Skepticism and Faith in Gardam's Crusoe's Daughter

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

At one of the turning points or crises with which Gardam structures the novel, Polly Flint comes of age by means of an odd combination of four events or experiences in the following order

  1. she realizes that she does not want to be confirmed
  2. she drinks gin and gets intoxicated,
  3. she menstruates for the first time, and
  4. she discoveres "the great book, Robinson Crusoe" [186].

After telling her aunts that she does not want the vicar of the parish church to confirm her as an Anglican, she tells her Aunt Frances:

"I felt I was being told that it was -- well a bit of a waste of time.'

"Felt told?"

"Yes, That it was all -- stupid, somehow."


"Yes. All the dreary people dirging away. And the sad music. On such a lovely day. I've wanted to say for ages -- "


"That awful giant crucifix with the dead body and the blood-drips all carved in wood. And that ghastly face with the thorns all hung over one eye."

"Go to your room." [32]

Sent to her room, she tells the maid, Charlotte, that she doesn't believe in the church and has "acted lies, Charlotte. For years and years" [33}, but Charlotte advises her that at twelve years old she's too young to break with her elders, who are too set to change. "All they've got is God -- and you" [34].

Despite this basic skepticism, she finds herself in some way defined by religion, for as she later tells Frances, "I'm young and I'm empty of life. I just am. I sit thinking about myself all the time. I can't -- sort of ever forget myself and how I have to be. All the hymn-words spring up and the Collects, Creeds and Epistles. There doesn't seem anything else" [56].

Given her attitudes, she asks Theo Zeit, "you honestly don't believe in God?" and he responds, "No. Not a bit. I can't. It just all sounds like fairy stories. There seems absolutely no sense in it. Old men in the sky looking down and watching over us. I haven't the beginnings of an idea how an intelligent human being can believe that. It's why I don't read [study or major in] Philosophy. History is mystifying enough" [109].

After Paul Treece's death, she does, however, pray [145], and she finally achieves some sort of faith.

[Religion] United Kingdom