A timely question, crucial in so many respects and probably unanswerable, at least just now, if not (hopefully not) ultimately. Yet Mr. Dabbs, in his quest for this archetypal spokesman, comes at times upon some quite fresh spoors. He has the good sense to know that his game shares the singular attributes of the chameleon--that ""the Southerner is still being born,"" and also that ""daily he becomes more American."" Beginning in the earliest times, he traces the formation of Southern character up to the Civil War in his first section; Part II, ""Its Bitter Testing,"" covers the war and the humiliation of defeat and Reconstruction, while the closing chapters deal with ""Its Present Possibility."" The mode and method are essentially religious; the South is seen as ""God's Project,"" and the central message is that the Negro is the ""most creative expression"" of the sought-after prototype of the Southerner. ""If we can accept this,"" he says--and he is primarily addressing his fellow white Southerners--then we can understand that ""Southern history was God's way of leading two originally opposed peoples into a richer life than either could have found alone."" Surely this is a understanding devoutly to be wished. And striven for.