In the novels, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and The Weight of This World by David Joy, have many characters who express their aspect of religion in certain circumstances. They are faced with the essential harshness of reality in the sense that the actions they take have literal consequences rather than spiritual. Many have their own interpretations of God as well as how he works. The idea of religious morality displayed in God’s power is seen as nonexistent, which alters the justification of the characters’ actions and behavior.
As characters seek faith, they justify their unanswered prayers with their sinful acts. Addie believes that because of her affair with Whitefield, she owes Anse more children. She states, “I gave Anse Dewey Dell to negative Jewel. Then I gave him Vardaman to replace the child I had robbed him of ” (Faulkner 176). Furthermore, indicating that they were her final payments in life that were owed and she would be free to die. Addie never seeks the faith of God to keep her from dying. She tries to assume what is right and wrong in her own understanding rather than leaving these decisions to God. Similarly, Aiden emphasizes that “killing Samuel Mathis would prick a pinhole in the darkness” (Joy 260). Aiden thinks that his sense of justification will shed light on the world, and ending Samuel’s life will defend the rape of April.
Also, he tries to shed light on the darkness that he has essentially fallen in. Furthermore, this feeling of darkness can’t be filled by faith but by utter evilness and violence. Thad is another character who even seeks faith in his childhood church as Faulkner concludes, “At the very least he’d tried, and maybe trying was enough for forgiveness” (Joy 229). Again, there is a parallel between Thad and Addie since they justify death as the ultimatum for their sins. He finally realizes that God has no power to get him out of the situation that he has caused, which is because of his actions throughout his life.
In addition to their sinful acts, many characters blame their inability to do good as their own fate, conclusively believing that there is no God. For example, “…people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too” (Faulkner 176). Addie’s little faith in words exhibits her inability to believe in God. Even her marriage with Anse is built upon the deception of many words which determines her proposition of seeking action. Moreover, expressing her perception of God since he hasn’t made an effort in bettering her life.
Aiden even refers to fate as turkeys making round trips saying, “You can sit right there in that field, and if you’ll wait long enough, right there they’ll come” (Joy 88). Meaning that, no matter how many times one tries to escape, they will wind up in the same position that they started in. Furthermore, proposing the question of what use there is to do good when one can’t escape. This displays the inability to understand God as it is seen that fate runs their life instead.
Thad comes to the conclusion that no Christian figure can alter his outcome as the pastor comments, “This isn’t something you can run from, son. You have to pay what you owe in this old world” (Joy 228). Even after confessing his sins, the pastor knows that Thad’s fate is already set. It is deemed ironic that his confession for forgiveness will set him free because, in a sense, it has freed him spiritually but physically he will be chained forever. Thus, characters reject that their actions can be cleansed by God.
As well as their assumption of God, sinful acts that go unpunished result in the character’s vision of the Lord’s absent power. In Addie’s words, “He was he and I was I; the sin the more utter and terrible since he was the instrument ordained by God who created sin…” (Faulkner 174). For this reason, Addie recognizes that having an affair with a minister is a greater sin because of the supposed holiness that he possesses. Addie seeks violence and sin to fill her void of emptiness rather than seeking salvation. Thus, understanding that her actions are based upon the conclusion that she can fill her needs better than God can.
April perceives the power of God as Joy reports, “She had to look at the man who’d hurt her sitting piously behind the reverend…” (Joy 120) Identically, someone with a high status in the church indulges in sinful acts but remains acquitted. April keeps silent, knowing that no justice would be done because nobody would believe that a figure of God’s work would commit such actions. In addition, it sheds light on so-called Christians and their perception of God’s power because they enact on sin without hesitation.
In Thad’s view, “There was wickedness in this world that swallowed any light that might’ve been, darkness that could be answered only with darkness” (Joy 148-149). As mentioned, light refers to the salvation of God which is overpowered by sin and the cruelty of reality. Seeing sins go unpunished dims the light that still shines. It can also be viewed that they can get away with anything. For example, Doug Dietz taking the innocence of a child and Thad’s perception of ‘towelheads’ who strap explosives onto innocent little girls.
In conclusion, the perception of one’s reality can alter their outlook on religion. In addition, the act of sin blurs the understanding of God as well as influencing the characters’ actions and behavior. Because of this misunderstanding, many characters view God as nonexistent and take matters into their own hands. Faulkner and Joy give their characters the idea that they are their own God and can choose what’s right and wrong. As a result, these authors lead characters to inevitable wickedness and ultimate death.