Often repeated in the novel is the concept that history is cyclical. As Tristram explains in the first few chapters to his slumbering history class, there are three phases: Pelphase, Interphase, and Gusphase.
- Pelphase is named after Pelagianism, the theology of Pelagius. The Pelphase is characterized by the belief that people are generally good. Crimes have slight punishment, and the government tries to improve the population. The government works through socialism. According to Tristram “A government functioning in its Pelagian phase commits itself to the belief that man is perfectible, that perfection can be achieved by his own efforts, and that the journey towards perfection is along a straight road.” The novel begins – and ends – in Pelphase.
- Interphase is the darkening of Pelphase into Gusphase – an “Intermediate” phase. As Tristram explains things, the government grows increasingly disappointed in its population’s inability to be truly good, and thus police forces are strengthened and the state becomes Totalitarian. In many respects, Interphase is a finite version of George Orwell’s 1984. [...]
- Gusphase is named after Augustinianism, the theology of St. Augustine of Hippo. In short, Gusphase involves the lifting of the Interphase. The leaders begin to realize how horrible they have become, and realize that they are being overly harsh. Therefore, the government relaxes its rules and creates havoc. [...]