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Damnation Of Theron Ware Essay, Research Paper

The real issues in the damnation of Theron ware are not issues of religion, but rather cultural issues. Although the book is outwardly a novel about religion, the question becomes not whether god exists, but how we should live. Theron becomes damned in the novel because of what he is. Theron cannot be anymore than what he is, a simple Methodist minister, yet when he is shown another way of life, he wants to enter. The problems that Theron is having in the novel reflect questions that people were having on religious issues at the time. There is at this point, a conflict between traditional beliefs, such as Methodism, and new ideas. Each of the old beliefs and new ideas take form in this novel through on of the characters, and it is through character development, especially Theron?s, that we see the conflict being argued out and solved.

Though Theron is the minister, throughout the book he is shown as wanting something more. Even in the first scene in which we meet him, he is wishing that he had received a better position in the church, perhaps a better appointment in a city, rather than a rural town. It appears to me that the conflict within Theron is a conflict of the old ways verses a modern life. The city symbolizes the new and the free, while the rural town, in which Theron is stuck, symbolizes the traditional beliefs. Just as, for most of the novel, Theron is stuck in the rural town, he is also stuck within his beliefs. Though he wants more, it is impossible. Theron tries to enter another way of life, which is shown to him by Celia, father Forbes, and dr. Ledsmar, but when he attempts to enter this world that they exist in, he is considered a ?bore.? In other words, Theron would appear to be in a no-win situation. Just as Theron is stuck in this no-win situation, it would appear that the Methodist church is stuck in it, as well. It is apparent that some of the younger members of the church would like change, however, they are unable, for various reasons, to affect it. Although culture seems to be moving ahead at full force, the church seems to be stuck in the past. The differences between the catholic and the Methodist church can reveal this. The Catholic Church has organ music, has play, and has drinking, as is seen at the catholic picnic being held at the same time as the Methodist camp. Theron, like society, however, does not want to five up his religion to enter a new life, but instead he wants to incorporate the two. This eventually leads to Theron?s breakdown and near death experience at the end of the novel.

At the opposite pole of Theron stand Dr. Ledsmar and father Forbes. These two men seem to represent a new society, advanced science and religion that reflect the changing and advancing world in which they live. While the Methodist church focuses on non-intellectual issues, morality, externals and appearances, the Catholic Church seems to be focused more in the real world. In father Forbes, we see that it is possible for religion and knowledge to merge, but at the same time are faced with the fact that if unchecked, science could very possibly wipe out religion. Although father Forbes is a priest, he is no longer preaching, and seems to have almost entirely let go of religion, instead pursuing science and learning and fulfilling only a perfunctory role in the church. This seems to reflect the growing change in the role of the church in people?s lives. In a world that is striving to become more equal, the methodist church seems to be very concerned about money. It is mentioned several times that the pews in the methodist church are sold or rented to the highest bidder, and in the church, money is clout, as is eveidenced by the control that the wealthy church members hold in any debate about changing the church. On the other hand, father forbes is a wealthy man, yet within his glamorous church, it would seem that no one is turned away. In fact, father forbes is introduced to us while visiting a very poor man on his deathbed. This fact is even more important when we consider that the catholic church has a reputaion of following rules of hierarchy, while the methodist church, in appying the names ?brother? and ?sister,? imply that everyone is equal.

It is truly this ?new society? that is represented by Dr. Ledsmar and Father Forbes that is the downfall and the damnation of theron. Although Celia plays a part in this downfall, it is not his love for her that damns him, it is the society that hse rempresents. Celia is just one more facet of the other world that Theron can?t have. In many ways, celia is an enigma. She lives seemingly without a care, doing what she wishes without fear of harm or repercussion. It is this freedom that draws Theron to her. When he sees her at the deathbead of the irishman, it is as if she is an apparition, or an angel, it is so striking the fact that she does not belong there. Additionally, though she is just a girl, she seems to have rule over the entire household, keeping her own space, schedual, and activities, which others are not allowed to question. It seems that theron admires her for this, and more and more patterns his own actions after her own. He wanders about the town whenever he wants, though he is upsetting his wife and failing to fulfill his duties as the minister. Interestingly, though, it seems that his desire to be as free as celia makes him more indecisive and unable to do what he wants rather than less so. He falls in love with celia as an idea. While most men who cheat onthier wives would say that they want their wife to be more like the mistress, it is theron that wants to be like celia. He has no interest in alice becoming more like celia. He does not want the lve, but he wants the freedom, the way of life that celia is able to command. It is when he is refused this way of life, when he is in new york, that sends him into the downward spiral that ends with him at the door of the soulsby?s. celia says goodbye to theron, but it it the combination of the rejection by celia, father Forbes, and dr. ledsmar that kills theron?s dreams.

Although both alice and celia play roles in influencing the character of others in the novel, they also have distinct roles that are important to the changing society as well. celia is the virgin mother. It is theron?s simplistic thought that brings out this fact most clearly to us. We see him compare her likeness to the virgin mary in a stained glass window in the catholic church, and later, at the catholic picnic, we see him lay his head on celia?s skirt, as if she is his mother. As well, she performs the motherly duties in taking care of first theron, and then her brother michael, when they are ill. However, to theron it might be consdiered blasphemous to consider celia as the virgin mary. After all, she is not the image of purity that the traditional virgin mother is supposed to portray. As the times change, though, celia is seen as the ideal, the free woman rather than the pure virgin. In celia?s music room, these two images are merged perfectly, with the paintings of the virgin mother combined with the nude sculptures. As well, celia seems to be worsipped in the same manner as the virgin throughout the whole town. Although everyone in the twon knows who she is and admires her, there is not a single person in the twon, save, perhaps, Father Forbes and her brother Michael, that would consider her a firend. This is what Theron wants more than her love, he wants her approval as a friend. Nonetheless, celia and theron are of different worlds, and he cannot be her friend.

By trying so hard to be like celia, theron is ignoring alice. Just as theron sees celia as the epitomy of woman, theron does not seem to see his wife as a woman at all. He lives with her, and sleeps in the same bed with her, jet, as we see in a dialouge with celia, seems to believe that love is the penultamate result of marriage, not the other way around. Alice may be the simplest character in the book, yet she is also the only character that seems to believe in god. The entire book centers around religion, but the characters get so tied up in how they should live their lives that they forget religion and god altogether. Though alice has a husband that doesn?t tell her where he goes or when he will be back, she still love him, waits for him, and goes about thinking that what he says is right. It is a simle goodness in her that allows her to do this. Perhaps her supple nature is what allows her to be married to theron at all. It is interesting to me that it seems that all theron wants is to be accepted, yet he turns from his wife, who worships the ground that he walks on, and turns to celia for love. It is alice?s simpleness that allows her to believe in god, throughout the changing times. It is theis same simpleness that allows her to believe in her husband. Just as theron loves to listen to Father Forbes speak, alice says the same thing about her husband. She hangs on his every word, deeming him to be very intelegent. Theron and alice seem to represent the two opposite sides of the methodist church. Alice believes in the church, believes in god, and believes in people in general. As well, she is not concerned with money or with trends, which is what allows her to belong to the church and yet not become corrupted. On the other hand, theron has forgotten about god, and is concerned with the physical church. He worries about the money, he worries about the trends, and he worries about what others think of him. Essencially, it is alice?s steadfastness that allows her to stay afloat in society, and it is theron?s rejection of his wife, and also god, that forces him to sink.

Alice seems to have the best position in the novel. Although alice is living in a simple world, alice does not really have any problems. She believes wholeheartedly in her church and in her god. Theron, on the other hand, cannot. By discovering the world of new ideas that exists, he can no longer be satisfied with the methodist church. Yet, it is because he is a member of the church that he can not become a member of this new world. In effect, it is seattle that saves theron?s life. No one can live in the conflict of two worlds, as theron was trying to do. Seattle offered an oportunity to escape. Seattle, and the west, represent freedom, and the chance to start over. By moving to the west, theron and alice were not only starting a new life, but a new marriage as well. yet theron does not see the second chance he is getting in the west. Instead, he thinks of becoming a congressman, where he will have the chance to return to the east coast, to washington. It is alice the recognizes the finality of the move. It is she who says that she will have to amuse herself if seattle if theron comes back east, full knowing that he cannot stay there. Despite the fact that seattle represents a place of no return, it represents the chance for theron to remain alive and sane. And perhaps alice will be able to wear roses in her bonnet there, as well.


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