Faith in Literature

American Literature, Editors

“Why do authors interpret faith into their writings”? Personal truths and beliefs are what makes you who you are, it is a part of your identity. What you believe is true will eventually and unsurprisingly end up in your piece of art; whether it is a drawing, painting, sculpture, form of dance and in this case-writing. Faith is having the hope or assurance in a specific system of religious belief, in which faith may associate to confidence base on a degree of warranty. The word “faith” is a Greek word that can also mean “trust”, “belief”, and “faithfulness”. Authors such as Alexander Pope, Fredrick Douglass, and William Blake find different ways to interpret their personal views on faith and how it affects not just their lives but their ideologies as well. Each author has their own way of not only dealing with faith but putting it down on paper as well. Faith can be interpreted in many different ways by many different religions. It all circles around the same doctrine and credence.

               Alexander Pope was an 18th century English poet who was best known for his heroic couplet in his poems. Pope mostly relied on the traditions of the Roman and Greek philosophy during his writing. He was the richest poet of all during his time and his main purpose was to “vindicate the ways of God to man”. Essay on Man is a poem that is not solely Christian, nevertheless it makes a theory that man has stumbled and has to seek his own redemption. He writes out his idea on his own perspective of the universe; he states no matter how flawed or problematic the world may be- it functions according to the natural law. He considers Essay on Man to be an assenting poem of faith- discussing how God exist, is benevolent, and is a structured place. He believes that man can perceive a small a portion of this order. In the first epistle in the poem in Section III (77-112) he states that demonstrates that a “man’s happiness depends on both his illiteracy future events and his faith for the future”. It is a philosophical poem of hope and faith, with heroic couplets. It instills how life can sometimes be confusing and chaotic to man, especially when he is in the middle of it. It is stated that man is able to experience any truth, which results in relying on hope, and then eventually leads to faith. A man must be aware of his existence in the world and what the world brings- which is fame, riches, and power. It is his responsibility to endeavor to be good regardless of how difficult the situation may be. I believe this is the message that Pope is trying to get the reader to come across when discussing faith.

            Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was written by abolitionist leader, social reformer, orator, and writer Frederick Douglass. The book is written about the life of Douglass; how he became a run-away slave, an abolitionist leader, achieving note for his oratory and insightful anti-slavery writings. He believed in compromise and making agreements across philosophical and cultural divisions. Faith and Religion is a major part of the novel, Douglass does not stray around from stating his devotion to Christianity and does not forget to differentiate his faith from slaveholders. “From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace, and in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom” (Douglass, p.30). In this passage he feels as if God has provided for him, and that He has a special purpose for him. Douglass believes the events that has happened in his life were not random and they happened for a reason. He states that he had a premonition that it was not his destiny to remain a captive in the South, and the actions of his life supported those beliefs. The context describes the events of his lifetime and is said to be one of the most dominant pieces of literature to spark the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century. As a Christian and abolitionist leader his faith has been defined as “radical”. He writes that his friends were really faithful Christians and has harsh criticism towards the owner’s that punished slaves. Douglass wants us to believe that knowledge is the path to freedom and ignorance was the tool of slavery. He wrote “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man”.  Douglass’s described his faith as Christian ideology and the ruthless and cruel actions taken by Christian slave owners. He states that someone cannot be a slave owner and a Christian. Douglass’s faith lies within how a man should treat man. Anyone can themselves a Christian or a “man of God”, but it who the person truly is on the inside is what makes you a follower of Christ. Douglass instilled this in his narrative.  His letters, speeches, and published works revealed to be not just a doubter, but a believer of Christian faith that has experienced religious skepticism throughout life.

            Lastly, an English poet, engraver, visionary, and author of exquisite lyrics in Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794), William Blake was the most original and earliest Romantic poet during the Romanticism literary movement during the 21st century. He was mostly held for his originality and soulfulness for the spiritual and philosophical principles in his workings. He created diverse and symbolically rich pieces of poems that embraced the thoughts as “human existence itself” or “the figure of God”. It expresses both innocence and experience with the practice of literary techniques of light versus dark imagery. It is detailed but not established that he was a religious seeker, but not a joiner. In the poem we can actually feel the tender of sympathy that Blake has for the children. In both poems the child chimneysweeps are so much younger they cannot pronounce the “s” in sweeps. In the first poem seems positive and hopeful, it may be because the children are persuaded to be encouraged, due to their innocence. The following poem (Experience) is much shadier and we get the sense that Blake’s rage with people that are religious who go to church, and “worship” and “pray” while innocent children suffer and die. “”Where are thy father and mother? Say! “They are both gone up to the church to pray” ( Blake, Innocence: Abandonment 3-4) “What would he make of the Christians and Jews today, whom go to churches, endlessly read and study the Bible, but do not know better than to allow the children of Gaza to suffer and eventually would lead to their deaths? I do not have any doubts that he would think as small of them as he did of the slave owners who took advantage and abused children during his lifetime. He believed in God, just not the church itself. He would naturally urge his readers to use their imagination, when doing so; they become closer to God. A majority of his poems carry Biblical connotations within them. Blake’s beliefs and faith about God, Christ, the Angels, Christianity, saints, and the Bible were much like his poems- utterly unique. 

Each of these authors have something in common when interpreting their own personal faiths and beliefs in there writings. A majority of their purposes and principles circle around religious figures. Writing about elements that have to do with faith can bring emotion and power to a story. Faith is usually something that someone personally believes in and using that will help your readers better understand what perspective you are coming from. Our beliefs are what makes us believe in what we think is true. Even if others around us do not believe the same thing.