City of God by E L Doctorow essay

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Christ died on the cross in order to prove the infinite love of god towards his creatures. Using fear as a catalyst for faith has people acting out of hatred.

The second consequence is that people are more easily to be controlled. Fear is an instrument of control. It is highly efficient because it practically means getting into people's heads. Afterwards, small inputs are necessary in order to achieve the desired actions. Fear is connected with a way of being (living) focused on having as opposed to the paradigm focused on being.

When an individual is controlled by somebody else this clearly implies that the latter part is the stringer one. Therefore such doctrines as the one of Augustine regarding baptism serves a mechanism through which power is installed and maintained. It is highly efficient through the immense psychological power which it induces.

A third implication regarding faith supported by fear refers to the relations which are installed between the believers and the non-believers. It has been stated that the believers get baptized and go to heaven. Those who don't believe and have not undergone the baptizing process are doomed to go to hell. At this point those who are more likely to go to heel might feel strong enough and free enough to treat the others with disrespect (at best). What Pem actually suggests is that this type of doctrine might cause hatred driven acts with a strong violent dimension.

Another example of bureaucracy in the novel is represented by the Jewish Council which exists in the Lithuanian ghetto. The irony of the situation is one of the strong point of the novel. The purpose of the council is to act as a sort of bridge between the Jews and the Nazis. Its task is to provide the Nazis with workers. In addition, it must make sure that the rules which the Nazis came up with in order to regulate the behaviour of the Jews are well implemented and respected. In return, the council has the right to ask the Nazis for better conditions regarding work and life in general. Unfortunately, the power of the council is equal to zero. The entire thing turns into a sort of comedy since the very leaders of the council are killed by the Nazis. This happens because like any members of the bureaucratic apparatus, they stand as symbols for the power of the state or nation which has generated it. In addition, they are symbols of order and order creates a feeling of stability. Destroying the symbols of order and stability is a means of creating chaos and fear.

The element which represents the antithesis of the council is the resistance army. The army lives in the woods, it is hidden and it is created outside any type of bureaucratic mechanism. Taking into account the historic circumstances, it can be stated that the army is a social group spontaneously constructed for the benefit of all its members.

The members of the resistance movement include all the social categories, regardless of their age. It was after all a matter of survival. Children are taught to defend themselves with guns. Numerous resistance members manage to survive disobeying the orders of the Nazis and convincing farmers into hiding them.

At this point it is worth underlining the fact that the entire opposition between the individual and society derives from a conception according to which the individuals are more likely to find themselves in a state of conflict rather than in a state of peaceful and constructive collaboration. It has been stated that it is wrong for the individual to focus more on the others than on himself and to allow being influenced by the social community. But it is just as wrong when the individuals focuses on himself only. Perhaps the community fails to work because its members build up fake roles hoping to gain more advantage for themselves.

From this point-of-view, it can be stated that living in a community makes the individual lonelier and more alone than staying on his own. There are two views upon the world that must be considered here, the materialist and the spiritual one. In the case in which the paradigm is entirely materialistic, in the absence of spirituality it is impossible for people to communicate in an authentic manner. The remedy is to be found in the creating of a real community. But in order to create a real community those founding it must shift their focus from materialism to more spiritual horizons. Obviously the ethical dimension is present here as well and again the speech can be shifted towards religion. Spiritually is about genuine sincere beliefs not about dogma turned into practice through bureaucratic mechanisms.

He church is meant to be a context in which the individual comes in contact with the divine dimension through means which are absolutely personal. The church is a frame where one can develop the spirituality which lies inside himself. One of the main theses of the book refers to the fact that all philosophies, when adopted, must be adopted for a genuine reason.

All in all it can be stated that the novel includes a large number of deep themes and arguments, while the author attempts to start discussions about a variety of arguments such as the relation between the individual and society, individuality and religion and morality, freedom and responsibility, etc.


Bellman, S. City of God, an interpretation. Retrieved December 3, 2009 from

City of God, Penguin Readings, Retrieved December 2, 2009 from

Doctorow, E.L. City of God, Plume, 2001

Eshom, Daniel. Teachers' guide to the Plume edition of E.L. Doctorow's City of God, retrieved December 3, 2009 from

Tokarczyk, M., E.L. Doctorow's Skeptical commitment, Lang, Peter, New York, 2009[continue]

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