Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 323

Zelazny suggests, both here and in many other stories and novels, that personal enlightenment is the necessary prelude to political or social liberation. Typically his protagonists are confronted with challenges which, successfully met, lead to some kind of enlightenment or spiritual/emotional growth. Those characters who fail the test usually face...

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Zelazny suggests, both here and in many other stories and novels, that personal enlightenment is the necessary prelude to political or social liberation. Typically his protagonists are confronted with challenges which, successfully met, lead to some kind of enlightenment or spiritual/emotional growth. Those characters who fail the test usually face death, sometimes physical but more often spiritual. Connected with this movement towards enlightenment is the notion of immortality. A large number of Zelazny's protagonists enjoy immortality — whether as a supernatural given or as the result of technology. Immortality allows for some interesting plot developments, but for Zelazny it is primarily a metaphor for the human need for growth and fullness of experience. The characters' long lives give them the chance to play a variety of roles, to experience all that life has to offer. And this richness of experience, the knowledge of many lives, becomes the source of enlightenment. Such is the case for Sam.

But enlightenment is not just a private affair. Whatever form it takes in Zelazny's fiction — the attainment of spiritual and psychic wholeness, the awareness of one's shared humanity, or simply the recognition of the responsibility that accompanies power — enlightenment is followed by action in the social sphere. For Sam it is the recognition of how his former crewmates have abused their power that provokes his determination to liberate the people from bondage — a determination that leads him to wage two bloody wars. In Lord of Light, as in many other works by Zelazny, the land is sick and must be restored, often through the destruction of the old order. Often the healing of the land is achieved only at a terrible cost; Sam dies and is brought back to life only by a former enemy. And then to win his final battle he must cause the deaths of many of his former friends and destroy much that is beautiful before his world is free to grow naturally.

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