Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Influence of Redemption In Literature

One of the largest influences of the Gospel on Western culture is the theme of redemption. It pops up in the most unexpected places in literature. Last week I read the poem Lady Clare by Alfred Lord Tennyson. In it, a heiress of high birth discovers she is actually the daughter of the Nurse, Alice, and was exchanged for the true heiress when the true heiress died as a baby. She then dresses in beggar's clothes and goes to tell her fiance (who also happens to be her cousin and now the closest heir to the inheritance) that she is not who everyone thinks she is. At the end of the poem, her cousin says that he will marry her anyway and she "will still be Lady Clare".

The obvious theme in this piece is redemption; that is, the act of being brought back. We can see similar themes nearly everywhere we look. In A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton redeems Charles Darnay by dying in his place, while at the same time being redeemed in the reader's eye by giving up his life. In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia is "redeemed" by Darcy by being getting to marry Wickham, thus, raising herself from apparent doom.

There are two perspectives stories like to follow: the perspective of the redeemer and the perspective of the redeemed. We like to read the perspective of the redeemer because they seem noble. We like to read the perspective of the redeemed because they remind us of ourselves.

It's interesting to note that in nearly all redemption stories there is a Christ-figure. If someone is going to be redeemed, there has to be redeemer. Salvation is perfectly free, but only to us; it cost God incomprehensibly. I believe this influence is a good thing. It urges us to think about the Gospel and God. My mom always said "Every good story has a Christ figure." I think she was right.

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