Religion is a safe bet when you're talking theme and Gerard Manley Hopkins. After all, the dude was an ordained priest. That didn't mean, though, that he was free of doubt or conflict in his faith. At times he felt that his poetry writing was at odds with his religious practice. And later in life, when he did go back to writing, he used his poetry to work through his own crisis of faith. As one of those "terrible sonnets," "Carrion Comfort" is brutally honest in its questioning of God. Why would He do mean stuff to us poor mortals? It's an age-old question that all forms of religion have had to take up. The poem's speaker seems satisfied with the answer he comes to, though: it's for his own good.
Questions About Religion
What is the speaker's attitude toward God in this poem? Is it consistent throughout, or does it change? What parts of the poem support your answer?
Does the speaker blame Despair or God for his troubles? How can you tell?
How would you answer the speaker's questions in lines 12-13? Is he responsible for overcoming his depression, or should God get the credit? Should it be both? What parts of the poem support your answer?
Is this poem pro-religion or pro-individualism? How can you tell?
Chew on This
Religion is nice and all, but this poem is about an individual's ability to endure in a cold, uncaring universe.
Actually, this poem shows us that God is responsible for all of life's trials, but those are only put in our way to develop—with His help—our inner resources.