The Cruel Hand of God: Secular Themes and Compassionate Leadership in San Manuel Bueno, Mártir and The Plague

2040 Words Jan 26th, 2018 8 Pages
The Plauge’s Dr. Bernard Rieux relies on an unrelentingly harsh process of physical healing, driven not by his empathy for the individual but by his compassion for humanity. Unamuno’s priest Don Manuel shrouds his village in the warm embrace of religious serenity, complicated by only one fact: the priest does not believe in God. Despite these divergent philosophies, both characters aspire to their own notions of what constitutes “secular sainthood.” Because of the inherent imprecision of such a phrase, the reader is asked to determine what truly determines a “secular saint.” Is it someone who is portrayed by the populace as a religious martyr but who actually is quite secular (hereafter known as the “Don Manuel interpretation”) or someone who is seen by the populace as cruelly detached and unemotional but is actually a hero (Rieux’s guiding philosophy)? Alternatively, one could be drawn to the possibility, as I am, that neither truly constitutes secular sainthood.
In attempting to determine the success of both Rieux and Don Manuel in the quest for beatification, one may explore a dichotomy familiar in the theological cannon: whether God ought to be kind, as He is…
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