The American novelist John Gardner died in a motorcycle accident in 1982. His novels, in which death and guilt are brooding presences, continue to attract attention. This study reviews Gardner's life and work, examining how his own tragic past prodded him to explore life's deepest mysteries. It breaks new ground by demonstrating how the philosophies of Susanne Langer and Alfred North Whitehead greatly influenced his thought. Gardner wrote that fiction is a «vivid and continuous dream.» Drawing on the fields of philosophy, religion, psychology, anthropology, and ritual studies, it becomes clear that the vision he would have us dream is a vision of «peace», a Whiteheadian notion that says life is meaningful despite the ongoing presence of intractable evils like death and guilt.