Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy Themes

Gary Schmidt


There are a number of themes interwoven and carefully examined in the course of the narrative of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. Among these are religion, truth, freedom, intolerance, and love.

The author creates an exceptionally harsh portrayal of First Congregational and the people who represent it, accentuating their hypocrisy, racism, and cold-hearted pragmatism as they manipulate the Word of God to promote their own worldly purposes. The author, however, is not against religion per se. Like the Reverend Buckminster, Lizzie Bright’s grandfather is a preacher who frequently refers to the Bible. Unlike his mainland counterpart, Preacher Griffin has captured the essence of what religion is about. This fact is evident when Turner first meets Lizzie’s grandfather, whom he thinks resembles "an Old Testament Prophet." When asked what he knows about the Bible, Turner recites a genealogy, after which the Preacher takes him to the cemetery at Malaga to share with him his own “begats.” Turner’s knowledge of religion at this point is lifeless and mechanical, while the Preacher and Lizzie see religion as more humanistic and find its true manifestation in an attitude of respect and understanding of the earth and of mankind.

One of the author’s key messages is that true religion transcends churches, which are too often institutions influenced by the self-serving interests of men. The elusiveness of this and all truth is illustrated in the Reverend’s sermon about Jericho, in which he emphasizes that the evil there “needed to be rooted out so that God’s good and perfect purposes might be fulfilled.” The people of Phippsburg, of course, interpret this as an affirmation of their efforts to rid themselves of the Negroes on Malaga, but in reality the true corruption that must be eradicated is the hypocrisy and corruption that infects the ranks of First Congregational. The Reverend proclaims the sprit of true religion when he stands up to Mr. Stonecroft in Turner’s defense, demanding:

What would you have me say, Mr. Stonecroft? That my own boy shouldn’t find shelter for someone in need? That my own boy shouldn’t care for the outcast?

The blind conformity that First Congregational espouses does not lead to truth; truth is found through the exercise of charity and a sincere examination of ideas, and by listening to the whispers within...

(The entire section is 995 words.)