Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Jerusalem. Leading city of Judaea and its environs, during the tenure of Pontius Pilate as prefect of Judaea in the first century c.e., that is the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth and the activities of Barabbas, in whose stead Jesus was crucified. Jesus is introduced in a brilliance of light, Barabbas in darkness; and darkness follows the crucifixion of Jesus. The contrast of light and darkness is extended as a contrast of positive and negative, with the Mount of Olives, for example, opposed to the valley of Ge-hinnom (Hinnom), the wretched repository of the corpses of vanquished enemies. The Gate of David exists in contrast to the Dung Gate. The topographical polarities are consistent with the moral polarities of Jesus and Barabbas—and with the spiritual polarities of the two: Jesus is the Son of the Father, who causes him to die on the cross; Barabbas (the name means “son of the father”) is shown to have killed his father, Eliahu (Elihu). The site of the crucifixion, the hill of Golgotha, stands in ugly contrast to the pleasant Vale of Kedron (Kidron). The contrast is furthered by the persons of the Fat Woman, Barabbas’s immoral consort, and the Woman with the Harelip (a Mary Magdalene figure). Barabbas rejoins his outlaw companions in the hills outside Jerusalem. Estranged from his cohorts, he leaves Palestine altogether.


*Cyprus. Large island off the coast of Asia Minor in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The account of Barabbas, after a lacuna of uncertainty about his...

(The entire section is 641 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Barnett, Anthony, trans. “Evening Land” by Pär Lagerkvist. East Sussex, England: Allardyce, Barnett, 2001. Poetic complement (1953) to Barabbas and the pentalogy. Repeats themes of darkness.

Gustafson, Alrik. A History of Swedish Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1961. Traces the evolution of Lagerkvist’s prose style to its maturity in Barabbas. Examines the novel in terms of its author’s search for expressive form and his grappling with the problem of evil.

Lagerkvist, Pär. “The Clenched Fist.” In Pär Lagerkvist: Five Early Works, translated by Roy Arthur Swanson. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1988. Lagerkvist states his positions on belief, faith, and Christianity as they will come to be presented in his pentalogy.

Polet, Jeff. “A Blackened Sea: Religion and Crisis in the Work of Pär Lagerkvist.” Renascence 54, no. 1 (Fall, 2001): 47-65. Places Barabbas’s expression of “the ambiguous ’No’ to faith” within the developmental context of the pentalogy and shows Lagerkvist to be suspicious of any claim to having solved the mystery of existence.

Scobbie, Irene. “Contrasting Characters in Barabbas.” Scandinavian Studies 32, no. 4 (November,...

(The entire section is 409 words.)