Use of Biblical Imagery in Cather’s Sapphira and the Slave Girl

Use of Biblical Imagery in Cather’s Sapphira and the Slave Girl

Length: 480 words (1.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Use of Biblical Imagery in Cather’s Sapphira and the Slave Girl

Throughout "Sapphira and the Slave Girl", Cather uses Biblical imagery to depict critical events. Specifically, Nancy's flight to freedom, and Mary's overcoming a potentially fatal illness. Cather continually uses Biblical imagery when describing Nancy's journey out of slavery and into freedom. For example, Mr. Colbert sees Nancy as going "up out of Egypt to a better land", clearly connecting her with flight of Hebrew slaves out of Egypt in the Bible. Connecting Nancy's escape to the Biblical pilgrimage of Moses to the "promised land" serves to reinforce the underlying righteousness of her actions-- as well as the inherent evil of slavery.

In depicting her actual journey, the reader once again encounters Biblical allusions. This occurs in Cather's description of the black preacher who will protect Nancy on her way to Canada. Cather portrays this man almost as a disciple, his voice being described as "solemn yet comforting" sounding "like the voice of prophecy" (239). Ascribing such a sage-like persona to this man solidifies the righteousness of both Nancy's, and Mrs. Blake's, efforts to defy slavery's bonds.

Mary's "communion" strikes me as another important event whereby Cather uses Biblical imagery. In this particular incident-- which invariably saves Mary's life-- she "walking in her sleep" drinks the bowl of broth intended for Mr. Fairhead (259). Cather depicts Mary as preternatual, being "a white figure" which "drifted"--rather than walked-- "across the indoor duskiness of the room" (259). Mary, seemingly in an altered state, in guided by what one can interpret as instinct, or "divine forces", which lead her to the soup. Similar to the black preacher's voice, Mr. Fairhead sees Mary's actions as "something solemn. . . like a communion service" (259). From a Catholic perspective, the purpose of communion is receiving the "body" and "blood" of Christ, thereby receiving "new life". One can see, in this instance, why Cather would deliberately paint this scene in Biblical terms, because Mary-- wuote literally-- receives a new chance at life from the soup she drinks.

Similar to Nancy's flight from slavery, Mary's drinking of the soup is an instance of an individual defying detrimental societal conventions. While taken as correct, the remedy for Mary and Betty's illness is not only wrong, but fatal. Cather thereby uses Biblical imagery to reinforce the righteousness of Mary's actions, even though they go against what society--specifically medicine-- sees as the "correct" course of treatment.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Use of Biblical Imagery in Cather’s Sapphira and the Slave Girl." 13 Dec 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

"The Garden Lodge" by Willa Cather Essay

- Cather's “The Garden Lodge” is about a woman named Caroline Noble whose husband, Howard, asked her if she would like to demolish their old garden lodge and replace it with a summer house. The conflict in the story is Caroline is not sure if she wants to knock down the old garden lodge because it brings back memories of when opera singer Raymond d'Esquerre, spent a month at their place. The resolution is that Caroline decides to go on with building the summer house and demolishing the garden lodge....   [tags: Willa Cather]

Research Papers
975 words (2.8 pages)

Slave Slaves And The Slave Trade Essay

- Slave Owners and Slave Traders Part in the Slave Trade Slave owners and traders have had an important part in history, but not a lot of people have considered the parts they play and how different they may be. The most obvious similarity between the two is their eyes for profit. The slave business was a very practical and profitable business in the 1600-1800’s. The men that entered this business did it for profit. Despite this similarity, there were a number of things that the two did not share, status being one....   [tags: Slavery, Atlantic slave trade, African slave trade]

Research Papers
1472 words (4.2 pages)

Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop Essay

- Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop Upon reading and reflecting on Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, I have a hard time classifying this piece of literature as a novel. Indeed, Death Comes for the Archbishop seems more like a collection of anecdotal stories than a novel of conventional form. Harmon and Holman's A Handbook to Literature says the term novel, is "used in its broadest sense to designate any extended fictional narrative" (350). While DCA certainly fits this most general of definitions, its unconventional structure -- the seeming lack of a general plot and obvious climax, its continual digressions from Bishop Latour's present to the anecdotal episodes of h...   [tags: Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop]

Research Papers
798 words (2.3 pages)

Willa Cather Explored Essay

- Soon you will understand Willa Cather’s life influences that motivated her to write in the Regionalism and Realism Movements of American literature in the post-Civil War years. Many opinionated critics expressed their thoughts about her successes and failures that influenced others. Cather wrote about her opinions in short stories, such as “A Wagner Matinée”. Determining the subject of her works and making her a unique individual, Cather’s life greatly influenced her writings. Living in America in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Cather possessed many influences in life that impacted her motivation....   [tags: regionalism, realism movements]

Research Papers
987 words (2.8 pages)

Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop: A Narrative Essay

- Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop: A Narrative When one thinks of a novel, a word that usually will come to mind is fiction. In fact, other meanings for the word novel are new and unique. Although an author may use real places, real time, or base their story on real events in part, their outcome is essentially a creation. We, as readers, are in a sense captive to the writer's imagination and must conform to the rules of the worlds they create. If we accept this, then Willa Cather's piece Death Comes for the Archbishop must be seen as a narration, rather than a novel....   [tags: Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop]

Research Papers
754 words (2.2 pages)

Mr. Shimerda's Suicide in Willa Cather's My Antonia Essay

- Mr. Shimerda's Suicide in Willa Cather's My Antonia My Antonia, by Willa Cather, is a novel about Jim Burden and his relationship and experiences growing up with Antonia Shimerda in Nebraska. Throughout the book Jim reflects on his memories of Nebraska and the Shimerda family, often times in a sad and depressing tone. One of the main ways Cather is able to provoke these sad emotions within the reader is through the suicide of Antonia’s father, Mr. Shimerda. His death was unexpected by everyone and it is thought that homesickness is what drove him to take his own life....   [tags: My Antonia Willa Cather Essays]

Research Papers
1212 words (3.5 pages)

Willa Cather Describes Erotics of Place in her Novel, A Lost Lady Essay

- Willa Cather Describes Erotics of Place in her Novel, A Lost Lady To discover an erotics of place in Willa Cather's A Lost Lady, takes little preparation. One begins by simply allowing Sweet Water marsh to seep into one's consciousness through Cather's exquisite prose. Two paragraphs from the middle of the novel beckon us to follow Neil Herbert, now 20 years old, into the marsh that lies on the Forrester property. This passage, rich in pastoral beauty, embraces the heart of the novel-appearing not only at the novel's center point but enfolding ideas central to the novel's theme: An impulse of affection and guardianship drew Niel up the poplar-bordered road in the early light [....   [tags: Willa Cather, A Lost Lady]

Research Papers
2966 words (8.5 pages)

The Relationship between the People and the Land in Willa Cather's O Pioneers

- The Relationship between the People and the Land in Willa Cather's O Pioneers     'For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of the geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning' This quotation cuts straight to the heart of Willa Cather's whole argument throughout O Pioneers!, which is that it is Alexandra Bergson's will to survive and continually adapt which makes her successful -the facts that her neighbours are unwilling to take up new ideas and technologies, they are unwilling to gamble, and, worse, unwilling to listen to those whose relationship with the landscape is harmonious and respectful (such as that of Ivar), mark th...   [tags: Cather O Pioneers Essays]

Research Papers
2267 words (6.5 pages)

An Analysis of Paul's Case by Willa Cather Essay example

- An Analysis of Paul's Case In "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather, a young man named Paul is unhappy with his home and school life. He is happiest when he is at Carnegie Hall, where he works as an usher. When he is not physically at Carnegie Hall, his thoughts remain there causing his school work to suffer. When his father finds out about his problems in school he has Paul banned from Carnegie Hall, taken out of school, and put to work. One day, while on his way to make the company's deposit, Paul decides to take some of the money and go to New York to experience the life he feels he was destined for....   [tags: Willa Cather]

Free Essays
296 words (0.8 pages)

Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop - A Narrative Essay

- Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop - A Narrative As I was gathering information on the World Wide Web for my discussion for class, I encountered snippets of the debate as to the classification of Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. Having "thumbed through" a few arguments and some reader responses to her books and having read the work, I have come to a safe conclusion: If Cather would like her book remembered as a narrative, then we should respect her wishes and let it lie at that. The reason....   [tags: Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop]

Free Essays
451 words (1.3 pages)

Related Searches

The Bibical imagery employed by Cather serves to highlight societal practices which are inherently wrong or harmful to individuals. Many people during that time would view Nancy's escape as an atrocity, and yet slavery in and of itself is wrong. Cather here uses Biblical imagery to underscore Nancy's righteousness in seeking freedom. Like Nancy's freedom, Mary's defiance of medicine's treatment--depicted via Biblical imagery-- serves to illustrate the falsity of societal beliefs taken as correct and accurate.

Return to