Themes in Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord

So the main theme is a theodicy, a theological term which means trying to understand evil in the light of a God who is perfect and who loves justice. In the opening four lines, Hopkins repeats the word ‘just': the first time it is God who is believed to be just; the second time, it is Hopkins' complaint. So, which is the more just? Hopkins puts up a good case in the octave. It is not just occasional disappointments, they are there for ‘all' he endeavours. If God were his enemy, rather than his supposed friend, could it get worse? (With friends like this, who needs enemies?) Hopkins claims he is spending his whole ‘life upon thy cause'. He is not looking for a big reward; just the recompense of some of his efforts bearing fruit.

As he moves into the sestet, he forgets the sinners - as Psalm 37 suggests he does (‘Do not fret because of evil men' Psalms 37:1, NIV). Ultimately, they are not the problem: his lack of fruitfulness is. Yet in the end, there is no answer, otherwise it would have been discovered centuries ago. However, Hopkins (and we as his readers) need to take something from the poem: it is the final line that suddenly emerges out of the complaint, a heartfelt plea for ‘rain'. In Biblical terms, rain is withheld as a sign of God's displeasure; its coming is seen as either a sign of acceptance or blessing (a Biblical text that shows this is Deuteronomy 11:13-15: ‘So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today….then I will send rain on your land in its season…' NIV). So Hopkins is asking not only for creativity, but a sense of God's blessing on his life.

Investigating Thou Art Indeed Just
  • Locate words and phrases that center around the themes of justice and evil.
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