by Wallace Stevens
Sunday Morning Theme of Religion
For the protagonist at the beginning of the poem, "religion" means duty and sacrifice. Go to church. Go to Palestine, the location of Jesus' burial. Sacrifice your oranges and cockatoo for God. But, this view seems rather naïve. In the middle of the poem, the poet suggests that religions are myths that spring from the human imagination and fill a hidden need we have. The poet embraces the perspective of pagans who celebrate each moment, and accept death and change as natural processes. By the end of the poem, the woman turns away from belief in the supernatural, and the poet imagines a world where man is alone in nature.
Questions About Religion
- Which Christian beliefs are portrayed in the poem? Do you think they are described accurately?
- How do Christianity and paganism compare as religions in the poem? Is paganism a real religion, or just a set of myths? Is there a difference between religion and myth?
- Do you agree with the poem’s account of how religions are created?
- The poet suggests that nature has "endured," or survived, longer than any religious ideas about heaven or paradise. What does he mean by this, and do you agree?
Chew on This
The poem shows that the term "religion" only applies to social practices, and that a person cannot have a religious experience by him or herself.