Thursday, 10 July 2008

Twenty great clergymen in novels

by Kim Fabricius

  1. William Collins in Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  2. Arthur Dimmesdale in Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
  3. Father Mapple in Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
  4. Obadiah Slope in Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers (1857)
  5. Charles François-Bienvenu Myriel in Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862)
  6. Edward Casaubon in George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871)
  7. Father Zossima in Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1880)
  8. Jean Marie Latour in Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)
  9. The young curate in Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest (1936)
  10. The unnamed priest in Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory (1940)
  11. Father Paneloux in Albert Camus, The Plague (1947)
  12. Hazel Motes in Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (1952)*
  13. Stephen Kumalo in Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country (1948)
  14. Dean Jocelin in William Golding, The Spire (1964)
  15. Sebastião Rodrigues in Endo Shusaku, Silence (1966)
  16. William of Baskerville in Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (1983)
  17. Oscar Hopkins in Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda (1988)
  18. Clarence Wilmot in John Updike, In the Beauty of the Lilies (1996)
  19. Nathan Price in Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible (1998)
  20. John Ames in Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)
* Okay, Hazel Motes is not a clergyman, but there’s just got to be a place for him: call him an anti-clergyman! And for a great charlatan preacher, there is Elmer Gantry in Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry (1927).

40 Comments:

Richard Hall said...

You missed out Rev H P 'Stinker' Pinker from the Jeeves & Wooster canon. Not to mention Reverend Timms from the Postman Pat stories. (OK, I know he started out on tv, but the stories have been turned into books so he ought to qualify)

michael jensen said...

What about Rev Stephen Kumalo in Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country - surely he HAS to go on this list? And so does Arthur Dimmesdale from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

It's not a novel, granted, but I love Canon Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest. My sister wrote a thesis on the depiction of clergy in film - Elmer Gantry of course, but also the priest in On the Waterfront, The Bishop's Wife, and even The Titchfield Thunderbolt.

Updike has several clergyman of course, and even a theology professor (in Roger's Version). There is the lecherous minister in A Month of Sundays and also the much more helpful and saintly Rev Eccles in Rabbit, Run.

I seem to remember some clergy involvement in Couples, too, but I read that a while ago now...

michael jensen said...

oops, just notice you got Dimmesdale.

kim fabricius said...

oops, Michael, and Stephen Kumalo is there too! ;)

Yes, there are plenty of clergymen in Updike's fiction, and also in some of the other authors mentioned - e.g. in Dostoevsky, and there is the marvellous Monsignor Quixote in Graham Greene's eponymous novel. Alas, I allowed myself only one clergyman per author.

Anonymous said...

Mr Collins (#1) was a disassociated clergyman with low self-esteem and only a want for his own significance. How can he be great?

Ben Myers said...

Hi Anon: by "great", Kim doesn't mean "morally exemplary". He means great (delightful, memorable, etc) characters.

Greg Clarke said...

I'd like to replace the appallingly flaccid Collins with the appallingly hellfire Father Arnall from James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man!

michael jensen said...

Kim, I shouldn't have doubted you...

And I am chuffed that you put the Aussie Peter Carey's novel in.

Scott Savage said...

Also Theron Ware in The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic.

kim fabricius said...

Hi Greg,

Great suggestion - Arnall should definitely be in the list. As a matter of fact, I thought of Joyce's scare-the-hell-into-Stephen priest, but had forgotten his name and no longer have a copy of the book at hand, meant to google it - and then forgot to do that! So thanks!

Bruce said...

What about J.F. Powers' priests in his short stories and novels?

Bruce said...

Or Fr. Smith in The Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy?

robert said...

Everyone is forgetting 'San Manuel Bueno, martir' by Miguel de Unamuno, a powerful piece on existential doubt in the heart of a priest.

Mykel G. Larson said...

Kim,

Can we conjure up a top 10 list of top villians that illuminate heroic, Chris-like virtues through the manifestations of their wickedness and spiritual corruption (as opposed to bankruptcy - blessed are the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs)? Maybe a bit Screwtapish in nature, but Lewis' angle was somewhat clever in sly in bringing to light what and how we are called to be in Harmony with God. How do you feel about this?

And mind you, this is not so much to celebrate or revere "evil" or "sin" - but to use "evil" and "sin" to act as a background for the virtues we wish to enact in our own lives as Disciples of Christ.

One possible candidate: Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

Mykel G. Larson said...

One Clergyman to add to the list, though not really a man of the "cloth."

Gandalf the Grey, and his later reincarnation, Gandalf the White.

(Remember the epic duel between the Balrog and Gandalf in the depths of Moria...)

Erin said...

ooooh, Fr. Arnell is a keeper. I might suggest Father Lenar Hoyt or Duré from Hyperion?

Jonathan said...

What about Father Jonathan Darrow in Glittering Images by Susan Howatch?

Anonymous said...

Using the word "great" implies that they had some sort of positive influence. Maybe "unforgettable" would be better.

Maximus Daniel said...

If i remember correctly, technically Father Zossima is not clergy?
He was just a simple monk?

my memory could be failing me..

Theo said...

Daisy Ashford's 'The Life of Fr. McSwiney', dictated at the age of four. It's hilarious - the product of an imaginative and observant girl brought up in a family that associated with the Bellocs, Chesterton etc.

kim fabricius said...

Hi Daniel,

I would be quite happy to substitute for Zossima the Grand Inquisitor, who is a cardinal (if a character within a story within the story!).

J. A. Frazer Crocker, Jr said...

While only 'professed' and not ordained, surely Brother Cadfael in
the Ellis Peters series of monkish mysteries deserves a mention!! By the end of the series he is a very well developed character.
Morris West has many, many good and flawed clergy in his novels.

michael jensen said...

Of course, the great Iris Murdoch had a number of clergy in her novels. There is Carel Fisher, the demonic Anglican priest at the centre of The Time of the Angels. And there is the homosexual Catholic Priest Cato Forbes, who falls in love with Beautiful Joe.

Nathan said...

How bout Friar Tuck... from any novelisation of Robin Hood.

Or Cardinal Richelieu as characterised in the Three Musketeers.

Great blog by the way - I've been lurking here for a while.

Andrew said...

Pietro Spina, a socialist on the run from the law in Fascist Italy, who disquises himself as Fr. Paulo Spada in Ignazio Salone's Bread and Wine.

Steve H said...

Not quite a priest, but what about Amos Starkadder of the Quivering Brethren, from Stella Gibbons's classic parody of Hardy, et al., Cold Comfort Farm? His sermon has never, surely, been bettered (from memory: 'Ye ken when ye burn yeselves, an' ye put butter on it to soothe the burn? Well, I'll tell ye, there'll be no butter in Hell!')

Steve

Rachel said...

Dear me, I hope you were kidding about Nathan Price.

Wayne said...

At the risk of offending those who despise the fantasy/sf genre, I offer Patera Silk from Gene Wolfe's _Book of the Long Sun_. Silk isn't a Christian minister, but rather an Augur, but the entire story is about his vocation and his maturation through struggle and his eventual transcending of polytheism to the worship of the great god beyond all others.

Donald Kim said...

Would anyone mind explaining "great"?

I can't help but to cringe each time I think about William Collins' character (1 on the list).

Anonymous said...

Ditto the cringing about Collins! But a fantastic character nonetheless.
I'm tickled by Mykel's typo of 'heroic Chris-like virtues' - could we create list of them as well?
Dan

J. A. Frazer Crocker, Jr. said...

Can't resist the sci-fi theme!!
The Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz in Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow" and "Children of God". Set in a future of interplanetary travel, Sandoz is abandoned on a distant planet inhabited by two races.

Anonymous said...

What about Walker Percy “The Thanatos Syndrome" The further adventures of a Bad Catholic at the end of the world.

Peace

Steve in Toronto

JM said...

The greatest Catholic sci-fi apocalyptic novel EVER is Walter Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz."

Jonathan Keith said...

I've always felt a bit sorry for Mr. Collins. It's tough enough to be ridiculous, without having a witty literary genius immortalise your flaws! Ah well, I guess it's not so tough if you're also fictional. :)

Phil Sumpter said...

I know it's not a novel, but I was quite touched by Chaucer's parson.

Joe said...

And there is obviously Father Brown, although he is a short story rather than a novel character.

Dave K said...

St. John Eyre Rivers from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. What an amazing character!

From Wikipedia: "A clergyman who is Jane Eyre's cousin on her father's side. He is a devout, almost fanatical Christian of Calvinistic leanings. He is charitable, honest, patient, forgiving, scrupulous, austere and deeply moral; with these qualities alone, he would have made a saint. But he is also proud, cold, exacting, controlling and unwilling to listen to dissenting opinions. He was in love with Rosamond Oliver, but did not propose to her because he felt that she would not make a "suitable" wife. Jane venerates him and likes him, regarding him as a brother, but she refuses to marry him because he doesn't love her and is incapable of real kindness."

solarblogger said...

Mr. Gruffydd in How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. I don't know whether I would have wanted him as my clergyman, but as a friend—well Huw was quite lucky.

Geoff said...

Septimus Harding, also from Anthony Trollope's Barchester Towers (1857) also deserves a guernsey ('dog collar'?/clerical robe?). The casting for the BBC's miniseries "The Barchester Chronicles" was brilliant: Alan Rickman as Obadiah Slope; Donald Pleasance as Septimus Harding, Nigel Hawthorne as Archdeacon Grantly & Geraldine McEwan as Mrs Proudie, among others, were all superb! BBC as its best!

Anonymous said...

Surely honourable mention would also have to go to Bishop Myriel from Victor Hugo's 'Les Mis', and the Rev MacLean from Norman MacLean's autobiographical novella, 'A River Runs Through It'...

Post a Comment

New book

Archive

Contact

Although I'm not always able to reply to all emails, please feel free to contact me.

Faith and Theology © 2008. Template by Dicas Blogger.

TOPO