Fiction and the Death of God: Narrative, Theology and Moral Philosophy in Victorian Fiction


Author: David JASPER, Emeritus Professor, University of Glasgow, UK.


The novelist is not a theologian or a philosopher, but within the enclosed world of Victorian fiction the matter of theology, the issue of theodicy and the nature of good and evil are examined after the disappearance of God. In the fiction of Dickens, this contention is explored together with the responsibility of the reader as stories are told. Thackeray, unlike Dickens, refuses his readers the convenience of an authoritative narrator, demanding of them instead, a sense of humor and a sense of the writer’s employment of hyperbole in his fictional ‘rhetoric’. Thomas Hardy’s stories don’t pretend there is a God who can answer all the questions, and let readers make their choices. Henry James’ novels resist solution but show us a world in a consciousness from which there is no escape. While theology may sometimes hamper the reader of fiction, in Victorian novels God may be absent while deeply theological issues remain to be explored and responded to.


story, religion, good, evil, tragedy, consciousness

Full Text (International Version):

David JASPER jscc