Study Guide

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Themes

Themes

A key theme of this trilogy centers around the question of health. Not only has Covenant's leprosy destroyed his body, it is also an apt metaphor for the spiritual and moral decay that has eroded his ability to act in the cause of good. He no longer believes that he can make choices, take charge of his life or give it meaning; furthermore, he does not believe that he holds the power to do these things for others. Thus Covenant's forced journeys to the Land serve as much to teach him the value of responsible living as they do to block the inroads made by the evil necromancer, Lord Foul. In addition, Covenant is also forced to learn to accept the fact that others, more weak than he, depend on him for guidance; he must accept the burden of their trust. In the "real world" Covenant may be able to refuse to confront his problems, in the Land he is compelled to find answers — even though he continues to insist that this strange place is only a nightmare, a bad dream that will end if he can just make himself wake up.

The Land becomes the arena in which Covenant learns to overcome the most deadly of sins, despair. In his real world Covenant had lost everything he valued most: his wife, son, and the companionship of neighbors — all because of his disease, something over which he has no control. Thus Covenant is sent, or more correctly is dragged, into the Land where he gradually overcomes his self-pity and where he learns the virtue of self-sacrifice.

This first trilogy also examines the nature of divinity and the meaning of good and evil. Through Thomas Covenant and by means of the conflict in which Covenant plays an integral part, Donaldson explores and explains...

(The entire section is 687 words.)