A Raisin in the Sun
In Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun”, the matriarch Lena Younger (Mama) is an exceptionally strong character and the emotional adhesive of the family. Mama’s moral integrity allows her to persevere in the face of adversity, ultimately leading her family through numerous difficult trials and bringing them to love and support each other.
Mama’s is portrayed to be a devout believer in God, and her strong, spiritual background manifests itself in her perseverance and determination to survive. Mama’s strength and faith is evident when she is first presented in the play, the stage directions indicate that “being a woman who has adjusted to many things in life and overcome many more, her face is full of strength” and that “she has, we can see, … faith”. Her spirituality is further reinforced throughout the play, with comments like “It’s too early in the morning to be talking about money. It ain’t Christian,” and “God knows…,”
Guided by her Christian faith, it acts as a moral compass and Mama exhibits numerous Christian values. We see her kindness towards Ruth when she learns of her pregnancy, her hope in Walter Lee when entrusting him with the money, her patience with Beneatha and overall protecting of the family.
Mama’s moral integrity also influence and guides her family. For example, despite learning that Walter has lost the 6500$, she still has hope in him. Through her hope in him, Walter ultimately makes a decision which benefits the whole family rather than himself.
Mama’s strength is also exhibited through her endurance of many trials, such as the loss of the money. She also endures through migration from the South and then living in the tenement, the loss of her baby and the death of her husband. Through all of this, she never loses faith in God, in fact she turns to God to strengthen her in the face of adversity. When she learns that Walter Lee has lost the money, she turns to God, “Oh, God…She looks up to Him. Look down here – and show me the strength”
Throughout the play, Mama’s moral values place her as a literary foil to her children Walter and Beneatha because, while they struggle with their human dignity, Lena Younger emanates this quality. Mama is sure in her faith in God and she uses her faith knowledge to teach her children. Because of this, A Raisin in the Sun sets an enduring example of how all people should support, get along with, and love each other.
To Kill a Mockingbird
The theme of religion in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is an extremely important one, as it is a backdrop for everything that takes place. The community of Maycomb County all believe themselves to be devout, wholesome people; we discover that their actions and views are far from the Christian values they believe themselves to have. Despite the fact that every member of Maycomb’s community are thought to take religion seriously, only the Black community do so and truly practise it.
Religion is crucial to the coloured people of Maycomb as it is the only way for them to maintain hope while fighting the prejudice and racism that plagued the county. Attending their church (First Purchase Church) every Sunday gives them a sense of purpose and community, as it is the only social activity in which they can engage in. The Black community comes together through their faith, strive to be their best selves and by doing so support each other (ex: members of the First Purchase church raising money to help Tom Robinson’s family).
When Calpurnia brings Jem and Scout to her church, the majority of Blacks are happy to see them, but Lula’s character objects, stating that “You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here- they got their church, we got our in. It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?”, thus reinforcing the blatant prejudice and racism instilled in Maycomb County. Calpurnia’s response, “It’s the same God, ain’t it?” shows that she doesn’t believe that differences in skin color matter. Moreover, she is saying that Blacks and Whites worship the same God, a God who teaches to “love your neighbour as you love yourself” and views everyone as equals, thus calling out the hypocrisy saturating the community.
Furthermore, the churchgoers then drive of Lula and welcome the children with open arms and warm smiles. This reaction shows how strong their sense of community is and how by truly worshipping God and living in His image, racism can be overcome and in its stead strong moral values.
Another example of how religion influences life in Maycomb is when Atticus explains to Scout why he chose to defend Tom Robinson, stating that “This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience—Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.” Hence he puts his ethical views in terms of religion, again referring to how one should act according to Christian moral principles. Atticus also vigorously invokes God’s name throughout the trial, his final statement being “In the name of God, do your duty.” He thus appeals to the Jury’s religious and moral values and urges them to truly do what is right rather than prolong the hypocrisy and prejudice.
Life of Pi
Religion is a major theme in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, as it is the basis of the Piscine Patel’s character. Religion plays a great positive role throughout Pi Patel’s life: it shapes his personality as a young man, it helps him survive at sea, and it gives him the strength to move on and become a successful adult.
During his childhood, Pi is introduced to three religions (Hinduism, Christianity and Islam) and practises them simultaneously. Despite this being frowned upon, the book argues the common spirit behind the three religions. His study of said religions benefits him in many ways especially facing difficult situations throughout his life.
The most relevant fact is how his faith helped him survive 227 days on a lifeboat. Firstly, Pi’s faith gives him a purpose to survive and he maintains all of his religious beliefs while on the lifeboat through regular prayer which becomes his focus during his journey. He establishes routine of praying every sunrise, midmorning, sunset and night which keeps him busy and helps to sustain him, stating that it was the “key to his survival”. His prayers also connected him with God and the long hours spent conversing with a higher power provided him with a sense of companionship and relief to his isolation. When faced with obstacles, Pi turns to God (see extracts).
Furthermore, Pi’s study of the religions allowed him to recognise religious symbols hence giving him hope and the will to survive. For example, his Christianity enabled him to recognise Orange Juice the orangutan floating towards the lifeboat as the Virgin Mary, just as the orangutan killed resembled Jesus on the cross. This allusion helps him find comfort in the fact that even Jesus Christ suffered greatly and that his soul would ultimately be saved.
His belief in Hinduism allowed him to recognise the color orange as the Hindu color of survival, on things such as the life jackets and lifeboat. It also makes him remember the Hindu story about a sage named Markandeya and Vishnu, stating that “I felt like the sage Markandeya, who fell out of Vishnu’s mouth while Vishnu was sleeping and so beheld the entire universe, everything that there is”. This brought him perspective and he realized how meaningless his suffering was.
So we see through the use of religious symbolism and allusion how it helps Pi maintain hope and his will to live, connects him and allows him to relate to various religious figures and brings him perspective to see the bigger picture.