Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The doctrine of Catholicism permeates Mauriac’s novel. The religious and moral beliefs of the rural Bordeaux community portrayed are those taught by the Catholic faith. The character of Brigitte Pian elucidates the constant struggle between free will and obedience to God’s will. Brigitte in her self-righteousness fails to realize that she has mistaken her will for God’s will. She does not consider that God may be directing the choices made by the other characters even though she would have them make other choices. This is especially true in the case of Monsieur Puybaraud and Octavia. Any male-female love relationship alerts her immediately to suspect the “Evil One” is at work. For her, sexual passion is synonymous with sin or at the very least with temptation away from the higher calling of God and his church. In the final episodes of the novel, Mauriac presents the doctrine of grace. Brigitte stops seeing herself as a superior Christian with the mission of enforcing God’s will on earth. She begins to turn her thoughts inward and to question her acts. She is overwhelmed with guilt for the deaths of Octave and Octavia and the misery she has caused others. She is no longer the Pharisee who thanks God that she is not like the others, but now she comes to God seeking forgiveness and grace. Having accepted herself as a sinner and, with the help of Monsieur Calou, having confessed her sins and found the forgiveness necessary for her to be at peace, she comes to a true understanding of Christian love.