During one of our classes, Professor Mouton-Kinyon had brought up the theme of love, or the absence of it, in John’s relationship with his Mother and Father. The absence of love for the child is shown in John’s family, but also in the history recounted by Florence’s mother who had her children taken away from her during slavery. In the Bible, it is written that God is Love, and so for the people in this story, bringing their children to God is, one can argue, loving them or giving them all the love they need. But, before a child can be brought into this world, there are parental relationships that occur first. I am interested in the absence of love in the romantic relationships in the novel, and how these relationships never were allowed to blossom into love because, 1. they occurred outside of the “rules” of their religion or 2. they were using religion as a safety net.
For example, Elizabeth was never able to love Richard because of his death, but he also was a man who cursed the Lord and religion. Florence, who never connected to religion or the Lord, never understood her husband or really loved herself until she felt that it was almost her time to die. But still she could not find love for her own brother, because in the end she still wanted to show him his hypocritical ways and she seems to say I have come to terms with my faults and lack of love for the Lord, but you have not and it continues to spew hatred not love on those around you. And Gabriel displays this absence of love the most. Gabriel talks about how he hated Deborah after he began to have an affair with Esther, but he has never loved a woman in his life really and I would argue is incapable of love because he has hatred in his heart and the shame he feels that seems to overpower all of his other emotions. He also uses his marriage to Elizabeth as a safety net because he believes she repented to the Lord and is a Godly woman. Using scripture, 1 John 2: 7-11 states: “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” I think this describes Gabriel directly because he and Elizabeth cannot provide the love their children need, when they have never experienced it themselves, and refuse to acknowledge that.