Oscar and Lucinda portrays Victorian doubt by means of the Prince Rupert drop. Made of seemingly unbreakable glass, the Prince Rupert drop exhibits amazing strength, but with a small clip of its end the drop explodes. A symbol of belief systems, the Prince Rupert drop looks beautiful and strong in its totality but "once even ever so slightly deconstructed" (Bass) it falls apart. Lucinda who witnessed an exploding Prince Rupert drop as a child, names her glassworks after the drop. She also admires the Crystal Palace and compares her beliefs to "the philosophical equivalent of great cathedrals of steel and glass" to which she holds "tightly" (220). Exhibiting the contradictory properties of solidity and fragility, glass as a symbol of belief systems shows how these systems which appear so strong actually easily fall apart. The text's use of glass, a product of technology, to symbolize fragile belief systems suggests that the breakdown of the Christian system can be attributed to human technological progress. Calling into question the strength of Christianity as a belief system, the glass church embodies Victorian religious doubt.
Oscar and Lucinda's present-day narrator portrays contemporary times as characterized by religious disbelief. In the chapter entitled "Christian Stories" the narrator claims that his family had "none of the doubts of the 1860s" (61) and then proceeds to list all the religious stories that his family had "believed" (61). Despite the narrator's claim that his family did not live under the legacy of Victorian doubt, his use of the past tense "believed" and the chapter title "Christian Stories" suggest that the narrator no longer holds these beliefs and instead considers the Biblical narrative to be fiction. This owner of the Prince Rupert drop, sees the fragility of the Christian belief system and presently does not have faith in it.
Employing the symbol of the church, Oscar and Lucinda's narrator portrays a general, modern religious disbelief in his story of the church being carted away because "it was not of any use" (430). Describing the land where the church used to stand as bare, laden with thistles, and having no sign "of anything that the church meant" (430) to his family, the narrator reveals his lack of religious faith. The narrator feels disconnected from his past and the removal of the church symbolizes the collapse of his former religious beliefs. Discussing in an interview the idea from which this passage came, Carey explains:
I thought, this church is going to be taken away and all that is going to be left is thistles and I think that's really appropriate. That's what will grow in where the earth's been broken because we have nothing moral to replace Christianity. (Willbanks, 53)
For Carey removing the church represents the modern collapse of religion, whch derives from the Victorian doubt we see in Oscar's and Lucinda's story.
Last modified 1998