The Contemporary Inheritance of Victorian Doubt in Waterland

Maya Rao '97 (English 168, 1996)

Although unlike Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda, Waterland does not focus on religious doubt within the Victorian period, it does portray the inheritance of this doubt in contemporary times. Showing his religious disbelief, Crick claims that only "some imaginary figure looking down from the sky (let's call him God)" (135) can undoubtedly know the movement of humankind. Crick's religious doubt contrasts with Mary's belief that God told her to steal the child. Crick, Mary's contemporary audience, portrays her as mentally ill for fervently clinging to a collapsed religious belief system. Hearing Mary's justification for the kidnapping, Crick thinks to himself

But God doesn't talk any more. Didn't you know that, Mary? He stopped talking long ago... In Greenwich, in the midst of a vast city, where once they built an observatory precisely to stare back at God, you can't even see at night, above the aurora of the street-lamps, God's suspended stars. God's for simple, backward people in God-forsaken places. (268)

Using the example of Greenwich's street lamps, Crick connects his religious doubt to technological progress. Concurring with Ash's connection of religious doubt to scientific discovery (in Byatt's Possession, Crick asserts that technology creates a world in which "you can't even see" God and have religious faith. Denying God's existence, Crick claims that people who have religious faith must be "simple" and untouched by technology.

United Kingdom