277 The (Other) Religious Motive for Winkfield’s Journey

Colton Gaudette

“Among other things I considered that it was in every respect better than being on the ground above, exposed to the air and other accidents; that here, at least, there was a safe retreat; that my distress was neither owing to my own sin or folly; and that, above all, no place is excluded from the presence of God; that his providential eye was still watching over me, and that I was under his protection.”

PG. 98

This passage, but mainly that one line I bolded, stood out to me while reading this text. To Winkfield, everywhere you go or act, God is always there to observe. This is an aspect of Christianity I’m sure most followers believe in, as well as in many other religions. The idea that your patron deity(s) will follow you as long as you believe in them is a very powerful feeling that can both inspire and threaten.

But the main reason that line stood to me, while understanding this part of religion, was due to the context of her story and her journey with the Natives of this land. This was right before she spoke to them as the deity of their people, so she was already on track to persuade/manipulate them (depending on how you read her intentions). She was already determined to convert them into following the “true God.”

Another passage that adds more context to her belief is this one from earlier in the story:

“Certainly he who would divide the belief of a particular providence from religion, destroys that which he should retain. He takes from man that hope which only can support him under the vicissitudes and cares of this life.”

PG. 92

I believe this also gives more context to her motivation to do her converting. To her, the deity the Natives are worshipping are, at best, just one piece of the puzzle. At worst, they will gain “no understanding” from them (the conversation in page 103 shows this). Therefore, their lives will have no true guidance for their struggles. Winkfield is convinced her God is the only one who can fully guide them.

There are more underlying motives to her actions in the pages we read this week, as I’m sure others will describe in their blogs. But this one is more subtle and interesting to me, so that’s why I decided to talk about this very specific part of it. It shows a side of religion and religious people that I don’t think we talk about often. The more altruistic/vindictive natures of the most devoted followers are often shown off, but overlooked ones like this bring light to the internal logic of these people. Morals are not the only part of religion. There is a logical side of it too. Knowledge and understanding is a whole other motive for following a religion, and it should be brought up more. Even if some people use it in a less-than altruistic way.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Colton Gaudette is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book