In Rossetti's "Sister Helen," identify the dramatic and Christian elements.
Ashley Kannan | Certified Educator
In many respects, I feel that the dramatic and Christian elements in "Sister Helen" dovetail one another. This can be seen in the ending of the poem:
(O Mother, Mary Mother,Lost, lost, all lost, between Hell and Heaven!)
In the poem's conclusion, there is a dramatic element in that the speaker feels forlorn. The repetition of "being lost" is a part of this. In the world that exists "between Hell and Heaven," there is a forlorn feeling. This dramatic element, heightened in the poem's closing, is accentuated by the Christian notion of calling out to Mary Mother. A child calling out to their mother when they are lost is the epitome of drama. It acquires greater meaning when a Christian calls out to Mother Mary for guidance and help. A clear convergence between dramatic and Christian elements can be seen in the ending to the poem.
The poem's dialogical format between the little brother and Sister Helen represents an element of drama. Within both the questions that the brother poses and the answers that the sister gives, there is an interplay that strikes at the basis of who we are and what we believe. There are dramatic elements between this dialogue for we are immersed in each perspective. On one hand, there is a desire to embrace the little brother's queries as to why there must be suffering. The benevolent hope within us finds this appealing. Yet, at the same time, there is an almost resigned nature to consciousness that Sister Helen puts forth. We might wish to explore what might be or what could be in the brother's sentiments. However, we are tethered to the reality of what is, as voiced through Sister Helen. The exploration of conditional versus existential is another Christian element in the poem. The nature of the divine and how one views a totalizing notion of God is evident in this interplay. Is a Christian God one of mercy and possible pardon from pain (the little brother) or is this suffering a part of divine reality (Sister Helen)? In questioning the nature of the divine, a Christian element and dramatic one again converge. Sister Helen is seen as "horrifying and impressive," a description that embodies both dramatic elements as well as the nature of the divine in Christian theology.