Prior to writing about Christy, Marshall underwent a spiritual crisis following the death of her first husband. She was ill for two years with tuberculosis. She sought guidance from ministers and prayer, asking questions, much as Christy does, to establish a personal connection by talking to God. Marshall developed a great joy and enthusiasm for God, writing Christy to share her deep love for and closeness to Jesus Christ, to reinforce her faith, and to help others achieve knowledge of God.
Marshall’s evangelical nature resulted in her incorporating in Christy the message that every individual, regardless of denominational or religious affiliation, can develop a personal relationship with God through prayer and trust him as a guide, seeking a deeper understanding through faith, as Christy does. Marshall hoped to help people see Jesus Christ as an approachable and genuine source of comfort and inspiration, not simply as an abstract idea.
Through her evaluation of her beliefs, Christy realizes that God gives people strength when their faith is tested and weaknesses threaten to divert them from their path. She discovers that God has a plan for each person, a design for each individual’s purpose and duties in life. Despite despair, doubts, and hardships, good prevails over evil. God answers prayers in ways most suitable for each individual, although his response may not seem appropriate initially.
Christy also finds that people’s spirituality is reflected more in how they live and how they treat others than in whether they attend church. Comparing churches, Christy notes her home church did not inspire her to the degree that mountain services and work do. Christy’s actions emphasize that God values the richness of people’s spirits, not their material wealth. Christy unselfishly tends to her neighbors, regardless of their wealth or poverty, sophistication or lack of education, discovering that those who give and share are blessed. She welcomes God’s instructions on how she can best serve her community, accepting responsibilities and being accountable to both God and her fellow human beings.
Finally, Christy learns that unconditional love is a gift from God, whether it is her altruistic affection for others or the romantic love that develops between her and Dr. MacNeill, with its potential for companionship, family, and service.
The themes in Christy concern themselves not only with these social issues but with matters of personal religious growth and maturity in the lives of the characters. One of the themes of the novel is the need for people to come to terms with the presence and meaning of death in human life. The ability to accept death as a natural part of life and glimpse its meaning in God's plan is seen as a reflection of the level of an individual's spiritual maturity. Different characters in the novel attain various levels of awareness of what the inevitable event of death can mean in the life of a Christian. For instance, to Fairlight Spencer, a woman burdened by fears and superstition, death represents complete annihilation symbolized by a terrifying shadow. The young minister David Grantland acknowledges the Christian belief in immortality but is hard-pressed to defend his beliefs with vigor and enthusiasm. It is the oldest woman in the cove, Aunt Polly Teague, who questions the young minister on this subject, who ultimately experiences a vision of eternal life which is far more convincing than the minister's words. At the end of the novel, Christy herself has a mystical experience which confirms for her a belief that there is an afterlife.
The characters in the book find their religious beliefs shaken many times. One factor that assails their faith is the resistance of many of the mountain people to the remedies modern civilization offers. Teacher Christy, Doctor MacNeil and the Reverend Grantland cannot understand why their attempts to eradicate suffering among the mountain folk are ignored or ridiculed. Another...
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