The novel should tell the truth, as I see the truth, or as the novelist persuades me to see it. And one more demand: I expect the novelist to aspire to improve the world. ... As a novelist, I want to be more than one more dog barking at the other dogs barking at me. Not out of any foolish hope that one novelist, or all virtuous novelists in chorus, can make much of a difference for good, except in the long run, but out of the need to prevent the human world from relaxing into something worse. To maintain the tension between truth and falsity, beauty and ugliness, good and evil. ... I believe the highest duty of the serious novelist is, whatever the means or technique, to be a critic of his society, to hold society to its own ideals, or if these ideals are unworthy, to suggest better ideals.
Our institutions are too big; they represent not the best but the worst characteristics of human beings. By submitting to huge hierarchies of power, we gain freedom from personal responsibility for what we do and are forced to do - the seduction of it - but we lose the dignity of being real men and women. Power corrupts; attracts the worst and corrupts the best. ... Refuse to participate in evil; insist on taking part in what is healthy, generous, and responsible. Stand up, speak out, and when necessary fight back. Get down off the fence and lend a hand, grab a-hold, be a citizen - not a subject.