Shannon Dittemore

August22nd

4 Comments

Old books_candleLike most of you, I am a product of the public school system. I think we would all agree it has its issues, but looking back I can honestly say, I had some fabulous teachers. One of my favorites was my AP English teacher, Mr. Cimino. I can’t remember precisely which book he was lecturing on, but let’s just pretend it was Lord of the Flies (because I distinctly remember being mortified by that book).

So, one, very normal, very school-type day, Mr. Cimino was dissecting Lord of the Flies and he made the point that Simon was the Christ figure in the story. Simon who was killed while trying to deliver truth to the others. For a preacher’s brat at a very public school, I was enamored. It was the first I’d ever heard of this Christ figure idea. But, as Mr. Cimino lectured on, I realized it was a concept that preceded me entirely. There were Christ figures in more books than I could count. My brain whirred and all of a sudden I had a Gru-like LIGHTBULB moment. I raised my hand, desperate to add to the conversation.

“Doesn’t the very idea that authors are keen to place a Christ figure in their story prove that there is veracity to the Biblical account of Christ?”

While I probably didn’t use the words keen or veracity, I’m certain I used the word prove. And I’m also certain that it amused Mr. Cimino to no end. He smiled down at me, the hideous fluorescent lights doing nothing to brighten the dullness of his old glasses.

Prove is rather a stretch,” he said.

And he’s right. The presence of a Christ figure in a novel confirms nothing about history, or even about the author. These days, I know plenty of lovely authors who use the Christ figure concept to much success, but many of them are not believers and others are very conflicted about Jesus in general. Even JK Rowling, who so brilliantly fashioned Harry after the Christ ideal, admitted in an interview with Oprah that yes, she believes in God, and yes, she does struggle with it. I think many authors find themselves in the same boat and I applaud them for being willing to wrestle with the idea.

And yet, to this day, whenever I open a book, I actively look for a Christ figure. Sometimes, he’s not to be found. But, often, the storytellers of this world are drawn back to the Story of Stories. To the Hero of Heroes. Many of them do it subconsciously. Perhaps the only Christ figures they’ve ever known were Neo or Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins or Optimus Prime. But, there is something, SOMETHING about a character who would die for others that speaks to the soul of humanity. And while that in itself proves nothing, it does point to a people who crave the heroic.

As a Christian, as an author, as a lover of story, that excites me. Sure, there are things in many books that I struggle with. Things that could be offensive, that misrepresent my belief system. But in most stories I can find hope and faith, and often, I can find some representation of Christ. It comes down to the eyes I see the words with, the lens I view the author and her characters through. I do not expect every storyteller to agree with my beliefs, but if literature itself has taught me anything, I can expect most of them to agree that the Christ figure is a compelling one and a concept worth examining.

And that’s the kind of common ground I appreciate.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Christ figure in literature. A Christ figure is usually defined as a character who shares more than one outstanding trait with the Biblical Christ. For example, a character may have an astounding birth story, the ability to perform miracles, a sacrificial death, or even an experience resembling the resurrection. Do you have a favorite character fashioned after this concept? Does it make a story formulaic once you’ve identified the Christ figure? Do you make a conscious effort to look for faith-resembling elements in books you pick up? Tell me! I’d love to know!

Share

4 Comments

  • Comment by Kay — August 25, 2013 @ 8:07 am

    I love your post! and “yes” to all three of your questions. 🙂 My favorite Christ like character would probably be Aslan. He’s one Character that very strongly represents Christ, and Narnia is very Christian. One of the reasons I love it. 🙂 I feel that it’s hard today to find really good, Christian based fantasy stories. They are my favorites. I have started writing my own and plan to self-publish them. As an experienced author, do you have any tips for me? Thanks!

  • Comment by Tracy — August 25, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

    Hi! Very interesting post. I was never taught about a Christ figure in lit in public school. I have since noticed them in movies and in books. It is interesting to read your definition of one. In the past, I have been offended by them, because there is only one Christ. But, after reading what you say, I think I can look at the subject in a new way. God’s sovereignty in the world is evident everywhere. I think that when people who do not know Christ write a Christ figure into a story they are writing about an example of the One who they desire to know, even if they are unaware of this desire. In the same way, when we read about a Christ figure, I think that most if us love a story of redemption for the same reason. Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your thoughts.

  • Pingback by Christ in Literature Shannon Dittemore | ChristianBookBarn.com — September 1, 2013 @ 2:20 am

    […] Recommended Article FROM http://shannondittemore.com/christ-in-literature/ […]

  • Comment by Alexandra — October 17, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

    C. S. Lewis has also written adult novels. In ‘Till we have faces – a myth retold’ (the myth of Psyche, in fact), for example, there is a mysterious Christ figure. It is the God that marries Psyche.
    There is also the Perelandra Trilogy, where Ransom is a Christ figure.
    Another Christ figure I love is Prince Mishkin in Dostojevsky’s ‘Idiot’.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

RSS