Le Christianisme - Synopsis and commentary

Synopsis of Le Christianisme

Image of a statue of the Virgin MaryOwen describes how the plaster figure of Christ in a French church has been hit by a shell. The image is buried under the remains of the church. Plaster saints, also from the church, have been packed up for safety and are securely stored in a cellar out of harm’s way. One statue of the Virgin Mary remains above ground, undamaged. She wears a tin hat placed there by a Tommy. Owen anticipates that she too will be destroyed by the hell of war.

Commentary on Le Christianisme 

Le Christianisme is French for Christianity or Christian belief. As a committed Christian in his youth, Owen was fully aware of the teachings of the faith. However, he became angry with the established views of church and state in relation to war. He hated the way in which they dictated how people should behave. Owen wrote to his mother on January 4th 1913:

I have murdered my false creed. If a true one exists, I shall find it. If not, adieu to the still falser creeds that hold the hearts of nearly all my fellow men.

As an artist and an emerging intellectual, Owen felt he must speak out about the reality of war. He believed that man’s inhumanity to man in war was inconsistent with Christ’s teaching on love.

In Le Christianisme Owen presents a buried, broken Christ. He could also be referring to a broken and buried church/faith. Either Christ, along with the troops, suffers and dies or alternatively, being his follower has ceased to have any relevance for Owen and others like him.

Investigating commentary on Le Christianisme

  • As an English Protestant who loved France, Owen would have been aware of the respect in which of statues Christ, the saints and the Virgin were held by French Catholics. Is Owen showing respect for religion here or mocking it?
  • Compare Le Christianisme with Exposure, in which Owen says ‘For love of God seems dying’ l. 35. How do you interpret Owen’s ambiguous phrases about faith?
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