’s ships, as it is signed by a vice-admiral.  
Jones accuses Stoughton of being a traitor which The Master Founder adamantly denies.  The captain is livid that the culprit in the disaster of the exploding gun will be allowed to escape prosecution.  Hanson, after an unspoken communication with the captain of the Ronson, asks for a private word with that captain and Jones and Grey are escorted up to the deck and out of ear shot.
Once on the ship’s deck, Grey sees Neil Stapleton arguing with the gig’s bosom, who is preventing Neil from opening the portmanteau.  Grey believes that Stoughton acted alone in stealing the alloy and that some very influential person convinced the navy to give Stoughton that letter of safe passage.  Grey wants to learn who that influential person is and realizes that he will never get the name once Neil gives it to Bowles.  At this point, Grey gives the order to the bosom to refuse Stapleton access to the portmanteau.
Hanson appears on deck and confirms that Stoughton is who he says he is, has done what he thinks he’s done- and, with Hanson’s apologies, says Stoughton is going to France in the Ronson.  John wants to be sure he understood correctly and asks if Stoughton sold copper to the navy.  Hanson, looking embarrassed, responds that it’s wartime and the lives of the sailors… Before he can complete his sentence, John, barely containing his anger, asks if the life of a sailor is worth more than that of a soldier.  Hanson doesn’t reply but does consider John’s final request.  “A moment alone with the portmanteau.  The price for the gunners’ lives.”  Hanson agrees.
As Grey emerges from Hanson’s cabin, he is met by Captain Jones who asks what was in the portmanteau.  Grey doesn’t share any knowledge with him but, to appease Jones, he hands him the sliver of shrapnel that was removed from Grey’s chest, the proof he needs for his investigation.  John confirms that it was Stoughton who stole it and tells Jones that this is what he will put in his report.  But he also orders Jones to give the Royal Commission of Inquiry a copy of said report, as it explains why Tom Pilchard exploded.  When Jones seems to resist, Grey threatens to expose him as Bowles spy should he refuse Lord John’s order.  Jones expresses his frustration that both Stoughton and Stapleton will escape justice and John empathizes.  “War may be a brutal occupation, but politics is far more so.”  Jones expresses his concern about Gormley and questions if he is still alive.  As tired as John is, he agrees to go with Jones to free Gormley from the hulks of the prison ship.
Once back in London, John meets Harry Quarry at the Beefsteak and witnesses Harry’s uncommon expression of anger.  “The navy was in it up to their necks!  G-D’d bloody sods!”  John defends Hanson, saying that he didn’t know any of what was going on.  Had he known, he never would have agreed to board the Ronson.  Hanson was furious that his boson’s mate, Appledore, was involved without his knowledge or consent as usurped his authority.  His indignation at the navy’s underhandedness, paved the way for him to agree to help John find the truth.  Here are the deductions that John made with Harry:
1. At Stoughton’s instigation, Appledore abducted Gormley and the other men that looked like him.
2. The fact that Appledore was working without Captain Hanson’s knowledge, means someone high up in the navy, who superseded Hanson’s authority, was involved.  Quarry and Grey refer to him as a ‘bilge rat’.
3. Such a high placed rat wouldn’t risk direct association with Stoughton.
4. Therefore, the letter of immunity that Stoughton carried was worded in such a way as to give no proof of who authorized it.  In fact, if Stoughton hadn’t reached the Ronson, the letter would have had no value.  The missive only guaranteed safe passage and if it became public, it could be dismissed as a simple courtesy to the Arsenal.
5. Grey concluded that there was a third ‘rotten apple in the barrel.  Someone who stood between Stoughton and ‘the bilge rat’.
6. That rotten apple had to be on of the three members of the Commission of Inquiry because it had to be someone who had regular business with the Arsenal.  That person could consult with Stoughton without arousing suspicion.
7. If one of the three inquisitors were involved, that would explain their aggressiveness and antagonism toward Grey.  If John was found responsible for Tom Pilchard’s destruction, that would deflect any inquiry into other possible causes.
8. It would also prevent the explosion of Tom Pilchard being linked to the other eight cannon, as well as discredit John’s brother, Edgar.
9. Any of the three commissioners could have influenced the other two to guide the questions in the direction he desired.
10. Grey doesn’t believe Twelvetrees is the culprit, even though he hates John’s family.  He is the Colonel of the Royal Artillery and would never take money from a navy bilge rat to kill his own men.
11. Grey believes Stoughton’s assertion that it wasn’t treason, which leads John to deduce that the motive was money.
12. Marchmont, the second of the inquisitors to consider, was rolling in gold.
13. Oswald, being a politician of no great means, was in constant need of money.  And discrediting John’s brother, Edgar, helps eliminate him as a political opponent.
When Harry asks if Grey can prove his assertions, John admits that he can’t in a court of law.  But he shows Quarry what he found in Stoughton’s portmanteau which makes his case.
If Stoughton hadn’t reached the brig, John explains, he would have had no protection from the navy.  In order to have some leverage, he either stole or was given a medal that John had seen Oswald wearing at the inquisition.  It is a good conduct medal that Oswald’s father received, and Oswald can’t deny that it is his.  His father’s name is engraved on the back.  And, John proclaims, Oliver Mortmorency Oswald is no common name like John Smith.
John leaves the Beefsteak to prepare for a masque ball at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens where he plans to meet some people.  He goes dressed as himself, wearing a scarlet domino, as he wants to be recognizable to those who might seek him.  He pays the admission for himself and Tom, who is enamored by the lights of the ‘fairyland’. Grey gives his valet some money to enjoy the merriment, but Tom agrees to stay close as John awaits his meeting with Oswald.
An owl-masked gentleman approaches, who John doesn’t know.  He says he comes on behalf of England with a message, from the Ministry of War, for Grey to abandon his efforts to expose Mortimer Oswald.  
John angrily asks if Oswald is to escape punishment for his crimes of killing and maiming several soldiers and endangering hundreds more.  The messenger explains that it won’t serve the interests of the country for Oswald to be openly accused, no less convicted, of corruption.  Such a trial would cause widespread public anger and alarm, discredit both the army and navy, and endanger relationships with German allies.  It angers Grey that the war office will keep Oswald in place in order to have a member of Parliament who can be quietly blackmailed.  John then threatens to go to the press with his proof and says, as he feels a sharp pain in his chest, that he cares nothing about his career, but very much for his honor.
Finally, the owl-masked gentleman proposes that Oswald will resign due to ill health and Grey’s brother will be appointed to serve the remainder of his term.  John agrees, not caring if the war office thinks he is corrupt.
As the messenger angrily departs, Neil Stapleton pops out of nowhere and asks Lord John who the gentleman was.  John tells him to bugger off and Neil suggests it might be to Grey’s benefit to have friends who could watch his back.  It was obvious to Stapleton that the owl who just left did not wish John well.  Grey refuses Neil’s overtures because he doesn’t want a ‘friend’ like Bowles.  Stapleton proceeds to make a pass at John, slowly trailing his fingers down John’s shirt, when Grey feels a sharp pain in his chest.  He stiffens and can’t breathe, fearing he will die right there in the pleasure gardens with a sodomite spy dressed like a rooster.  Neil spots blood on John’s shirt and, when John tells him he is unwell and asks Neil to leave, Bowle’s spy disappears.  Grey pulls a sliver of metal, the final piece of Tom Pilchard, from his chest and is thankful not to be dead.
Lord John then sees Captain Fanshawe, with his silk mask covering his face, dressed as a grenadier with a bomb sack slung over his shoulder, the brass tube glowing, eerie with the light of a burning slow match.  Grey asks if he knows where Anne Thackeray is.  Fanshawe states that Anne is dead and confesses his responsibility in her demise.  Here is his story:
Out of jealousy, Fanshawe wanted to kill Philip Lister but didn’t want to lure him to the powder shed and have it blow up with Philip beside it.  That might cause Anne to suspect foul play.  Instead, he made a high grade experimental powder that would not cause suspicion if it exploded unexpectedly.  But while making this dangerous powder, someone in the mill dropped a stone scraper which created a spark which, in the air filled with powder dust, set off an explosion.  That was how Fanshawe lost half his face and a chunk of his head.
He went on to explain how, after Philip died, he waited for Anne to become destitute so he could rescue her and she would be so grateful, she’d marry him despite his ugly appearance.  He waited too long, though, thinking she wasn’t destitute enough, and Ann died of fever in a brothel.  
Grey keeps asking about the fate of the baby but Fanshawe’s response is to toss a grenade at John.  He can’t believe Fanshawe would handle a live grenade but he instinctively throws the weapon over the wall and is astounded to see it explode.  Grey turns to confront Fanshawe only to find the grenadier has vanished.
Tom returns and picks up the sack that Fanshawe left behind.  As Grey cuddles the baby Tom found in the sack, he is oblivious to the explosion in the near distance and the screams of dismay as Fanshawe, we are led to believe, has taken his own life.
John pens a letter explaining all that has transpired.  He addresses and seals the letter and then burns it in the candle’s flame instead of sending to Jamie Fraser.
Definitions I found helpful:
http://www.historicalfancydress.com/201 ... mino.html- domino description and picture.
Occam's razor (also Ockham's razor or Ocham's razor; Latin: lex parsimoniae "law of parsimony") is the problem-solving principle that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the answer that makes the fewest assumptions. (Wikipedia)

1. What do you think was the ‘unspoken communication’ between the two naval captains on the brig Ronson?
2. If Captain Hanson wasn’t a sod, as John professed to Harry, why did he think Hanson never would have boarded the brig had he known what the navy was up to?  (This didn’t make sense to me so I would like your thoughts on it.)
3. What is Lord John’s feeling about politics and politicians?
4. There are many ways John shows his humanity.  Which do you find most touching?
5. Thoughts on John’s frame of mind in writing this letter to Jamie, as compared to the one he wrote earlier in the story.
Last edited by susanruth on June 29th, 2018, 3:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

Clan Fraser
Joined: July 19th, 2010, 10:09 pm

June 29th, 2018, 11:39 pm #2

Thanks for the very detailed summary, susanruth.  I listened to this a couple of days ago - for practical reasons related to what other audiobooks were on my player and when I'd be able to connect to remove some and add others - and many of the details had gotten a bit fuzzy.

Did John call Captain Hanson a sod?  I thought that was an insult, but I took his point to be that Hanson was an honest man who didn't know what the navy had been up to.  Had he known about the navy taking the copper, putting soldiers in danger, he would not have been willing to expose his branch of the military to John's investigation, therefore he wouldn't have been willing to board the Ronson and then John wouldn't have discovered all that he did.

So, did John get a name of someone high up from the contents of Stoughton's portmanteau?  Clearly, he didn't see Oswald's name there - though he did find the medal - because if he had, then he wouldn't have had to work through possibilities with Harry later.  And, he never indicated that he got the name of the vice-admiral indicated in Stoughton's safe passage, or at least he never mentions it to Harry.  Do you think the man in the owl mask was someone high up in the navy?  Or a government official who arranged for Stoughton's escape?  Why would the government want to give copper to the navy to protect sailors when that endangered their own soldiers?

Something that's always confused me is why Fanshawe would toss a live grenade at John.  I understand that he wanted a distraction to escape, but even John was surprised when it exploded after he tossed it away, so it seemed like a pretty dangerous thing to do.  It seemed like he wanted to leave the baby in John's care - and Tom's!  Love how he managed to find a wet nurse at night on or near military barracks - so why not toss something harmless rather than something that could have gone off early and destroyed his plans for Anne's baby?  I'm not at all surprised that he killed himself after leaving the baby with John.  And, is John now going to take the baby to the Listers?  He thought about Barbara and how she'd like to see Anne's baby, but do you think her father would accept the baby as his grandchild?  Just trying to imagine what will happen to the baby now.

Do you think Edgar really wants to suddenly replace Oswald in parliament?  I suppose he does since he ran for the office, but having lost, he might not be completely prepared to jump in right now even though John and the owl made that decision for him.  I suppose at least Maude will be proud.  ;-)

Joined: January 31st, 2017, 11:53 pm

June 30th, 2018, 1:24 am #3

In answer to your question, Did John call Captain Hanson a sod? No.  It was Harry that said the Navy was full of sods.  John was defending Captain Hanson.
The medal in the portmanteau had Oswald's father's name so that is how he drew the conclusion that Oswald was involved.  But I think brainstorming with Harry helped him put the pieces of the puzzle together.  I don't think it mattered to John what the name of the vice-admiral was.  All that mattered is that someone high up in the navy was involved.  The masked man said he was from the war department and, again, I don't think it matters who he is.  Just that the war department is trying to  avoid a scandal. 
I think Fanshawe went a bit crazy, so tossing a live grenade was not so far out of character.  I think that John would take the baby to Lister and let him deal with the reverend.  I'm not sure the reverend would even acknowledge the baby and John didn't seem like he wanted to have anything to do with Anne's father after his meeting with him.
I think you are right about Maude being proud and I also think that she will be the one to decide that Edgar will go into Parliament!

Clan Fraser
Joined: July 19th, 2010, 10:09 pm

June 30th, 2018, 1:56 am #4

Although I agree that it doesn't really matter who in the navy or the war department is involved, I can't imagine that John wouldn't be curious so he'd know who not to trust in any future interactions.

Joined: January 31st, 2017, 11:53 pm

June 30th, 2018, 2:48 am #5

True.  He wondered, out there in the Pleasure Gardens, if he would recognize those eyes if he saw them again.  

Lisa SF
Clan Fraser
Joined: August 2nd, 2011, 11:43 pm

June 30th, 2018, 7:23 am #6

Great summary - thank you, susanruth! I'm glad the baby is safe and sound in the end, and I'd guess that John will bring the child to the Listers. Fanshawe strikes me as rotten to the core -- what he put Anne through, just so that she'd turn to him in despair! At least her father acted out of principles, much as I disagree with his actions. Fanshawe served only his own, corrupt desires.

What a relief when the shard of metal comes out of John's chest! He's now free, literally and figuratively, of the pain left from Crefeld (and hopefully, moving beyond the pain associated with that time and Percy as well.)

Well, Edgar gets his seat in Parliament! I suppose Maude won't care how he got it, so long as it's his!
"There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books." - Irving Stone

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Clan Fraser
Joined: September 17th, 2009, 3:16 am

July 2nd, 2018, 4:07 am #7

Thank you for the summary, Susanruth.  Great comments, everyone.

I felt so sorry for Anne, who died in a brothel.  How cruel society was to women then.  Had her father been accepting of her choice for a husband, and later, a forgiving man, others might have lived, might have acted differently.  

I'm glad the baby was safely in John's care.  I found John holding the baby the most touching.  Life is so precarious: a shed accidentally blowing up, a hand grenade, shrapnel that could cause John's death, a baby in a sack left to be discovered.  

I wonder if/how this whole near-death experience affects John  in the future.   I will have to pay attention of re-kilts.  
Lol...Edgar does get his seat and Maude will be quite pleased.  He will look so pretty sitting there. 
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings

Joined: October 7th, 2017, 11:10 pm

July 2nd, 2018, 8:24 pm #8

Susanruth, this was a very long and complex chapter to summarize but you made excellent work of it.  As I was reading the chapter my mind was spinning with concern for the person assigned this duty.

ABL, I am at as much of a loss as you over Fanshawe tossing a live grenade at John.  The man was completely unhinged.  Thank goodness the baby and John survived their encounter with him.

There were several aspects or events in this chapter that gave me pause in one way or another.  In total contrast to Fanshawe's unfathomable behavior was John's gentleness in taking hold of the child.  Also, in contrast to his outrage that Oswald might be allowed to maintain his position, was his quirky outlook on Edgar being appointed to the position.  His lack of concern that the war office might see him as corrupt and his some comical attitude that the England had survived stupidity in government for centuries.  I surmise he felt Edgar might not be too bright but he was generally forthright and honest.  In addition the appointment would make him and Maude happy.  Then there was Neil appearing just as the splinter broke through and caused John's distress.  I thought it was a bit comical that John was particularly concerned with the thought of dying in the presence of a costumed sodomite.  It appears he has spent all of his life hiding his nature from the family and the public.  He seems to want to take his secret to the grave with him.  Very interesting considering the chances he took in the last book.
The one thing that touched me the most was John's reflections upon all the evil he had encountered in just one night and how soiled it made him feel.  It was interesting to take in his thoughts on the goodness of people like Simon Coles, the ordinariness or venality of those like Neil Stapleton, his conflict between spirituality and rationalism, and his choosing to remain a soldier. 

Joined: January 31st, 2017, 11:53 pm

July 2nd, 2018, 9:32 pm #9

Vita21 you wrote:

Susanruth, this was a very long and complex chapter to summarize but you made excellent work of it.  As I was reading the chapter my mind was spinning with concern for the person assigned this duty.

It was my first time doing this and it felt like an initiation rite!

Clan Fraser
Clan Fraser
Joined: May 26th, 2012, 7:06 am

July 8th, 2018, 4:05 am #10

Thanks for the summary, susanruth, and all the explanations. What a convoluted web! I can quite see why the government would not want the public to know that the navy had been stealing from the army. It makes you wonder whether the government was adequately funding both of the services. I am glad that John got it all straightened out, and that Edgar got his seat in Parliament: both he and Maude will be happy about that, and Edgar is probably to dense to do any harm or be bribed.

Even though I think Stapleton is a bit wily, I am glad he was there after the owl man left. I like to think he would have helped John, had it been necessary. I don't like Fanshawe at all. First he tries to blow up his rival, then he leaves Annie in awful circumstances, waiting for her to become even more desperate. Ugh. I don't understand why he threw a live grenade, but I am glad he did not harm the baby.

Oh, and I am also glad that the sliver of metal final worked its way out of John's chest. Now he can safely head off to his next adventure.

Joined: August 7th, 2017, 4:50 am

July 12th, 2018, 5:58 am #11

Thanks again for a very detailed summary, Susanruth. 

Below are my thoughts about this section.  (Page numbers refer to the Arrow Books paperback edition.)
* It occurs to me that the name of Hanson's ship, the Sunrise, may be of significance -- it is there that John is enlightened and all is made clear to him.
* P. 361: Just wondering -- how did the mollies in Vauxhall recognize John as one of them, given that he doesn't "look gay," at least according to Percy?
* P. 362: The symbolism of the great horned owl mask: I'm sure there was a reason for selecting this creature and I look forward to reading your comments.
* P. 364-5: I had to laugh at this sentence: "But England had survived stupidity in government for centuries; there were worse things.
* P. 365: Neil Stapleton sported a mask in the form of a fighting cock -- how appropriate!  😀
* P. 366: John's thoughts about dying in public were hilarious.  But as a matter of fact, Neil was good for John, since without him the shrapnel might still be in John's chest!  😀
* P. 377: But I don't really understand why John thinks Stapleton is evil.  John says Stapleton is "self-centered" and that's how I see him, too; yes, he's devious but I don't picture him as evil.
* P. 377: I thought it was very sad when John wrote that although Jamie despised him and Neil would use him, it was only in the prsence of those two that he, John, could really be himself.
* 378: Re signing the letter now as "your servant" although he'd been reluctant to do so earlier -- it occurs to me that that sign-off is appropriate because John is in thrall to Jamie Fraser.  Whether he realizes it or not, and I think John's last sentence indicates that he does to some degree, John behaves and acts in ways that he hopes/wants Jamie to approve of or agree with.  A servant is a person whose job it to please someone else, and that is what John is trying to do. 
* P. 378: The first time I read this story, I didn't really understand what "true north" meant and had to look it up.  According to an article in the HuffPost, "True North is your orienting point - your fixed point in a spinning world - that helps you stay on track as a leader. It is derived from your most deeply held beliefs, values, and the principles you lead by. It is your internal compass, unique to you, representing who you are at your deepest level."  Jamie is steadfast in all his beliefs and it makes sense that at this point in his life, having been buffeted hither and thither by so many different currents, that John seeks stability and finds it in the person of Jamie Fraser.
* P. 378: Regarding the last sentence of the story: "Then, standing, shucked his banyan, blew out the candle, and lay down, naked in the dark."  I think there must be some meaning to John lying there "naked in the dark."  One thought that springs to mind is that that is the only way John can reveal who he truly is -- that is, he cannot allow other people to see him for who -- what -- he really is.  However, John has just completely opened up to Jamie in his letter about this incident and also how he feels about Jamie: John is naked to Jamie even though Jamie cannot see him at that moment.  I'd be interested in reading other thoughts about what you think this sentence means.
* Lastly, a general comment: I am finding that one reason it's sometimes hard to keep people straight is because the names of many people start with the same letter as that of another person.  For example: John and Jones.  Hal and Harry (not that they are hard to keep straight but still...) and Hanson.  Stapleton and Stoughton.  Couldn't Diana have used some of the other letters of the alphabet???  😗

My answers to the questions:
1. What do you think was the ‘unspoken communication’ between the two naval captains on the brig Ronson?
I thought it indicated that the two captains realized that Stoughton just essentially admitted to being engaged in criminal activity and possibly treason despite his denial, and consequently they decided to be more cooperative with Lord John.

2. If Captain Hanson wasn’t a sod, as John professed to Harry, why did he think Hanson never would have boarded the brig had he known what the navy was up to?  (This didn’t make sense to me so I would like your thoughts on it.)
If Hanson knew the Navy was press-ganging Army soldiers, he'd be a sod because he wouldn't care what happened to Gormley since he'd already be aware of it.  Therefore, he would not have accommodated John's request to search the Sunrise or helped John reach the Ronson.  If Hanson was a sod, then he'd know about the Navy stealing the copper and would certainly not help John in any way because as a naval officer, he wouldn't want the Army to find out that another branch of the military was stealing from them.  Therefore, Hanson was not a sod.  QED.  😃

3. What is Lord John’s feeling about politics and politicians?
Pretty much the same as many 21st century people's feelings!  😁

4. There are many ways John shows his humanity.  Which do you find most touching?
Great question!  I don't know if this is the most touching but it's the first one that came to my mind: John, although exhausted, goes with Jones to rescue Gormley from the prison ship.

5. Thoughts on John’s frame of mind in writing this letter to Jamie, as compared to the one he wrote earlier in the story.
I figured there would be a question about the letter!  It's so revealing of John.  Please see my comments above.
If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. ~ Oscar Wilde
'I noticed you capped all my best quotations,' said Lymond absently. ~ The Ringed Castle

Joined: January 31st, 2017, 11:53 pm

July 12th, 2018, 12:27 pm #12

Great questions and comments.  Here are some of my thoughts on them:
how did the mollies in Vauxhall recognize John as one of them, given that he doesn't "look gay," at least according to Percy?  I think that at the Pleasure Gardens everyone is looking for pleasure and maybe the mollies are going up to anyone in search of fun, knowing that it is a safe place to do so.  

Here is one of the explanations I found of the great horned owl:   the great horned owl symbolism is not only about seeing in the dark, but having your eyes open wide.  John saw all the darkness surrounding the incident of the stealing of the copper but would not cave to the War Ministry's demand to ignore the evil.  Grey's eyes were 'wide open' but he maintained his sense of right and wrong, insisting that Oswald face the consequences of his actions.  So, amid the darkness, some light still remained.

But I don't really understand why John thinks Stapleton is evil.  John says Stapleton is "self-centered" and that's how I see him, too; yes, he's devious but I don't picture him as evil.  Maybe, because John is so dedicated to doing what is right that, to him, any actions motivated by selfish desires seems evil.

Reading about John lying "naked in the dark" made me feel sad, once again, for John in his desire to find love.  His preferences, living in his century, leave him in the dark and the people who can give him the freedom to be himself is a person he doesn't want to be with, Neil, or someone who is repulsed by his sexual preferences, Jamie.  John can't help but feel the darkness of his situation.

As far as your last comment about the names, I couldn't agree more.  In preparation for summarizing this section, I wrote a list of names and what each person did so I could keep it straight!