Friday, September 20, 2019

The Language and Uses of Religion in George Balcombe :: George Balcombe Religious Papers

The Language and Uses of Religion in George Balcombe In his 1836 novel, George Balcombe, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker presents the Southern Elite male discourse on religion. Throughout the novel, the speeches of Balcombe and William reveal that they use language that refers to God, but more often they embrace Enlightenment ideals such as reason and self-reliance. Several passages speak directly to the elite idea of God’s love, God’s intended ways for men and women to love one another, and God’s ordained roles for women and slaves. Many other portions of the text reveal differences between the ways in which elite men, non-elite men, and women talk about God and value religious faith. Evangelical piety posed many challenges to the patriarchal order of early 19th century southern society, so it is no surprise that elite men prioritized attributes other than Christian faith and that religion took on different meanings for people with different levels of status in the social hierarchy. Lindman and Wyatt-Brown describe the assimilation of evangelicalism into the existing social order and the changing definitions of honor between the time of the revolution and the 1830s. Lyerly’s descriptions of the religious experience of Methodist women and slaves provides a context for understanding how the role of religion differed between elite men and other groups. These historians’ works enrich the reader’s understanding of Tucker’s presentation of the white elite male discourse on the role of religion in the antebellum period. Balcombe and William indicate their sense of God’s presence in their lives throughout their dialogues. In their first conversation, Balcombe excuses William’s faux pas by waxing lyrical that men must make mistakes in order to learn virtue, and concludes that â€Å"it is God’s plan of accomplishing his greatest end, and must be the best plan† (v1, 9). While this reference to God’s power seems sincere, other references appear more careless, such as the phrase â€Å"God forbid† (v1, 9), which these characters use throughout the novel. William’s remark that â€Å"My talkative host now gave his tongue a holyday, while his teeth took their turn at work† is an almost whimsical appropriation of religious terminology to describe mundane events. Often in their dialogues, â€Å"God† is interchangeable with â€Å"Providence† - in one place, William speaks of â€Å"God’s providence† (v1,266). They personify P rovidence and attribute to it most circumstances in their life, in phrases such as â€Å"the pleasure that Providence sends me† (v1,17).

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