On the demons in Gerontius

A scholar, Robert Carballo, writes on the demons as follows

“The demons’ incoherent diction and syntax reflect the traditional Christian teaching about infernal chaos, but occasionally Newman allows their parts some lucidity in order to reveal their hatred of Christian piety and their cynical free-thinking. They appear in the drama as eloquent exponents of the anti-dogmatic principle which Newman tells us in the Apologia was the real enemy of the Puseyites during the years of the Tractarian movement. Their subjectivism and irreverence become the unmistakable mark of the damned.”

(in “Newman’s Dream of Gerontius: Towards a Non-didactic Poetry of Dogma” Faith and Reason , Summer 1993, click here)

And Bernadette Waterman Ward:

“The demons raging against Gerontius show us the pride of deliberate and irresponsible ugliness, rejecting love of things which properly give joy. To reject the love of God, or, more broadly, the love of all things in their proper places, is the sin of despair. The demons commit it, despising the joy they could get from cherishing human flourishing; they prefer the lesser good of praising their own cynical dignity as purely spiritual beings, too exalted to “sustain narratives of simple virtue,” as one might put it in the supercilious tone of the New York Times. Note the ragged and broken rhythms of the demons’ contempt for Gerontius’s religious humility. . . . Gerontius is not confined, like the demons, within his own desires, and the expansiveness of verse allotted to him gives us a taste of the possibilities of spiritual knowledge.”

“The Kindly Light of Newman’s Poetry,” Renascence, 56.2 (Winter 2004): 103-104..

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