Only Begotten Daughter Essay - Critical Essays

James Morrow


Morrow regards satire as “a deadly serious business,” used “to get the reader’s attention.” His humor provides a thin layer between the reader and troubling questions. For example, his character Julie wonders what sort of deity she is: “A deity of love, or of wrath? Love was wonderful, but with wrath you could do special effects.” Morrow uses Only Begotten Daughter to suggest that what many believers seek in religion is the “special effects.” He dramatizes the dichotomy between the rational and the irrational. Divine or not, Julie believes in the uncertainty of life and the wonder of science. However, when she performs a miracle, her followers create a religion based upon her advice columns. Her foe, Billy Milk, believes in the Second Coming, resurrections, and burning bushes. He sacrifices an eye to persuade God to heal his blind son. Morrow regards this fascination with miracles and the need for “special effects” as irrational. The challenge is to view the world rationally, appreciating the world for the wonders that it holds, without relying on mysticism.

Existential pain pervades the novel, and each character struggles with the pain of existing as a thinking being in an unpredictable world. Julie creates a temple of pain, and fills it with photos of human suffering. She cannot understand why her Mother does not intervene. She asks Jesus, “Put me in charge of the universe, and my first act will be to arrest my mother...

(The entire section is 403 words.)