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Faith: Redirected Misery

Faith becomes an important motivator and ironically acts as a misleading virtue for the main characters and the plot of the story in the selected stories. The novels present faith not in its altruistic and dogmatic sense but a reliance of the character upon him or herself to overcome personal problems and to direct purpose to a more higher sense of understanding.

Religion does not present itself as a prior and significant source of faith (e. g. God, religious morality, etc. ), but rather formed and acquired through social conventions and relationships. As such, the entirety of the novels stresses on the importance of existence before the external. As observed from the narration of the works, faith proves to be vital in times of extreme hardship or opposition, either caused by the environment in which the characters are situated in or caused by their own tendencies to accumulate problems unto themselves.

Main characters such as Mersault, Rastignac, Michel, Lantier, and Duras represent their faith through the progression of their own personal struggle and purpose as they achieve their separate ends. Mersault, Rastignac, and Lantier are existentialist characters; they refine their existence through experience. However, the lives they lead in the story may be considered as socially absurd or unimportant; all of them experience varying levels of poverty and place themselves on the lowest classification in the social ladder.

Thus, poverty in this sense is not only limited in its material sense but also in its intellectual and emotional tenet in context with social covenants. Rastignac and Lantier may be comprehensively considered to be the closest among the other characters in terms of faith and existence. Both characters are literally presented under the context of poverty – Rastignac as a struggling law student who aspires to place himself atop the Parisian upper-class and Lantier the coal miner who sparks a revolution against social classification and bias.

Their faith is represented under extreme conditions of living; both struggle to survive in a society that places importance on wealth as a ‘mover’ in life. Rastignac places his faith on the cold and dismal environment he lives in as well as the other people he interacts with everyday. They provide him with different passive viewpoints concerning capitalism and class struggle which is eventually transformed into an active sense. The rebellion symbolizes the pent-up emotions of the other characters as well as Lantier’s.

Germinal uses faith in a paradox; the literary ‘darkness’ of the story becomes the source of life and germination for the characters. In contrast, Rastignac places faith on his attempt to bridge social classification through any means possible. He relies on his purpose which consequently acts as his faith. He firmly believes that his ascension in society will enable him to lead a better life; thus, blinding him of any moral implications in his actions.

Faith in this sense alludes to an unconscious destruction of the self as Rastignac’s desire becomes greed in the end and consequently deludes his own ideals. The end justifies the means. On the other hand, Michel, Mersault and Duras are separate cases. Faith in the case of Mersault is in the finality of life. His detachment provides him to reject all but the inevitability of death that greatly deepens his understanding of his world – faith in this sense becomes unimportant since there is only one absolute truth in Mersault’s world.

Michel, on the other hand, relates faith to freedom as his newfound emotional and sexual pursuit overwhelms his past experiences. His rediscovery of the self and the notion of ‘new’ also provides a rediscovery of faith unto himself. However, faith in the context of The Lover is greatly obscured by the sensations; faith exists between the two lovers as a consummation of all social ills and taboos and a representation of the forbidden.

Their faith however is obscured by extreme emotions and sensations which are only purified after a long detachment from the other. This detachment represents reason in opposition with the irrational nature of their relationship. Thus faith, as observed from the themes of the stories is directed toward the individual as a motivator of purpose; an undying sense of conviction that allows them to act upon their development as characters, or otherwise corrupts their represented idealism.

Reference List 1. Balzac HD. Pere Goriot. Trans Ellen Marriage. United States: Dover Publications: 2004. 2. Duras, M. The Lover. Trans. Barbara Bay. New York, USA: Pantheon Books: 1997. 3. Camus A. The Stranger. Trans Matthew Ward. United States: Vintage International: 1989. 4. Gide A. The Immoralist. Trans Richard Howard. United States: Vintage International: 1996. 5. Zola E. Germinal. Trans Stanley and Eleanor Hochman. Dover Thrift Publications. 2001.

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