191 The Sun and The God

Ryan French

1200px-StJohnsAshfield_StainedGlass_GoodShepherd_Face.jpg
St. John’s Ashfield Stained Glass” by Alfred Handel is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

“But at length, a more comfortable view of my condition again presented itself to my mind, and I was consoled: for I again reflected on the great improbability that there was of my finding such a resource in my captivity, as the hermit’s book, and how thankful I ought to be. At this instant, I experienced such an inward persuasion in my mind, that I should escape from this island, that every uneasy thought fled, and left my mind a calm, scarcely to be expressed. I therefore arose, and went cheerfully about my little concerns; but not without having first thanked that God who had given me this consultation.”

Taking religion and spirituality into consideration when analyzing this passage reveals the powers that are pulling Eliza in different directions.

In the passage, we see that Eliza wishes to escape from the island that she has been stranded on. She finds consultation and guidance in the hermit’s book that has been left behind. This text shows her how to live off the land and survive. She also sees it as a crucial aid for her future, as the nourishment from the generous landscape will give her time to formulate a plan of escape.

What’s interesting, however, is that she thanks “God” for leaving this book behind. She does not thank the hermit, or her own good fortune; she attributes the resource to her Christian beliefs.

Th earthly resources bestowed upon her through the guidance of the book, however, seem more aligned with the other God. The god of the indigenous people. The “Sun.”

There are are other points in the novel where the “Sun” directly helps Eliza, like a benevolent force guiding her way. For example, Eliza writes that the hot sun dries her clothes after she is stranded (65). When she discovers the “apartment”, the sun shines brightly through its stones, illuminating the space (66). She also refers to the sun as scorching, but its scorching rays are the cause of the great bounties she harvests for her survival (76).

Eliza praises God rather than the Sun, but the Sun is what seems to be helping her in her time of need. This illuminates the a significant preference in the two beliefs systems at play. The European belief system favors an indirect, illusionary power that dictates morality. The native belief system, however, favors tangible power, like the power of the sun to grow the land.

Eliza seems to prefer the European power, following suit with the culture of her father. But let’s not forget this important detail – Eliza’s father drifted back and forth from Europe to America after the death of his wife, looking to fill the hole that his “native” wife left behind.

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