Many of D. H. Lawrence’s works reflect his belief that contemporary Christianity was abstract and sterile—an altruistic ideal that ignored human feeling. The Man Who Died was written near the end of Lawrence’s life (he died at the relatively young age of forty-four), after he had experienced an illness that nearly killed him.
Lawrence’s unnamed protagonist is clearly and deliberately Jesus Christ, who in Lawrence’s tale rejects his mission and accepts both his sexuality and the existence of other gods. Although this may be unsettling to some readers, in fact the story does not reject Christ or Christianity. Instead, it addresses themes important to Christian thinkers—such as the Resurrection, the humanity of Jesus, and the message of Jesus—from a nontraditional perspective that provokes fresh thought about the significance of Christ and Christianity.
Lawrence believed that contemporary Christianity ignored a basic tenet of faith, that Christ’s body rose. Therefore, Lawrence presents a very human Jesus after the crucifixion. Focusing on physical sensations—the bandages, the feel of the wheat beneath the man’s wounded feet, and the sexual union with the priestess—Lawrence suggests that it is natural for humans to be of the world; that is how they are truly alive. In this story, Jesus rejects his messianic mission, a mission he now feels was misdirected because it had allowed him to share only part of himself, his...
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