John Pearson as a Christ Figure

While not a central argument in the article “The Worm against the Word”, a snippet that immediately grabbed my attention and I think is compelling was the mention of John being regarded as a Christ figure to those who have analyzed the story (Ciuba 128). The article makes clear the connection between John and the biblical prophet of Jonah, showing the growth John made in his hermeneutical identity being torn down by his inadequate care and upholding of the metaphorical gourd (120). John as a prophet figure can also be seen somewhat literally as he takes responsibility of taking the word of God from the Bible and preaching it to the church community including many who cannot read the word for themselves, creating his mediation between heaven and earth (120). However, the profile of a Christ figure is one which opens up a new way to analyze his place in the story Hurston wishes to convey.

Adele Reinhartz’s article “Jesus and Christ-Figures” outlines mostly the characteristics of Christ figures in films, but contributes frameworks for these figures in general, which allowed this specific point in “The Worm Against the Word” to catch my attention. Reinhartz’s article discusses Christ figures which are characters who foil the life of Jesus and whose plot parallels the life, death, andĀ sometimesĀ resurrection. Furthermore these figures are split into redeemer figures and savior figures, the former which takes on human sinfulness resulting in suffering, and the latter which takes on Jesus’ saving mission to either individuals or mankind. The article clarifies that these two sub-figures are not mutually exclusive. I think that John in the plot has the intention to take on aspects of the savior figure, becoming a preacher and taking on God’s word to the community. However, Hurston’s develops his character as one who takes on human suffering in the direct and active sense, therefore bringing him suffering. As John is one who partakes in human sinfulness, it would be interesting to further analyze his potential role as a redeemer Christ figure. Reinhartz also lists eight major component’s of Christ figures in popular culture which scholars have collected and refined over time. These include: mysterious origins, charisma, commitment to justice, conflict with authorities, the providing of redemption, withdrawal to a deserted place, suffering, and post-death recognition. While each of these could be expanded in relation to John’s character and his potential role as a Christ figure, I think the most interesting would be “mysterious origins”, “charisma”, “suffering” and “conflict with authorities”.

2 thoughts on “John Pearson as a Christ Figure

  1. I’m sure that those characteristics can lead to some interesting parallels to Christ-symbolism, Lauren. I’m particularly interested as to how you think “mysterious origins” factors into his narrative, and what this might suggest about the historical setting’s portrayal.

  2. One of the things that does point towards John’s Christ-like character is his “redemption”. To me, one of the biggest part of Jesus Christ’s identity is his ability to forgive sin, and of renewal/redemption. So this part of John’s character, where he sins, repents and moves on, reminds me a lot of the cyclical process sinners progress through in an attempt to redeem their life.

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