When developing various aspects of good and evil in literature, the role of religion can play a significant importance in the development of the characters as well as the author. The author, shaped by his or her own religious environment and personal beliefs, often chooses to express different characteristic of religious societal influence of the time both in a direct form and through more hidden messages. This paper addresses the influence of religion in two popular literary works, Candide and Crime and Punishment.
The intent of this essay revolves around analysis in demonstrating how the authors use religion to influence both the surrounding circumstances of the characters as well as the characters themselves. Candide – The Satirical Approach to Religion To understand the religious implications hidden throughout Candide, one needs to consider the religious position taken by its author. Voltaire (born Francois-Marie d’Arouet (1694–1778) strongly believed that religion, especially Catholicism, reflected the fanaticism of man and inflected superstition on its members and on society in general.
His belief centered on natural science and the belief that one remains governed by natural laws. With virtually no respect for religion, Voltaire points towards the weaknesses of clergy and Christians in general throughout the book as well as illustrating prejudices of religion towards others outside the faith (Shank, 2010). Candide experiences several forms of ridicule and abuse due to his lack of conviction towards religion. When asked by the orator if he believed “the Pope to be Anti-Christ”, Candide did not deny or agree with the orator and chastised to leave the area.
The wife of the orator also dumps garbage and probably feces on Candide for his remark of doubt to which Voltaire declares, “to what excess does religious zeal carry the ladies” (p. 6). Voltaire further elaborates on how war becomes justified in the name of religion. Guided by “Christian power”, Voltaire revealed treaties between military forces for the mere reason to “help to demolish the commerce of other Christian Governments (p. 27).
Voltaire exposes “Fathers” of the College of the Assumption and their government where the “Fathers possess all, and the people nothing” waging war for the purpose of gaining more possessions (p. 32). Voltaire questions Christianity through his description of El Dorado, the country unknown by the world – a utopian society. The Catholic Church and the foundation of Christianity itself come under questioning as Cacambo asks, “What is the religion of El Dorado? ” with the old man responding, “Can there be two religions? ” He then questions if the citizens of El Dorado worship more than one God.
The response from the old man indicates Voltaire’s disbelief in the Christians view of the Trinity (three persons of God) as the response states that “there are not two, nor three, nor four” and then finishes by indicating that the notion of the Trinity represents foolishness and extraordinary beliefs. In addition, this religious conversation degrades the role and the importance of priest in organized religion when the old man professes that “we are all priest” and pointedly denounces monk’s fanaticism when Candide asks, “What!
Have you no monks who teach, who dispute, who govern, who cabal, and who burn people that are not of their opinion? ” This entire exchange convinces Candide that El Dorado represents the better form of governmental and religious society (“here we are all of one opinion”) than what is represented through the confines of Christianity (p. 44). Voltaire points to a more humane approach to religion by injecting a character signifying true kindness and compassion not based on Christian doctrine. Anabaptist James rescues Candide from the evil of the orator and his wife, providing both care and financial assistance.
Anabaptist of the time represented those citizens not caring arms of any kind and not offering resistance to those causing harm to others. Contrary to Christian practice, Anabaptist accepted believers into its faith based on adult maturity and one’s power of reason instead of the single act of infant baptism. With great similarity to the Good Samaritan parable told in the Bible, Candide professes the greater value of Anabaptist James compared to those professing Christianity by stating, “I am more touched by your extreme generosity that with the inhumanity” of the orator and his wife.
With further significance, Anabaptist James meets his senseless death at sea further illustrating that true good often fails against the overpowering evil in our society. Crime and Punishment – Recreating Character through Religion As in the case of Voltaire, the social climate and transitional period surrounding the author of Crime and Punishment shaped many religious ideas and references throughout the novel. Although heavily influenced by his mother’s Catholic belief during his childhood, Fyodor Dostoevsky wrestles with his belief in the existence of God.
Placed in a prison term in Siberia for writing against the Orthodox Church, he becomes reunited with his belief in Christ through reading the only available book during his incarceration – the Bible. Dostoevsky’s writings reflect this constant internal and external battle between the good of following God and man’s constant exposure to evil. As expected, Crime and Punishment contains many direct and indirect references to the role of religion in driving the moral content and reshaping its characters.
Religion permeates the overall story at many levels with heavy Christian references that acknowledge various religious beliefs. As a hopeless drunkard, Marmeladov chastises himself for his lack of responsibility and ask that he should be crucified on the cross but spared by God, “ Crucify, oh judge, crucify, but when you have crucified, take pity” (p. 24). Rodya falls on his knees on the way to his confession to the police and he even professes to believe in God during his discussions with Porfiry Petrovich.
The cross itself becomes a symbol of hope for both Sonya and Rodya, signifying both the memory of one of his victims and a component of his long-term recovery. However, one particular biblical reference implanted by Dostoevsky forms both a religious reference and a possible explanation of the relationship between Rodya and Sonia. During their first meeting in Sonia’s room, Rodya questions Sonia in an attempt to determine what force enables her to survive her many burdens in life.
When pushed by Rodya for an explanation, she simply professes that her strength comes from her belief in God, “He does everything”. Then, in almost a fluke, Rodya discovers a copy of the New Testament and request, almost forces Sonia to read a particular passage about the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This biblical story symbolizes the current predicament and the future path of these two characters. Both Rodya and Sonia find themselves trapped in a sin; one derived from necessity to serve others, one through an inflated ego coupled with Nihilist superiority.
In a societal sense, they symbolized Lazarus, being dead to the world around them with a feeling that those around them and God had abandoned them. Sonya found
Kiskaddon, E. Dostoyevsky and the Problem of God. Online: http://community. middlebury. edu/~beyer/courses/previous/ru351/studentpapers/God. shtml Shank, J. B. , “Voltaire”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed. ), URL = http://plato. stanford. edu/archives/sum2010/entries/voltaire/;. Voltaire. Candide. Dover Thrift Edition, 1991. Dover Publication, New York.