Religious themes in selected twentieth century Newfoundland fiction

Ryan, Virginia (1993) Religious themes in selected twentieth century Newfoundland fiction. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This thesis examines themes reflecting the reign, the decline, and the aftermath of Christian faith as manifested in selected twentieth century Newfoundland fiction. It concentrates first on fictional depictions of life in pre-Confederation Newfoundland, and then on fictional depictions of Newfoundland since 1949, with Percy Janes' Requiem for a Faith, because of its multi-generational scope, serving as a bridge between the two. What is revealed through this approach is a thematic continuity in the fiction suggestive of a perennial preoccupation, on the part of Newfoundland authors, with both the necessity and the damaging effects of religious belief in Newfoundland life. -- The study explores the tendency of certain authors, particularly those writing about early twentieth century Newfoundland, to link the harshness of the outport environment with a correspondingly harsh interpretation of Christian doctrine. It reveals, however, that belief in a merciless and vindictive deity is not restricted to outport people nor the pre-Confederate era; fiction depicting post-Confederation and urban Newfoundland continues to feature characters who either sustain and practise a faith devoid of love and charity or suffer because they are subjected by others to the emotionally crippling effects of such a faith. -- The thesis examines, as well, the phenomenon of the progressive decline of Christian faith in twentieth century Newfoundland as presented in its fiction. This decline is shown by Newfoundland authors to stem from a number of causes, among them a rebellion against religion's excessive harshness, a perception that doctrinal form is being practised without attention to its content, the ever-encroaching influence of North American society on Newfoundland culture, and a dawning sense that the maintenance of religious faith is incompatible with the mindset of contemporary times. -- The fiction also reveals that characters who relinquish traditional forms of faith tend either to replace them with alternative belief systems or to meet with psychic vertigo, because of what seems to be an inherent human need to believe in an ordered and meaningful universe. Thus, the thesis concludes that twentieth century Newfoundland fiction presents its readers with a paradox. On the one hand, it reveals the hollowness of a Christianity devoid of the observance of Christ's injunction to love God and to love one's neighbours as oneself. On the other hand, it points to the psychic wasteland that ensues when humankind, for whatever reason, turns its back on faith.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7154
Item ID: 7154
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 377-381.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1993
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Canadian fiction--Newfoundland and Labrador--20th century--Themes, motives; Fiction--Newfoundland and Labrador--20th century--Themes, motives; Religion in literature

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