Understanding evil in a world God has made


The term we have used of this theme is theodicy. It is a difficult theme and concept to deal with, but it is one of Hopkins' most theological and heartfelt ones.

The Wreck of the Deutschland

The Wreck of the Deutschland must be considered one of the most important poems on theodicy in the English language. It is a great and significant statement, all the more remarkable because it also represents Hopkins' first trial of his new style of verse.

Hopkins is careful to avoid saying God caused the storm that drowned so many people: ‘Not out of his bliss / Springs the stress felt'. But he has allowed it, and will use it for his good purposes. Quite what those are, Hopkins does not know, but ambitiously, he hopes they include the conversion of England through the prayers and example of the drowned nuns. As for the nuns, as Christians, death is a release for them from their persecution, so theodicy is less of a problem here for Hopkins.

Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord

In Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord, Hopkins has a much more personal issue to take up with God. It is not an external natural catastrophe, it is what God has allowed Hopkins to suffer: frustration, the inability to find fulfilment etc. Hopkins does not want to accuse God of unfairness, so the complaint becomes a prayer for God to allow him some sort of sense of fulfilment in his vocation. Hopkins is being honest here: he has no reassurance that God will hear him. Only in retrospect might it be seen that God may have answered Hopkins' prayer. In other words, an understanding of God's purpose in allowing suffering and evil is necessarily incomplete within the span of one human life.

Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.