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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

In combining classical and biblical approaches and themes, Pär Lagerkvist offers a complex interpretation of faith and belief that encourages the reader to question the bases of human and divine love.

The limits of human love are among the themes, as the Sibyl’s rejection of her calling by the oracle leads to her downfall and to her lover’s death. The author leaves open, however, the question of whether the lover’s sacrifice was a necessary price for the divinity of her son, as related to his human form.

The limits to human knowledge contrasted to divine knowledge are related to the mortal/divine theme. While the Sibyl’s visitor constantly must seek answers to his questions, he must also be contented not have the questions answered, as they are out of the scope of human comprehension. In addition, the relationship between hope and despair emerges as a strong theme. The man must retain some hope of God, or the gods, ultimately providing answers and must not fall into the sin of despair. The Sibyl, likewise, must retain some glimmer of positive outlook; her faith seems ultimately to be transmitted through her son, who is later revealed as God’s chosen.

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