Study Guide

A Man for All Seasons Statues, Gargoyles, and Natural Beauty

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Statues, Gargoyles, and Natural Beauty

If you were presented with a busted-looking gargoyle and a super-pretty lilac tree, which would you say was more symbolic of purity? It might not be fair to the poor gargoyles (some of them can be adorable), but we're going to go ahead and say that springtime nature wins the purity sweepstakes every single time.

We get a double-dose of gargoyle action in A Man for All Seasons at the beginning and the end of the movie. Creepy looking statues and gargoyles, apparently in London, greet us with a dark atmosphere of menace—and with some ominous music.

In an interesting Youtube commentary, a Catholic priest, Father Victor Feltes, offers his interpretation of the symbolism: The grotesque and scary statuary in London symbolizes the warped attitudes of the people who are persecuting More… like Cromwell and Rich. Their cynical and worldly ways have hardened their hearts, making them like living gargoyles.

But, as Feltes points out, when we get closer to More's house, we start to see the beauty of nature. The filmmakers seem to be intentionally taking us somewhere strikingly different from the sordid and grimy political world of London.

In Feltes' interpretation, they're trying to demonstrate that More is actually closer to the natural law: the natural way of thinking. Far from being a rigid fanatic, More is in tune with the divine harmonies of nature. And his persecutors are not—in fact, despite their lack of principles (or because of it) they're the rigid fanatics… as hideous and stony as gargoyles.

Even the scene of More's execution is pleasant and bucolic—the sky is blue and the birdies are chirping—even though it's at the dreaded Tower of London. This shows that there is a natural grace to More's martyrdom, and it's totally in line with nature. After all, Thomas More says to the executioner:

MORE: […] you send me to God […] He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him.

Because his death is natural—and Godly—the world is extra-beautiful when he meets death. Hey, even the lilacs are in bloom.

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